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Rubber mulch pellet traps

This report covers:

  • Rubber mulch
  • A second report
  • What is rubber mulch?
  • Its uses
  • The other side
  • Is there a down side?
  • Quiet
  • No el-cleano
  • The deal
  • Protection
  • Summary

Today I want to cover the rubber mulch pellet trap. I’m doing this because reader MiTurn mentioned he would look into using rubber mulch to stop his pellets. If one person is talking about something there are hundreds of others who are thinking the same thing but aren’t registered to comment, so it’s time to stop and review the basics for everyone.

Rubber mulch

Just so you know, it’s RUBBER  mulch — not any other kind. In the two-part report I did that’s titled, Rubber mulch trap, I tried wood bark mulch first and discovered it was next to worthless. But RUBBER mulch works better than anything I have ever tested. It doesn’t just stop pellets. A cardboard box that’s a 12-inch cube and filled with rubber mulch will stop a .22 long rifle standard speed 40-grain bullet fired from a .22 rifle that is three feet from the box. I have tested it. In the report published on October 27, 2021 I showed that all five .22 long rifle bullets were stopped by this 12-inch thick box filled loosely with rubber mulch.

Read that report. It’s pretty thorough and explains what I did to test the bullet box.  I even shot a crossbow bolt at the box and it failed to pass through! That same bolt that will kill a whitetail deer was stopped cold by the 12-inch rubber mulch bullet trap.

A second report

I was so impressed by the performance of the rubber mulch trap that I wrote a second report on it in December of 2021. Read that one, too.

What is rubber mulch?

Rubber mulch is mulch made from rubber — duh! It is usually made from ground up tires. It can also be small rubber nuggets, but these are also made from old tires that have been ground up. In all cases the steel from the steel belts in the tires is removed. I buy this stuff in the gardening section of my local hardware store, but any well-stocked gardening store should carry it.

Its uses

As the name suggests, rubber mulch is used in gardens. Though it doesn’t enrich the soil the way organic mulch does, it does many other things that organic mulch can’t, like kill weed seeds! So there are advantages to using it.

Rubber mulch is also used on playgrounds. When I was a kid in the 1950s playgrounds were covered with small gravel called pea gravel. Bail out on the swings and you risked a huge scrape from this stuff. Rubber mulch is much better, and this explains why the removal of the tires’ steel belts is so important!

And now we know that rubber mulch is also used in pellet and, yes, even bullet traps. In fact there is a report online that a bullet box 12 inches deep/thick stopped a 55-grain bullet from a .223 Remington when it was placed 50 yards away! That is some stopping power!

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The other side

But that ain’t all, folks. On the other side of the power curve, a rubber mulch box is ideal for stopping BBs — even those from weak BB guns. In fact, I did all the testing of the Morton Harris Marksman pistol while five feet away from my rubber mulch box. It even successfully stopped the one dart I shot that went out at 76.7 f.p.s. Not even a sisal dart board can do that! I have darts all over my garage floor that just bounced off the dart board.

rubber mulch dart
The Morton Harris Marksman pistol shot a dart out at 76.7 f.p.s. The rubber mulch bullet box stopped it.

Is there a downside?

The one downside I see to the cardboard box bullet trap is each of the six sides wears out fast. Pellets and BBs both tear them up fast. I get about 100-150 shots per side and for some shooters that isn’t even a day of shooting. If cost is a big concern, be sure you have a good supply of free boxes.

rubber mulch box
Here is a box with about 100 shots on this face. And, yes, BB sometimes misses and hits the plastic shelving! What a great place for some epoxy putty!


Back when I shot at a duct seal trap I was pleased by how quiet it was when compared to a steel trap. A rubber mulch box is just as quiet.

No el-cleano

When I change boxes I don’t remove the pellets, bullets or bbs. My rubber mulch has now been in a great many boxes and has been through at least 10,000 shots overall and I have never cleaned the mulch. Can’t do that with duct seal.

The deal

Okay, MiTurn, there is a deal and here it is. This works with a CARDBOARD BOX. Everything you just read was shot at a cardboard box that is cubical with 12-inch sides. Use anything else and I have no idea how it will react.


When you shoot wear eye protection — period!


I wrote this because of the comments from several readers, and I know that many more readers who don’t comment will benefit from it. In my opinion a 12-inch cube cardboard box filled with rubber mulch is the best way to trap BBs, darts, pellets and slugs fired from airguns.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

42 thoughts on “Rubber mulch pellet traps”

    • Nathan,

      I had to read all the way to the end of that lengthy web page to see it, but that’s the same rubber mulch that I’m talking about today. And Savage says their rubber trap will stop a .50 BMG bullet. Of course their trap is much larger than the box I talk about in today’s report, but it works the same way.


  1. Well, I’ll just have to try some of that then. I’ve been using old rags stuffed into a box and it has been working well for trapping pellets under… 30 ft#. But dang that Condor can shoot a pellet into next week, so when I go to the range to let her fly I’ll need something that can handle “a little” more power: rubber mulch!

    For the rag box I just slap new target stickers on the Swiss cheese areas, and tape all around when it looks like Havarti. Will that work with rubber mulch?

    10,000 pellets times 0.5 grams each on average = 5 kilograms. By never cleaning the mulch one just gets stronger, like Milo of Croton!


  2. I built my first rubber mulch trap after reading your article in 2021. My second one was made from an old personal cooler, I have been shooting it just about daily for nearly four years. After the front got chewed up a just duct tape cardboard panels I cut to size on the front of the trap.

  3. Thanks for testing and reporting BB. I have also been using rubber mulch in a container. It is great to see your test results. I have greater confidence in these traps now! Here are a few photos of how I have mine set up. It seems to work well for pellets. However, I prefer to use a different trap for BBs because BBs will bounce off of the thin plywood when the target holes are missed.

  4. One of these days I just may have to build me one of these things. Right now, I have a big chunk of land covered in forest as a pellet/bb/cast bullet stopper.

    • I have three steel traps, one of them is Walther magnum bullet trap capable to handle 50J in .22. What I did to all of them – I glued a deadener plates all around to make it quiet. It has some metallic bäääng but it is much much queiter now. This dedeaner plates are also available with aluminum surface so they look good too. Recently I removed all pellets from them, 5kg lead 😀 It is crazy how much it is when I’m shooting regullary .22. Mostly the Crosman 2240 is generating material. Very fast 🙂

  5. Your playgrounds used pea gravel as a base beneath the swings and monkey bars? You obviously lived in a high income area! My playgrounds had either asphalt or concrete as a base to protect the playground from a youthful head striking the ground!

    Fred formerly of the Demokratik Peeples Republik of NJ now happily in GA

  6. For those with a small backyard, a rubber mulch trap is an ideal solution. Almost no noise on impact and no lead powder if used in a closed environment, garage or sometimes home in my case.

    In had some leftover plywood from some home woodwork. That, BB’s article and some spare time gave birth to my trap. Like others, I also change the front carboard when it gets chewed up. An old circular saw blade works as a last resource backstop, but it was never in any danger.


  7. B.B. and mulch trapping Readership,

    Even shooting Big Bores up to .58 caliber and 350 grain works. I do use an AR 500 steel plate at the rear of my old studio wooden speaker box. It only takes 8-9³ feet of rubber mulch nuggets.
    The big thing i think most of you could use to upgrade your mulch retention is Bird Netting to cover say, 90% of the front of your box.

    Buy some netting once and cut replacement pieces to size for life. Comes in different mesh opening sizes too work with your projectile diameter and mulch bit’s size better.


  8. BB,

    Thanks for the information. Very impressive that it stops .22 LR. I think that I will try it by filling the open face of my trap and retaining it with cardboard (which it is designed to do to hold adhesive targets).

    Great info. Thanks for the posting.


  9. BB,
    After being without internet for over a week, getting it, and losing it again, a trip to the T-Mobile store allowed me to talk with two gurus…Shernecka got their app downloaded to my phone so I could optimize their router; then Kyle (going way beyond his defined job; he is a builder of computers in his spare time =>) was able to do some upgrades to my 7-year-old laptop to get it to recognize the router (totally MY issue, nothing to do with T-Mobile, but he fixed it anyway…super cool of him!). Praise the LORD! And I thanked them both profusely!

    Thanks to their timely intervention, I was able to come home and read this excellent report. 🙂
    Like RidgeRunner, I’ve got acres of pine forest and dense hardwoods, not to mention a 15-foot thick retention wall on our pond…that’s the thing I use to stop most of the stuff at higher-power levels.
    Still, one never knows what the future may hold; should we ever have to move to somewhere where I can only shoot indoors, or quietly in a small backyard, I now have all the info to do it. Thank you for that. 🙂
    Blessings to you,

  10. I don’t have the skills he has with wood, so I use a 5 gallon bucket from Home depot and a lid.

    For over a year i shot it with just a piece of cardboard over the lid and a target taped to it.

    Then I got smart.

    I cut a hole big enough for a paper plate, then but about 50 of them in for targets.

    When I go to shoot i take the plates out, leaving just one, either put a dot on the plate or tape a target as shown.

    After shooting I put the plates back in to cover the hole.

    It has stopped a 62 grain 5.56 hollowpoint, and a 356 grain .457 air rifle slug from a Texan SS.
    So far nothing has exited the back of the bucket.


  11. B.B., or anyone else who would like to give their 2¢

    I’m looking at trying my hand at bullseye and am curious about using an airgun as a training tool, is this viable for someone new to the sport? If so I’m in need of recommendations. Going to be shooting a ruger mk3 22/45 and a 1911 so I’d like to stick with that grip angle. Been plinking with an old daisy under lever smoothbore but it’s not accurate enough to really learn much.

    Very limited opportunities to shoot 10m air pistol here or id try that first.

    • CKCevrolet,
      I shot a .177-caliber Beeman P1 (HW45) for a few years.
      It has some rearward recoil, and it has the 1911 grip that you desire.
      Just like my Webley Tempest, the P1 is a bit more difficult to shoot accurately than a firearm.
      However, the benefit is, once you learn to hold a P1 (or Tempest) and control it well, shooting the mk3 or a 1911 will be so much easier! That’s my 2 cents. 🙂
      Blessings and good shooting to you,

  12. Shucks, one of my favorite subjects and I’m late to the party!

    45Bravo, the bucket rubber mulch trap is ingenious! That could easily be used outside in the rain as well, and it has a handle.

    Henry, you have a very professional looking trap, were you a traveling airgun salesman in a former life?

    Elmer, I admire your trap as well because of the slot you made for the backer boards.

    Vana2, how is your trap holding up? And what is your process to reclaim the lead pellets?

    Singleshotcajun, the cooler with your lunch has a different colored lid, I hope!

    If B.B. thinks one of the only disadvantages of the trap is the inability to reclaim the lead, I am working out a process to separate the pellets from the mulch and safely remove some of the dust, paper and cardboard that enter the trap. If it isn’t easy and cheap, I won’t report on my efforts. I have two concepts to test. One involves water, and the other does not.

    The other disadvantage is the sides wear out fast. If you have a lot of the right sized boxes that’s not a problem, but one solution is to just tape a new piece of cardboard to the side of the box, or slip a new piece inside along one of the sides so that the edges of the box hold it in place. I have a couple of larger boxes from the post office (12″ x 12″ x 6″) and the way they fold, one could cut out a letter paper sized hole and then replace a cardboard backer board many times and the box is free from the post office. Then that box could be stood up in front of the bigger, deeper box.

  13. I get boxes from the post office.
    When they are shot up, I use Duct tape to extend the box’ life.
    When the box is no longer usable, I dump the mulch and pellets into my clean shop vac.
    The rubber floats to the top and are used to fill another box.
    The pellets are re-cycled.

  14. So here is FM’s version, thanks to a spousal furniture purchase; the box is filled with layers of cardboard, baffle-like, from other containers broken down for recycling with added layers of thin cardboard sourced from a friend’s soft-drink business. In addition there are a couple cookie sheets/pans inside, front and rear in the target area.

    The dolly is used to transport the box to the backyard range. It works well at catching pellets and keeping things safe. However, rubber mulch should work even better than cardboard and metal layers. When it is time to refurbish the box, about 4.5 cubic feet of mulch should do it.

  15. All:

    I know, I know. I’m two days late posting to this, but I’ve had a really full couple days.

    When Tom posted the article about rubber tire mulch back in December, 2021, I ran out to Lowes and bought a 16″ X 16″ X 16″ box and several bags of rubber mulch.

    Why so big? A number of years ago I ran into a sale on 33′ rifle and pistol targets, both of which are 7″ X 9″. They were so cheap I bought a lifetime supply. The larger box allows me to thumb tack two targets (i.e. one rifle and one pistol) up side-by-side. It also assures that I don’t ventilate the drywall behind it (although I’ve got a piece of 1/2″ plywood behind the box to catch any errand shots). The extra caution is an investment in my relationship with Ms. Motorman.

    So, I’ve been shooting into this box for…what?…two years now? When one side got shot up really badly…like, leaking mulch onto the floor thru the gaping hole…I taped a piece of cardboard over it and kept shooting. I eventually rotated the box and in time three sides were pretty decimated. I was starting to get concerned about the structural integrity of the box!

    Before I started shooting the accuracy tests for the Anschutz 335 report I really needed to rebuild my trap. Off to Lowes for a new box. Took me a few sessions over three or four days to separate out most of the pellets and finer rubber dust that was created by all the projectile impacts. I was amazed at the quantity of dead pellets that came out of it. They’ll go to the
    recycler to keep them out of the general environment. Dumped the rest of the mulch into the new box and off we go!

    So, rebuilding the trap along with some unrelated distractions have slowed down completing the 335 blog series, but we’re back on the job now. I’ve gotten about half of the 33′ testing completed and plan to do some more today. The weather this week should hopefully allow me to complete some 25 yard testing outside. Sorry for the delay!

    In any event, the rubber tire mulch trap has been ideal. No bounce-backs and lead litter on the floor like I had with a metal bullet trap. Quieter, too, which is handy because Ms. Motorman is often watching TV or taking a nap right above me. I used to have to clean the bullet trap out once a month or so, but, as stated above, I’ve gone two years without having to “pull maintenance” on the trap. Of all the many useful tips I’ve learned from Tom, this may be one of the very best!

    Eastern MO

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