Hay bales a suitable backstop?


September 18, 2008, 01:54 AM
During a recent conversation with a CHL instructor, he said he's used the large (~1200 lbs) round hay bales as a backstop for both pistol and rifle shooting. He cautioned against shooting through it long-wise (with the grain), but to shoot through the side. He maintained the hay would stop a 30-30 at 100 yards.

The minimum distances from the bales would be .357 at 5 yards and 30-30 at 50 yards. I'm assuming farther distances from the bales would increase their ability to stop the rounds.

Has anyone tried this and how well did it work?

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September 18, 2008, 02:07 AM
I have not tried it but those hay bales can be really dense. they should stop most handgun rounds if you fire into them cross-grain.

I'm not sure if i would trust them to stop rifle rounds though.

September 18, 2008, 02:10 AM
A friend of mine shoots a bow and arrow using hay as a backstop and the arrows come out the other side with regularity. Now this is with the standard square bails that you see everywhere, so I don't know about the large 1200-Lb. bails. Not sure how well hay will stop a bullet (however, I suppose enough of anything will stop a bullet). That said, I would use something else for a backstop.

Ragnar Danneskjold
September 18, 2008, 02:12 AM
Unless you're making them yourself and can fiddle with the density in a safe area, I would say no.

Kind of Blued
September 18, 2008, 02:59 AM
It depends. What's behind the hay bales? :)

September 18, 2008, 03:02 AM
Aren't those usually made for feeding livestock? I'm no farmer but I usually see them scattered around fields full of cows or other big animals. I would worry about my cows getting lead poisoning or penetrating the bale and hitting an animal.

One Shot
September 18, 2008, 03:14 AM
To use hay bales as a back stop is unsafe. They have the potential to allow a round to pass through. My oldest boy thought it was a safe bet shooting at some two high bales and at the time I thought so too, but a loud clang of some ag equipment proved other wise.

chris in va
September 18, 2008, 03:26 AM
Ok, see how many people volunteer to stand behind the hay bale. There's your answer!

Big Boomer
September 18, 2008, 03:52 AM
absolutely not, you would need them to be at least 20-30 thick to be decent. I blew through 10 easily. Think of them as loosely stacked cardboard.

Even then bullets can change direction within them providing once again for a poor backstop.

September 18, 2008, 04:00 AM
What's behind them depends on where they're placed. In two directions there are a line of trees about 20' deep with houses on the other side, the third side has 5 acres of scrub & trees with a highway on the other side of it.

So, I need a reliable backstop.

There's no problem of livestock getting to the hay, unless they break down/go through a couple of fences. And that's not my problem, the responsibility for keeping them off my place would fall on the owners.

I've also got a couple telephone poles that can be used in conjunction with the hay; maybe cut them into shorter lengths and stand them side-by-side vertically behind 2 bales of hay - i.e. shooting through 2 bales into the poles.

Big Boomer What were you shooting that went through 10 of the big bales? Good point about the possibility of the bullet changing direction.

Nate C.
September 18, 2008, 04:09 AM
I don't think haybales would be sufficient.

September 18, 2008, 05:44 AM
Agreed, not a good idea. True, that much hay is going to be nice and dense and would probably stop most bullets (well, at least pistol bullets) with relative ease, you'd just be drilling a hole through it as you went. I'd imagine that an afternoon's worth of shooting would go a long way towards making a previously "safe enough" bale of hay a bullet tunnel. I'd avoid it, even if you did manage to rig up something with the telephone poles. I'd much rather have a big ol' dirt berm backed with old tires or telephone poles/boards than a couple big haybales any day.

Double Naught Spy
September 18, 2008, 05:50 AM
Hay Bales Are Not Suitable As A Backstop

Hay Bales Are Not Suitable As Cover


September 18, 2008, 05:55 AM
Depending on whether or not you can locate something near a suitable bank and on how good of a shot you are...
I can tell you that a 16" white pine tree stump will stop 30-30 at 50 yards and it will also absorb about a bazillion handgun bullets before it needs replaced.
For my uses, it's a lot easier to move around and replace than a bale of hay would be.
But I do have mine set up in front of another pretty decent backstop.

September 18, 2008, 05:57 AM
I've used hay (roughly 18 x 18 x 36inches) bales to prevent ricochets from exiting a pistol range when targets where mounted low to the ground. 90 percent of the time a .38 super or 9mm FMJ would not penetrate the bales placed behind the targets, but the bales quickly became chewed up behind the A zone of the target.

You need to do some earth moving and build a proper backstop & side berms, preferably with a steel shield over the target area to catch ricochets from going over the top of the backstop.

http://www.police.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/133140/Range_Guide.pdf has, among all the standard government 'you can't do that' fairly detailed information on designing and building safe ranges.

September 18, 2008, 09:50 AM
I would just get a dump truck load of fill dirt and have it dumped where you want it. You would need someone with a loader or skid loader to pile it high enough for a back stop. Chances are if you contact a landscaper with a dump and skid they could make a pretty good back stop for you.

September 18, 2008, 10:04 AM
I was at a shoot last summer where we used a round bale as a target holder. There was a dirt berm behind it, the bale was already there, and was a convenient place to hang targets. We fired many different calibers, but all pistols, no rifles. By the end of the day, the entire center of the bale was gone.

No sir, a hay bale is not a suitable backstop.

A dirt berm works best.

September 18, 2008, 10:05 AM
Sure those haybales would work just fine...
If you put 'em in a circle and use 'em as a retaining wall for the mountain of loose sand you pour in the middle. :evil:

September 18, 2008, 10:06 AM
No way I'd trust it.

September 18, 2008, 10:07 AM
I was going to say that too. Big-squares, the one-meter-by-one-meter-by-two-meters kind, make excellent retaining-wall for a sand backstop.

They don't stop a damn thing by themselves.

GREAT for bayonet practice, though.

September 18, 2008, 10:13 AM
Hay bales a suitable backstop? :scrutiny:

No Way...

September 18, 2008, 10:28 AM
FWIW, in some of the box-o-truth tests, 6" of dry sand held between a couple of sheets of sheet rock stopped most everything shot at it (9mm, 45acp, .308, even .45-70... ) so you'd think two or three feet of fill dirt sandwiched between bales should work pretty well.


September 18, 2008, 10:37 AM
Don't hay bales get ignition-temperature hot in the center sometimes?

While highly improbable, it's possible the one or two degree heat increase from a bullet could light it up.

September 18, 2008, 10:41 AM
No way. Farm boy here. If for no other reason, hay bales vary greatly in density depending upon moisture and how the baler was set. Some are very tight and dense and would probably stop a handgun bullet. Some are so loose that the wouldn't stop an arrow (I've seen it), the traditional backstop use for hay bales.

Hay bales would make a pretty decent platform on which to mount a target if you had an earthen backstop behind the bales.

Don't trust a hay bale (or 10 of them) as a backstop.

September 18, 2008, 10:46 AM
My ex brother in law tried it. We found almost any centerfire rifle ans some handguns would penetrate. He finally got the end plate off of some kind of tank, 5/8" boiler plate and we leaned it against the bales at about a 30 degree angle. The bales would slow the bullet down, the plate would stop them and we would find all kinds of slightly deformed bullets between the bail and boiler plate. 30-30 cast bullets would penetrate easily, 45acp also. 9mm would penetrate at times, mostly after bale had been used a bit and sofetened up. Larger rounds as 45-70 acted as though it was not there.

I would not reccomend it unless you had something behind that will positively stop a bullet. It might when new, but after a certain point the bullets will chew up the hay and go on throughl

September 18, 2008, 10:51 AM
Maybe to pattern a shotgun with birdshot or target loads, but not for a rifle or handgun.

September 18, 2008, 12:43 PM
Another danger is that a cow would come along and eat it.

Jagged copper bullet jackets in a cows stomach would be a certain and long suffering death. (Hardware Disease in vet terms)

Since copper & lead are not magnetic, even Cow Magnets would not catch them.



September 18, 2008, 01:23 PM
What's behind them depends on where they're placed. In two directions there are a line of trees about 20' deep with houses on the other side, the third side has 5 acres of scrub & trees with a highway on the other side of it.
FWIW, never trust a stand of trees to stop anything.

My FIL was visiting a friend one time who told him about having set up a target on a tree behind his house, shooting a 45acp at it, having a couple shots miss, and thinking nothing of it because of the thick woods behind his house. Later that day a cop knocked on the guy's door and asked him if he was shooting a large caliber gun earlier, which of course he admitted to. Turns out he lodged a bullet into a neighbors house, supposedly 1/4 mile away. I thought that 1/4 mile was probably a little much, but my FIL insisted he saw where the target was, the house that was hit, and they walked out into the woods, and that it was thick Wisconsin woods all the way in between.

The point is, somehow a 45 bullet found a clear enough path to traverse a significant distance of thick forest and retain enough energy to do noticable damage to a house 1/4 mile away.

September 18, 2008, 01:31 PM
The point is, somehow a 45 bullet found a clear enough path to traverse a significant distance of thick forest and retain enough energy to do noticable damage to a house 1/4 mile away.
Why can't my golf balls do that?!

September 18, 2008, 02:08 PM
I don't like it. Use large berms of dirt.

September 18, 2008, 09:16 PM
I appreciate all the input.

Sounds as if the instructor didn't do his research, or his research model has a major flaw in it.

Too bad the hay won't work. For various reasons, I can't build a dirt berm for a while and was hoping to get something setup soon. I knew we should have bought a place with a hill on it :)

September 18, 2008, 09:33 PM
I'd say yes, but only if you have a LOT of them. Like thousands.

September 19, 2008, 10:24 AM
If you can afford it, look at getting some bisalloy plates angled forward at 45 degrees. This will create an adequate backstop for most handgun rounds. The stuff is pricey though, it's used to make submarine hulls.

September 19, 2008, 11:39 AM
Old tires should be cheap to acquire from a junkyard.

Stack them in alternating rows (2-3 deep minimum), and fill them with sand. Build a frame work from 2x4s or scrap; that framework will need to be repaired/replaced every so often.

Don't use hay.

September 19, 2008, 08:59 PM
i do not think i would trust them, especially with rifle bullets! i would want something much more substantial.

September 19, 2008, 09:35 PM
We had a 1/2 in plate steel 4X8 angled into the ground with a sand trap underneath--Worked great and the area Behind was Clear--We shot thousands of rnds Most powerful was 30,06 and they only made a dent 45/70 did nothing-after shooting several mts we dug up the sand sifted it and recast the bullets , So Primers and powder only, made for some cheep shooting.
A friend has tires filled with sand But he dosent reload .

September 19, 2008, 09:38 PM
I use hay bales in the backyard and it doesnt do any good, .22's even go threw.

September 19, 2008, 11:57 PM
i just wouldnt risk it

where i shoot small rifle is a road on our farm that has 50ft of pines at the end then a clean cut 2 miles long then more trees after that its about another mile till houses

the big round ones may but i wouldnt try it heck for a regular square bail that is broken into flakes then tied together no way would i ever expect that to stop it unless i was shooting a pellet gun

September 20, 2008, 12:47 AM
and the arrows come out the other side with regularity.

This is my experiance with the small square bales, also. I have several large, round bales and they seem to be more densly packed. The arrows are lucky to make it into those bales by 10-12".

Bullets are another matter altogether. Here you have to ask yourself what design bullat am I shooting? If it's a FMJ then I'd really do some serious testing before trusting it. Frangible bullets (soft points, ballistic tipped, HPs) will not go more than a foot before fragmenting and stopping.

September 20, 2008, 02:12 AM
And yet another use suggested for those old tires I just paid to get rid of! Should have followed my rule of not throwing anything away.... Maybe I can get them and a few other used tires from the local tire store. If I pitch it to them correctly, I may be able to get the tires for free.

It's too bad I don't still work at the submarine base. Wouldn't have been too hard to get a hold of a few plates of hull material. "Sir, that plate has too many cracks to reinstall, guess we'll have to scrap it"

I've had a lot of close-up and personal experience with the small rectangular bales. I'd never consider them for a backstop. I've never had any experience with the large round bales, after this thread it looks as if they're not going to do the trick.

September 20, 2008, 08:20 AM
That's an easy question.

September 20, 2008, 06:16 PM
Don't hay bales get ignition-temperature hot in the center sometimes?

While highly improbable, it's possible the one or two degree heat increase from a bullet could light it up.

I can attest to the fact that they can ignite. Many years ago, we were using some large round bales as target holders. They were in front of a safe backstop and were only being used to hold the targets.

After firing 9mm, .45 ACP and .308 into them for a few minutes, they began smoking - and increasingly so. It appeared they were going to ignite. We used a feed bucket next to a nearby pond to douse the bales.

September 20, 2008, 10:30 PM
Tires don't make a good backstop, rounds can ricochet off them. They are useful to make a core for a backstop if you fill each layer before adding the next. You'll still need to fill the impact face to a depth of a couple of feet with compacted earth or sand.

If you used to work on a base and still have contacts it can't hurt to give them a call and see if there is any scrap laying around. I know one club here in Australia made its steel targets from hull scrap salvaged from the Australian Submarine Corp ship yard.

Don Gwinn
September 20, 2008, 10:47 PM
"The small square bales" are often straw, which is a little different than hay, but no, I wouldn't want to use either as a backstop for firearms.

Now, put up a frame and hang mine belt across it, then stack the straw bales in front of that, and you can't ask for a better stop for arrows. The belt stops the arrow, the straw stops it and holds it gently for you to pull it straight out. Dad used to have a setup like that in the backyard, and the fruit trees were planted every ten yards along the fence from there to serve as range markers. Looking back, it was a sweet deal, but at the time, I figured everybody shot like that.

September 20, 2008, 10:53 PM
soke it down with water, and a 50 bmg would'nt get past,but this is only short term,better to use dirt-sand

4v50 Gary
September 20, 2008, 10:56 PM
Hale bales are a great backstop for bow fired arrows. However, bolts from a crossbow slices right through them. A high velocity rifle bullet would too.

September 20, 2008, 11:44 PM
not a good idea for sure

September 21, 2008, 12:05 AM
Not a good Idea. 65 lb bow puts arrow on the far half. Mine belt sounds like a good idea. (the bale was pretty lose though.) No telling how far a bullet would go.

September 21, 2008, 12:09 AM
While I have a vivid imagination, I can't even begin to imagine that using a hay roll as a backstop for pistol, much less rifle, is a good idea.

September 21, 2008, 12:35 AM
Not sure I would use it. Just to let these city folks know he's not talking about the standard hay bails you see on TV or at the home center. He means a hay bail like this:

September 21, 2008, 12:42 AM
i wouldnt even think about since range grade backstop material is DIRT cheap.

September 21, 2008, 01:09 AM
Dirt berms are the way to go. I suppose you could also use a wall of sandbags, but I'd imagine that the bags would lose their ability to retain sand after a day of shooting.

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