An update on the rubber mulch pellet and BB trap

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • Stops powerful airguns
  • Stops BBs
  • BB trap can be thinner
  • Targets determine where the holes in the box are
  • Quiet
  • Still use a steel trap
  • Not a commercial product
  • Summary

I was going to do another test today, but I have to give you an update on the rubber mulch pellet and BB trap. This thing is phenomenal!

Stops powerful airguns

I have been testing some pretty powerful air rifles lately and, since I made it in late October, I’ve used the rubber mulch trap exclusively to catch the pellets. The .25-caliber Gauntlet 2 from Umarex that I’m testing puts out more than 55 foot pounds of energy, yet not a single pellet has made its way through the mulch. Fifty-five foot-pounds is in the neighborhood of what a standard speed .22 short bullet can do. 

We saw the box stop five .22 long rifle bullets in Part 2, as well as an arrow from my Sub-One crossbow. I didn’t think it could do that, but it did it nicely and the arrow only dented the back of the box.

rubber mulch box new groups
The circled groups were shot when the box was filled with black wood mulch. That didn’t work. The holes not circled are five (looks like 4) .22 JSB Jumbo Heavy pellets shot from the RAW HM1000-X that puts out 43.4 foot-pounds with this pellet and five .22 long rifle standard speed rounds (about 100-110 foot-pounds) at a distance of about five feet.

rubber mulch box with arrow
The rubber mulch even stopped a crossbow arrow!

The .22-caliber Air Venturi Seneca Eagle Claw is even more powerful (over 60 foot-pounds) than the Gauntlet 2 and yet the rubber mulch trap had no problem stopping all the pellets. That test was the accuracy test shot yesterday and in that one, alone, I fired 40 rounds that all struck close to each other. Was there any tunneling, as some readers have mentioned? None. However, the box I’m currently using isn’t a cube and I shot that test on its long axis, which is a depth of 14 inches.

Stops BBs

The principal reason I built this trap was to stop BBs. I have run out of good BB traps, and I needed something that worked. Well, yesterday afternoon I did a velocity test for the Smith & Wesson Model 29 that you will be reading about on Friday and I shot the heck out of the trap. To get a BB to register on the light-activated skyscreens requires the gun to be shot in almost the same place every time. Even with BBs that only go 400+ f.p.s., if they always hit in the same place they chew up the box.

What you see here is the result of several tests that used the rubber mulch trap. BBs from the S&W Model 29 are what ate the big holes.

When I used to use commercial BB traps several BBs would rebound back out of the trap, despite there being “ballistic curtains” to stop them. 

The only trap this didn’t happen with was the Winchester Airgun Target Cube, a styrofoam cube that had a steel plate in its center. Shoot into the plate and the BB’s velocity could be quite high. Shoot parallel to the plate and you had to keep your shots under 350 f.p.s. But the styrofoam eventually got shot up after several thousand rounds and once that happened there was nothing to do but throw it away. We have the same thing with the box, but the mulch inside lasts indefinitely, I think. And boxes are cheap to come by.

Winchester Airgun Target Cube
Winchester Airgun Target Cube

BB trap can be thinner

You don’t need a 12-inch cube to stop a BB. A box that’s 4 inches thick should work fine. And I see a lot more of them than I do perfect cubes. Given all the shipping that’s happening here in the U.S. finding the proper box shouldn’t be a problem for most folks.

Targets determine where the holes in the box are

A reader made this comment — that the bullseyes you shoot at determine where the pellets hit the box. He was discussing a pellet’s potential to burrow through the mulch and exit the back of the box. I read his comments and have been careful to shake the box when I position it. So far nothing has made it through the rubber mulch, though when I started by mistake with wood bark, the .22 long rifle bullets sailed right through!

Because the shots don’t hit evenly over the surface of the box, it has to be switched around frequently. I say frequently because, on an average week I shoot 50-200 rounds. On a busy week I shoot even more. I may get a couple months of use from a box, but I’m always on the lookout for the next one.

rubber mulch trap shots
I’ve learned that my shots hit in specific places on the box. This enlarges the holes and rubber mulch may eventually leak out.

Build a Custom Airgun


Besides BBs not rebounding the box trap has one other redeeming feature. It’s quiet. In the past, when I shot a powerful air rifle at a steel bullet trap, there were two loud noises — one from the rifle and the other from the trap. The mulch trap has eliminated the second sound. I mentioned in yesterday’s report that I thought the Eagle Claw wasn’t shooting H&N Baracuda 18 pellets. That’s because I didn’t see them go into the group after 6 shots and also because there was no sound returning from the target. It was like I wasn’t shooting at all, until I got past the 10th pellet. Then, when there was no pellet, the rifle became so much louder that I knew I had been shooting pellets before.

Still use a steel trap

I own two steel bullet traps that I still do use. They are more portable than the box trap and a lot lighter. But for standing in one place and taking anything I throw at it, the box trap wins hands down. I can’t shoot steel BBs at a steel trap for safety reasons and for sure I can’t shoot a crossbow at one!

Not a commercial product

The box pellet and BB trap can never be a commercial product. Since rubber mulch is the main ingredient and you get it for cheap at a home improvement/garden center, there is nothing else to buy. Yes, you can buy boxes if you want, but you can also look for them for free. My church has a food drive every month and some of the items that come to us from the county food bank come in 12-inch cubic boxes. Guess what I do? And for BBs alone I look for thinner boxes, because I usually just shoot at 5 meters (16 feet 4 inches). They can be just as wide as the big boxes because I never know where the BBs are going when I start shooting, but thinner is lighter.


The bottom line for the rubber mulch pellet and BB trap is:

1. It’s inexpensive
2. It stops anything airgunners might shoot
3. It doesn’t let steel BBs rebound
4. It’s quiet

I’m telling you that this trap beats anything else I have tried. And it’s cheap!

43 thoughts on “An update on the rubber mulch pellet and BB trap”

  1. Thanks for the update BB!

    I’m in the process of making a mulch pellet trap, good to hear that they are so effective.

    I was concerned with the rubber mulch leaking out through the holes in the box and making a mess…

    Instead of a cardboard box I’m using a plastic tote box standing on end with a 7 1/2 × 10 inch hole cut through the lower part of the lid. A (replaceable) piece cardboard will cover the hole and serve as a mounting face to support target. Right now I’m looking on how to retain the cardboard (don’t want to just tape it in place) so I can easily slide out the old and replace it with a new piece.

    The snow on the ground signals the start of the indoor shooting season so I hope to have the new target box ready for testing in a week or so. I’ll post pictures if it turns out OK.


    • Hank,

      Use the little mirror clips you can find at the hardware store. Screw/bolt two on each side and two across the bottom and you should be able to slide a piece in place when you need it. You might find some small “Z” channel that would work great also.

      • RR,

        Don’t know if the mirror clips would hold the cardboard with the weight of the mulch pressing against it. The other thing is that the cardboard (2-ply & 3-ply) varies in thickness so I need to be able to accommodate that.

        Like the ideal of Z-channel or a U-channel to hold the cardboard.

    • Hank,
      One of my rubber mulch pellet traps is also a plastic tote. The lid has locking handles. I simply fill it almost to the brim with rubber mulch and lay two pieces of cardboard on top of the mulch. Then I put the lid (with a hole cut out) on and lock it. When I tip the box up on its side, the lid pressing the cardboard against the mulch holds the cardboard firmly in place. The two layers do a good job ofvkeeping the mulch from falling our of the front of the box even when they get shot up. Then after the outer layer of cardboard gets shot up and a smoother backer for targets is needed, I replace it with another piece. The second layer of cardboard gets replaced less frequently. When I replace the cardboard, I tip the tote back down, open the lid, and run my fingers around the top of the mulch to redistribute it. I have another box full of cardboard scraps ready to go.

      B.B. instead of one big heavy box of mulch, I have been also experimenting with several layers of thinner boxes placed back to back. FedEx makes perfect boxes for this. Also, when a side of your box gets shot up, cut a piece of cardboard slightly smaller than that side and slide it in in front of the mulch. The edges of the box will hold it in place against the mulch. You can also use masking tape to tape a fresh piece of cardboard to the outside as a target backer for each session.

      • Roamin,

        Good suggestions/comments – thanks!

        I was thinking about having the cardboard on the outside of the lid for quick replacement but holding different thickness in place would be problematic.

        Your way of putting the backing inside and having the mulch hold it in place makes a lot of sense.

        Like yours, my tote has locking latches so opening the trap to replace the backing and redistribute the mulch will be quick and easy.

  2. B.B.,

    The box trap is easily repaired by taping another rectangle of cardboard over the shot-up surface, although packing tape is tough enough that you might not want to shoot BBs at it. It also reduces exposure to all the chewed up lead pellets inside (lots of pellets striking pellets when shooting for groups in the same spot). vs. moving the contents to a new box.

    Come spring time, I seal up the used trap and discard it and make a new one.


  3. BB,

    Hank’s is great if you are going to collect the lead and reuse it. It is also very durable and with most totes it will be quite easy to move. Nathan’s idea is good if you do not wish to handle the lead particles and dust you will likely encounter.

    Stops powerful airguns
    We saw the (rifle) stop five .22 long rifle bullets in Part 2…

  4. I’m considering a 22LR pistol (much less expensive ammo than 9mm) and am glad to see this can stop the bullets 🙂

    For airgunning, I used to use paper in cardboard boxes similar in size to the mulch trap described in the article, and reliably stopped pellets from my 22 SAM and Fortitude G2. Mulch is “cleaner” though and much longer lasting. I’ve switched over to it.

        • MisterAP
          Same with mine. I thought maybe you came up with other pellets it liked too.

          For the price of the pellets and how often I shoot it and how much shots I put through it the Premiere hollow points are it.

          Reminds me of when I could get a brick of 500 .22 long rifle rimfire bullets when I was a kid for 9 bucks and just blast them away through the week and on the weekend.

          Have I ever mentioned I like my SAM. 🙂

        • MisterAP
          Really 2 other SAM’s.

          After I modded the bolt on my SAM I have had zero problems. I can pull the trigger as fast as I
          can and the gun works flawless all the time. I’m most impressed with my modded SAM.

        • The hidden gem! I will have to try some in my guns, too. You never know. I don’t mind spending money for quality, but it is nice when something cheap performs as well or better than the expensive stuff. I just read one of B.B.s old reports comparing hollowpoints to domes, and what I took away from it was that HPs are generally no better than domes, and in many cases worse. But you have to test things to be sure. At least the CPHPs seem to be plentiful.

  5. In my basement range I also have a shallow cardboard box, like from a case of soda pop or beer cans, in front of my target to catch any bits of paper or mulch or that last pellet when the co2 runs out that bouces off the cardboard. It keeps my shooting area and basement floor cleaner.

  6. B.B.,

    I still need to make my rubber mulch trap. I wonder how well one might be able to retrieve BBs from one. A neodymium magnet at the end of a stiff stick, sure, but what about the shredded steel in the rubber mulch? I’ve used rubber mulch around a couple shrubs (and it lasts forever in the outdoors), but there are bits of steel embedded in the rubber.

    If anyone has tried to retrieve steel BBs from one of these with magnets, please report to us. :^)


    • Whoops, I just realized, Michael, you were questioning whether your magnet would pick up the steel belting embedded in the rubber mulch along with the BBs. I don’t know if that will happen, but you could use my method to physically separate the bulk of the big chunks of rubber for reuse and then use the magnet at the end. I guess I should wear garden gloves next time I clean out the mulch trap.

      • Roamin,

        Yes, I am assuming the steel from the steel-belted radials will stick to the powerful magnets just as the BBs do, and rather than separating the BBs from the rest, it’ll end up being big clumps of everything.

        On the other hand, I am merely imagining a process I haven’t yet attempted. Everything could end up working well.


      • GF1,

        Doing well enough, all considered. Stay on top of the B.P. and teeth and other stuff. While not the same as you, the thyroid glands at the neck is what mine was. A hoarse voice was the start. Gradual swelling next and gradual voice loss over about 30 days. Good for you on getting right on any issues. 🙂

        Be well,………. Chris

        • Chris
          My thyroid have all my life gone up and down. And I really should of been on top of my teeth for many years.

          I have a very good doctor but I’m just not very good at seeing doctors or dentists. Now it’s at the point where I have no choice. I can’t say here what I have been told by many of the older people I know and respect. But it kind of goes like getting old ain’t for whimps. And I put that nicely. You know the saying I’m talking about.

          All I can say is we all just got to be strong and pray. I hope you tell me you got to get out and take a few shots or do something that brings some joy to your heart soon.

    • I recall reading that dumping it into a bucket of water works well. The pellets sink and the mulch floats. Haven’t tried it and hoping not to need it for a good long while!

      • I recall that comment too, but then you have a bunch of wet mulch that smells like when you let the air out of a tire. And you have a bunch of wet pellets or bbs. Seems too messy.

    • Chris USA,

      Glad I didn’t miss your post! Been busy all day and almost didn’t read today’s Blog comments.
      Glad you are making progress and I hope for your recovery and pray for it to be a full one.

      Good days and nights to you!


  7. B.B., I suggest you add a link at the top of this article to your “Think Outside the Box” article. That was sort of like part 0.5.

    By the way, I am loving the Crosman Marks! Thanks for the advice. I can’t wait to introduce one to my oldest daughter. Would you say the Mark IIs are less likely to be accurate than the Mark Is because they may have been used with steel BBs or because they have a compromise barrel? I have to test them out, but I’m interested in your insights. So far, I have a couple of each.

  8. Nathan suggest taping a new piece of cardboard to the Box Trap when it is too full of holes. Instead, I cut a piece of cardboard the same size as the box and use strong spray adhesive to attach it. I have done this repeatedly — just paste the new cardboard over the old. This can be done many times.

  9. I’m using a steel bullet trap. Fabricated 2 clips to go on rail across the top and use 2 spring steel office type clips to attach a piece of cardboard that covers the opening, target on top (in front) of that. Cardboard and/or target can be moved around so that BBs and pellets are not going through a hole. Cardboard is easily replaced. I have yet to see BBs on floor except when CO2 is (mostly) depleted. If BB deflects toward opening, it hits the back of the cardboard (I think!). I use this in my work shop and go around after with a long-handled magnet that releases what it picks up by pulling on a rod.

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