Why you need a good airgun pellet trap!
by B.B. Pelletier
When I was a kid, I loved hot rods! As I grew older and began accepting responsibilities, I realized that function and reliability beat fashion and performance every time. When you are late for an important interview, you cannot use the "car broke down" excuse and expect to be hired. And, so it goes with all the really important things in life. Like pellet traps, for instance.
On Friday, an anonymous reader posted that he was starting to shoot through his Gamo cone pellet trap with his RWS model 52. This surprised him. Thankfully, he caught it right away. Allow me to tell you why this happens and share a few tales when it didn't work out so well.
But before I do, this comment just arrived as I was completing this posting. "I would like to mention pellet traps. I've been using the Cone Pellet Trap by GAMO for months and have quite an investment in paper targets for it. It's falling apart just from using my 392 at no closer than 10 yards and further. The spot welds on the bottom cap of the dead-pellet well gave loose so I "glued" it with a metal epoxy and it's been holding. But I've noticed that the top and sides of the funnel are bulging due to pellet impact and I'm getting concerned it may fail, so I'm thinking about a replacement.
Why doesn't the Gamo trap work?
It DOES work - providing you don't shoot at it with an airgun that's too powerful. HOWEVER, when I went to the Gamo website and looked at the specifications for this trap, they say nothing about which airguns are best suited for it! So, how is a dealer like Pyramyd Air supposed to know what a certain trap can and cannot handle, if the manufacturer doesn't tell them? Here is what I do about things when they REALLY have to work!
Get a pellet trap that no smallbore air rifle can EVER shoot through!
After having a similar experience, I finally coughed up the money for a genuine bullet trap - one made to stop a 40-grain lead bullet from a .22 long rifle cartridge. If it can do that, there ain't no smallbore airgun in the world ever going to do it any damage! I shoot a 65 foot-pound AirForce Condor at my Outer's bullet trap, which is rated to 100 foot-pounds. In a million shots, there will be no sign of damage to this trap. There are already more than 50,000 shots from various airguns on it, as it's been used for club shooting as well as my own for over 14 years. I used this trap to catch the shot from the Fire 201 air shotgun, which, you may recall, generates over 250 foot-pounds. Because the projectiles were small birdshot, each with far less energy than the whole shot column, the trap took it in stride. I have also shot .22 long rifle bullets into this trap with no problems.
Bullet traps of equal strength by Do-All and others are also available. All it takes is a Google search to find them.
Some things you may not have thought about
When you shoot an air rifle, the pellets all land close to each other. Down at the trap, those pellets land like an impact chisel! Each shot tries to go deeper than the one before. I know of a case where a shooter shot a 30 foot-pound air rifle (Webley Patriot) through his Daisy pellet trap (rated to just 6 foot-pounds!) then through a cinderblock wall behind the trap (he had no safety backstop!) and through the control panel of his wife's dryer on the other side of the wall! Granted it took almost 100 shots for all that to happen, but he KILLED his wife's clothes dryer! What you need for a rifle like the CF-X or a Diana RWS 34 is a trap so rugged that it can withstand ANYTHING you throw at it. I have other stories of guys shooting through their garage doors and wrecking the fronts of their cars and of guys shooting through the walls of their houses!
Don't feel too bad, though. In World War II, Standard Products of Detroit made M1 Carbines that they tested in their plant. They had a backstop of 10 feet of wet sand, backed by a concrete block wall. Needless to say there weren't very many real shooters working at Standard Products. One night early in production, the inevitable happened. They shot through the wall and began spraying bullets around the neighborhood! It may not happen all the time but it happens more frequently than it should.
What's behind your trap?
Shooting at a bullet trap without a safety panel behind it is like doing a trapeze act without a net. You may be very good, but it only takes one mistake. I had a 3/4" plywood panel behind my trap, and I actually shot through that and cracked a cinderblock in my foundation! Ouch! The odds of missing in exactly the same way more than once are extremely low, but I did it, nevertheless. And, with a Condor or a Career 707, you only have to miss twice the same way to do it.
Airguns are very safe compared to firearms, but there are still some fundamental safety precautions we have to take. Using a pellet trap that's up to the task is very close to the top of the list.