A shooting range is a place where law-abiding, licensed gun owners can practice shooting in a safe environment. Some patrons come to practice handgun shooting to develop self-defense skills. Other patrons come to practice rifle shooting for the purpose of honing their hunting skills. Some ranges place limits on the types of guns used, whereas other ranges accommodate a wider range of legal firearms. Indoor and outdoor ranges even exist for archery practice.
Indoor ranges typically consist of a sloped bank against a back wall and baffles on the roof. Outdoor ranges are more open-ended, but they often feature concrete, baffle-topped structures. Whether you’re building an indoor shooting range or an outdoor one, you’ll need to find or develop a foolproof bullet-trapping system that meets safety and sanitation standards.
First, however, you’ll need to lay the groundwork for the shooting range by determining its size, type, setting, and purpose. As soon as everything is ready, it’ll be time to make a pitch to your local city council, which will examine your proposed shooting range to ensure it meets legal requirements and regulations as they apply in your area.
When you set your sights on building a shooting range, there’s a lot of ground to cover. As you determine how many acres for an outdoor shooting range will be necessary – or, alternatively, how large a building would have to be to house an indoor range – you’ll also need to determine the scope of your shooting range and various environmental factors.
Depending on whether your range is outdoor or indoor, the requirements of your range could vary, but some concerns apply across the board, such as the following:
Once you’ve made concrete choices in the following six areas, your idea for a shooting range will be a whole lot closer to becoming a reality.
If you’re currently trying to decide whether you’d rather operate an indoor range or an outdoor range, consider the needs of the patrons you intend to serve. Most specifically, which type of range would they prefer?
If you intend to have patronage that primarily consists of private gun owners who wish to practice shooting handguns for the purpose of self-defense, an indoor range would be perfectly suitable and probably easier to manage than an outdoor range.
If, on the other hand, you intend to run a shooting range for hunters to practice rifle shooting, an outdoor range would offer longer-range shooting distances and would, therefore, be more suitable since your patrons will be coming to the range to practice an outdoor sport. With an outdoor range, hunters can gain practice on two of the most critical skills of the sport – an ability to shoot at long range and an ability to cope with different types of weather and natural elements while shooting.
The choice between an urban versus rural location for your shooting range should also be considered in this regard. If you plan to build a shooting range in or near an urban environment, an indoor range would be the most appropriate – and likely the only feasible – option. By contrast, if your sights are set somewhere along a vast rural stretch of land, an outdoor shooting range would be just as practical, if not preferable.
As you determine the size of your prospective shooting range, you can more easily decide upon the square footage by coming up with an estimate of the number of shooters you will need to accommodate. Of course, the size of a shooting range can simply predicate the number of people who could come in to practice at any given time, but it’s best to operate a shooting range that’s most accommodating to the largest number of local, licensed shooters in a particular category.
Therefore, several questions should be considered here. What type of shooting range – self-defense, hunting, archery – do you intend to operate? From the chosen category, how many licensed gun-owners live closer to the location of your prospective shooting range than any competing ranges in your city, county, or state? With that information, you can more easily determine the general number – as well as some of the more specific needs – of the shooters who will frequent your range.
The type of shooting range you choose to build is one thing, but the types of guns you allow to be used on the premises is a more complex matter. For starters, certain types of guns come with different licensing laws in various states and counties. Second of all, different types of guns place different demands on a bullet trap.
Tests have shown that on some of the most effective bullet-stopping media like sand, pistols can penetrate deeper than rifles. As such, a pistol shooting range would need a deeper set of sand compartments than a rifle shooting range. Rifle bullets, which travel at a higher velocity, also tend to break up more within a sand compartment, which in turn, can place more of a demand on the maintenance aspects of a shooting range.
Air quality can be comprised in any environment, indoor or outdoor, where particulates of lead go airborne. In a shooting range, this is one of the main areas of environmental concern due to the presence of lead in spent rounds of bullets. The dust from these can easily become aerosolized and end up being inhaled by – as well as landing on the hair, skin, and clothing of – patrons and employees. To prevent lead elements from infecting the air at a range, it’s crucial to have proper ventilation at an indoor shooting facility.
Granted, the air at an outdoor range will naturally circulate more freely and be far less prone to congestion. As such, less air maintenance is generally required at an outdoor range. However, even an outdoor range can have problems with aerosolized lead dust, particularly within concrete structures under ballistic baffles in which the air can easily stagnate. Therefore, the health of shooters as well as range employees depends on the maintenance of ventilation systems at indoor and – to a smaller though no less significant degree – outdoor shooting ranges.
Firearms are capable of producing high levels of sound pressure, the likes of which can damage hearing for those who come to a shooting range unprotected. While it’s important for shooters to wear earplugs and/or earmuffs when firing rounds, it’s even more crucial for a shooting range to have sufficient sound barriers in place.
In an indoor range, noise should not exceed 140 dB. To suppress the travel of noise pressure from one corridor to another, today’s indoor ranges use air – locked soundproofing. Each corridor consists of mirror-image egress doors at opposite ends. In some jurisdictions, the regulations for shooting ranges prohibit the use of .50 caliber bullets or higher.
At outdoor ranges, it’s easier to avoid excess noise exposure by placing shooting columns further apart from one another. However, high levels of noise pressure can still be generated within concrete baffle-topped structures. In any case, earplugs and earmuffs should always be worn when shooting at indoor or outdoor ranges.
In terms of the management of a shooting range, one of the more defining aspects is the presence of range officers or the lack thereof. Therefore, the reputation of your shooting range will somewhat be affected by whether you choose to operate a supervised or unsupervised range. Of course, you’ll need to check local laws for the area in question to see what regulations for shooting ranges might apply.
Whether you decide to build an outdoor shooting range or an indoor one, no component will be more critical than the bullet trap, which is where spent bullets will be contained with each shot fired. With a solid, secure, and suitably sized bullet trap, fired bullets are safely stored with no damage to surrounding structures within a shooting range. Furthermore, an optimal bullet trap makes it easier to collect spent rounds with no harm to the environment.
Granted, a bullet trap needs to meet criteria on a number of fronts to be suitable for a shooting range. For starters, the bullet trap must be sized appropriately to the dimensions of a shooting range. Secondly, a bullet trap must have the durability to contain bullets without fail and endure the brunt of round-after-round with no harm to the trap’s underlying structural integrity. Additionally, protocols must be implemented to separate bullets from the trapping media so that lead can be dispensed with in a sanitary manner.
Regardless of the overall size of your shooting range, the following 10 steps will help you implement a bullet trap system that will make your shooting range safe, clean, and user-friendly.
As you determine how much space to build a shooting range will be necessary, you’ll need to factor in the size of the bullet trap to the overall equation. If you’re building an indoor shooting range, the costs that a bullet trap will entail could largely depend on whether you plan to have the range built from the ground up, or if you plan to convert a pre-existing structure into a shooting range. In the latter case, you’ll need to figure out what size of building for an indoor shooting range will be necessary and select enough bullet traps to fill these dimensions.
If you’re building an outdoor shooting range, the overall costs aren’t likely to be as high since you won’t be dealing with the construction or renovation of a pre-existing structure. However, you’ll need to determine how much acreage to build a shooting range will be necessary. Whichever dimensions and sizes you choose, the length of a bullet trap times the width of the range could give you an idea of the overall cost of construction.
If you’re not building an indoor archery range or shooting range, but you’re instead converting a pre-existing structure into a shooting or archery range, you’ll need to consider whether a prospective bullet trap will fit through any of the entrances to the building in question. If a particular bullet trap is perfect for the interior space of the shooting range, but it doesn’t fit through any of the entrances, you might need to knock down a wall and renovate the building to accommodate the range.
If you do choose to renovate a building for the sole purpose of incorporating a bullet trap into the framework, the undertaking is liable to be costly. Therefore, it’s wise to determine the measurements and portability of a bullet trap in relation to a building before making a choice on either. Ideally, both should be chosen in tandem with one another to keep costs down and avoid sudden confusion about the dimensional aspects of indoor shooting range requirements.
The type of media – sand, water, rubber – used within the structure of a bullet trap could help determine the amount of maintenance that will likely be needed after a given day or week of operations. For example, if a bullet trap consists of sand compartments, a degree of work will be regularly required to separate the bullet shards from the sand so both can be properly dispensed.
Granted, sand is one of the easier mediums for lead cleanup because most bullets fired at a shooting range can be stopped within the first five inches of sand, and thus most cleanup work would only involve the first of several layers of sand compartments. A greater amount of separation maintenance is liable to be required if the water is used within the compartments of a bullet trap. In any case, the frequency of maintenance and everything that entails at a shooting range could be a weekly, daily, or even hourly concern depending on the mediums used within the structure of a bullet trap.
The amount of time it will take per week or month to collect spent rounds is just half the overall concern when it comes to the maintenance and disposal of lead at a shooting range. The method by which the maintenance and disposal of lead are handled is of equal importance. Most specifically, do you intend to have such work handled among your very own in-house maintenance crew, or do you intend to hire an outside company to collect and recycle spent rounds and bullet trap media?
If you opt to hire an outside company, you’ll need to factor the additional costs of that labor into the budget of your operating costs. Granted, while it would likely be less expensive to simply have the lead collection and recycling work handled by an in-house crew, the work of third-party professionals could ultimately be faster and more thorough. Therefore, the choice between an in-house and outside crew could actually be of the equal-cost when you consider the excellence and time-savings of the latter option.
Depending on the media used in the structure of your bullet trap, an additional consideration for the fire safety of the shooting range might be in order. If the trap consists of flammable material such as wood, for example, you’ll need to ensure the range has clear and easy exit routes for members to access in the event of a fire on the premises.
You’ll also need to consider how much downtime will occur during the operation of your shooting range and how this might affect the bottom line. Will the range have to be closed periodically to mine for lead within the bullet trap? If so, how much will these closures cut into the overall profits of the range? It’s in these planning stages before you build a shooting range, where it’s most important to determine whether it would be more financially prudent to hire overnight staff to perform lead-mining maintenance, or to shut the range down periodically for such work.
The vast majority of bullet traps feature horizontal designs, which in and of itself places certain requirements on the dimensional aspects of an indoor shooting range. If the length of a bullet trap doesn’t join at both ends of an interior set of parallel walls, there’s liable to be problems with the bullets in use. The fact is, one of the biggest problems that operators of shooting ranges often encounter is when bullets land in the space between a bullet trap and the right or left wall. Simply put, gaps of this nature are problematic and potentially dangerous.
If you build an indoor shooting range from the ground up, coordinate the dimensions with the bullet trap beforehand to ensure that no gaps exist between the trap and the surrounding walls. Likewise, if you construct both the structure and the bullet trap, measure out both in the planning stage to prevent the possibility of side gaps. If you import a bullet trap into a pre-existing building, fill any spaces that might remain between the bullet trap and the walls on either side.
When it comes to the environmental impacts of a shooting range, one of the most important things to consider is the release of lead into the air. Therefore, when you look at building an indoor shooting range, you’ll need to have a system in place that can deal with possible airborne particulates from bullets that do emit lead. Consequently, the first question to ask yourself regarding a prospective bullet trap is whether or not the trap is designed to collect these kinds of particulates.
Due to the ill-effects of airborne lead on human health as well as the environment, the containment of bullets is crucial when plotting out an indoor shooting range design. For these very reasons, you’ll need to have a set of bullet traps in place that will dispense with the bullets properly. The disposal of lead should be handled atomically with as thorough a system as possible, so as not to involve human contact with the material or the possibility of lingering debris.