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Free Range Days Set for WFF Facilities in August

Shooters at one of the Free Range Days can get instructions on the safe handling and shooting of firearms from certified instructors. Photos by Billy Pope

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.

Free Range Days allows shooters to bring their own guns or they can borrow a rifle or shotgun from Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

The Etowah Public Shooting Range, which is operated in cooperation with the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office, provides shooting opportunities at distances up to 200 yards.  The four ranges are 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards and located side by side with a dividing berm to allow shooters to go downrange independently of each other. A small concrete pad for shotguns shooting at clay targets is located to the south of the 25-yard pistol range.

The range is located approximately 5 miles north of Gadsden at 8302 Owl's Hollow Road in Etowah County. 

On August 17, the Free Range Days promotion will be held at the Upper Delta WMA Shooting Range and the Swan Creek WMA Shooting Range.

The Upper Delta WMA Shooting Range has a unique configuration that uses a large, 20-foot steel tube to ensure that projectiles from firearms hit the large earthen berm at the 100-yard range. The muzzle of the firearm must be inside the steel tube before the firearm is discharged. A small concrete pad to shoot shotguns at clay targets is located to the south of the rifle range.

The Upper Delta range is located approximately 9 miles north of Stockton, Ala., off of St. Luke’s Church Road. 

The Swan Creek WMA Shooting Range provides shooting opportunities at distances up to 100 yards. Ranges of 25, 50 and 100 yards are located side by side with a dividing berm to allow shooters to go downrange independently of each other. An area to shoot shotguns at clay targets is located to the north of the 100-yard rifle range. The range is operated by the WFF in cooperation with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

All Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) ranges are wheelchair-accessible and have concrete walkways for downrange access to the target lines.

License and permit requirements will remain in effect for all other ADCNR public shooting ranges.

“The mission of our ranges is to provide a safe, friendly, inexpensive place to have a great time shooting your firearms,” Futral said. “For the cost of a hunting license, fishing license or Wildlife Heritage license, we have 12 ranges where you can practice your marksmanship skills before hunting season or just have fun shooting targets.

“We also want to remind people that the money used to build these ranges comes from the sale of licenses. The license money is then matched three-to-one with funds from the sale of firearms and ammunition through the Pittman-Robertson Act.”

Except on the days and ranges included in Free Range Days, Alabama residents ages 16-64 must have a valid hunting, Wildlife Heritage, fishing, or WMA license to use the ranges.

For non-residents, a valid WMA license is required for all range users age 16 or older.

Certain rules apply to all ADCNR ranges:

  • Guests under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult while on the property.
  • Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
  • Any legal firearm and ammunition, except armor-piercing or tracer, may be used on a target range.
  • Keep all firearms unloaded and muzzles pointed in a safe direction when not firing. Actions on uncased guns shall be open when not on the firing line.
  • All persons are to remain behind the shooter while firing is taking place. No firing shall be allowed while anyone is downrange.
  • All firearms shall only be fired from designated stations on the concrete shooting line into the embankment at stationary paper targets, self-healing or metal automatic-reset targets. Targets must be placed so shots will impact the bottom 5 feet of the embankment.
  • Only one person may shoot from each designated location at any given time.
  • Shotguns with no. 4 shot or smaller may be fired at moving clay targets on designated clay areas only.
  • All used targets, brass, shotgun hulls and other trash shall be placed in a garbage can or removed from the range.

Visit www.outdooralabama.com/activities/shooting-ranges for more information on ADCNR’s public shooting ranges including directions.

For more information about Free Range Days, contact Futral at 334-242-3620 or email Marisa.Futral@dcnr.alabama.gov.

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Anyone who brings a new shooter to one of the Free Range Days will receive a gift while supplies last.

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