So you want to go shoot in the desert?

Don’t like all the rules as the Shooting range?
Not so fast! There are a few things you should know first. Like just how many rules there are even when you’re not at a supervised range.

Between the months of May and September every year in Arizona the majority of the state is under fire restrictions and shooting is PROHIBITED. Currently (June 2021) we are experiencing massive fires, including the 5th largest in AZ history. Please choose to recreate responsibly.

Who’s land are you shooting on?

To find out, you may want to check out this mapping system. It will let you know which public entity owns or manages the land.
The AZ Land Department has a great mapping system specifically for this.

Then you need to find the rules associated with who owns the land and where it’s located. To start, you should read the AZ State law on discharging firearms. This applies to all land in AZ. Also called Shannon’s Law.

A. A person who with criminal negligence discharges a firearm within or into the limits of any municipality is guilty of a class 6 felony.

B. Notwithstanding the fact that the offense involves the discharge of a deadly weapon, unless a dangerous offense is alleged and proven pursuant to section 13-704, subsection L, section 13-604 applies to this offense.

C. This section does not apply if the firearm is discharged:
1. As allowed pursuant to chapter 4 of this title.
2. On a properly supervised range
3. To lawfully take wildlife during an open season established by the Arizona game and fish commission and subject to the limitations prescribed by title 17 and Arizona game and fish commission rules and orders. This paragraph does not prevent a city, town or county from adopting an ordinance or rule restricting the discharge of a firearm within one-fourth mile of an occupied structure without the consent of the owner or occupant of the structure.  For the purposes of this paragraph:
(a) “Occupied structure” means any building in which, at the time of the firearm’s discharge, a reasonable person from the location where a firearm is discharged would expect a person to be present.
(b) “Take” has the same meaning prescribed in section 17-101.
4. For the control of nuisance wildlife by permit from the Arizona game and fish department or the United States fish and wildlife service.
5. By special permit of the chief of police of the municipality.
6. As required by an animal control officer in the performance of duties as specified in section 9-499.04.
7. Using blanks.
8. More than one mile from any occupied structure as defined in section 13-3101.
9. In self-defense or defense of another person against an animal attack if a reasonable person would believe that deadly physical force against the animal is immediately necessary and reasonable under the circumstances to protect oneself or the other person.

D. For the purposes of this section:
1. “Municipality” means any city or town and includes any property that is fully enclosed within the city or town.
2. “Properly supervised range” means a range that is any of the following:
(a) Operated by a club affiliated with the national rifle association of America, the amateur trapshooting association, the national skeet association or any other nationally recognized shooting organization, or by any public or private school.
(b) Approved by any agency of the federal government, this state or a county or city within which the range is located.
(c) Operated with adult supervision for shooting air or carbon dioxide gas operated guns, or for shooting in underground ranges on private or public property.

(ARS 13-3107)

Below are the five most likely types of lands you may come in contact with:

State Trust Land:

All activity and access to AZ State Trust Land must be permitted. Discharging a firearm, with the exception of hunting while on a permitted hunt and according to hunting laws and regulations, is not allowed. So, if your secret special spot is AZ State Trust land, I would find a new one. (

BLM Land:

Read this:

And make sure to check for any fire restrictions and closed areas, remember exploding targets and fireworks are prohibited on public lands year-round.

US Forest Service Lands:

Read these:

Prescott National Forest


National policies


Tonto National Forest


Coconino National Forest


And make sure to check for any fire restrictions and closed areas. Remember, explosive targets and fireworks are prohibited year-round in AZ.

Private Property:

You must have permission to shoot on private land, you must also act in accordance to the above ARS Statute 13-3107 and ARS 13-1502.

Tribal Lands/Reservations

Tribal lands and reservations are Sovereign Nations, they have their own rules, laws, and police. Personally, unless I have written permission from the Tribal Council, I just wouldn’t even….

Pay attention to fire bans:

A. It is unlawful for a person to enter or remain in any public building or on any public property in violation of any order or rule that is issued by any officer or agency having the power of control, management or supervision of the building or property and that relates to the control and limitation of fires, including any prohibition, restriction or ban on fires, any provision to avert the start of or lessen the likelihood of wildfire and the designation of any place where fires are permitted, restricted, prohibited or banned.
B. A person who violates this section is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor.

(ARS 13-2913)

You can look up fire restrictions at

Don’t shoot rocks with pictures on them:

C. Defacing or damaging petroglyphs, pictographs, caves or caverns is a class 2 misdemeanor.

ARS 13-3702

Oh, and about Trigger Trash, you should pick up after yourself, and help to clean up after those who didn’t, at least do your part to keep our shooting areas open.

A. A person commits criminal littering or polluting if the person without lawful authority does any of the following:
1. Throws, places, drops or permits to be dropped on public property or property of another that is not a lawful dump any litter, destructive or injurious material that the person does not immediately remove.

ARS 13-1603

You are 100% responsible for firearm safety while you are shooting in the desert. Make sure you have a safe back stop. This can be harder than you think (are you 100% sure some guy on an ATV isn’t gonna come rolling over that hill?)

Check out our post on the Five Firearm Safety Rules and use those to decide on whether or not your are being as safe as you possibly can.

**This is provided as a Legal Information Resource and should not be treated as legal advice.