Shooting in the Back Yard

Monday, December 29, 2008

It never ceases to amaze me when I read in an online forum how some airgunner got himself crossways with a neighbor and then a Very Great Unpleasantness ensues. With a little forethought, it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you are planning to shoot an airgun in your back yard for the first time, or if you have been shooting in your back yard for some time, but now you suddenly have a new neighbor, here are some things to think about.

Know the law. Find out from a reputable source – like the local police, the town clerk, or perhaps the local library – what the law is regarding shooting airguns where you live.

Prepare a safe shooting range. Make sure you have a clear lane of fire and a safe backstop for your pellets. Further, make sure that your shooting lane appears safe to the neighbors. You may be shooting at a pellet trap, and you may know that you never miss the pellet trap, but if your air rifle or air pistol is pointed directly at the neighbor’s house, you would be well advised to have some additional protection (hay bales or some other pellet-stopping barrier) between you and them.

Prepare the neighbors. One of the smartest things you can do is to visit your neighbors and let them know that they might see you shooting an air rifle in your back yard. Let them know that you are shooting into a safe backstop, that there will be no ricochets, and that their kids, property and pets are absolutely safe, even if they inadvertently wander into your yard.

Do not take your air rifle or air pistol with you when you go to talk to them. Above all, they want reassurance that you take safety seriously. If your neighbors are receptive or even enthusiastic about the subject of airgun shooting, you might want to consider inviting them to participate.

Be considerate. If you know your neighbor works nights and sleeps until noon, mornings are not the time to be banging away with a big, booming precharged rifle. If you absolutely have to shoot in the mornings, you might want to use the quietest air rifle or air pistol you can find.

Be smart. If you have checked the law, and it’s legal to shoot airguns where you live, and if at the same time you notice a lot of anti-gun bumper stickers on your neighbor’s car, it would be smart to (a) not approach the neighbor about shooting in your yard and (b) shoot at unobtrusively as possible. I heard of one fellow who shoots a fully shrouded pre-charged rifle from his fully enclosed back porch into a pellet trap in his garden shed. Nobody knows what he is up to, and he is delighted to keep it that way.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott


  1. Ray says:

    Ive been air gunning for about 2 years now with magnum springers in the 17 cal however recently I have wanted to go up to PCP rifles and buy a crosman Marauder at .25 cal. I had just gotten the power source delivered a high pressure hand pump and have been working on a stronger back stop such as old logs of about a foot or 2 ft thick which should work as a great back stop when its finished It will be about 5-6 feet high and a good 2-3 logs thick and 10-12 feet in length there is no person or persons property behind this back stop for a good half mile as it is all woods I am wondering am I taking all the necessary precautions as im not shooting towards anyone else’s property no one ever heads back there unless they are trespassing as it is on my family’s property. Im asking this becouse I am 19 in collage living with my parents and they have had no problem with my hobby untill just yesterday when they confiscated the air pump still in package from pyramid Air and one of them is complaning that Old ladys will run out in front of my target )= I highly disagree with that but it is there house so with all that said……. SHOULD I SHOOT IN MY BACK YARD OR GO TO THE STUPID RANGE!!!!!

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Thanks for your question. First, I believe that a good backstop is always a good idea when you are target shooting. It helps to prevent pellets from going someplace that you didn’t intend.

      Second, I don’t completely understand your parents objective. If the area between your shooting position and your backstop is an area where people typically walk, then it is a bad idea to be shooting there unless you have a way of warning people and keeping them out of your shooting lane. If people never walk in that area, then there is no problem. If the concern is that your parents might wander into the lane and get shot, you could tell them that you will always warn them when you are about to begin a shooting session and will post a sign saying that at your back door.

      I have a smiliar situation when I am testing airguns. My shooting lanes are near the house. I tell everyone in the house that I am about to shoot airguns and to let me know if they are going to cross my shooting lane. At the same time, I have very, very careful about the presence of people and animals when I am out shooting.

      Another thought occurs to me: if you have neighbors who live near by and who sometimes cross your property to get to somewhere else, you need to have a chat with them to explain that you will sometimes be shooting airguns and that you will put up a warning sign when you are shooting, and that they are not to cross the shooting lane.

      You need to take safety very seriously. Airguns are relatively more safe than firearms (a pellet won’t travel two miles, go through walls of a house and kill someone), but they still can be lethal if mishandled. Just recently there was a case in which one youngster killed another (both were under ten) when an airgun was mishandled. (In that case, the parents should have provided strict supervision.) In that case, the gun was a cheap, wimpy pump-up gun, but it was lethal nonetheless.

      I suggest you sit down with your parents and say, “I am as concerned about safety as you are. What I can I do to shoot on the family property and meet your concerns?”

  2. Nicky Williams says:

    Dear Jock,
    I live in a fairly small san diego home. I will be shooting at about 80 feet max. My house is surrounded by neighbors, so I don’t want to scare them. I will be getting my first airgun soon. I will be shooting in a safe direction, where the corner of my fence is. I am constantly shooting airsoft gas blow backs which make quite a racket and my neighbors don’t notice or care. The gun I will be getting is a nitro piston Benjamin Trail NP (I hear they’re very quiet). My back drop is a big crate filled with dense foam, and behind that I have a large piece of plywood with my fence behind it. Do you think this is safe, or not?

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I fear that the big crate filled with dense foam may not be sufficient. I would recommend a either a metal pellet trap or a pellet trap filled with ballistic putty. I have had the experience of a powerful airgun shooting through a foam archery target and a plywood backstop! You want something substantial to stop the pellets from that Nitro Piston airgun. A pellet trap filled with ballistic putty will be quiet. This pellet trap will stop the pellets but will be noisy.

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