Posts Tagged ‘duct seal’

Safe backstops and bullet traps

by B.B. Pelletier

Many of us shoot our airguns inside the house, garage or barn and need to stop our projectiles from damaging what’s behind the target. Today, I want to talk about what works, what doesn’t and why. My sermon today is in the form of a repentant sinner, because I’ve made most of the mistakes I’m telling you to avoid.

The difference between a trap and a backstop
A bullet trap is designed to stop whatever is shot into it. Targets are hung in front of the trap, and it’s expected to stop all bullets/pellets/BBs that enter.

A backstop is often set behind the trap to stop the bullets that miss the trap. If there’s a trap, the backstop is only called upon occasionally; but sometimes there’s no trap — just the backstop, in which case the backstop, alone, has to stop everything.

Starting with BB guns
When I was a boy, the most popular trap for BB guns was a trash can or wastepaper basket filled with crushed newspapers. It worked, but not for very long, so let’s talk about that. Crushed newspapers are great padding for packages. The newspapers have enough resiliency to keep the contents of the package firmly in place — unless those contents are very heavy. And the same crushed newspapers will stop BBs from low-powered BB guns — like Red Ryders — for a short time.

But — and this is important — even a Red Ryder will eventually shoot through the crushed newspapers when one BB after another impacts in the same spot. And, if the BB gun is more powerful, it doesn’t take as long to tear through. Red Ryders shoot at around 300-350 f.p.s. But some powerful BB guns like the Remington AirMaster 77 top 700 f.p.s. They’ll rip through crushed newspapers in one-tenth the time it takes a Red Ryder to get through. When you’re making a BB trap, consider both the length of time you’ll be shooting at the trap as well as the potential velocity of the gun doing the shooting.

A better way to stop BBs is to provide a backstop that has some give — like a piece of wall-to-wall carpet. When the backstop moves, it robs the projectile of a lot of velocity, which prevents bounceback — the bane of the BB gun. And wall-to-wall carpet has a very tough base that seems impervious to steel BBs at Red Ryder velocities. I know of clubs that have made BB gun ranges with large sections of wall-to-wall carpet that not only stop the BBs but which hang to the floor and are folded into a trough at the bottom to funnel all the BBs into a container, simplifying cleanup. A backstop like that and a large powerful magnet makes cleanup an easy chore.

Of course, you can buy a commercial BB trap that will do all I’ve described. Crosman’s model 850/852 trap is perfect for low-velocity BB guns and works for low-velocity pellets, as well. The only problem is that Crosman has them made in China, and sometimes they’re out of stock for a very long time. The UTG pellet & BB trap is very similar and will do the same things. It costs a few dollars more, but the supply is more regular. Both of these traps have “ballistic curtains” that absorb the energy of BBs at low velocity. A thin steel backplate ultimately stops the projectile. Of course, you’ll want to put a larger backstop behind this trap for those few projectiles that miss the trap altogether.


This Crosman 850 BB trap has stopped thousands of BBs and pellets. Notice how the ballistic curtains have been torn up from all the shots.

For the more powerful BB guns — those with muzzle velocities over 400 f.p.s. — I don’t like carpet. Like crushed newspaper, it’s possible to shoot through it if you keep hitting in the same spot. For those guns, I prefer an actual trap filled with duct seal and use the carpet as a backstop behind the trap. The few BBs that hit the carpet won’t hit in the same place, and it should work fine. If the range is to be more permanent, however, put some plywood behind the carpet and keep an eye on the carpet and replace it as needed.

On to pellets
Pellets are made of lead, mostly, though there’s a movement to use other metals that are less toxic. Lead absorbs energy when it deforms against a hard target. Up to 600 f.p.s., lead continues to flatten out until a spent pellet has become a flat round disk with just a trace of the skirt still visible. At velocities above 600 f.p.s., lead starts to break apart upon impact. First, it breaks off in large chunks traveling at low velocity. As the impact velocity continues to rise, the lead fragments get smaller and travel faster. Above 700 f.p.s., they’re traveling fast enough to break lights up to 15 feet away from the trap.


This pellet was flattened at 600 f.p.s. or less, You can still see the pellet’s skirt, including the rifling that’s engraved into both it and the head that is flattened.


This pellet was moving faster than 600 f.p.s. when it hit and has started to break apart. It’s a smaller caliber than the first pellet, but the breakup happens in the same way regardless of size.

You don’t want to use a lightweight pellet trap for pellets that move at higher velocities! They’ll even punch through steel plates if they’re thin enough. For pellet guns, some thought must be given to what kind of trap you use.

I use three traps in my work. One is the BB trap already mentioned. Regular readers of this blog know that I shoot several hundred rounds each week. Often one test involves from 100 to 200 shots. So, my traps (I’m not talking about backstops yet) have to be up to the task.

Heavy Duty Bullet trap
For all my most powerful airguns, I use a Heavy Duty bullet trap designed to stop a .22 long rifle bullet. I bought mine about 20 years ago and I thought $45 was a lot to pay. Today, you’ll pay over $75 for the same thing, but it’s the last bullet trap (of that type) you’ll ever buy. My trap has seen hundreds of thousands of pellets and bullets over the years — and except for the paint, it’s still as good as new today.

My workhorse heavy-duty pellet trap hides behind the cardboard facer. The white backer board behind is half an inch thick and will stop pellets with up to 50 foot-pounds of energy.

This is the trap I use when I shoot 25 yards inside the house, and over the years I’ve missed this trap a couple dozen times, so I learned long ago to back it with something strong. I use a board of white synthetic material that Edith gave me years ago. It’s supposed to be a special board she bought over 15 years ago for kneading bread dough, but it warped just enough that it twirls and moves freely on the countertop during use, so now it’s mine. Since I started using this backer board with the steel trap, nothing has slipped past.

The final trap I use is the one that blog reader Jim Contos gave me. I wrote a special blog describing how to build one for yourself. Jim gave me this trap after I reported shooting through my homemade silent pellet trap that I’d used for many years. After cleaning the trap and replacing all the duct seal, I was testing a Beeman HW100 S FSB, which is a 26 foot-pound PCP rifle. Within just a few shots I shot clean through the duct seal and the steel plate behind it! I’ve used this trap for a very long time and with some powerful airguns. What was different this time was the lack of a wadded mass of lead pellets to help slow the pellets that were shot. So they sailed right through the trap!


This is what happens when a 26 foot-pound pellet rifle hits two-inches of duct seal in the same place repeatedly. There’s a thin steel plate between that plywood back and the duct seal, and the pellets zipped through it!

I don’t back this trap with anything. because I use it only for chronograph testing, where the muzzle is a foot from the trap. I haven’t come close to missing the trap in over 25,000 shots!

How large should the backer be?
Make the backer large enough to positively stop all rounds that are shot in the direction of the target. If you’re the only shooter, maybe the backer can be smaller; but if your range will ever host other shooters of varying abilities, make it bigger. When we lived in Maryland, I often let others shoot on my basement range. I used a 3/4-inch plywood backer that was 4 feet square. Even then it was just enough to stop all the wild shots. Not everyone waits to sight the gun before their finger moves to the trigger!

Let’s review
So, you always want to stop your projectile positively. Sometimes that’s done with just a target backer, like a piece of wall-to-wall carpet. Other times, you use a trap to stop the projectile and put the backer behind it in case you miss the trap.

Shooting safe is imperative, because there’s no room for error here. How you stop your projectiles makes all the difference between a safe home range and a serious accident or injury. This is one area where you always want to err on the safe side!

Weihrauch HW 100 S FSB PCP rifle: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2


This is the actual rifle I’m testing. Isn’t that wood beautiful?

Before I begin, at the end of this report there is a lengthy Q&A section in which Dr. Mirfee Ungier, wife of Pyramyd Air owner Joshua Ungier, answers a number of questions about protective eyewear and other related shooting issues. Dr. Ungier is a respected ophthalmologist with thousands of successful surgeries to her credit, and she agreed to answer readers’ questions about protective eyewear.

Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the HW 100 S FSB PCP air rifle I’m testing. Throughout this report, I’ve mentioned how impressed I am with this airgun for various reasons. It has the easiest-loading metal rotary clip in the business. You can see the pellets advance in the clip, and now I know that you can even see them when a scope is mounted. That makes the rifle very easy to manage — like knowing when you’re shooting the last shot. And, then, there’s the trigger! This one is perfect for me. It breaks cleanly at 8 oz. and has a positive two-stage release. I couldn’t ask for more.

The rifle is light, or at least it feels light when you hold it. The scale disagrees, but I can’t get away from the lightness I feel. Also, the stock happens to fit me perfectly. Though that’s a very personal thing, you can’t overlook it when it works out your way.

On the down side, I noted that the rifle recoils about the same as a heavy .22 rimfire rifle shooting standard speed ammo. It’s an unfamiliar feeling to have a smallbore PCP recoil. The shot count that the chronograph said could be as high as 38 shots on a fill actually turned out to be about 25, like I first noted. I will show you the evidence on two of the targets.

For this test, I mounted an older version of the Leapers 8-32x56AO scope that was used in the test of the Crosman Outdoorsman 2250. While it was too much scope for the little carbine, it was a perfect fit on the Weihrauch PCP. And, it allowed me to see the bulls at 50 yards very clearly. It was mounted in two-piece B-Square adjustable scope mounts that are no longer available. I’ll soon be showing you a new adjustable scope mount that may solve your scope adjustment problems, in case you do not already own one of these vintage American-made B-Squares.


On the big HW 100, the Leapers 8-32×56 looks right. It’s mounted in a vintage high B-Square adjustable mount that’s no longer available.

Accurate right from the get-go
I enjoy shooting accurate guns, because they cooperate to produce such wonderful results with so little work. The HW 100 is one of those. Even the sight-in group was impressive enough to show you. I selected the 18.1-grain JSB Jumbo Exact Heavy as my sight-in pellet, simply because one owner said he got such good results with it in his .22 rifle.


This is the sight-in group — the first 10 shots made after the scope was mounted. It’s ten 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbos at 50 yards and it measures 0.795 inches between centers. It’s the largest group fired with this pellet.

Then, I settled down and shot a couple more groups with the same pellet. I’d adjusted the point of impact to the exact center of the crosshairs, so on the first group I shot out the aiming point with the first couple shots.


Ten more JSB Exact Jumbos went into this group, which measures 0.667 inches between centers. This is a phenomenal group. After the first couple shots, I had to estimate the location of the center of the bull because it had been shot away.

Learned something important
I tried to shoot a third group of 10 shots, and this is when I learned that the HW 100 doesn’t like to shoot that many shots per fill. At least, it doesn’t if you expect accuracy at 50 yards. Look at the grouping and I will explain.


The first two shots went through the center of the bull. The next two shots are at 5 o’clock on the edge of the black. The rifle is now low on air and the point of impact just shifted as a result. This is part of the proof I mentioned in the beginning of this report that the rifle falls off the performance curve very suddenly.

It occurred to me that I may not have filled the rifle to the exact maximum on the first fill. Taking that into account, I watched the rifle’s manometer as I filled the reservoir the second time, and stopped exactly when it hit the top of the green area, which is an indicated 200 bar or 2,900 psi. But as you will see, the needle is quite fat and a bit imprecise.


The onboard manometer (pressure gauge) is located on the end of the air reservoir, where it can be seen easily during a fill.

On the second round, I learned another important thing. This rifle is slightly overfilled when the needle on the manometer is pointing at the max fill spot. In other words, I should have learned where the right high end point was on my more accurate tank gauge and stopped there, because I’ll show you what happened.

On the next group, the first two shots were in the lower right portion of the bull, then they miraculously jumped back to where they belonged in the center. Even so, this was the tightest group of three shots with the JSB 18.1-grain Exact pellet.


The first two pellets went to the 5 o’clock position, while the other eight went closer to the point of aim. Even with this, the group measures only 0.571 inches between the centers of all 10 shots. It’s the best group of the test. This proves that the rifle needs to be exactly on the power curve to shoot its best. Omitting those two shots and the group shrinks to 0.368 inches. Remembering that most writers only shoot 5-shot groups for the record instead of 10, here are 8 that went well under half an inch!

Now I was on a roll and expected the other pellets to perform equally well. They didn’t though. After reading an owner’s report of the gun, I’d selected the best pellet for the rifle and started the test with it.

Beeman Kodiak copper-plated pellets were the worst pellets of the four I tested. They grouped 10 shots into a startlingly large 1.907-inch group at the same 50 yards that JSB Jumbos had made a group less than one-third that size. They were a shock and disappointment, but also a reminder of just how sensitive an airgun can be when it comes to ammunition.


This group of Beeman Kodiak copper-plated pellets was disappointing after the success of the JSB Jumbos. It measures 1.907 inches between centers.

Next, I tried the old favorite 14.3-grain Crosman Premier. At just 14.3 grains, it’s screaming downrange at the ragged edge of accurate velocity, and perhaps just a touch too fast. That’s why they gave a larger group that measured 1.225 inches for 10 shots.


Ten Crosman Premiers went into this group that measures 1.225 inches at 50 yards. It’s not that bad, but we already know this rifle is capable of much better.

The last pellet I tried was the equally brilliant JSB Exact 15-9-grain dome that works so well in a multitude of spring and PCP rifles. I expected great things from it. Alas, it was not to be.


Ten 15.9-grain JSB Exacts went into this group, which measures 1.187 inches between centers. It isn’t as good as I had hoped for this pellet.

Well, the results could not be any clearer. This rifle loves the 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbo to the exclusion of the other premium pellets I tried. It also develops the greatest power with this pellet, so nothing is lost by using it.

The HW 100 is also very sensitive to its fill pressure. As long as you stay within the boundaries, the rifle is capable of incredible accuracy; stray out on either side, and the pellets will wander.

The bottom line
If I could justify keeping this fine rifle, I would. But that isn’t going to happen. I already own several accurate PCPs, and my gun storage facility can only hold so much. So, we’ll be shipping it back to Pyramyd Air very soon. Whoever wants to own this particular beautiful tackdriver should request serial number 1921933.

Dr. Ungier’s answers
Now, we have some answers about protective eyewear questions and related topics from Dr. Mirfee Ungier.

Q. Is polycarbonate OK for the applications we are talking about (pellets and BB’s)?

A. Polycarbonate is more than OK as a safety glass material. ANSI standards have moved entirely to polycarbonate and away from plastics like CR39 (industrial plastic). It may scratch more easily, but maintains its integrity and protective function the best.

Q. If polycarbonate lenses take an impact, does that mean they’re done and you have to get new ones? I believe that’s what they tell us about bike helmets.

A. Polycarbonate can take impacts without cracking or chipping, but you do have to look at it. Especially rimless ones may chip. If there’s any visible defect, replace them. It is much cheaper than replacing an eye.

Q. What are the long-term effects on a person’s vision from frequent use of rifle scopes?

A. I am not aware of any downside of using scopes. People do all the time. If anyone using a scope notices a problem with their vision, they should, of course, get an eye exam. I think of people who use scopes are quite aware of what they are and are not seeing. When they come to me, they are usually better able to communicate than people who do not use their eyes as much. Using eyes is a good thing.

Q. What adverse effects can class III laser sights have on a person’s vision, and how much (or how little) exposure does it take for damage to occur?

A. I am not aware of a study regarding laser time exposure and damage to the eyes. These may not be at the nastier wavelengths, but all lasers by definition are highly coherent beams that can pack a punch. I use red beam aimers for directing other wavelengths into the eyes for therapeutic reasons, and I still try to avoid the center vision. Short glances into a laser scope will probably not cause harm in the short term, but we never recommend it, and you certainly wouldn’t play with them.

Q. What should we do if the unthinkable happens and someone is struck in the eye? What should we do while transporting the individual to the closest ER? What are the emergency first-aid procedures that we should follow?

A. If a serious eye injury occurs, there is no on-the-spot treatment you can do. In fact, most important is to not press on the eye. It is OK to shield it, but pressure could turn a bad injury into a worse one. Then proceed as quickly as possible to an emergency room in a hospital that is equipped to do eye surgery. Calling ahead to be sure would be great. If you are far off the beaten track, then any emergency facility would be OK. During working hours, you could see if there is an ophthalmologist (I mean ophthalmologist, not optometrist or optician, because we may be talking surgery) in town to examine and expedite treatment. Otherwise, call an optometrist for recommendation for the closest facility.

Q. I was wondering if the age of Tom’s old safety glasses could have contributed to their easy destruction. Do time and sunlight degrade the efficiency of protective safety glasses? For instance, what’s the shortest time period in which you should you trust the material integrity of your glasses and be safe while shooting?

A. Safety glasses scratch, age and degrade. Old ones are better than none, but my optician recommends replacing them at least every 2 years.

Weihrauch HW 100 S FSB PCP rifle: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Before we start, I want to let you know that there are two new videos on Airgun Academy:

Episode 25 – Introduction to airgun calibers: Part 1
Episode 26 – Introduction to airgun safety: Part 1

There’s also a new podcast. This is a special one. It’s the interview with Dr. Robert Beeman, founder of Beeman Precision Airguns. Sorry this has taken so long, but Edith processes them and she had a few unavoidable delays getting this ready for publication.

On to today’s blog.

Part 1


This is the actual rifle I’m testing. Isn’t that wood beautiful?

Today, I’ll resume our look at the HW 100S FSB PCP air rifle. For what I am about to do, I apologize: By the end of this section of the report, several of you will want to get this rifle.

This is velocity day and we have two things to test. First, we’ll be testing the velocity of the rifle with three popular brands of .22 caliber pellets. Based on the published energy potential of the rifle (26 foot-pounds), I’ve selected the Beeman Kodiak copper-plated pellet for its weight of 21.1 grains. I’ve tested this pellet in other rifles and found it to be just as accurate as the all-lead Kodiak, so I felt this was an appropriate pellet to test. It just barely clears the repeating mechanism, front and rear, so it’s probably at the upper limit of pellet weights for use in this rifle in the repeating mode. If you obtain the optional single-shot adapter, you could load longer, heavier pellets.

The second pellet I chose was the 18.1-grain JSB Jumbo Exact Heavy. Not only is this a good pellet in powerful guns, it also got at least one good mention in the customer reviews of this gun.

The third pellet I selected was the venerable 14.3-grain Crosman Premier. I wouldn’t normally select a pellet this light for a rifle rated at 26 foot-pounds, but the Premier is such a well-known pellet that I felt it had to be included. Unfortunately for me that choice cost me dearly, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Loading
Loading the circular clip for this rifle is quite easy. A mark on the outside of the clip tells you where you are, plus I was able to see the pellets as they fed into the breech since I haven’t mounted a scope yet. When installed in the gun, the clip rotates clockwise, so you always know to load pellets to the left of the outer mark on the magazine. The clip removes and installs easier than any circular clip I’ve ever used in a PCP rifle. And, the cocking sidelever is equally smooth and easy. I found the HW 100S FSB to be the epitome of a smooth-shooting PCP.


Two 14-round clips come with the rifle. Pellets are loaded from the back of the clip, shown on the right. The indexing line discussed in the report can be seen on the edges of both clips.

Discharge sound
This is not a quiet air rifle! The sound at discharge is approximately the same as a Sheridan Blue Streak or Benjamin 392 on 8 pumps. It really cracks! We must take into account that the rifle is generating more than twice the power of the multi-pumps, but I think the sound will bother those shooters who want perfect quiet from their guns.

Velocity
The first pellet tested was the Beeman Kodiak Copper-Plated pellet. They averaged 799 f.p.s., which means a muzzle energy of 29.92 foot-pounds, so the advertised 26 foot-pounds is very conservative. The velocity ranged from a low of 789 to a high of 805 f.p.s., for a the total spread was 16 f.p.s. I will be interested to see how accurate this pellet will be, because it really delivers the power.

Next, I tested the JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy. They’re shorter than the Kodiaks, so they fit the clip much better. They averaged 874 f.p.s., which calculates to a muzzle energy of 30.71 foot-pounds. That is an increase over the heavier Kodiaks! Normally heavier pellets are more efficient in PCPs, but we’ve just encountered an exception. The velocity spread went from 872 to 878 f.p.s., so just six feet per second between the slowest and fastest shot. That’s really amazing.

Trigger
Normally, I would address the trigger in Part 3, when I test accuracy, but I just couldn’t wait that long. It’s a two-stage pull and releases with just 8 oz. of pressure. This is a TRIGGER! I feel like I’ll be able to do wonderful things with this rifle because of this light, crisp predictable trigger. You can forget about me adjusting it, because it’s perfect right now. In fact, I’ll make a confession about this trigger.

This trigger is so beautiful that it made me do something about my 1886 Ballard trigger. As nice and accurate as the Ballard rifle is, its single-stage trigger releases with 7 lbs., 6 oz. of pressure! That’s simply too much weight for good target accuracy. I’ve contacted the Ballard Arms Company to inquire if they can make and fit a double-set trigger into my rifle without altering the rifle in any way. I want to retain the original trigger in original condition, and I want no original parts to be worked on, but I would like to have a better trigger in that rifle. I had it out at the range last week and the best I could do for 10 shots was just under two inches at 100 yards. I know that a better trigger could shave that considerably.

So, if I end up selling you on this HW 100, please bear in mind that it has already cost me money. I doubt your wife will appreciate my situation, however.

On with the velocity test
The third and final pellet I tested in the rifle was the Crosman Premier. Since the gun fell off the power curve after shot 25, I will not report the average for this pellet. Instead, I’ll show you all ten velocities.

Shot….Velocity
1……….952
2……….956
3……….954
4……….958
5……….952
6……….946
7……….949
8……….940
9……….935
10………927

It’s pretty obvious to me that the power fell off after the fifth shot. With the first two strings added in, that makes a total number of 25 shots on the first fill. You could argue that the next few shots are all close enough in velocity that this drop-off doesn’t really matter — and perhaps 30 total shots are possible. Okay, I won’t argue that. But that’s about it for one fill. The manometer needle has dropped to the lowest portion of the green (good) sector, so the reservoir needs to be refilled.

My bad day!
I had just relined my silent pellet trap with fresh duct seal before testing this rifle. The tens of thousands of smashed lead pellets that normally help retard each shot were not present. I also write a daily blog on airguns, and in my safety lectures I often tell my readers that a powerful airgun will shoot through a backstop if you shoot too many shots in the same place.

But I didn’t think it could happen to ME! Certainly not TWICE!

You see, I shot through another silent pellet trap that was made by another airgun dealer and given to me as a gift several years ago. But that trap had no steel plate backing the duct seal. A trap I made myself (using Edith’s best cookie sheet) did. I shot all the way through the new duct seal and through the steel backing plate and into the wall behind the trap!


Take a close look at the string of holes on the right. See the bunch of four near the top of that string? Those were the Premiers that punched through the duct seal in the trap, the steel plate backer, the half-inch plywood behind that and embedded in my office wall.


And that’s what it looks like when a pellet blows through a silent pellet trap! In this photo you can even see the steel plate and the half-inch of plywood that failed to stop the pellet after it penetrated two inches of duct seal.

So, kiddies, do as B.B. says and not as he does. For gosh sakes, a 30 foot-pound PCP is almost like shooting a .22 short — especially at close range. I will now have to resort to the homemade pellet trap that was given to me by Jim Contos earlier this year. It has twice as much steel backer plate inside, plus the container is PVC and not wood. I think it can do the job. It better, because I’m running out of spackle for the walls!

On the other hand — are you impressed? I know I am. This HW 100S FSB is an extremely powerful air rifle to be able to blast through a trap like mine that has stopped long rifle bullets (when it was loaded with spent lead pellets).

Premier velocity revisited
Now that all the fuss is out of the way, I refilled the reservoir and shot another string of Crosman Premiers. They averaged 956 f.p.s., which means they generated a muzzle energy of 29.03 foot-pounds. The rifle is most definitely a 30 foot-pound gun. The spread this time was from 954 to 959 f.p.s., so only five f.p.s. between the two extremes. Continuing to shoot Premiers netted me a total of 38 full-power shots, so the advertised number of 40 seems reasonable. Perhaps the rifle wasn’t quite full on the first fill.

What do I think?
At this point I think I’ve got a tiger by the tail. I think this HW 100S FSB could turn out to be one of the all-time best PCP rifles I’ve ever tested. Yes, it’s expensive, but so are many other rifles it competes with. We’ll have to wait and see on the accuracy, but I’m very impressed at this point.

Something for you: A homemade pellet trap

by B.B. Pelletier

Plans and photos by Jim Contos

We all need something to shoot at, and I don’t mean targets. BB guns and pellet guns are great to shoot around the house as long as you’re stopping and capturing those projectiles safely. When I began shooting pellet guns in my apartment in Germany in the 1970s, I mounted a metal pellet trap similar to the Gamo cone pellet trap to the inside of a steel-sheathed front door. In two years of shooting thousands of shots at that small trap, I never missed it once, though today I would advocate a larger trap for a greater margin of safety. The steel sheathing on the door was my backup plan, but in retrospect, that was a bit risky.

I shot only lead pellets at that trap, which is important to know, because it’s not suited for steel BBs. Lead pellets deform and give up most of their energy when they hit a solid surface, while steel BBs rebound at nearly the same velocity at which they came in. A suitable trap for BBs would to slow them to a gradual stop without the risk of a rebound. While there are traps that are well-suited for BBs, perhaps the best trap is the one that works well for both BBs and pellets, and that’s the trap that’s packed with duct seal, like Air Venturi’s AGE Quiet Pellet Trap. Everything that hits the duct seal is caught and prevented from rebounding.

The cost of a quiet or silent pellet trap comes from two things. First, the duct seal in the trap is somewhat costly on its own, and second, of course, the labor to build the trap adds to that cost considerably. Before the commercial duct seal traps were available, I made my own silent pellet trap about 15 years ago. So far, it has stopped untold thousands of BBs, pellets and even the occasional .22 rimfire bullet.

Another feature of these traps is that after they get full of thousands of lead pellets they become extremely hard to penetrate and are then suitable to stop bullets with up to about 45 foot-pounds of energy. When new, the same traps are best held to no more than 30 foot-pounds if they have a metal backing and 15 foot-pounds if not. I’ve already destroyed a fine custom-made wooden trap because I shot too many 30 foot-pound shots to the same point of impact and blew through the wooden back of the trap.

Today, I’ll show you a pellet trap that you can make quickly at low cost from a PVC fixture and metal electrical junction box covers you buy at the local hardware store. Blog reader Jim Contos gave it to me a few weeks ago, along with the plans and the photographs you are about to see, at the 2011 Malvern [Arkansas] Airgun Extravaganza. Those of you who subscribed to my newsletter, The Airgun Letter, may remember Jim as the man who guided me through the trigger modification on my Beeman P1 in 1996.

Better than it sounds
This trap is more substantial than it sounds. When Jim described it to me at the show, I didn’t think much of it. But when he put one into my hands a few minutes later, everything suddenly cleared up. Although it’s made from a plastic PVC cap, it’s the eternal grade of PVC — the Schedule 40 stuff that takes a log time to degrade and can take all the smallbore airgun punishment you can dish out. When I tell you what Jim did to test one, I believe you’ll come to the same conclusion.

Materials
To make a trap like this you’ll need the following:

One 7-inch Schedule 40 White Cap PVC Socket Fitting (it’s really a little larger than 7 inches across)

Two 4-inch steel electrical junction box covers

Enough duct seal to suit yourself (around 6-8 lbs.)

Making the trap
Step 1. Roll a quarter-stick of duct seal into a ball and place it in the center of the cap.


The first ball of duct seal goes into the cap.

Step 2. Press one of the two electrical junction box covers down on the duct seal, squashing it.


The first metal plate has been squashed down on the ball of duct seal.

Step 3. Place another ball of duct seal on top of the junction box cover.

Step 4. Place the second junction box cover on top of the new ball of duct seal and turn the cover 45 degrees from the one below so the two covers are offset the maximum amount.


A second ball of duct seal was placed on the first metal plate and squashed by the second plate. Notice the plates are offset as much as possible to cover the back of the trap better.

Step 5. Fill the cap with the rest of the duct seal, making a relatively smooth surface on top.

You’re finished. Attach a paper target directly to the duct seal in the trap with a push pin or other thumbtack-like object, and you’re ready to shoot.


It’s this easy to fix a target to the trap. Smudges on target are caused by the oil exuding from the duct seal. This target has been mounted for several weeks.

The cost of this trap will vary, depending on the cost of the materials. There have been numerous discussions on this blog about where to buy duct seal at the lowest price, and I’m quite sure this report will generate a new list for anyone who missed out on the others. I bought 18 lbs. of the stuff a couple years back and used half of it to refill my old homemade trap. It’s already in need of another refreshing.

I never bother cleaning my traps because it isn’t uncommon for me to shoot 500 to 1,000 pellets a week at it. Sometimes, when I’m testing BB submachine guns, I shoot that much in a few hours. I would constantly be cleaning the thing. Instead, I cover the face with cardboard and always place the trap inside a cardboard box that has low walls, to catch any pellets or BBs that happen to bounce out. After 10,000 pellets have impacted, there’s a wall of solid lead that’s far stronger than straight duct seal, but the downside is it crumbles more and can be a bit dirty. The box the trap sits in takes care of that.

Testing the homemade pellet trap
Jim said his trap could take 30 foot-pound hits all day long from the start. Those metal plates in the center will stop a lot, as we will shortly see. When he went home, he decided to test an older trap with a real acid test, just to be sure. He covered the older duct seal in the trap with a fresh coat of fresh duct seal and proceeded to shoot at it from six inches with a .45 caliber Sam Yang Big Bore 909! That’s a big bore air rifle that generates around 200 foot-pounds at the muzzle. Kids, don’t try this at home!

He pressurized the reservoir up to 3,000 psi, set the power on high and let fly with a 170-grain round nose bullet. The bullet penetrated three inches into the trap, hit the top steel plate and rebounded 1-1/2 inches.


A .45 caliber, 170-grain round nose bullet fired from a Sam Yang 909 penetrated three inches into the trap, then rebounded 1-1/2 inches off the top metal plate. The trap was unharmed.


Bullet on the left was removed from the trap after firing.

Jim told me he thought the trap might cost $15 to build. Even if it’s twice that much, it’s still a great savings. The whole project won’t take more than an hour from start to cleanup, and you’ll have a pellet trap you can use for decades to come. When the duct seal gets too loaded with pellets, just dig it out of the trap and replace it with fresh material. The metal plates you continue to use.

Now there are other ways to do the same thing. For example, you can just buy a larger metal junction box, pack it with duct seal and, presto, you’re done. But those larger boxes do cost more money, plus they hold more duct seal. This idea is one of the more economical ones that still offers great protection.

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