by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Today’s report is a guest blog from reader Rod about an economical and yet very effective pellet trap he created.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me.

Over to you, Rod.

This report covers:

  • Humble beginnings
  • Silent running, Gen 1
  • A better way
  • Maintenance
  • What will it stop?

If you shoot indoors or need a backyard-friendly way to shoot your airgun, then you’ve probably pondered the best way to stop a pellet. Well, I think I’ve found the cheapest, safest and quietest way to do just that, hands down. Don’t believe me? Read on.

Editor’s note:

  1. Do not shoot a firearm into the trap described in this report. While Rod has tested it with some powerful firearms, I would not recommend it at this time. I believe a lot of additional testing needs to be done before it can be pronounced ready for firearms.
  2. Rod shot directly into the center of the trap. Shooting at an angle may have the unexpected consequence of fully penetrating the box and coming out the other side.
  3. Do not shoot arrows or bolts into the trap. They could deflect and unexpectedly come out the side of the box, and you won’t know how much further they’ll travel.
  4. Lower-powered projectiles may not actually penetrate the box and could bounce back.
  5. Always wear safety glasses and stand at sufficient distances to avoid rebounds.
  6. BBs — both airsoft and steel — may not penetrate the box and could easily bounce back a considerable distance.

target box
What do you get when you fill a cardboard box with a towel and some rubber mulch?

Humble beginnings

In the beginning…there was a brick wall. I have a 30-yard run down the side of my house that ends at my backyard. It’s a nice place to shoot, but no one wants to shoot into a wall. You’ll mess up the wall! Oh, and BBs bounce back. Ouch! Still, always remember — “Know your target, and what’s behind it.”

My first trap was made from a 4′ x 6′ x 1” sheet of plywood. It was a simple lean-to backstop. This makes a much better backstop than the wall. BBs and pellets deflect safely down into the grass. But this approach is messy. I’d have to clean the area often. The larger-caliber pellets made a distinctive “Thwack!” when they hit the wood. And it doesn’t take too long to start drilling out the center out of the wood. So, this makes a decent way to catch the strays, but it’s not a good solution for your main trap.

My next upgrade was to add a commercial steel rimfire trap like this one. [Editor’s note: This trap is very similar to the Champion heavy-duty metal trap sold by Pyramyd Air.]

commercial bullet trap
This commercial bullet trap will stop all pellets, but it’s loud!

This worked great! But if I hit it with a powerful PCP, like a .25 Marauder, there was an annoying “Clang!” of pellet on metal. After 30 minutes of this racket on an otherwise peaceful Saturday, my friendly neighbor, Jay, would remind me in a not-so-friendly tone just how unneighborly I was being. Clearly, If I wanted to continue shooting at home, I’d need a quieter approach. The smoked ribs I cooked and took over to Jay’s house smoothed our relationship.

Silent running, Gen 1

It was time for my first silent trap.

first trap
See the paint balls? That was my kids’ idea. It’s very messy, but the kids loved it.

Ain’t she a beauty? I made this out of 1″ plywood. I cut grooves on the front edges so a clipboard would fit in the front. I filled the trap with duct seal to make it quiet. The last time I bought duct seal, it was around $5 per lb. at my local home improvement center. I believe it took 6 lbs. to cover the back of this trap. [Editor’s note: Pyramyd Air sells Impact putty, which is duct seal, for $2 a pound.]

duct seal
You can find this for about $5 per lb.

This approach worked great. It was quiet and stops a .25-caliber pellet with no issues. [Editor’s note: Check the back of the pellet trap before, during and after each shooting session to ensure that your shots aren’t slowly ripping thru the back of the trap.] The only trouble I had was that the box was heavy. After a while, the putty would shoot out in the center. If you are like me, you send a lot of pellets into the EXACT SAME PLACE!  At least that’s what I’m trying to do. After a tin of pellets has gone into the trap, the putty is filled with lead, and starts to push to the sides. Before you know it, you are adding more putty. It didn’t take long before this trap weighed 30 lbs.

A better way

About this time, I stumbled onto THE WAY!  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the world’s best pellet trap.

best trap
Here is the world’s best pellet trap, in my opinion.

This is a pellet trap I made out of a cardboard box, some rubber mulch and a towel. Why a towel? Because you should never go anywhere without your towel (see Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy if you don’t get the reference). Kidding aside, the towel is to seal the seams at the back of the box, to keep the lead and mulch inside. Here’s a quick rundown of how to build it.

Start with a cardboard box. The size of the box is up to you, but I find that 10″ x 12″ x 12″ works best. Not only will it let you staple a standard 8×11 sheet of paper on the side, but this size (along with your towel) is just the right size to hold the contents of a 0.8 cubic-foot bag of rubber mulch. And — if that’s not enough, it will stop a .223 55-grain bullet moving at 3,000 fps (1,000 lbs at the muzzle) from a distance of 50 yards. If you don’t believe me, see my test case below. [Editor’s note: Regularly check the box before, during and after each shooting session. Make no assumptions!]

Start by putting your box with the seams down and insert your towel on the bottom over the seams.

towel in box
Once the towel is in position, fill the box with rubber mulch.

Next, add your rubber mulch. [Editor’s note: Rubber mulch is made from old tires that have been ground into small chunks. They can either be dyed colors or they can be left as they were.] I get this from the local home improvement store. Any brand will do, but make sure it’s rubber mulch and not wood. A 0.80 cubic-foot bag runs around $6.

rubber mulch
Rubber mulch is ground-up tires and is often dyed colors. This bag is mocha brown.

Fill the box up and pack it tight. I find that this size box will hold all of the contents of a 0.80 cubic-foot bag. To finish off, tape your box flaps with packing tape or duct tape and staple your target over the flaps. It takes about 5 minutes to do everything, and you’ll have spent under $10. I stole the towel from my kids’ bathroom. They rarely bathe, so they’ll never notice!

Maintenance

Once you shoot out the center of the box, tape it back up and staple on a new target. It works best when the mulch is tightly packed. I have yet to add mulch to my trap, and I’ve been shooting it for 6 months or so. I have put thousands of .177, .22, and .25 pellets into it.

When we go turkey hunting, we take the box with us to sight in with. On a return from the field, if there’s a round in the chamber, I just clear it by shooting into this trap at point blank range. I’ve done this with a .22-caliber Benjamin Discovery and a .25 Marauder. Sadly, most turkey hunts end up with us returning with a round in the chamber. Quail, however, is a different story.

What will it stop?

Glad you asked. My cardboard box was looking a little tired, and I needed to transplant the mulch to a new box. But before I did, I took my little trap to the gun range along with a few rifles. I wanted to know exactly what it would stop.

First up, the Ruger 10/22. In the photo, it’s difficult to make out, but the little box is 50 yards out, just right of the larger target. The targets are set up 25 yards, then 50, then 100. If you look close, you’ll notice that this range has steel at the 200-, 300-, 400-, 500- and 600-yard marks.

range 1
I couldn’t talk the range master into letting me put the trap any closer than 50 yards. He was skeptical that a cardboard box would stop a .22 LR.

I know what you’re thinking, “That’s no Ruger 10/22!” But you’d be wrong. It’s dressed up in an Archangel stock with a Kidd bull barrel. It’s just about as far from stock as Mr. Ruger could ever imagine; but, I assure you, it’s a 10/22 at heart. I put my little trap out at the 50-yard line and then fired 10 rounds into it, dead center. At the next line break, I walked out and looked at the back to see if any of them had shot through. None did.

shot box
After 10 rounds from a .22 LR, the box is still holding up.

So far, so good. With nothing poking out the back, we can safely assume that it will stop a .22 long rifle 40-grain bullet moving at 1,080 feet per second, with a little over 100 foot-lbs. of energy. But will it stop a .223 Remington with a 55-grain bullet moving at 3,000 feet per second? Okay, that wasn’t really my idea. When I wasn’t looking, my good friend Doug emptied a 5-round magazine from his AR-15 into it.

AR-15
Doug, why are you aiming at my target?

Thanks, Doug! I really didn’t want to do that at the public range because I figured 1,000 foot-lbs. or so would blow out the back, and I’d be picking up little rubber bits and trying to make nice with the unhappy range master. To my surprise, the box stopped all 5 rounds, with only 1 round poking through the cardboard a bit in the back. So, I was really glad Doug decided to try to blow it up in the end. I did draw the line when he pointed his 30-06 at it, however. I have a good idea what will happen, and that will have to wait for a private range day.

box back
This one .223 bullet almost got through.

Now we know it will stop a .22 long rifle and a .223 Remington. But I also wanted to know how far the lead penetrated in the mulch. Also, I kinda thought one of the rounds from the .223 might have gone out a small area in the upper corner of the box; so when I got home, I cut the box open to inspect the insides and see just what was going on.

box open
I cut a side off the box to see how far the bullets had penetrated.

I easily found the .223 round that was poking out the back. It looks like the first layer of towel stopped it. To be fair, the mulch in the box is loose and Doug was shooting for the top, where the mulch is loosest. If I had more mulch, and if it was packed tighter, I bet the round would not have made it to the back of the box.

towel
If you look close, you can see the bullet poking through the first towel layer.

For those unfamiliar with the characteristics of .223 ammo, the job of a .223 FMJ is to travel really fast and fall apart when it hits its target. It’s designed to do the most damage by tumbling and fracturing along its path. It makes a mess of things, and of itself, as it travels through the target, just as it’s designed to. That being the case, I didn’t expect to find complete bullets from the .223 FMJ rounds. As you would expect, I found only 5 bits that I’m pretty sure were from the .223 rounds. The best I can figure is that they all stopped somewhere just before the towel, with the exception of the one that planted itself in the towel and tried to push out the back. I’m pretty confident none of them made it out of the box.

The .22 rounds are another story. I found all of them. They all stopped around the same distance where I find pellets from a .22 Discovery and a .25 Marauder when I shoot from 30 yards (about 3 inches in).

bullet in box
Notice that the .22 LR only made it 3.5 inches into the box. The box is 12″ deep so there’s lots of wiggle room here.

Here’s all the lead I found in the box from the gun range. Notice Doug’s .223 rounds at the bottom. They really do fall apart. By the way, I found 12, not 10 .22 rounds in there. Someone else was taking shots at my target (Doug!).

lead in box
There are twelve .22 LR 40-grain bullets at the top. The bottom five are what’s left of the 55-grain. .223 rounds.

I figure this trap will stop anything that a pellet gun can dish out. The most powerful air gun that I know of is the .45 cal Texan by AirForce Air Guns. That one boasts 500 ft. lbs. [Editor’s note: There are by far more powerful air rifles made by boutique shops like Dennis Quackenbush, Gary Barnes and others. Some have developed as much as 1,000 ft-lbs.] This cheap, lightweight, silent, cardboard box pellet trap took on a .223 at 1,000 ft-lbs. and held its own just fine. The rubber absorbs the energy so well that the box hardly moved when Doug was shooting it.

ammo
Left to right: 14.30-grain .22-caliber pellet, 40-grain bullet in a .22 LR cartridge and 55-grain bullet in a .223 Remington cartridge.

For its low cost, low maintenance, light weight, silent operation and all-around awesomeness — when it comes to stopping lead, I dub this the world’s best pellet trap.

Editor’s note: I want to thank blog reader Rob for sharing this with us. Other readers have mentioned using rubber mulch to trap pellets, but this is the first article I have seen that both shows how to build the trap and also tests it.

Regarding Rob’s prediction that the .458 Texan won’t make it through the box — I think that needs to be tested. I believe the .458 Texan with a 405-grain lead bullet will out-penetrate a .223 FMJ slug. I think it might make it all the way through the box, but it would be nice to know for sure. Also, that might help me better explain the difference between a big bore airgun and a centerfire rifle.