by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Nothing is completely safe
- Don’t need a backstop
- Packed earth works best
- Wood works
- Synthetics can work
- Shoot it
- How big should a backstop be?
If I say “backstop” to some shooters, they think I’m talking about a pellet or bullet trap. But I’m not. I’m referring to the insurance you put behind the pellet or bullet trap to stop things when they miss the trap. Some people might take issue with that statement. They might think that nothing could ever miss a bullet trap. I have a name for those folks — beginners. Shoot long enough, and you’re going to miss the trap — I guarantee it. In a quarter-million rounds, I’ve probably missed my trap 100 times. Both numbers are estimates, so don’t quote me.
Nothing is completely safe
Whenever the subject of what makes a safe bullet trap and backstop comes up, I always think of the indoor rifle range built by Standard Products in 1944 to test the M1 Carbines they were making. They were planning on making several hundreds carbines each day and every one of them had to be test-fired. Standard Products was a company that made trim items for the automobile industry, so their plant was located inside the city but had no place sufficient to test rifles on their grounds. They had to shoot them indoors.
The company built a bullet trap that had 10 feet of wet sand, backed by a concrete wall that was 10 inches thick. I’m sure they felt that was overkill for stopping a carbine bullet. Soon after the range was opened, a night watchman saw bullets exiting the wall of the building and ricocheting off a fence outside next to the street. He went inside and stopped a group of enthusiastic Standard Products employees shooting carbines after hours. When they investigated, they discovered it had only taken a relatively small number of shots to eat through the sand and then through the concrete wall behind it. Shots that hit in the same place repeatedly can eat through many materials, regardless of their thickness.
Remember, I’m talking about backstops today and not about bullet traps. But 10 feet of wet sand and a 10-inch thick concrete wall proved insufficient to do either job. Which leads me to ask: What does work?
Don’t need a backstop
There are ranges where backstops are not needed. Some have huge distances behind the target stands. I’ve shot in Las Vegas, where there’s nothing behind the targets as far as the eye can see. And other ranges use large bodies of water behind the target stands. So distance works, but not everyone has a desert in their backyard.
At the Grafenwoehr Training Center in Germany, there’s a large hill/small mountain that U.S. tanks used as a backstop for the Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot (APDS) rounds. Those were long-rod penetrators (inert missiles) that looked like small rockets and were made of depleted uranium. Their range was so great that, if they missed the mountain, they could carry over into the former Czechoslovokia. Before each round of APDS was fired, a Range Control official had to measure the inclination of the tanks’ 105mm M68 cannon to ensure the round would strike the earth on the western side of the border.
Packed earth works best
Most rifle ranges use berms or mounds of packed earth — like that German mountain, but often manmade. Packed earth stops bullets as well as anything. As mounds increase in height, they also become thinner. It’s the nature of gravity. So, if you do use them, be sure to do your shooting near the base of the berm.
You can use wood to stop pellets — providing it is tough enough and thick enough. I had an indoor range where I used a double thickness of 3/4-inch plywood as a backstop. That was 1-1/2 inches of wood, and I slanted the wood to make the path the pellet had to penetrate even longer — closer to 2 full inches. That was sufficient for pellets up to around 20 foot-pounds; because, if they hit the backstop, it would only be one time in each place. Remember — this is for when you miss the pellet trap altogether, not for stopping a succession of pellets all landing in close proximity.
Synthetics can work
These days, I use a 1/2-inch thick polypropylene slab that was intended as a cutting board. It doesn’t dull knife edges, so cooks like it, but it also stops pellets very effectively. There are so many different synthetics available that it wouldn’t be possible to list them all, so why don’t I just give you a way of finding out what works? That way you can use whatever material you are able to acquire.
A simple test is to just shoot your intended backstop with a gun of known power and see what happens. Of course, you have to do this where it’s safe, so don’t shoot it while it is on your range. I take my materials to an outdoor rifle range for testing. And I always wear safety glasses when I’m doing this. Some materials may prove harder than you expect and might ricochet back at you.
How big should a backstop be?
This is like asking how much insurance you need. Before the accident, you want to get away with the least you can; but after things go sour, you wish you’d gotten the full package. When it comes to backstops — get the full package up front. I promise you a day will dawn when you’ll be glad you did!
67 thoughts on “Safe backstops”
Okay, so I put a pellet in my springer and sat down to shoot–as I had thousands of times. This last time, however–somehow, I sat crooked and awkwardly and my finger actually caught the trigger. I shot a hole in my bedroom ceiling. Yup. It happens.
I need a backstop that covers the sky, apparently.
Don’t feel bad. When I was testing my BSF 55N the sear slipped off and I also shot a hole in the ceiling of my office. That’s why it pays off to always point that muzzle in the direction you want to shoot. Eventually you will shoot one there.
There us a similar say in the biker world that states . There are those that have and those that will because if you ride long enough you will go down eventually. So if a biker tells you he/she has never gone down they are a beginner as well.
I know I can not count or even remember how many times I have went down in 45 years of riding mostly in my younger years as I learned how not to fall off a dirt bike when riding on the ragged edge and experimenting with just what can and cannot be done on a bike. Its just the same as shooting in that practice makes perfect so if at first you don’t succeed then try try again.
I recall starting my CB-650c and raising the kickstand while my brother’s wife tried to talk me into riding with her.
After she convinced me to I forgot it was up and tried to set it back down on it.
Thank goodness for the helmet & jacket!
Thats what protective gear is for and whenever I see someone riding in shorts I can be completely confident in the fact that they are one of those that have not because if they have they would have long pants on instead of shorts.
I have had enough road rash in my life to know that stupid hurts and any protection from road rash is better than none at all.
We had a brother in the riding club I used to ride with that was notorious for pulling up to a stop and would forget to put his feet down and fall over at a dead stop so of course his road name was “TIP OVER” as it was hilarious to see it in action and we would just about have to pull off the road till we could stop laughing so hard at him.
I had to let them know about the falls I had while riding my bicycle when they got me reapproved for physical therapy and that’s the main reason I don’t think I’ll be riding anything heavy or awkward.
Yea I would play it safe and not do anything to make the risk any greater,
Very good points made on back stops. Indoor shooting,.. where family, or in the case of an apartment, neighbors,…may be in the next room,… I am pretty sure that two 1/2″ sheets of drywall will (not) stop a pellet from a1000fps. rifle. So yea,…think twice.
As for traps,…I just re-did mine for indoors at 41′.Let’ just say the cardboard box with filler cardboard was “blown out” with all pellets hitting the 1/8″ steel plate 100% of the time.
The new one is a mini-crate I picked up at work made of OSB, or chip plywood, with 2×2’s in (all) inside corners. 20″ W x 20″ H and 12″ deep. Stood on edge, the lid is now the front. Hinges and a latch,..and it’s now a front door. Cut a 8″ x 11″ hole in front and put some quick clips on the front to hold target backers.
But here’s the cool part,…the area in the, (previous bottom, now back), is about 16″ x 16″. I then sheared a 15 3/4″ x 15 3/4″ piece of 11ga., (1/8″), steel. I put some foam pellet holders, like your P.A. pellets come in, and placed those in first. Then, here’s the key, I took some mastic tape and put it on the edges of the 2″ x 2″‘s, and then placed the plate in.
The plate is backed by good foam and “silenced” at the edges with the mastic tape. Secured the plate with drywall screws with mastic tape under each screw.
End result,…a silent trap with a steel backer. The wood box helps to deaden any sound, if there is any. Since the front has a cut-out, the wood never gets touched. Pellets mash flat as pancakes and fall to the bottom. Easy to recover.
One tip, perhaps the most obvious, do NOT remove the safety untill you have settled your hold and aqquired the bullseye.
I have standard drywall walls in my basement and shot it once just to see if the pellet would penetrate. I used a low power CO2 pistol, maybe in the range of 300 to 400 fps. Shooting from maybe 10 feet away, the pellet punched all the way through the drywall. So you don’t need a very powerful airgun to punch holes through drywall.
I had to look up mastic tape. I had not heard of it before.
Really, anything similar would work. Duct seal, which is probably easier to get. Or, even a good bit of silicone, that is left to dry.
The main point is to isolate the steel plate from vibration, twang or what ever name you want to give it. I just had mastic tape available at work, so that is what I used. I also got duct seal, and would have worked just as well,…even in place of the foam blocks.
A couple of off topic side notes,
Try duct tape on the back of your bullseye. Works great and reduces paper tearing by nearly 100%. Much easier to measure groups.
2nd, doing a recent tune on the TX, I have the old spring. I will be checking to see just how much spring rotation/twist their actually is when compressed. Mark the spring at each end, 3/8″ all thread with nuts and washers at each end and bearing at the one end. I heard lots of talk about spring twist/torque and it’s bad effects. But,…..never have I heard just what amount (degree) of twist actually occurs.
Normally I use distance and the forest as my backstop, however since I have been playing with Lloyd’s Rogue, I have been using a section of oak tree. I wanted to make sure that big chunk of lead was stopped.
I use a 5 gallon bucket filled with rubber mulch for a trap in my garage. There have been a couple of times when I inadvertently tripped the trigger before being on target, but still hit the trap. Now behind the trap on the back wall is the electrical service panel for my house, so if I hit that I could be in for a world of hurt.
I have the idea of using a sheet of Kevlar fabric for a curtain to contain stray pellets. It could be easily hung from the ceiling and moved if necessary. There are a lot of choices on eBay, and here is one that costs $24.95 for a piece 54″ wide by 36″ long, available in lengths measured in yards up to 40. Just a thought.
How strange, similar name and similar background to your target. My 200A panel is also behind my indoor target box. Very oddly, there is 2 good dents in the door. It is “obvious” the prior home owner also shot airguns indoors. It could not have been me. ;( No way !
Learning from the previous owners ignorance, I have a .090″ plate in front of the entire panel.
What a dummy,…. 😉
Before I had the rubber mulch trap I had the idea of shooting into a slab of lead and then melting it flat when the pellets piled up. Used a cast iron skillet to melt lead ingots and propped it in front of my .22 rimfire steel trap. One shot apparently hit a pellet on the surface and propelled it right back at me. It made the darnedest noise, and reminded me of a sound effect from the old Superman TV show from the ’50s. Flew over my shoulder and hit the garage door. That was the end of that experiment, lol.
“I had the idea”,… 🙂 Yea,…I can relate. While not trying that,…yet,…I did have the idea for an indoor shooting “gallery”.
Let’s just say that the ((first)) shot ricocheted and went back 15′ to to my right, hitting a wall. But no,…it was not done yet,….another 15′ behind my head. Done?,….no,…not yet. Another 15′ to the middle of the kitchen floor.
As you stated,…”That was the end of the experiment”,……I do like your line of thinking though……. 😉
I’ve watched a lot of reviews of air guns on YouTube, it’s kind of scary how many people are shooting 70+ fpe rifles at a small target with no backstop other than the wooden fence and their neighbor’s house.
Makes me glad that we still used poured concrete to make the walls separating us from our neighbors. Over the years despite a trap about 14 inches square we still occasionally get a pellet or two into the wall especially when doing an initial sight in.
Dead on !,… or,…rather not. You are right, initial sight-in is when your odds at their highest of something going wrong.
An interesting area of study on the subject is the history of fixed fortifications, such as castles, costal artillery batteries, or, for that matter, body armor. Ever since we learned how to throw rocks (or cannonballs) at a target the main consideration is how many hits before failure. Many, many, many? Once?
As noted, the one constant is the inevitability of failure. It pays to occasionally call a “cease fire” and take the walk around back and look for the exit holes, or even alarming bulges in the (call it what you will) backstop or bullet trap.
A liberal application of common sense doesn’t hurt either. I always wonder how making 19th century fortifications out of bricks made sense to that crowd of military architects. It always seems reducing an artfully arranged collection of hard bricks to a pile of broken bricks took about a day. Think Fort Sumter. But somehow putting a coating of nice, soft, energy-absorbing earth in front greatly prolonged the reduction.
But still inevitable.
Please take the “around-back” walk real regular-like as I may be the one in the next room.
My backstop cum pellet trap consists of a large laundry detergent box filled with dry, loose sand.
I tape my targets onto cardboard(cereal boxes) and then tape that onto the detergent box. the whole contraption is placed on an old cookie baking sheet- to collect any spillage ( there will be a little). As the pellets make holes in the sandbox a little loose sand will enter the hole and plug it due to the thickness of the cardboard. A thin cardboard box will not work as the loose sand will pour out of it like water.
When testing a new pellet and want to see how much it deforms at a given distance; I place the sand in a small soap box and tape that to the larger backstop. It is easier to retrieve the pellet using this method. Remember to use a dust mask when sifting out the pellets.
Apart from the sand this doesn’t cost anything as the average home always throw out lots of detergent and bar of soap boxes.
I shoot from my living space into the attic where there is a thick brick wall with plaster on it. As pellets will damage the wall, I have tried different things to stop them.
At first I used an old wooden door with layers of cardboard and carpet on it. It didn’t last long 🙂
Solid wood does a slightly better job, but also causes unpleasant ricochets.
Now, I am using stone slabs (like you would use for your garden) as a backstop. They can withstand *many* pellets hits in the same place and the pellets are flattened or shattered so there are no ricochets.
The only problem is that when the pellets shatter, fragments sometimes tear through my paper targets, creating holes where there shouldn’t be any. As a stopgap solution, I’ve put layers of paper with duct tape and hot melt behind the target. I am kind of hoping that some pellets will build up in the glue, creating a kind of sticky mass that will catch new pellets… I’m not sure that works. I guess I’ll have to look into duct seal sooner or later 🙂
My Grandpa Sal’s range had a backstop that was 6 railroad ties high with about 8 feet of dirt behind it. When the ties got chewed up You would just replace them. Shot everything from 220 swifts to 458 winchesters into it. Backstop was also big enough to put up paper to pattern shotguns. Shotguns were my Grandpa’s true love and was always working on them and fitting stocks for people.
When I was a kid my dad fixed up a shooting range in our basement. It consisted of an old railroad tie. This stopped bullets from my Winchester 61 .22 really well. One day my dad tried out his .30-30 on this. The bullet went right through the tie, put a nice little hole in one of the landlord’s metal lawn chairs holding up the tie, and finally dead ended in the concrete wall behind. This was the last time Dad did this.
I am fortunate to have 10 acres property in a rural area where there are pretty well no restrictions on discharging firearms. Neighbours are few and far between.
My current project is setting up a 50 yard shooting range and for a backstop I am using large diameter poplar logs that have been ripped in half length-wise and will be overlapped to create a 7 foot high 10 foot wide barrier at least 22 inches thick. There is at least 100 yards of beaver flood plus a 100 yards of heavy mature bush before the nearest (private) road. So I think I am safe with that.
For my outdoor pellet traps I am shooting into the end-grain of thick sections of large diameter pine log which collect the pellets for easy disposal.
Plan on doing a lot of shooting this summer :-)
7’x10’x 22″ thick,……I think you won the pellet/bullet contest on traps.
And,..I must say that your “backstop” may be in the running for 1st. place as well.
Sounds very nice. With surroundings like that, no wonder it’s so easy to get into your shooting “Zen” mode.
Will send you a couple of pictures when I’m done.
BTW, the “pellet trap” is thick enough to stop a 160 grain 30-06 bullet at close range – I know because I tried it. 🙂
Vana: remember to wear shooting glasses. I once used a section of log as a backstop when shooting .22 CBs. The first shot ricocheted off the hard wood and came back and hit me over the eye. Too slow to penetrate but I grabbed some safety glasses after that. Also switched to full-power .22 lr’s which would stick rather than bounce back at me.
Thanks for the caution JoeB. Yes, I always wear safety glasses when shooting – everybody should.
You make a good point about the logs, to be clear, I use WHITE PINE logs for the pellet “traps” and make sure that the target face is free of knots. They are soft enough that pellets traveling over 350 fps will stick deep enough not to bounce back. Anything over 500 fps will bury the pellet out of sight.
Vana2 has the right Idea.. I shoot into 3″ or greater Slices of Fresh cut wood for some tree targets – my stand alone I have collected a number of Tree saplings and stood them up against a framework with 1″ ply behind all that – I drape usually 1 or 2 depending on coverage – Large Construction Garbage bags cut in half – to provide a nice black background for easier seeing my targets. That is my back drop – I do slant all the boards and tree saplings slightly forward again to provide a bit of pellet slide downwards to earth – the primary backing is thick bush on my own property. This provides long use pellet trapping of all my caliber – mostly .177 and .22 only pellets. Having something very hard – like plate steel – on an angle downwards – into a large water basin and or hang on to all your engine oils – and consider floating some of that even on top of water – provides a fair messy but functional trap for pellets if any skip off the wood.
A Couple sheets of Ten-test or fiber board if the lumber yards still sell that – in-front of a 1/2″ or greater ply would also provide some quick and effective pellet stopping. The caveats are the grouping hits that are as eventual – will break down most all materials (less the slanted Steel ). Again the primary concern is – Where will a skipped and or missed pellet travel – Part of hunters safety – never shoot uphill and as many other range settings are. One I shot competition at was an old ” Camp-X ” snipper and tank training range during WW-II.. And yes it was approx 12-foot high Dirt and sand combo with steel framework target stands. That worked well – with some of the other shooters bringing out and discharging their various caliber guns.. The large volleyball sized “Divits” that cut into even the dirt – being some military used caliber’s — the sad thing was thinking of rounds hitting people during unforsaken war measure.. So think twice where a bullet may travel – think always of a stray going wild – no matter what.. The few chap – Riders indicating 2 wheel drivers will always go down – That is so very true.. It will eventually happen even to the most experienced – as will a stray bullet possibly run out amoke into .. X- Stop.. and one may never ever think it could be a neighbors dog or child. Or window – so very smart to consider a good and tested backstop.. amen.. May we all still enjoy the fun of shooting – hobby hunting etc. It’s all great until something happens. !! Be safe. Be so ever wise. Re-Watch “Saving Private Ryan” For effects – even Thin Red Line. Scary to worry about those military rounds hitting people – that is all for real and quite similar as to – What effects happen – Pellet Shooters don’t have that to worry – but those maybe using the larger caliber pellet guns – an eye an arm – it can really hurt if not cause possible permanent damage. I shot .22 K-Hornet as a varmint gun – the .270 with a target scope would simply make a ground hog vanish at 200 yrds.. So killing power is scary – Pellet power is much safer and just as accurate in some case more fun and greater flexibility for shooting and having some great fun..
It seems that a few didn’t get the gist of todays blog. To restate what has already been said by our illustrious leader.. this isn’t about what you are aiming at,, it’s about where the pellets go when you MISS what you are aiming at,,, and you most surely will.
This always happens. It is so easy to go from discussing backstops to discussing pellet traps — as though they are the same thing.
I know this report looks like a simple one, but what you just pointed out is the reason I wrote it. And from what I’m seeing, it might take more attention before the point sinks in.
Best I can say is always be aware of what is on the other side of your target or around it. A ricochet can send a projectile off in a strange angle that you wouldn’t think posable.
And don’t underestimate the power of the projectile. The .25 caliber Marauder still surprises me of what it hits like. And as people have said to me referring to the Marauder. “Thats a air gun shooting with that much power?”
So I say not only the correct back stop but to have common sense when you shoot any kind of gun.
As you’ve noted, a backstop is an important consideration. For my backyard pellet trap, the first backstop is made of fence slats (soft) on the front and back with decking board (hard) in the center; it’s two inches thick and 17 inches by 17 inches square. The back up backstop is a wooden fence.
When my wife had her target crossbow, the target was 2 feet square, but I made her a 6 foot square backstop that was backed up by a wooden fence and a thick stand of trees. You can’t be too careful when it comes to ensuring that your projectiles don’t leave your property! =D
take care & God bless,
Thanks for telling me about your crossbow backstop. I have a 150-lb. crossbow that I have never shot because my yard is so small. Tell me — how many times did the backstop get hit, and what distance were you shooting?
I would suggest sighting the crossbow in a the range and getting used to it before shooting it in the back yard. And then I would suggest a large and strong backstop. Until I hurt an elbow so bad that I can no longer draw a bow, I was an active member of the local archery club.
One of our members had a 20 yard practice range in his backyard for shooting his compound bow. The bow has a draw weight of under 50 pounds (I own that bow now – actual draw weight is between 47 and 48 pounds). His back yard target was a standard archery target butt of about 3′ by 3′ backed up by a 6 foot high solid wooden fence. He released an arrow before he got on target one evening and it slapped off the top of the target and it went over the fence. He found the arrow sticking out of the side of his neighbor’s mobile home. He really should have had his target butt closer to the fence to prevent just such a thing from happening.
I guess my point is that I have seen a number of accidental or early releases with bows and crossbows. I have had a release go off on me and also glance off the top of a target on the club’s practice range. We never found that arrow. It was potentially over a 100 yards down range.
Thanks for that. I guess I knew better. I was just hoping something might be possible.
We had my wife set up for 50 foot shooting, as our backyard was not that big. There were about 10 arrow heads buried in that 6′ x 6′ backstop from bolts that missed the target but hit the backstop. I generally unscrewed the bolts and left the heads in the back stop. As noted, there were a number of very thick trees on the other side of the fence (which is why I chose to put the back stop up over that area of the fence). Fortunately, thanks be to God, we never had a bolt go into the fence or over the fence. Her crossbow was the 90-pound target crossbow from Excalibur. It was really sweet-shooting! The cool thing about it is that when we had visitors who were “afraid of guns,” we were always able to get them to go out and try the crossbow, and they loved it! So, crossbows may be a less-intimidating way to get people in to shooting. =)
take care & God bless,
Okay, I searched for an Excaliber target crossbow and found what your wife shoots.That looks nice! And the 6 by 6 backstop tells me what I need to know.
Hay bails in your neck of the woods shouldn’t be to hard to come by.
2 bails wide, 3 bails high by 3 bails deep is a pickup load (18 bails). Been shooting my compound bow at my stack for almost 10 years.
They need to be tight bails.
I’ve seen later in comments that hay bales are mentioned.
Yes, hay not straw. Yes, you must keep a tarp on it when not shooting. You must put hay bales on pallets (finding them for free doesn’t take much effort) it they will rot from the ground up.
Should have mentioned this for city boys. Apologies.
Hay does work better than straw for sure.
But still no match for the .177 and .25 caliber Marauder at 50 yards.
By the way some old country boy told me that. 😉
Have you heard of anyone that’s tried a bail of alfalfa?
I haven’t heard but I bet it would be better than regular grass hay.
Alfalfa has a thicker harder stalk I guess you call it than grass hay. So maybe it would be better.
My suggestion of hay bales was directed at B.B. for his crossbow that he’s never shot. Hay bales of any kind are a poor long term backstop for guns.
I agree about the bails of hay.
And my comment was really in response to your comment about the city boys. But I think you got it all cleared up now.
For the city boys of course.
My kids and I used cedar tow bales for our archery sessions in our barn. Much denser than hay bales.
I took a steak box and put a couple of pairs of folded blue jeans in it and keep layering cardboard around it. It will stop five shots in one enlarged hole at 18 feet from a magnum .177 springer. It is amazing what the corduroy will stop. It helps me to understand how bulletproof vests can be effective at shorter ranges.
I just use a bale of hay.for my pellet rifles and pistols
Thanks for mentioning hay bales! I saw them used for the first time this year at the Malvern airgun show. They seemed to do the job. These were the old-style rectangular bales that a person can pick up. They are held with 2 strands of bailing twine.
A word of caution about bales. ……
Hay is some pretty tough stuff when baled tight and heavy . Straw being lighter might seem a good alternative, but it is not . It’s lighter, smoother, and not as tough . Straw tends to be slippery .
Weather will degrade both . The stuff will rot up and get loose . A tarp over it to keep the weather off should add to longevity .
Or keep them indoors!
All good points. Thanks,
Tryed the hay bail.
It was a no go for the .25 and .177 caliber Marauder at 50 yards.
Yep I agree with you as they do not stop my Mrods pellets either.
Yep thats a quick way to get in trouble.
Better have a back stop for your back stop if you know what I mean. Better over prepared than under prepared.
Yes it is for sure.
I think that slanting your backstop material can help. Not only does it create extra thickness to penetrate, but it can deflect the pellet so that it has less power when it strikes in its new direction. An indoor range that I use has angled metal plates. Naturally, you don’t want the projectile to deflect in a dangerous direction. I seem to remember that certain pellet traps are designed to send the pellet on a curving path that kills all their velocity and even collects them conveniently at the end. If they can’t be recycled somehow, they can at least be discarded.
The angles and the material have an interesting history. With the development of gunpowder, people figured out real quick that vertical stone walls didn’t have a chance, even the rounded kind that had been developed. Where cannonballs could not be resisted, they could be absorbed with dirt. And even better when the dirt could be formed into a slanting surface. These were founding principles of a very weird-looking type of fortress that dates from the early colonial period although they reached their epitome in Europe. Rather than clearly defined walls, they had long slopes extending outwards. The angles, extended sideways, allowed possibilities for covering fire. So the forts, pioneered by the French, assumed star-shaped designs when seen from above that were part aesthetic and part practical. It was a geometry paradise. And apparently someone figured out the precise angles whereby an attacker could zigzag trenches forward while remaining protected from defensive fire until they had the fort outgunned. It was a strange intermediate stage where forts were partly hidden and partly exposed. But then, the guns became so powerful as to drive everything underground.
The M1 carbine story is a curious case. I can see how repeated impacts against sand could transfer enough power to demolish the wall on the other side. Shaolin monks can punch holes in stone walls with endless repetitions. What I don’t get is how a bullet could fly completely through a sand wall that is still intact and through the remains of the stone wall and still have enough velocity to do any damage. You could churn the sand all you want but it would still have the same dampening power as before to stop a flying bullet. It’s not intuitive, but then again, intuition by itself is not enough.
The key to why the sand didn’t work is it was wet. Wet sand doesn’t flow back into the bullet channel. It remains open, allowing the bullet to “eat” its way through with repeated shots in the same place. Dry sand would probably have worked perfectly.
As with Sand – depth of sand and trap case – I’ve seen some very cool wooden and even metal like eves troff of containers filled with sand about 10″ deep used for catching .22 and pellet projectile. Sand traps can work again if – good metal plates are used to deflect and protect/influence better direction to backstop and catch stops. Even then there is a chance of a high powered projectile deflecting off a steel target post and not deflecting in the downward slanted direction but cross deflecting and breaking apart – with shards and fractal pieces of lead flying – down range most likely not noticed – but it may/will happen. The one considered point is Maintenance and a timely review of your backstop . Like changing oil in your car/bike what ever – checking every couple 100 rounds and “Raking a Sand trap even again ” or by some club rules – every 10 rounds of squad shooting – re-rake the traps and making sure they are still as set in place – screening out some lead chunks and sifting the sand can keep it functional. deflections of bullet parts can go many ways splitting off something sharp – its attempting to keep that to an absolute min. gee I use to shoot my pellet gun in the basement of my parents house as a kid – the thinner books didn’t last the repetitive groupings. Larger phone books even in stuffed cardboard boxes with news papers didn’t last very long. Indoors the shorter distances and checking as my buddy and I shot into the thing – we both noticed at the same times – when it required to replace and or do something else than shooting pingpong balls or paper targets – We simply had to find more and better stops.. the older Fragment board or building board. I remember it being called ” Ten-Test ” it was a high compressed cardboard fiber like board in 1/2″ thickness We’d cut a 4×8 sheet in half and use the 2 thickness 4×4 boards infront of bails of hay for arrow shooting and pellet backstop – again the materials all took a fair quick beating and required many replacement after 3-500 shots.. My father indicating the cost was no longer feasible – get something else to use for backstop .. we started to construct with the fallen trees and anything we could bulk behind to create a longer term more durable backstop. The cutting of fallen or needed old trees. I started in thought to cut the 3-4″ slices off the trunks to use for tree hung targets – save the trees from absorbing pellet group pounding.. These do work well – even if they’re wet – the wood captures a lot of lead. A 2×4 drilled and screwed at the closer to bottom of the slice – hung with rope or bike chain – would hug the tree – without having to nail it up also penetrating nails into the trees. Gravity holds well. Maybe a small nail on the backside 6 o’clock bottom of the wood slice would keep the slice flat and off the tree – so the backstop function was perfectly faced – add some standing targets on the 2×4 and your up now for some good fun. Caveat here again is where do the missed pellets from what distance are they going to miss and fly too – Rough bush or that cluster of wood logs and fallen saplings behind do create a good backdrop – slightly leaned forward – works well – takes little effort with some old cord or line to tie up with or even a few nails in that dead stuff works well – little “planning” and voila – safety can be achieved.. For new shooters – it might seem like a tough job at 1st – the payout for allowing long time and term shooting is all worth the effort. Plastic bottles filled with water – add a few drops of food color and voila lots of shooting fun.. Beer caps actually are magnetic – a strip of fridge magnet glued into that 2×4 cross the wood slice – beer caps sit nicely on that metal strip – can also become a skillful target with some active fun. Lots of neat imagination. Squares of Drywall can be effective cut to 1″ sq pieces painted florescent paint can be cool. THE BIGGEST ALL OUT CONCERN IS TOTAL SAFETY AND TRAJECTORY OF BULLET PATH FLIGHT. Ending in a dead end capture zone is what we seek. Be Safe
A link to one of your earlier blogs, like /blog/2006/02/why-you-need-a-good-airgun-pellet-trap/ might help keep the confusion to a dull roar. Or perhaps add to it?
I don’t know. It’s a tough call. 50-50 and pick ’em, I think.
I think I’ll stick with my current backstop seeing as how as far as I know its stopped everything I’ve ever thrown at it. Then again I shoot into a hillside that’s at least 100 yards high, God knows how thick, and is covered with 100-year old oaks. Not even I can miss that backstop when I’m shooting at a can sitting at the base of the hill.
For those who have room for, have, or hope to have a true range that can support almost anything in common use that you can throw at it, banked earth — say an earthen slope — or formed earthen berms, fronted by railroad ties — that is the way to go. An “a mile over” course of action would be to slope in at the top at least a single row of parallel ties to catch possible ricochets, flyers, and those “sometimes” shots that simply do not stay d-o-w-n. Of course, most of this would be for the back roads dwellers who like to hunt, plink, and shoot seriously when testing reloads, but it still serves almost any airgun purposed shooting you might contemplate.
About a week ago I purchased a used end table from a local Goodwill Store for about ten bucks. Its very heavy, although I don’t believe that the wood used to make it is all hardwood, but it is very sturdy. It measures roughly 18” x 18” (inside the table). It came with a small pull out cabinet, which I removed giving me the measurements listed. The entire dimensions are 20″ x 20″ x 17″. I plan to insert a 3/16″ steel plate 18″ x 18″ (with duct seal on the inside plate) and on the back I’ll attach a 3/16″ steel plate 20″ x 20″. Since I am using PCP air-rifles that tend to use 900 fps or higher in 0.22 and 0.25 I know this should do ok. Any other suggestions would be appreciated.
Welcome to the blog.
It’s unclear from your description what you are building. It sounds like a quiet pellet trap, but it also sounds like a steel trap.
If you use duct seal, use no less than 2 inches and keep the impacts below 30 foot-pounds for the first thousand shots and you should be okay.