Setting up a home airgun range - Part 3
by B.B. Pelletier
Pellet guns are the highest form of indoor target guns, even surpassing firearms. They are the most accurate guns at the distances commonly available to indoor users.
Let's start with the range
The ideal distance for a pellet gun is 10 meters, which is close enough to 33 feet that we use that figure interchangeably. The reason 10 meters is ideal is because all world-class competition is shot at that distance. The targets and scoring devices are all gauged for 10 meters, and the target guns are even called 10-meter airguns. So, you need 10 meters from the firing line (the muzzle of the gun must not pass forward of the firing line) to the target. An additional 3 feet are needed on the target end for trap and backer board and 5 feet on the firing line end for the shooting table (pistols) or stand (rifles). I recommend just using a table for all shooting because it is so handy. Of course, you can get by with less space.
The nice aspect of pellet guns is that pellets don't ricochet like steel BBs or airsoft BBs. They do break into fragments and even lead dust when the impact velocity exceeds 600 f.p.s., but I am recommending that you shoot guns with lower velocity than that indoors. If you do, all you'll have is flattened pellets in the target trap. Use lead pellets only, unless local laws force you to use synthetics. I realize this is inside your house, but some places in California have ordinances that restrict clubs to non-lead pellets. Synthetic pellets do ricochet, and they're not as accurate as good-quality target lead pellets.
There is little danger from lead pellets indoors, as long as the velocity is kept below 600 f.p.s. However, there are some things to consider. Lead is malleable and some small children like to chew it. If you have an indoor range, it is imperative that small children do not have access to pellets, spent or unfired. If you cannot do that, do not shoot pellet guns indoors. There is virtually no danger from lead dust if the velocity is kept below 600 f.p.s., because pellets don't start coming apart until they reach that speed. At 800 f.p.s., a lead pellet will explode into tiny fragments and dust and often be accompanied by a bright spark, which is a portion of the dust flashing to incandescence from the heat of impact. To avoid that, keep it slow indoors.
The best trap
The best pellet trap for indoor use is the quiet pellet trap. The impact putty not only stops and holds each pellet, it also makes it impossible for lead dust to form. The downside of this trap, other than the initial cost, is the fact that it must be cleaned periodically. The pellets must be pried out and the putty smoothed over where the holes were. I have owned and used a quiet trap for 8 years, and it's my favorite trap to use indoors. Besides the lack of impact noise, there's no mess.
A word to the wise on quiet traps. Some shooters try to avoid the high cost of impact putty by filling homemade traps with modeling clay or plumbers' putty. Modeling clay doesn't have the resistance needed to stop pellets above 500 f.p.s. or so. It's good for very low-powered airguns only. Plumbers' putty dries out when exposed to the air. It crumbles and will get all over the floor. Don't use it! Impact putty is actually Duct Seal and costs about $3/lb. unless you buy it in large quantities. But it is by far better than the other two.
The next best trap in my opinion is the heavy duty metal trap. That's because you can use it with every smallbore airgun, regardless of the power. It does make noise when hit, but it will last a lifetime. Mine must have more than a quarter-million shots on it. Except for the peeling paint, it's still like new. However, if you are shooting under 600 f.p.s., you can get away with a lighter trap that costs less. The Daisy 879 pellet trap is a great trap for guns that shoot slow. My 10-meter club had 10 of them that we used for 20 years for all kinds of training and competition. None of the guns we shot went over 550 f.p.s., and those traps were fine.
Behind the trap put the same 3'x3' backer board that I recommended for the BB gun range. If you think you might shoot a more powerful airgun in the house, use a thicker board. Match the thickness of the board to the power of the gun. The .22-caliber AirForce Condor will shoot through one-and-a-half 2x4 boards at close range, and it can crack a cinderblock with just a single shot. Don't ask how I know that! So, I recommend sticking with guns that shoot less than 600 f.p.s.
Well that was a big subject! I felt it was necessary for all those who want to build indoor ranges for some lucky person this Christmas.