Frank-Williams-bullet-backstop-front-view-courtesy-thetruthaboutguns.com_-675x900_1

Reader Frank Williams writes:

I live in a part of Cobb County, Georgia that is unusual in that it lies in between three towns, yet none of them have tried to annex this area. (Yet.) And while developers have built subdivisions all up and down the road I live on, I am fortunate to live next to 11 acres of woods owned by a very sweet widow who refuses to sell to anyone. This means I have no city firearm ordinances to deal with, and when I discovered the county ordinance concerning weapons discharge didn’t prohibit me from firing a weapon on my own property I decided to enlist my brother’s assistance and build me a back yard shootin’ gallery.

Where to place it was the easy part. The Eleven Acre Wood forms the southern boundary of my property and my neighbor’s house is on the other side of the woods. She has no problem with me firing toward the woods but I really wanted to be sure that the majority of whatever I fired stayed on my side of the property line. So we constructed a backstop that could easily stop a stray .22 round if I missed my target.

The backstop is a box made from pressure-treated wood. The front and back are a 4’x4’x1/2″ panels cut from a standard 4’x8′ sheet of pressure-treated plywood. The sides are pressure-treated 2×12’s. There’s also a vertical 2×12 stud inside, dividing the interior into halves and providing extra support for the front and back. The shelf on the front is also made from 2×12’s.  It’s all held together with 3½” deck screws.

Frank Williams bullet backstop (courtest thetruthaboutguns.com)

The secret to the “bullet proofing” is rubber mulch, the same stuff used on playgrounds to make sure sweetums doesn’t get a boo-boo when he falls off the swing. It’s nothing more than shredded tires dyed some neutral color. Before we put the top on it, we put it into place on the concrete blocks, popped a few screws through to the fence post behind it for good measure, and filled it with as much rubber mulch as we could cram into it, packing it down as much as possible. Then we screwed the top down, further compressing the mulch. We figured that with the weight of the wood and the mulch it clocks in at around 350 pounds.

I use a steel bullet trap that’s rated for .22LR on the shelf to hold my targets. So far I’ve only missed the target twice, and while it made a nice round entrance hole on the front side, there’s no indication on the backside that any fragment of a bullet made its way though the foot of rubber mulch. I’ve been tempted to fire a 9mm at it to see if it would stop that, but I really don’t want to risk putting a hole that size in my fence in case it doesn’t.

Before I used it the first time, I notified the neighbors next to and behind me that I would be firing a pistol in my back yard and not to be alarmed. None of them cared so I loaded up my Ruger Mark III and opened fire.

There’s a housing development directly across the road from my house and for whatever reason they put the swimming pool in the front, next to the road. In the summertime, particularly on weekends, it gets really noisy. I didn’t pay that much attention to the yelling and splashing and other sounds coming from over there when I started firing. But after I emptied the first magazine I noticed it was eerily quiet.

Then I had to laugh. I had a picture in my mind’s eye of a bunch of kids and their parents huddled under the tables around the pool or crowded into the poolhouse with someone on a cell phone frantically dialing 911 to report “shots fired.” I waited several minutes to see if the law had been alerted, but no one showed up to confiscate my weapon or march me off to jail. So I reloaded and popped off a few more rounds. The noise across the street slowly began to build back up as they finally figured out no one was shooting at them.

46 Responses to Frank Williams’ Bullet Backstop

  1. I like having my own shooting range, too! Our five acres doesn’t have a natural backstop, so I used huge log rounds stacked up to enclose an L-shaped area, with about 5 feet of space inside the confines of the L. Then I filled the L with soil, compacted with my backhoe. The backstop is backed up by several hundred feet of forest, also on my property, but after that it’s an open valley – so you can’t indiscriminately be shooting “in the direction” – you have to pay attention to make sure you’re in the backstop.

    So far, it’s held up fine with pistol, .223, 308 and 7mm STW. I don’t think I’ll try the .50 BMG on it. This gives me only a 70 yard range, but it’s fine for pistol shooting, load development, and rough boresighting. Everyone in my neighborhood shoots on their own property as well, so it’s generally odd on a weekend if you DON’T hear somebody bust a cap or two. And this is only 30 miles from Seattle.

      • I wish I had a neighbor who owned a backhoe.

        (Even better if he didn’t ask a lot of nosy questions, like why I want to borrow it at 2 AM…)

    • In Chicago, you surround your house with a bullet backstop.

      To keep the lead from flying *into* your property, not *out* of the property…

      (Fan of Hey, Jackass)

  2. Take just a bit of that ingenuity and put it into getting a threaded top end from Tactical Solutions and get a suppressor. It is neighborly to use a can. If you had woods all around that would be fine, but I do consider it a bit rude to shoot without a can in the circumstances you describe.

    • In semi-rural places like he described, it’s not uncommon for the neighbors to not have a problem with shooting.

      I have a standing invite from a woman to shoot on her property anytime I like, as long as give her a call to tell her I’ll be doing it.

      She *wants* to be known as ‘that place that has shooting’, as a reminder to another neighbor who has a thief for a teenager…

  3. Please don’t do this. Your setup depends on the assumption that you will NEVER miss that 4×4 backstop, but if you shoot at this enough, you eventually will. Or it will penetrate the backstop. Or ricochet.

    Even if you never injure anyone with this horribly dangerous contraption, you’re scaring a bunch of decent people who will then be turned against gun owners, even those not foolish enough to turn their suburban backyard into a half-assed shooting range. Shoot at an established range like a normal, responsible person. On behalf of the rest of the world, thank you.

    This reminds me of my old scout master who, when we did something stupid, would give us a lecture along with the “new” rule “don’t stick beans up your nose.” It went like this: “We didn’t think we had to tell you not to stick beans up your nose, but then one of you idiots stuck a bean up his nose, so now there’s a rule about it.”

    • Rule #4: Know your target and what is beyond it.

      In firing position you cannot possibly know what is behind that fence, should you miss the backstop. Even on 11 acres of privately owned woodland you cannot know that neighborhood kids are not in that area – kids like shortcuts and have little concern for No Trespassing signs.

      This is an accident waiting to happen. Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something.

      • That’s the only issue I see here. He’s only firing 22, so the backstop itself is plenty sound for that purpose. But just a few degrees of error up/down/left/right and 1/2″ of wood is all that stands between that bullet and a bystander.

    • Kevin, Your opinion is duly noted. Now that’s out of the way.
      I believe you’re wrong. The MORE gunfire they hear, the more accustomed to it (read, less afraid)they will be.
      I agree that the backstop is the absolute minimum in this case, however he did mention he was mostly trying to keep the bullets on his property as he was shooting straight into 11 acres of private land with permission
      The “proper”. range is the one you can use safely.

      • This contraption will “probably” stop the bullets, and there “shouldn’t” be anyone behind the backstop, and he “most likely” won’t miss. But that isn’t nearly good enough when the consequences of being wrong are so great. This isn’t like throwing rocks- a 22lr is no joke.

        • Life is dangerous, it kills everyone at some point.

          For 20 lr, that level backstop is more than enough. hell, you’d be massively unlucky to get 380 auto through that.

          The nanny state is big enough, no need to feed the beast.

    • Chill your tits. You know what’s behind the outdoor range I go to? A good course. It’s not even 11 acres away, it’s right there. This guy is just using .22lr and the property behind him is all trees right up against his fence. CHILL YOUR TITS.

    • I agree 100%. Very irresponsible. Asking for an accident. 11 acres in a square would be only 690’x690′. His distance across the 11 acres of woods to the next lot over could be less than 690′. A 22LR can be dangerous for at least a couple thousand feet. Plus the elderly neighbor’s permission to shoot into the wood isn’t going absolve him when a grandson goes exploring back there and she never thinks twice about it.

    • Ever been involved with an outdoor range development? Land ownership isn’t the issue. And even though he has no city firearm ordinances to contend with, this isn’t the end of the story either. Public and private nuisance laws, noise abatement suits and civil liability claims may still be an issue with this set up. If he keeps shooting without showing he’s met best practices, the land may not be his for long after the lawyers get done with Mr. Williams. My advice, for what it’s worth, is spend the $$$ and have a talk with the NRA range development folks.
      Respectfully,
      Senior Gun Owner 1950

      • It’s Georgia. Semi-rural.

        Noise abatement laws tend to be ‘City Slicker’ laws.

        If any neighbor calls 911, the cops will show up, verify he’s shooting on his property, and then go to the Complaint property and explain that shooting is legal on his property.

        Those calls usually come from City Slickers that just moved from the city into the countryside…

        • Yes and those Georgia “city slicker laws” include a couple of Statewide applicable statutes. A good neighbor, running a private “Sport shooting range”, might want to note what Georgia laws apply even in semi-rural Cobb County Georgia. The neighbors might just contact a friendly Atlanta lawyer for a not so friendly law suit and not bother with calling 911. At least that’s the way it’s been played up here is semi rural Minnesota.

          Georgia Statute Annotated
          § 41-1-1. Nuisance defined generally
          A nuisance is anything that causes hurt, inconvenience, or damage to another and the fact that the act done may otherwise be lawful shall not keep it from being a nuisance. The inconvenience complained of shall not be fanciful, or such as would affect only one of fastidious taste, but it shall be such as would affect an ordinary, reasonable man.

          § 41-1-9. Sport shooting ranges
          (a) As used in this Code section, the term:
          (1) “Person” means an individual, proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or
          unincorporated association.
          (2) “Sport shooting range” or “range” means an area designated and operated by a person for the sport shooting of firearms and not available for such use by the general public without payment of a fee, membership contribution, or dues or by invitation of an authorized person, or any area so designated and operated by a unit of government, regardless of the terms of admission thereto.
          (3) “Unit of government” means any of the departments, agencies, authorities, or political subdivisions of the state, cities, municipal corporations, townships, or villages and any of their respective departments, agencies, or authorities.
          (b) No sport shooting range shall be or shall become a nuisance, either public or private, solely as a result of changed conditions in or around the locality of such range if the range has been in operation for one year since the date on which it commenced operation as a sport shooting range. Subsequent physical expansion of the range or expansion of the types of firearms in use at the range shall not establish a new date of commencement of operations for purposes of this Code section.
          (c) No sport shooting range or unit of government or person owning, operating, or using a sport shooting range for the sport shooting of firearms shall be subject to any action for civil or criminal liability, damages, abatement, or injunctive relief resulting from or relating to noise generated by the operation of the range if the range remains in compliance with noise control or nuisance abatement rules, regulations, statutes, or ordinances applicable to the range on the date on which it commenced operation.
          (d) No rules, regulations, statutes, or ordinances relating to noise control, noise pollution, or noise abatement adopted or enacted by a unit of government shall be applied retroactively to prohibit conduct at a sport shooting range, which conduct was lawful and being engaged in prior to the adoption or enactment of such rules, regulations, statutes, or ordinances.

          While I’m not licensed to practice law in Georgia, I’m pretty sure that there are enough Georgia licensed city slicker lawyers in Atlanta to make life miserable for a a private “Sport shooting range” that’s not in compliance with shooting range operation best practices. Hence the friendly suggestion to Mr. Williams to talk to the NRA range folks to make sure he’s being a good neighbor.
          Respectfully
          Senior Gun Owner 1950

    • Ever been involved with an outdoor range development? Land ownership isn’t the issue. And even though he has no city firearm ordinances to contend with, this isn’t the end of the story either. Public and private nuisance laws, noise abatement suits and civil liability claims may still be an issue with this set up. If he keeps shooting without showing he’s met best practices, the land may not be his for long after the lawyers get done with Mr. Williams. My advice . Foir what it’s worth is spend the $$$ and have a talk with the NRA range development folks.
      Respectfully,
      Senior Gun Owner 1950

  4. Your bullet box trap may or may not meet range development best practices. If you haven’t already done so, you may want to talk to the NRA range development folks https://rangeservices.nra.org or at least get their range development manual.
    http://materials.nrahq.org/2012-nra-range-source-book-on-cd-rom.html

    As an alteernative, the Minnesota DNR has an outdoor shooting range development best practices pdf available free at
    http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/destinations/shooting_ranges/outdoor_shooting_best_practices.pdf

  5. I just go in my basement. Got a huge piece of log down there that stops everything and if it doesn’t, oh well. Been shooting down there for over 40 years.

    • LOL! You go in your basement and shoot at a log?! Not flaming, but… do you also not wear your seatbelt because you might get trapped in a car? 😉

  6. 10″ of play sand has stopped everything I have fired at it. Everything goes about 6″. High velocity rifle bullets up to 762x54r usually turn to dust within 5″. If you find anything it’s just small pieces of copper jacket.
    I use my stop to test fire stuff I have worked on. Everything is fired within a foot of the front of the trap.

  7. I think this has been mis-categorized. The title should have read “Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day”.

    A 4×4 box full of playground rubber does not a proper backstop make. The material is inconsistent, and the area is woefully inadequate, both horizontally and vertically. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.

    I always tell new engineers “Just because you can do something, does not make it a good idea”. Blasting away in a populated area may be legal (for a while) but it is oh-so-very-dumb. Perhaps you’re just the sort of person who likes to stir up trouble?

    This is the sort of thing that gives fuel to the anti’s. Please cease this foolish practice, and shoot at a properly developed range. Either that, or go out in the woods, find yourself a hill, and use that for a proper backdrop.

    • I agree. Before I clicked through I thought this was going to be a post about what a bad idea this is.

  8. Remember, a bullet drops 16 feet in the 1st second, 64 feet in the 2nd second. No idea how much a 22 will slow going into wood, but I would say the bullets will never get off his land. Might be a good idea to talk with an engineer, but it sounds safe to me.

    • I think you’re right. I’d bet that if shooting HP’s, missing the trap and even disregarding the rubber stuff entirely the bullet wouldn’t go 30 feet after passing through the plywood. However, I’d still want to know what or who was in the woods behind it before I shot.

  9. Unlikely that crumb rubber is going to do diddly for you. Mostly air.

    There is NO substitute for dirt. You should be able to buy a small qty of GI sandbags for $0.50ea fill with dirt (no vegetation).

    Story I recall from years ago from a Vietnam arty officer. The cannoncockers thought they were smart (lazy) filling ammo crates and stacking for emplacement (rather that the harder work of filling bags). BUT the dirt in the boxes settled/packed with time/rain (and concussion of arty firing). Discover the hard way that the 1/2 full (and 1/2 air) boxes were not worth diddly in providing protection from direct fire (or shrapnel). Same as your rubber chunks.

    If not for the unfortunate boat incidentm I’d likely build a basement range with a sandbag backstop.

    • Not defending his lack of visibility around the backstop in any way…

      Rubber mulch is used in some commercial indoor ranges. It’s thick, heavy stuff and works almost as well as sand. Sand would start pouring out of a vertical trap as soon as he punched one hole in the front, so rubber is a smart medium for this type of trap. Given how he crammed as much as he could in there, that front plywood is going to disentigrate long before a 22 bullet is able to punch all the way through.

  10. I also have a backyard range. Luckily for me, my neighbors on all sides are as likely to be firing their firearms as I am to be firing mine.

  11. If you have all that land behind the backstop, you should put it to use and build an 8′ high by 20′ wide sandbag wall behind the target.

    Alternatively, you could dig a 5′ deep trench in line to the target, and take that fill dirt to heighten the walls of the trench an additional 2-3 feet. Shooting into a trench would considerably reduce the danger from shots that miss the target.

    Also, a barrier near the shooting position to prevent shooting over the target is a prudent idea.

  12. It looks like a solid enough setup, but you are going to have to replace the front wood panel every now and again. I myself prefer a setup using a dirt berm, old railroad ties or a big stack of 2×4’s and a large slab of 1/8 inch sheet metal set at a 45 degree angle to deflect stray bullets down into the berm. Much less worry about what’s behind the backstop if what you’re shooting physically cannot go through it. This type of setup works fine for even crazy high velocity 22lr and even most 22mag rimfire loads just fine, but if you want to use larger pistol calibers you’d probably need to go up to a 1/4 inch thich sheet metal at a minimum. For those of you freaking out about how thin I’m saying you can go on your metal sheet; it’s set at a 45 degree angle, you arent going to penetrate even 1/8 inch sheet metal with a 22 rimfire at that high angle. It’ll hit, deform slightly and spall/ricocet downwards into the dirt. If you want to use actual rifle ammo on this style of backstop, you typically need to step up to 1 inch thick platesteel at 45 degrees, or get a sheet of hardened armor grade steel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *