Safety and Training

Shooting on the Cheap

Free Public Gun Ranges

Shooting is an expensive hobby. With a tenuous economy and a recent election that motivated droves of shoppers to stock up on guns and ammunition, it is becoming more difficult for the average citizen to spend time doing what they love. Without too much effort, shooting can put a larger dent in your wallet than golf, photography and fishing combined.

guns and ammo rose so much in the last month, that some shooters stopped going to the range altogether. Since shooting firearms is an important hobby, I’m not prepared to hang it up. I thought I would share a few money-saving shooting tips for the economically minded firearms enthusiast.

Sell a Gun

KelTec P11
KelTec P11

I know, it’s crazy. However, the term buy low, sell high certainly applies in the current firearms market. I’m not suggesting that you slap a sale tag on a family heirloom or your favorite hunting rifle, but many gun owners have one or two guns in their collection that see little use. With demand as high as it is, I would rather put that gun equity into something that I can and will use. In the current market, I’m going to get more than I paid for that old paperweight anyway. I’m seeing used basic model pump-action 12-gauge shotguns selling to private parties for 20% above the original MSRP. Check those gun auction websites and see if that old revolver is better off collecting dust or making you money at the auction house.

Shoot .22 LR

.22 LR Remington Thunderbolt
.22 LR Remington Thunderbolt

If you do not have an extra gun to sell, you might still be in luck. Grab that old .22 you’ve had since you were 12 and get to work. It never hurts to practice the fundamentals. Proper breathing, trigger control, stance and grip are all perishable skills that don’t cost a fortune to maintain. In addition, you may enjoy the lack of recoil after 500 rounds downrange. Going shooting with a .22 is also a great time to bring a novice shooter along. I would bet a large percentage of first timers got behind the trigger of a .22 before graduating to a .308 Winchester.

Print your own Targets

Printing targets is cheap!

Download>File>Print>Shoot—it really is that easy. If you have a computer and a working printer, you are in business. There are thousands of free downloadable targets floating around the Internet. They may not be those fancy reactive targets, and they may not explode on impact, but they do a fine job of showing you where your gun made a hole. There are some hilarious zombie targets floating around too. A stack of printed targets will save you a grip of cash since buying them at the range can be pricey. Also, when you check in at the range, ask if your fee includes a free target. Often the person behind the counter will just hand you one if you think to ask.

Locate a Free Range

Free Public Gun Ranges
Free public gun ranges exist, look hard!

This will not be possible for everyone, especially if you live in a big city. However, it helps to know someone with their own land. If you are on good terms, some owners will let you come out and shoot on their land for little or no cost, as long as they know and trust you. If you don’t know anyone with land, try to make friends with someone who does. Even if that land is far away from your home, the price of gas may not be more than those ridiculous range fees. If you live out west, you may be lucky enough to live within driving distance to free public ranges. Look hard, because they do exist.

Whatever the economy does, don’t stop shooting. Polishing our skills is a tradition that overregulation and politics could make extinct if we don’t stay active in the shooting community and work to maintain our freedoms. Nothing worthwhile is too expensive if you make the effort.

What do you do to ‘shoot on the cheap’? Tell us in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (12)

  1. I get what you’re saying about the “fun” factor relative to the .22lr. Kinda like kissing your sister if that analogy makes sense ;)? That said, I got a 1911-22 GSG, a Heritage Rough Rider revolver and a Henry Frontier Rifle to complement my 10/22 and 60. –Happy Holidays

  2. I don`t know about anyone else, but shooting the ol` .22 just ain`t the same as firing off some .7.62x54R`s or the ol`8x56R stutzen carbine. I just love that nice PUNCH, if ya know what I mean. Now where I live there is one shooting range with a 2 year waiting list, a $300.00 initiation fee and that`s just too rediculous for me. This is one of the ONLY times I like being in California up in the Sierra`s, as there is plenty of BLM land out here. You need NO ONES permission! I do take the .22 cal.Ak styled rifle out there once in a while because it is so cheap to shoot, but personally I have to shoot at least 50 rounds of the .380, the .223, or the 7.62 whenever I shoot the .22, so I end up shooting my moneys worth anyway. Hey, what can you say? You gotts stay sharp! Keep shootin` guys, have fun, and above all…stay safe.

  3. Two very good methods to save some cash while still having fun at the range. I that i will attest to loading five rounds per magazine not only will it help you will increase your accuracy but also make what little ammo you can afford last a little bit longer. Second instead of printing your targets I use paper plates (pack of 80 for a 1.00) and use and empty coffee can and a top to a spray paint can for the outer and inner circles and then I use a straight edge to create pitch and yaw lines. To make it even quicker if your using a target with a wooden or thick cardboard back is to bring that little small handheld staple gun to staple it to the backing so when the targets need replacement rip the olds ones off and staple up new ones!

  4. The best way to save money is not to order from CTD!!!! They have the highest shipping and handling on the net. There is no reason for a $5 part costing $11 shipping. I will go for a higher price when combined with shipping it ends up far cheaper!! I have bought may things from CTD in the past but the shipping has gotten out of control.

  5. You Can never have too many guns or too much ammo and the only gun in my collection I don’t use much is a black powder rifle i inherited from my cousin when he died .and i,m getting it out and black powder hunting tomorrow

  6. I love my local Missouri Department of Conservation run range. $3/hour, including unlimited free targets.
    Or, the gun store my dad bought his last 3 pistols (Sig 1911 Scorpion, SR40, and M&P 9) include a free hour at their indoor range with each firearm purchase.

  7. Considering the imminent recession and worsening economy, the last thing my wife and I will do is cut back on building ammo inventory and training at the range. In fact, my wife is getting her own AR-15 for Christmas. We have, however, restructured many other facets of our financial lives: switched homeowner’s and auto insurers; switched to a local bank that actually pays us for banking with them; Switched to a major grocer’s credit card that pays us to use it and earns gasoline discounts (the interest rate is nominal because we pay for purchases within 24 hours, using it like a debit card). Also, we have joined a range owned by a gunsmith who operates it like a gun club, at a substantial savings in range costs (an annual fee for unlimited visits). And I’m looking into printing our own targets.

    I’m sure other readers here have lots of other ideas that don’t involve decreasing our readiness and ability to defend ourselves and our property.

  8. Only way I can afford to shoot cheaply is reloading and casting my own bullets. Reloading is as expensive or as cheap as you want to make it you do not need a ton of gear to get started. shooting cast bullet loads takes less powder and the bullets are free if you can find a good source of free lead or Wheel Weights. Of course shooting 22 LR is not a bad idea either.

  9. So far I am still seeing roughly the same numbers of shooters at the range. Of course, I am seeing WAY above average numbers at the gun counters/shows!

    Sad fact is and as the article states, people don’t have the same amount of disposable income that we have been used to in the past generation and I do not see that changing anytime soon. So if people have a spare buck, they are taking care of business with it (Buying guns & ammo) and putting off that trip or two or three to the range…

    Politics is a definite factor but we will IMO need to see better take-home pay for us to change the dynamics…This is the first generation that will not have it as good as the last…

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