Advice about gun range. See picture please

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Advice about gun range. See picture please

Postby theramblinman » Thu, 20 Sep 2018 20:17:40

Parcel Front Aerial (2).jpg
Parcel Front Aerial (2).jpg (19.93 KiB) Viewed 286 times
I am hoping to get an opinion about my planned range on land I recently purchased where I'm building a house. Here's my situation.

I plan to shoot mostly handguns at steel targets, but I also own and like to shoot my AK and AR (further back obviously).

The land has been cleared for the driveway/house and the gun range. Because of the natural lay of the land and the money we had already spent, I went with the direction the builder recommended for where to clear for the gun range. There was also a protected wetland behind me that I couldn’t easily get beyond. The ground to the left and right had a pretty steep slope upward.

I’ve attached a picture and circled in red the current area for the gun range. Apologies for the photo quality but I had to degrade the file size to upload it here. The berm is currently situated at the tip that is closest to the road at the bottom of the photo. I have an all-dirt berm from all the dirt on site piled about 8 feet high, the berm is currently as wide as the range itself, and is pretty deep. I will be planting grass to control erosion. I don’t know the exact width but I think about 3 to 4 feet. We plan to add to it.

I wanted to get your take on the safety of this set-up. I hate that the range is pointed towards any road but especially a major road (the road you see at the bottom of the picture), but I’m thinking between the woods, the berm, and shooters that aren’t stupid, that we should be safe. I'm still worried about an errant shot or some berm issue. The berm is about 1,000 feet from the road and has all the trees in between.

The budget has hit its max so I wouldn’t be able to keep moving it around. I am considering limiting the shooting here to handguns only as one option. I'm considering whether to try to make the range go sideways despite the upward slope. The other idea I had was to put the berm at the other end facing the back woods, but my wife said the kids may be playing in the creek or otherwise playing in that direction so she preferred it the current way if we can make it work.

Do you think the current set-up is safe based on your experience/expertise? I’m most concerned about a stray round going past the berm or somehow through it. The optics look terrible in this drone pic I took, but when you’re on the ground it seems to feel much safer. Any advice?

Thanks for your time.


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Re: Advice about gun range. See picture please

Postby WRW » Fri, 21 Sep 2018 00:52:14

I'm not much on range setups but I do know that trees should not even be considered as a part of a backstop. A woods may look solid, but it is not.

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Re: Advice about gun range. See picture please

Postby theramblinman » Fri, 21 Sep 2018 01:14:23

WRW wrote:I'm not much on range setups but I do know that trees should not even be considered as a part of a backstop. A woods may look solid, but it is not.

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Thanks for the response. Duly noted about the woods. I should not rely on the woods and I did mention that. I've read a few stories about rounds going through woods and that's what concerns me.

I guess I'm trying to confirm if anyone has had experience using an all-dirt berm and whether I should be concerned about a round going that far off. I know that's up to the shooters on-site too and berm maintenance. I wonder if people would look at this and say it's a crazy set-up or if a solid berm and responsible shooting should be just fine.

Thank you.


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Re: Advice about gun range. See picture please

Postby jdonovan » Fri, 21 Sep 2018 08:07:23

Ok, I'll weigh in. That's a crazy setup as-is, but it can be used with some limitations...read on.

I've just finished my own house/range build, so I can relay a bit of personal experience. Over the last 5 years of building, I've cleared about 100,000 sq-ft, of heavy timber, built a 1/2 mile of road, and moved about 2000 cubic-yards of dirt. All myself.

I'm assuming the 8' by 3' dimensions are at the bottom of the pile. Also assuming this was a loosely dumped pile, not placed in 6" lifts, and each layer compacted. Generally dirt won't maintain a greater than 1:1 slope unless compacted, or stabilized. And loosely placed dirt will settle by about 25% in a year.

My concern is your 8x3 pile, only has 18" of thickness to about 3-4 feet in height. Most people like to put targets at about, or just below muzzle height, which will be 3-5 feet for bench, and standing heights respectively.

The berm size is what provides for safety when things go non-normal, or non-responsible. Back stops generally fail to catch projectiles in 3 ways

Too thin to catch the projectile. You really should have not less than 18 inches of earth to to stop common rifle rounds. Bigger stuff, 50 BMG, african safari rifles etc... need quite a bit more.

Missing the berm entirely. Berms can't catch what doesn't hit them. Pistol shooters are the worst offenders. They can, and do have 'above horizontal' accidental discharges with amazing regularity. Go to an indoor range and look at all the impact marks in the overhead baffles. On an outdoor range, 80% or more of them would have left the range and impacted somewhere beyond the berm.

The 3rd way backstop's fail to catch the projectile is projectiles 'rolling' up the face of the berm. Not everything goes 'straight' in. Once you've got a few projectiles in the backstop, ricochets can, and will happen. Taller berms, and 'eyebrows' on the berm help contain the rollers.

So what can you do right now, with what you have, for minimal costs.

Keep targets below 3' of elevation. This will keep impacts in the widest/thickest part of your backstop
Consider seated/bench-rest/prone shooting only. This gives shooters a more stable position, and that will greatly reduce the number of off target shots.
non-blue sky modification - Get a 12-24" sonotube/plastic drainage pipe, and set it up on a portable stand in front of the bench/shooting position, so the only thing you can see through the tube is the berm. This is not fool proof, as you can shoot through the tube. but it will help shooters place the shots into the thick/wide berm area. In a true non-blue sky range, the things that block the sky would be bullet trapping/deflecting ie. steel plates, gravel filled walls etc. On military vehicle machine gun ranges, the shoot tubes are often concrete pipe set inside a berm at the shooting position, that you drive a vehicle up to.

long term plans:
taller berm, with a flat top. With a flat top berm, you know exactly how thick the minimum thickness of the berm is and you can make sure the entirety of the berm can stop what you shoot at the backstop.
wider berm. I would consider 8' about the minimum I would want for a single shooting position. and that is 8' at a 18-24" thickness. With a 2' wide silhouette target that would give me 3' of 'miss' space on either side of the target and still be landing projectiles in the berm.

There are some resources out on the net, concerning outdoor range design. I've got a bunch of the PDF's i found on the home PC, PM me your email, and I can put them up on dropbox for you. Its good to know what the commercial, or mil/gov standards are for a range, and how close you can come to meeting those. Also what things you can do to mitigate when you can't meet all of the design criteria.


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