Updated: Aug 8
Every state has different laws and ordinances when it comes to legally shooting firearms. These laws and ordinances cover a wide variety of places, including proximity to buildings, dwellings, and roadways. No matter where you shoot, make sure you know basic gun range etiquette.
We will explore the laws and ordinances that the state of Delaware has surrounding where a person can legally shoot. Specifically, we will look at public and private shooting ranges and private shooting clubs and the ability for private citizens to legally shoot on their own property.
Delaware casts a wide net of laws and ordinances that can change between state, county, and local municipalities. While we will hit on these as in depth as possible, it is highly encouraged to seek out specific laws and ordinances to ensure that they are followed.
Delaware State law says that shooting outside on private property must not be closer than 300 yards from roadways. In addition, local county and township restrictions apply. Exceptions are made for shooting ranges, public, private, and club, some which require payment to use.
Let’s take a look at all the places where shooting is legal in Delaware.
State Shooting Ranges
Delaware is the second smallest state in the United States which means choices are limited. Public ranges are offered to anyone in the state at the Hunter Education Training Centers located in Kent and New Castle counties. Having only two public shooting ranges might not seem like a lot for one state, but with Delaware’s size, it offers a lot.
Ommelanden Hunter Education and Training Center
The Ommelanden Hunter Education and Training Center is located in New Castle, Delaware in New Castle County. This public shooting range is open between Wednesdays through Saturdays for seven hours a day. All shooters 10 years and older must have completed a basic safety program which is offered every day the range is open. The rifle and pistol ranges cost $6 per person for a 45-minute time period but it is a first come, first serve style of shooting range. It is in a safe, controlled environment to shoot and is a good alternative if someone doesn’t have access to a shooting range of their own or is not a member of a private range or club.
The Owens Station Shooting Sports and Hunger Education Center is listed as the other public shooting range on the Delaware DNR website. Their ranges are designed to accommodate shotguns only. They offer 50 targets for $26 or 100 targets for $45. Unfortunately, they don’t cater to rifles or handguns, but they do offer an archery range as well. If you are looking for sporting clays, this would be a great spot to go for a reasonable price even for non-members. Located in Greenwood, Delaware in Kent County, It is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm on each of those days.
Public shooting ranges are a great option for the general public to use when they are available, even at a cost like the ones in Delaware. They open up more options to shooters who need a place to shoot and the money that is collected for the use of these facilities is often used by the DNR and the state to help with maintenance and upkeep of such facilities.
Clubs and Shooting Ranges
Outside of the two public state-funded shooting ranges mentioned earlier, there are also public shooting ranges considered businesses that open their facilities to the general public for use. They typically operate at a steeper price but also usually provide membership options at a discount for those who see themselves using the range frequently.
Many shooting ranges have become staples in communities in which they are located. These are the types of shooting ranges to be on the lookout for if you are in need of a shooting range closer to home.
Look for amenities that meet your shooting needs. Many of these types of shooting ranges have a lot more to offer, such as operating their own gun shops that can provide firearms for purchase or for rental, ammunition, and other products. Some might even offer other services such as gun fittings, training, and much more. A membership might also come with discounts on these services.
Private gun or shooting clubs are also a great option though they are usually run as for-profit entities that in turn, offer great services at a price for membership and depending on how often you shoot could save you in the long run.
Some have open membership that allows anyone to join for a fee, while others have closed memberships that only allow for a certain number of members or a limit on memberships. It definitely helps to know someone that is already a member of a club. It can offer a great foot in the door, especially if the organization operates as a closed membership.
Private shooting ranges are also run on memberships but are not open to the general public. Shooters will need a membership to allow them access to these ranges. These memberships can range in price depending on the size of the shooting range and the amenities that they offer to their members. We can say that oftentimes these private shooting ranges come with a little bit higher price tag to keep numbers at a reasonable rate so as not to overcrowd the shooting range.
Also consider the size of the range. Some ranges are limited to short range and handgun rounds. Bigger caliber rounds and rifle rounds are not allowed. This is something very important to consider before buying a membership.
Whatever your decision, make sure to look into all of the amenities and options that the club has to offer. If it doesn’t meet your needs, then there is no sense in dropping money on a membership. Diligence and research should be taken seriously before joining a private organization.
Some of our favorite ranges, both public and private, include the Alexander Sporting Farm (members only), Shooter’s Choice (public and offers rentals) and Range Time (Both Public and Memberships) and Best Shot (Both Public and Memberships).
There are a lot of rules, regulations, and laws that surround shooting on private property in the state of Delaware. Those regulations usually come in the form of state, county, and local ordinances that are put in place to ensure public safety. Here we will discuss the ins and outs of shooting on private property as precisely as possible.
We highly suggest that the advice and direction of a local law enforcement official be sought out before shooting on private property to ensure that all parties are given clear guidance on the rules and regulations. Do not assume anything when it comes to safety and legal procedures.
When exploring the idea of shooting on private property, let’s first start with the rules and regulations at the state level, then the county level, and finally some of the local rules and regulations that can be found in Delaware. Each of them should be followed to the letter of the law. Let’s dive in.
State Laws and Regulations
According to Delaware Code Title 28, a person can legally operate a shooting range for the purpose of target shooting or other trials of skill with a firearm if it meets stated requirements for the general safety of the public.
Per Delaware Code Title 28:
(A) No person shall keep a gallery or booth or other convenience for the purpose of target shooting or other trials of skill by the use of firearms within the borders of any town or city, or within 300 yards of any road or public passway, within this State, or at any place of public resort, unless the gallery or booth or other convenience is enclosed with walls not less than 10 feet in height and not less than 4 inches in thickness sufficient to prevent ball or shot from the firearms from escaping from or passing through the gallery or booth.
So if the private property in question is within any town or city border or limits, then shooting is not allowed on said property.
Second, any shooting on private property must take place at least 300 yards away from any road or public passway. This, in essence, could mean that a certain size of property must be available if it is near roads or passages used by the public.
Title 28 states that the above must be followed if the range is located outdoors, however, a shooting range on private property can be enclosed with a minimum of 10 foot tall walls that are at least 4 inches thick and can prevent a ball or shot of a firearm from escaping the shooting area.
Even with the above provisions met, county regulations will take these state codes to the next level and build on top of them to include ordinances for the sake of public safety.
County Laws and Regulations
Each county within the state of Delaware has slightly different laws and regulations when it comes to shooting on private property. As previously stated, it’s always best to check with local law enforcement officials for clarification.
Let’s take a look at the county laws for New Castle County.
Per sec. 22.03.003:
A. It shall be unlawful to discharge a firearm either inside or within the following distances from any structure or camp, occupied or capable of being occupied, or any barn, stable or other building or permanent facility used in connection therewith except for those owned and operated by an outdoor or partially enclosed shooting range (all distance requirements set forth below for discharging a firearm within the stated distance of structures, camps, barns, stables, or other buildings or permanent facilities not owned and operated by an outdoor partially enclosed shooting range shall remain in effect), or to discharge a firearm at a target, object, bird or animal that is within such distances:
1. North of the line created beginning at the Delaware Memorial Bridge and following Interstate 295 to its intersection with Interstate 95, thence to the Delaware-Maryland border: two hundred (200) yards.
2. South of the line created beginning at the Delaware Memorial Bridge and following Interstate 295 to its intersection with Interstate 95, thence to the Delaware-Maryland border: one hundred (100) yards.
B. The area within such distance shall be a safety zone.
In New Castle County, the law establishes a safety zone around certain structures. Structures that these safety zones surround include camps or buildings that are occupied or could be occupied, barns, stables, or other permanent buildings not associated with a shooting range. This means that an area around almost any building is essentially a safety zone in New Castle County.
The distance around those buildings that constitute the safety zone differs in certain areas of the county. For New Castle County, there is a line that divides the county into two halves, north and south. This line is created starting at Delaware Memorial Bridge and follows Interstate 295 to the intersection of Interstate 95 and then to the Delaware-Maryland border.
North of this line, a safety zone is created within 200 yards of a building described above. South of this line, a safety zone is created within 100 yards of a building described above. Depending on which part of the county the private property is located in, a safety zone is either 100 or 200 yards around the building. You are not permitted by law to discharge a firearm within these safety zones.
There are exemptions to the safety zone, however. They include inside one’s own home or residence, place of business, inside a home or business with permission from the owner, or at an outdoor or partially enclosed shooting range.
An outdoor or partially enclosed shooting range must have a safe impact area, effective control of shooters, reasonable means to restrict access to the zone of fire, must comply with all applicable laws and ordinances, and be approved or sanctioned by a national organization. This clearly refers to shooting ranges operated as a business and not on private property, but owners of private property should follow these same laws and ordinances for the sake of safety.
There are also other exemptions for farmers, officers of the law, and security officers.
That is about the extent of the New Castle County laws and ordinances surrounding shooting firearms on private property. While it doesn’t exactly spell things out word for word, it does add more parameters to set up a shooting range or area on private property in New Castle county. Add those to the Delaware State Code and it gives a very strong foundation for the parameters of shooting on private property safely and legally.
Due to the Delaware State Code, there are not many, if any, local laws and regulations surrounding legal shooting of a firearm outside of self-defense and shooting ranges operated as a business. That would put most laws and regulations under the purview of the county and state.
Private property shooting ranges are not allowed within town and city limits. It still would not be a bad idea to talk with the local law enforcement officials to make sure there aren’t any underlying rules that need to be applied if shooting on private property.
Things to Consider Outside of Laws and Regulations
Outside of the laws, regulations, and ordinances mentioned, there are other considerations one must make when shooting on private property. Taking necessary and even extreme precautions to make yourself and everyone else as safe as possible should be top priority.
When setting up a shooting range on private property, first, always follow all laws and regulations. Be sure to have a sturdy backdrop that is able to stop bullets and keep them contained. It would be wise to use piles of dirt or other earthen material that stop bullets and keep them from straying away from the area.
If the private property in question has neighbors in the surrounding area, be sure to confer with them to ensure their safety. Also, not every neighbor may be welcoming to the noise of firearms being shot. By being proactive, conflicts later on can be kept to a minimum. Speak with a level head and try to communicate well and clearly to make things operate smoothly.
Finally, when in doubt, and always bears repeating: seek out guidance from law enforcement officials who can help ensure that private property is set up properly to shoot on. Don’t risk doing something that might violate laws, regulations, and ordinances.
While shooting ranges and gun clubs might be pretty straightforward, private property tends to be more of a gray area for safe and legal shooting.
Be sure to do your own research and follow the laws and ordinances of the state, county, and any local municipalities of the private property that will be used for shooting firearms.
Be safe and respectful to all others around when shooting a firearm. Enjoy the time at the range, wherever it might be!
For Further Reading, Check out our post regarding 14 Things You Need to Know About Delaware Gun Laws.
Also, in a future piece, we will be discussing the laws passed last summer. As of June 2022, Delaware passed several new laws, including a magazine restriction and an "Assault Weapons" ban that outlaws huge amounts of semi-automatic weapons that are in common use. There are multiple cases pending, so you might want to stay tuned for our take on all this.