View Full Version : In think I am about ready to take the plunge

Doc Hoy
February 25, 2011, 08:20 AM
I hope this thread is not viewed as being in the wrong forum but here goes.

Previously, I have described having to drive for an hour to shoot on a friends property in northeastern North Carolina. This is a great place to shoot. It is secluded and I never have, nor do I seem to create any disturbances. But for two reasons the situation is less than optimal.

1) I don't like the idea of driving an hour to shoot.

2) No matter how many times the owner tells me he does not mind the shooting, I am conscious of the impact it may be making.

So I have been looking for a place closer to the house to shoot. Indoor ranges are a nonstarter because of the shooting regimen when there are several folks shooting at one time. (Hot range and such). Also, other shooters are simply too impatient (as well they should be) to tolerate my shooting shenanigans and foibles.

Well I think I finally found a spot in North Carolina quite close to the Virginia border. It is ten acres of farm land backed up to the woods. There is a forty five foot right of way to the property in case I ever decide to build on it. I am in negotiation for a price right now and it is possible, I could get it for as low as $30,000.00.

If it works out, I may open it up to other shooters for a nominal annual fee. Coupla questions:

1) What are you accustomed to as an annual fee when you pay to go shooting. (I know that many of you live in areas where you can shoot any time you like without worryng about aggravating any other owners.) Keep in mind this property does not have a range, Burm, shooting benches or anything like that. I think it would be the same as some farmer allowing a person to hunt his property.

2) Tell me what you know about the legal and insurance considerations of friends visiting the property to shoot. It would not be a business, at least not at first.

February 25, 2011, 09:20 AM

There are probably insurance concerns. I shoot at (and am a member of) the Izaak Walton League of America, and my chapter has an outdoor rifle and pistol range about 5 miles from me. A few years ago, they allowed guest shooters, if accompanied by a card carrying member. They changed their rules and no longer allow guests. Apparently there's a large cost associated with insuring against accidents and injuries and they decided to only allow members. I guess the annual dues cover us. Annual fee is $100 (pretty cheap).

You also have to visit the county sheriff or supervisors. Allowing guests to hunt may be covered by different regulations than having a range. In some counties in Virginia (and probably in other states) the presence of a target on a stump constitutes a "range" under certain circumstances. It's fine for personal use, but to charge a fee may require a permit to operate. A buddy of mine up in Prince William county has had ongoing issues with this sort of thing, and he's on 68 acres. The only reason he isn't shut down is because he doesn't charge fees, so isn't considered a range. His sons are nationally ranked competition shooters and practice a lot, and friends come by on weekends to have some fun. There's an obnoxious fellow about a mile from him that constantly calls the cops. Since he isn't running a business, the cops don't shut him down (but have asked to practice at his shootin' spot a time or three :D). He does have a large dirt backdrop (careful not to call it a burm). Just saying, it would be advisable to check the local regs and ordinances. Even if all is ok, it still only takes one complainer to get police coming to visit and letters from lawyers.

February 25, 2011, 10:17 AM
Doc, if it's just you and some friends going out to your property in the country, I'd say that an umbrella liability insurance policy would probably be sufficient. But if you're going to charge money, then you'll probably need to check to see if there are any zoning considerations, encroachment possibilities and the other niceties that come with running a business.

The range that my club operates has been around since 1937, when the government deeded the land from an old artillery range to the club. Now, you'd think that after being there for 70 years, out in the middle of 120 acre farms and pastures, people would understand who was there first and what might be appropriate uses for the farmland on the other side of the hill. Alas, no. Some feller actually built a house on top of the hill directly downrange. We begged and pleaded with the county zoning board to not allow it because the last thing that we want is a stray round in his living room.

The next thing that happened is that a subdivision was built on the other side of the hill, even after we explained trajectories and ballistics to the zoning board. Even worse, a few of the nice folks there think that it's a fine idea to walk their dogs on the side of the hill that faces the range. It's not our property, so they're perfectly within their rights to take a stroll.

Now, our range is constructed so that it's extremely, extremely unlikely that a round properly fired at a target would leave the range. However, we all know that accidents can happen. That likelihood isn't zero and accidental or negligent discharges happen. So, we take great pains to constantly scan that hill to make sure that nobody is walking on it. And we realigned our rifle range so that the house on the hill isn't directly downrange.

Every year, though, we have to fight off challenges to shut the range down. That means that we have to divert our precious funds to hire a lawyer. And we've also upped our liability policy. On the bright side, the police and sheriff departments use our range for their training, so we have that card to play - and we play it often.

Our greatest fear, other than being completely shut down, is that we'll be forced into the situation that the Camp Farragut range in northern Idaho is in - they have been ordered by a judge to construct a "no blue sky" range - one in which it is impossible for a round to leave the range.

Anyway, Doc, this is a long-winded way of saying that if you want a nice piece of property that you and your buddies can use for shooting, I think that it's a good idea (as long as you're neighborly about it.) But as a business, well, I don't know. I wouldn't do it, but that's just me. Sorry to be such a downer, but after dealing with the whackos who give us such a hard time, my enthusiasm about actually running an outdoor range is down around the "ingrown toenail" level.

Oh, as far as money goes, in addition to our regular club dues, we pay $50 a year for a gate key. That money is dedicated to maintenance and upkeep of the outdoor range (we also have an indoor range that's in town.)

February 25, 2011, 10:45 AM
As others have commented - everything changes when you charge fees.

I just bought an 11 acre wooded parcel about a 30 minute drive from my home in CT. It's got three existing abandoned gravel pits on it and I do intend to use it for target shooting and hunting for myself and perhaps a friend or two. But I know I'd have an uphill struggle with the town, the state and the neighbors if I thought of opening a shooting range where I charged for its usage.

In CT, there's also a law that protects landowners from lawsuits arising when someone is injured on their land, or because of the actions of someone using their land, if the landowner allows the FREE use of their land for recreation. Once you start charging, you can be held liable.

February 25, 2011, 11:14 AM
Around here (Fargo ND). $75.00 a year dues and $10.00 everytime you shoot,Or $200.00 a year and no shoot fees. Closest range for me is 20 miles(not to bad).

February 25, 2011, 12:25 PM
Many of the basic considerations have already been covered by the other posters. I think you should consider this carefully as the legal aspects will be hefty. Shooting on your own property? Not too many problems. Charging others to shoot there for a fee? Regulations abound.

Perhaps the issues that will eat at you the biggest will be liability and insurance issues. With the inherent dangers of allowing others to discharge firearms, insurance carriers are going to go nuts.

The other issue you may wish to visit is environmental issues. I have a small range on my property, so you can see what I actually think of some of this "stuff." http://www.ewg.org/files/leadpoll.pdf The problem, of course, becomes later when/if you want to sell the property. The duty to disclose rears its ugly head and somebody gets sued for failure to disclose the lead poisoning.....the local EPA wants to make it a Superfund site.....dogs and cats living together.....you get the idea.

Didn't want to rain on your parade, but I thought somebody ought to at least mention it. :cool:

February 25, 2011, 04:15 PM
Contact the NRA regarding insurance. We (the sportsman's club of which I am VP) recently went through a serious review of our coverage (just what's REALLY covered, not cost) because of some issues with shot fall from our trap ranges. The NRA insurance folks were very helpful.

February 25, 2011, 09:20 PM
doc, i hope you get your land. i'd say like its been said a few times already, get with your county zoning, pva office might also be some help, if you charged a fee to let just let anybody join to shoot, then that would be a business. but i think if you bought the land as a private land owner, who decided to do some "land improvements;)". of course you gotta clean up your land from brush, hence a dozer, dirt piles, that would come in handy as a backstop for you and few friends, who could help with the expenses of keeping the property clean,and so forth.;) no law broken there.:D
each state is diffferent, county though, but if you charge a fee, thats a whole different ballgame.
shame you don't live closer to me doc, i got 70 acres here, i'd let ya shoot anytime ya wanted to for free. as long as i could shoot with ya, and maybe learn me a thing or two.

February 25, 2011, 10:29 PM
Our range, ran by Utah Wildlife Resources, charges $5.00 per day.

Bill Akins
February 25, 2011, 10:44 PM
Doc, you aren't charging a fee to shoot, you simply accept "donations" towards the maintenance of your property for "recreational purposes". Or....you accept "donations" towards a recreational club that ummm....has nothing whatsoever to do with people shooting on the property ;)

Anyone who does not give a voluntary suggested amount "donation" to either the "recreational club" or towards the maintenance of the property for "recreational purposes" might be found to have engaged in unsafe activity and asked to not return ;). See how that works?

So you aren't charging a "fee" for people to shoot. You are simply accepting "donations" towards the maintenance of the property for recreational purposes...like ummm....camping out in a pup tent ;). Those "donations" are for maintaining a water well to supply water and a septic tank and bathroom and any other types of things like that. The shooting is simply incidental ;) and ummmm....not the main purpose ;).

I just went to a shoot this past weekend on someone's private property that had dirt piled up with his dozer, and everyone "donated" $20.00 each to pay for his dozer's diesel fuel expenses and the privilege of them being there to meet with everyone else. That "donation" had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that everyone there was shooting ;).

There's always more than one way to skin a cat.


Doc Hoy
February 26, 2011, 04:42 AM
I have read all comments thus far.

All are pertinent and very much appreciated.

I am not certain how this will work out but I have been in indirect contact with a land lawyer associated with the realtor.

Going to go see it today.

February 26, 2011, 01:37 PM

I get it. I completely understand your desire and yearning for a place of your own where you can shoot in piece and quiet...that is, until you break the piece and quiet. ;) You've received some very good input from other members.

About 7 years ago I bought 12 acres in the suburbs of Orlando. This property is 7 miles from the house and about a 15 minute drive. I bought it originally to move my show horses over to a place where I made the rules and ran things the way I saw fit. As the crow flies, the property is only one mile from the entrance to Orlando's second major airport (they fly 747's back-n-forth from Europe into this airport). Fortunately, this property lies in an unincorporated part of the county. Across the street it's the city limit. At my place it's zoned agricultural and as such it is permissible to discharge firearms.

I'd like to try to add a little to the mix based on my experience. As you might imagine, Central Florida is pretty darn flat in most places. Finding natural barriers that will stop bullets is rare in these parts. As such, my place is flat, flat, flat. I fired up the John Deere and built a backstop to create ClemBert's shooting range. In this picture you can see Version 1.0 of the backstop. It is pretty much an 8 foot high and 20 foot wide mound of sandy soil. I have since moved it to the side of my property. Version 2.0 is wider and has a crescent shape to it.


Those large aircraft I mentioned are taking off and landing about 2 miles to the north (due left :D) of the mound. They fly parallel to the direction of fire. The only planes I generally see or hear are these small Piper type plans that occasionally violate my airspace. :mad:

As you can see in the picture I have a small wooded area behind. That gives me a little comfort although we know bullets can travel quite far. At least there isn't a house on the other side of that fence.

Now that I've given you an idea of my setup let me state this. Neighbors are a pain in the ass! It's a VERY long story but let me say that I have at least two problem neighbors. This issue has to do with the original purchase of the property and property line issues. I mention this not because it is directly related to the topic at hand but it potential creates an atmosphere where you'd want to make sure you dot all your i's and cross all your t's. This would mean that a paranoid type person (which I am not) might want to make sure that they fully understand all local, county, and state statutes in place. Yes, these neighbors would take great joy in calling the authorities if I slipped up. Here are some things I had to consider.

There are two main statutes that concern me. First, in Florida, it is a BIG TIME no-no for bullets to leave your property. That seems kind of obvious. But you mentioned the wooded area behind the property you are considering. For issues related to potential injury to others from stray bullets this, of course, gives you some comfort. However, even if no one gets injured a neighbor who can show evidence of your bullets leaving your property can really create grief in your life. Second, in Florida, we have a noise ordinance regarding discharge of firearms. It stipulates that firearms must be so many feet away from your neighbors residences. So, if NC is anything like FL you'll want to check into that distance issue and make sure it isn't going to limit you to the point of not being able to use your 10 acres. 10-12 acres seems like plenty of space to most folks but when you consider that last statute it can really create a situation where 10 acres is not enough.

So I mentioned two crappy neighbors I have issues with. Would you believe a third neighbor called a deputy sheriff on me and my buddy one day while we were doing our best Wild Bill Hickok impersonations? I'm not sure what the specifics of the complaints were but they probably called the police when they heard gunfire. So, I did get a visit from a deputy sheriff. He stopped by to investigate and tell me that a neighbor had called him. He took a look at my setup and let me know that I wasn't doing anything that he could take issue with. We had a nice conversion about firearms and such and he wished us a good day and happy shooting.

So, what's my point after rambling on for awhile here? Well....make sure you fully understand any statutes that could bring your dream to a crashing end. In fact, since you are specifically buying this property to use as your personal shooting range, you might consider talking specifically to the law enforcement in that jurisdiction and tell them your plan and ask them if they are aware of any potential issues.

Without having any facts concerning your question on charging a fee to strangers let me give you a gut feel opinion. IMHO, I don't think it is a good idea. If the year was 1911 and not 2011 then I probably wouldn't take issue. However, as others have stated, you are really opening yourself up to some potential legal issues that probably would take away from the fun of having your personal shooting range. Ask yourself this. How much money do you think you could generate from charging folks? Is that amount of money worth the headache and risk? IMHO, the answer is no.

Anyhoo, best of luck in your pursuit! I hope your dream become reality. :cool:

February 26, 2011, 04:28 PM
Clembert's post is right on the mark, especially the part about making it a point to discuss potential issues with the police or sheriff or constable, whichever applies. Going to them first, and making it clear you are trying to be a good neighbor and do things right is priceless when and if one of the neighbors decides to get his tighty whities in a knot.

Doc Hoy
February 26, 2011, 05:06 PM
All excellent points and very welcome. I drive through Orlando probably three times per year to visit my folks. The trees and layout are quite recognizable.

Me sense from early feedback is that NC is far more tolerant than other places. This is country with a capital "C".

In looking at the plot, it appears that there is a large enough wooded area at the back of the property to clear out a spot that has trees all around it. This is not all beer and skittles since visibility is not very good. Hard to tell who might blunder onto the range.

I did not get to visit today since we are watching the grandkids and one of them took sick. Maybe tomorrow.

Talking to the deputies is high on the list. In fact I have already met one but did not discuss this specific project.

I am not far enough into the project to know how it will come out. I doubt there would ever be enough revenue to turn it into a business. There is probably more money in renting out the land to a farmer for cultivation. If I put the range on the nonarable land, there might be some future in this.

I will keep y'all posted. And please keep the thoughts flowing.