By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Public shooting ranges, already one of the best bargains around, are about to be even better as The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, in partnership with the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), offers free access to five several days during the month of August.
“On Free Range Days, people don’t have to have a hunting license or Wildlife Heritage license to use the range,” said Marisa Futral, WFF’s Hunter Education Coordinator. “It’s an incentive for people to come see these facilities and start using them on a regular basis.”
As part of National Shooting Sports Month, Free Range Days will be held on three Saturdays in August: on August 3 at the Cahaba River WMA Shooting Range, August 10 at Barbour WMA Shooting Range and Etowah Public Shooting Range, and August 17 at Upper Delta WMA Shooting Range and Swan Creek WMA Shooting Range.
Futral said certified firearms instructors will be on-site during the Free Range Days events, which run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those instructors will monitor the safety of everyone at the range to ensure everyone follows the proper firearm-handling protocols.
“We’ll have instructors to help them sight-in their hunting firearms, or if they just need some help with a firearm they aren’t familiar with or got as a gift,” she said.
In addition to the help of certified firearms instructors, those who don’t have access to a firearm can borrow one from Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.
“We have several firearms available for loan under the supervision of the firearms instructors,” Futral said. “We will have rifles and shotguns for them to try out.”
If you choose to borrow a firearm from WFF, ammunition will be provided. If you bring your own firearm, Futral said you should also bring your own ammunition.
“Normally, people have to bring their own targets,” Futral said. “On the Free Range Days, we will provide targets. If somebody is bringing their 30-06 rifle, we won’t have 30-06 ammunition. If they want to use one of our rifles or shotguns, we will have ammunition available for those.
“Also, we will have a special promotion on the Free Range Days. If you bring a new shooter to the range, you will get a free gift from the NSSF as long as supplies last.”
During the Free Range Days, a range safety officer will call whether the range is hot or cold. If the range is hot, everyone must remain seated at or behind the shooting benches. When the range officer calls for the range to go cold, all firearms are to be unloaded with actions open for inspection. All visitors should remain behind the benches until the range officer gives the okay to replace targets down range.
WFF will have eye and ear protection available, but I always bring my own for extra protection to preserve the bit of hearing I have left.
The Cahaba River WMA Shooting Range opens the Free Range Days events on August 3. Cahaba provides shooting opportunities at distances of 25, 50 and 100 yards. A shotgun range for shooting at clay targets is located east of the rifle range and is on the left side of the gravel road as you drive into the rifle range.
Located at 3956 Coalmont Rd., Helena, Ala., approximately 10 minutes southwest of Helena, the Cahaba range is open five days a week and closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
On August 10, the Barbour WMA and Etowah Public ranges will be open free to the public.
The Barbour WMA Shooting Range provides shooting opportunities at distances up to 100 yards. A small concrete pad to shoot shotguns at clay targets is located to the south of the 25-yard pistol range. The 25- and 100-yard ranges are separated by an earthen berm to allow shooters to travel downrange independently on each range.
The Barbour range is located approximately 5 miles south of Comer, Ala., at 370 County Road 49. The range is located about 1 mile north of the Barbour County Public Fishing Lake.