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Desert Shooting Etiquette






#1
So I was out today shooting my steel challenge targets in Hidden Valley and had two vehicles roll up on me. It was pretty surprising since I wasn't expecting anyone. They asked if they could shoot with me and I gave them a firm no, then sent them on their way, informing them of a shooting spot further down the road that was SUV accessible.

The incident got me thinking about shooting etiquette in the desert. I'm not sure if they wanted to shoot my steel targets (since I had taken up most of the shooting lane in that area) or if they wanted to set up their own targets and shoot beside me, but I'm not comfortable with either. Maybe I'm paranoid, but I don't want anyone approaching me when I'm out shooting in the desert unless a) I know who you are and what vehicle you are driving and b) we either made plans to meet up or you have a standing invitation to join me when I'm shooting. Anyone else who rolls up on me will be met with suspicion and a hand on my gun.

Am I alone in thinking that the desert, where the nearest cop is probably 20 minutes away, cellphone reception is nonexistent, and gunshots are commonplace, is not a place for making new shooting friends? I have no idea if you are a safe shooter, much less if you have ulterior motives in getting close to me. Even when shooting at DSRPC, I'm reluctant to roll up on shooters already set up in shooting bays unless we know each other and have an open invitation. In the desert, I wouldn't even want someone waiting on the main road for me to finish up shooting (to collect brass which I don't leave behind anyway) as they could cut off my exit and ambush me by the road.

So if you see me shooting out there, leave me alone and I'll do the same to you. I would think that would be common sense/basic etiquette for shooting on unregulated land.
 

SixshooterSam

What, me conspiracy?
#2
100% agree on all points. I am a deep desert shooter myself, especially since the range in Carson has been closed. I go waaaay out off the beaten path, and I study the surroundings to see if there is any evidence of recent human activity. I want to be as far away from the next guy as possible. I find spots where I have long sightlines in as many directions as possible, so nobody can get even remotely close without my knowing about it. For all the reasons you mentioned, and for simple privacy's sake. Most of the time when I go out, I am actively training and have specific things I want to work on. With all the time it takes to get out there, the time it takes to set up targets, then to pack it all in and clean up when I'm done, I don't really want to waste a bunch of time blabbing with strangers. But the safety aspect is paramount as well.

I had a guy come up and talk to me at a grocery store one time, asking me about my Glock that I was open carrying. Started off as a friendly conversation with a guy that didn't seem overly knowledgeable about firearms, but was clearly interested. At one point he asked if he could see it, and I politely said no, on account of you being a stranger to me. He got noticeably irritated at that, and abruptly walked away and made some manner of presumably derogatory comment that I didn't quite hear. Having such a disagreement with someone deep in the desert is not high on my list of interests in life.

And there's the simple safety aspect. If I have multiple steel targets set up and I'm doing rapid fire/holster drills moving between targets, I don't want to have to worry about where the other folks are to keep them safe, and vice versa. It's a needless distraction. And I likewise don't want to have to worry when I set a target 500-600 yards out. I always carry a pistol and a rifle slung on my shoulder whenever I make those quarter mile walks to set up and take down targets, but I'm not going to feel comfortable leaving my vehicle unattended with some perfect strangers hanging out nearby.

I recall another time, being out north of the Flying J in Fernley.. was set up out there for a while, and at one point heard what sounded like a couple rounds fly overhead. When I went to leave later, there were some punk jackasses hanging out by the entrance to the road, staring at me nervously as I drove past. Couldn't tell if they maybe didn't realize I was out there, or if they were maybe doing it intentionally because they thought it was funny, or who knows.. but that was the last time I shot out there.

You know when I shoot alone, I prefer to be by myself...
 

JimBianchi

Daddy
Forum Supporter
#3
You are not wrong.

After 20+ years of shooting in the Vegas desert I would not approach a stranger to ask to shoot next/near/with them.

I have been approached on the rare occasion by someone who started or suprised me. I generally give a firm if brisk "what the +++ do you want?" One guy was just plain weird, clueless borderline freaky. I was rude and he kept driving. More recently (2yrs?) the guy was just new and wanted to make sure he wasn't setting up too close (20 yards away, with 100 miles of open desert?). I told him it's big desert and ask him why here? He said he was a new shooter and didn't want to shoot alone. Luckily I was shooting pistol and just grabbed by two targets and skipped. Weird dude.

I will occasionally use a local outdoor range, but have a few issues with ranges closed to events, range masters who are clueless (I'm an RO and NRA instructor) and very questionable members of the public endangering everyone. So the middle of nowhere for me it is.
 

Cirdan

Very Active Member
#4
Last time I let a stranger shoot with me was at the Carson City range. I was in one of the private bays at the end. He turned out to be a trash shooter with a poorly maintained old Beretta Cheetah I had to help him clear a few times.

Won't do that again.
 

WantaG18

Geisterfahrer
Forum Supporter
2020 Supporter
#5
I was out there Sunday morning and it seemed fairly crowded to me. When I go out by myself I like to be by myself. I go first thing in the morning or odd hours during the week. The only time I ever had a problem, if you can call it that, was when I was with a friend and a truck stopped along the main road even with our cutoff. We waited a couple minutes and it looked like a couple of little kids had to go to the bathroom and the parent just stopped at that spot. We stayed behind the truck and kept a close eye on them until they moved.

I go farther out if I have to or I have turned around and gone home if I see too many people. I would never approach anyone shooting in the desert unless it was an emergency situation.
 

Ka Lbo

Member
Forum Supporter
2019 Supporter
2020 Supporter
#7
Basically agree with all the above. I never shoot with strangers. Have picked up and left. Big desert out there.

Area that I frequent, there is another shooting "lane" commonly used. Slight roll in landscape forms a berm of sorts.
1) When latter lane is being used, I wait until they have seen me, then I approach them.
2) Friendly greeting, open palms up so they can see I intend no harm.
3) Let them know I intend to set up 100 yds over, indicate my lane / direction of fire.
4) Verify their lane of fire. Lanes are parallel.
5) Let them know my intention is safety for all of us.
6) Bid them good day and on my way to plinking, safely.

Have done this more than a dozen times. Only one started with other guy saying, "What the f@ck do i want" All others cool, polite... ALL ended on a positive note.

FWIW. Game Warden approahed me a month or so ago. First time I'd seen one out our way. He approached much the same way I stated above Parked his truck ~50' or more away. Stayed in front of his truck until we say him. Holstered our weapons. He approached empty hands and not on his weapon. Chatted awhile and he went on his way.
 

SixshooterSam

What, me conspiracy?
#8
Basically agree with all the above. I never shoot with strangers. Have picked up and left. Big desert out there.

Area that I frequent, there is another shooting "lane" commonly used. Slight roll in landscape forms a berm of sorts.
1) When latter lane is being used, I wait until they have seen me, then I approach them.
2) Friendly greeting, open palms up so they can see I intend no harm.
3) Let them know I intend to set up 100 yds over, indicate my lane / direction of fire.
4) Verify their lane of fire. Lanes are parallel.
5) Let them know my intention is safety for all of us.
6) Bid them good day and on my way to plinking, safely.

Have done this more than a dozen times. Only one started with other guy saying, "What the f@ck do i want" All others cool, polite... ALL ended on a positive note.

FWIW. Game Warden approahed me a month or so ago. First time I'd seen one out our way. He approached much the same way I stated above Parked his truck ~50' or more away. Stayed in front of his truck until we say him. Holstered our weapons. He approached empty hands and not on his weapon. Chatted awhile and he went on his way.
That's a good way to go about it if you're in an area frequented by many people. I don't want to be even remotely close to anyone else shooting unless I happen to go to an established range though.
 

lasvegasharley

Bearer of arms
Forum Supporter
2019 Supporter
#10
I met a guy after he approched me, my wife and my son while shooting south of Boulder City. He turned out to be a really friendly guy and had a WWII era, tripod mounted, machine gun that he had restored. He even offers to let us shoot it.

We did not feel threatened in any way when he approched. But I declined his offer because I felt that shooting with stranger out deep in the desert was a high risk proposition that I could not subject my family to. I did regret telling him "sorry, maybe nextime", but what could I do.

In any case I have never met a weirdo out there, so maybe I was irrational.
 

Bonez

Active member
#11
Years ago when we were able to shoot out in the hills just past Corn Creek before it got busy, then full of trash, then closed I was pulling off the road to go do some shooting and was flagged down by a neatly dressed, clean cut guy that had just parked his nice sedan (I think it was a BMW) and was starting to walk down from the road to the shooting area. I pulled the truck over and he asked if he could grab a ride down to the shooting area since I was headed that direction. I had him hop in, and we drove out to a good spot and ended up spending the afternoon shooting together. He had a suppressed .45 and it was the first time I had ever seen/heard a suppressor in real life and he was a nice guy. After dropping him back off by his vehicle on my way out I have never seen or heard from him again.

Nowadays I wouldn't do something like that; different times and all. While I guess I am different from some others in this thread where I am polite and respectful to others that approach, I am very similar to most everyone in that I prefer to be well away from anyone else including a lot of people I know; I just am very wary around others that have un-holstered firearms.
 

tdyoung58

Well-known member
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2019 Supporter
2020 Supporter
#12
I usually don't shoot alone up here in the snowy North.

One time I did I had two can loads of people stop out by the road and hang out way to long. I always have my AK with some surplus AP ammo loaded. Picked it up and just kinda stared at them for about 6 seconds before they continued down the road. Thankfully I use a set of electronic earphones that let me hear them coming.
Even when I go out to shoot with others I keep a really close eye on everyone.
 

SixshooterSam

What, me conspiracy?
#13
I usually don't shoot alone up here in the snowy North.

One time I did I had two can loads of people stop out by the road and hang out way to long. I always have my AK with some surplus AP ammo loaded. Picked it up and just kinda stared at them for about 6 seconds before they continued down the road. Thankfully I use a set of electronic earphones that let me hear them coming.
Even when I go out to shoot with others I keep a really close eye on everyone.
I forgot to mention the paranoia muffs.. that's what a friend of mine calls them. It's amazing how sensitive a good set of them are. On a still day they allow me to hear noises from much farther away than I can without them. Definitely worth having if you're going to be out by yourself in the desert.