Shooting in the yard, sand backwall?


June 30, 2009, 03:09 PM
I been shooting 22's and a .410 in the backyard. I rescently got a 7.62x39 and I dont know if its a good idea to be shooting that. I looked on google earth theres not a house for 10a+ in thick dence woods( I got people on both sides of me but I am shooting down range past their house) I was thinking about putting sand bags up. Does anyone know how many I should have stacked? and how many thick? I was thinking about 20 sandbags. I will be shooting toward the ground, not height leveled.

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chris in va
June 30, 2009, 03:17 PM
Does anyone walk around in the woods at all? Are you sure?

I'd just hate to hear about a poor kid getting nailed because you were plinking in your backyard. This happened a couple years ago, guy got sent to prison because the 22 he was using somehow hit a kid 600 yards away, and he was on a trampoline.

We had some woods behind our house in VA, down in a gully of sorts. My neighbor would shoot groundhogs at least once a week. One day I saw movement about 300 yards off on the other side of the creek, turned out to be a couple kids messing around. He didn't shoot after that, scared him pretty good.

June 30, 2009, 03:21 PM
Yes no one dares to walk in those woods, its very thick I doubt a bullet could go past I have a few trees before it goes towards those woods. I shoot toward the ground anyways so its not height leveld. And it is summer no one in there right mind would go in there, now if it was winter I wouldn't people might explore. I hear gun shots often so other people shoot around here. One guy has a Ak-47 drum mag, I swear I counted over 70 shots nonstop once.

Vern Humphrey
June 30, 2009, 03:22 PM
Better check with the local police. And have a lawyer check local ordnances for you. You can get in big trouble, regardless of how safe your home range is.

If you build a range, you must have a U-shaped backstop. The base of the U is the intended backstop, the arms are to stop ricochets and to keep people from inadvertently walking into the line of fire.

The backstop should be about 6 feet thick at the top, and much thicker, of course, at the bottom.

June 30, 2009, 03:27 PM
Ok Thank you very much

June 30, 2009, 03:30 PM
Woods don't count for backstop so it is a good thing that you'll be building your own backstop berm.

See the National Association of Shooting Ranges website for guidance.

June 30, 2009, 03:32 PM
I shoot toward the ground anywaysAll the more dangerous because bullets glancing & skipping off the ground can clear a lot of tall trees, and go a very long ways.


June 30, 2009, 03:48 PM
really? I thought shooting into the ground is a safe thing. Thanks for the heads up.

Vern Humphrey
June 30, 2009, 03:54 PM
really? I thought shooting into the ground is a safe thing
Nope. I personally know of a range in Virginia that was shut down for two years because someone with a .450 NE double rifle put a target on the ground and fired at it. The bullet skipped over the backstop and stuck in the wall of a house nearly a mile away.

June 30, 2009, 03:55 PM
how many sandbags should I buy? 30-100?

June 30, 2009, 04:04 PM
Maybe put some cinder blocks filled with concrete up too. Heck Even behind that get a large tank and fill it with water.

I am glad you brought this up because I want to buy some acreage and want to put in my personal range. If I dont have a backstop in the area I plan on buying I will probably use a hill of dirt, cinderblocks, sandbags, but this will be out in a secluded place and not a lot of people around.

Speaking of which, my dad worked on a case where a man was hit sitting on top of some bluffs in the area and was hit by a stray bullet from a hunter a few miles away and below him hunting in the oil fields. Talk about bad luck.

Vern Humphrey
June 30, 2009, 04:05 PM
You might start with 2,800. A standard sandbag is 14" X 26". When filled properly (which is to say about half full), it will make a solid 1X2 feet square and about 3" thick.

If your main berm is 6 feet deep, 10 feet wide and 8 feet tall, you'l need about 900 bags to make a vertical wall. For structural safety, you need to slope the face of the wall back a bit and add more sandbags to buttress the rear -- about 50% more bags. Say 1300 to 1400 bags for the backstop itself. The wings (which can be thinner) will take about about that many more.

Fill the bag only about half full. If you overfill them, they will get "round" and won't stack properly. There will be gaps between bags, where bullets can penetrate.

Ideally, you should build a frame to keep the structure from collapsing as you build it. And get a 2X12 about 3 feet long. Use this to pound the bags as you lay then, flattening them out and filling all the crevices between bags.

June 30, 2009, 04:11 PM
Old railroad ties - build a double wall and fill in between with either dirt or sand - a little neater than building a dirt-only berm. Stagger the ties and connect with 5/8" rebar into each one.

Or, if you want to get creative, get thick, hardened steel plate and install at a 45 degree downward angle into a 8" thick bed of sand

sandbags have a nasty tendency to leak when shot - you don't want to be replacing them all the time

Team Grandma
June 30, 2009, 04:13 PM
we put up a wall of cinder blocks(inside the dirt) and built a U shaped burm of dirt using a bobcat its a perfect little home range

June 30, 2009, 04:50 PM
If you can get access to a lot of old tires, these, filled and bedded with sand make a good backstop and do a pretty good job of self sealing the bullet hole.

June 30, 2009, 05:10 PM
This may be a dumb question. I have never built a backstop with sand bags. Don't you have to replace the sand bags on the face of the backstop as they get holed?

Vern Humphrey
June 30, 2009, 05:18 PM
This may be a dumb question. I have never built a backstop with sand bags. Don't you have to replace the sand bags on the face of the backstop as they get holed?

Yes. I was at Guard Post Collier on the Korean DMZ in 1981 when the North Koreans got mad at us over a line crosser (a deserter who ran into the Guard Post) and fired about a thousand rounds of machinegun bullets into the Guard Post. That made us so mad (machine guns are not allowed in the DMZ) that we materialized an M2 Browning .50 cal and gave them about 1200 rounds in return.

We spend the next two days replacing ripped sandbags. What it took them to replace their fortifications, I don't know, but from Collier it looked like a backhoe had bitten hunks out of their trenches.:evil:

June 30, 2009, 05:27 PM
I certainly wouldn't use sandbags.
All you will have after a couple of years is a sandpile where the bags got shot up and leaked all the sand out.

I would use old tires stacked up and filled with sand.

But in the end, the steel plate at 45 degrees is the best there is.

We started out with railroad ties years ago. Didn't take long till they where shoot clear though and leaking.

Finally got a big steel plate about 15 years ago, and it is still as good as the day we put it in. All the bullets end up in the sand under it, and are "mined" with a small lief rake for bullet casting lead once a year or so.


Vern Humphrey
June 30, 2009, 05:36 PM
How thick is your plate, and what cartridges do you shoot?

A steel plate that will reliably stop a .300 Win Mag, for example, better be pretty thick.

June 30, 2009, 06:51 PM
I am not using metal plates. Not safe. I might do the cinderblock idea. $2 a block + fill in with concrete.

June 30, 2009, 07:01 PM
I am not using metal plates. Not safe. I might do the cinderblock idea. $2 a block + fill in with concrete.

Hate to say it, but an angled steel plate is probably safer than the cinder blocks/concrete. Not to mention those will disintegrate qiuckly into rubble.

How thick is your plate, and what cartridges do you shoot?

A steel plate that will reliably stop a .300 Win Mag, for example, better be pretty thick.
Not to mention by-God-heavy. And expensive.

If it were me, I'd build a smaller version of this, with dirt and a front-end loader. This is one of the pistol ranges at my gun club, we have several, and a couple rifle ranges 100 yards deep. A small version of this up against the tree line in my backyard would be so sweet!

Another thing to mention is to make certain that you're NOT within the city limits, no matter how far you are from town. Even if you're on your own 100 acres with NO neighbors around, it can be illegal to shoot if you're within city limits. Where I live, those limits reach for miles out into the country.

chris in va
June 30, 2009, 07:05 PM
really? I thought shooting into the ground is a safe thing.

I've always been of the mindset that visuals speak a thousand words.

June 30, 2009, 09:57 PM
how many sandbags should I buy? 30-100?

You don't need/want sandbags .... you need a bulldozer.

June 30, 2009, 10:09 PM
Whatever the cheapest thing you can get to build a retaining wall to support a dirt/sand berm (or just the dirt/sand berm heaved up with an excavator) is what you need and the dirt/sand to pile up a 10 ft high berm.

June 30, 2009, 11:14 PM
At the risk of a minor threadjack:

We went over to our usual outdoor range this afternoon and...well, somebody had lost their minds. The only explanation I could come up with anyway:

1) The 100 yard rifle range was untouched. So far, so good.

2) The 50 yard range looked like the berm/eyebrow combination had been beefed up a bit. Probably needed it.

3) The 17 yard/50 foot range had a brand new berm, *maybe* 10 feet high, with an eyebrow, that stands, oh, 10 yards max behind the poles onto which are strung the chicken wire where one puts up one's targets. And here's where it gets weird....the chicken wire was down almost to ground level. The very top of the wire is probably at (maybe) 4 feet off the ground. Chicken wire is, what, 2 1/2 feet to three feet wide? You get the picture. On this thigh-high wire is where the targets now go.

4) And that was nothing compared to the 7 yard range. A miniature berm, maybe 4 feet high at max, was piled up behind the posts and chicken wire setup. Behind THAT was the continuation of the 17 yard berm/eyebrow. Same setup, with the targets down low to the ground.

I just stood with my mouth agape. We shot at the 17 yard range, as far as we could get away from the 7-yards. Chalk it up to me being an artist, but I could imagine any number of unintended consequences resulting from this very odd arrangement. Given how many people have trouble hitting the paper at 7 yards :banghead::banghead::banghead: I had visions of undershot rounds ricocheting, overshot rounds bouncing off the top of the mini-berm and ricocheting, and wondering precisely what would be the effects of magnum shotgun slugs at that angle and range.

Hang it all, I have enjoyed shooting there since I returned to shooting after many years' away. I like the people. I like the prices (sometimes). But unless we are invaded by an army of munchkins, that range is going to be worse than useless, even for plinking, let alone training muscle memory.

When we came in, Archerandshooter asked the young lady behind the counter why it had been done. We were told that it was because all the shooting tore up the posts that hold up the berm. Whisky tango foxtrot? Thinking that this might mean that it was temporary until the berm had more work done, I asked if it were permanent. She lowered her eyes (I get the impression she'd been answering that question for days) and said yes, as far as she knows, it is.

Well, crud. The only positive thing is that we'll now be forced out of our comfort zone to go check out other ranges and maybe finally take some pistol classes together somewhere. I may occasionally go and shoot at the 17-yard range....or the 50 if I get really nervy :) But I won't be shooting over there much again unless they fix this oddity.

Back to your regular scheduled discussion....with the caveat "if you're going to build a berm, for heaven's sake, build it large enough to BE a berm."



Sav .250
July 1, 2009, 07:34 AM
Johny, you said in part," one dares to walk in those woods........"

Do you remember, 3 Mile Island? They said, "nothing would go wrong" and look how that turned out.

Never say never.

July 1, 2009, 09:33 AM
You don't need/want sandbags .... you need a bulldozer.

Exactly. My range, built of dirt on my property with a bulldozer. It a little hard to see the berm behind the wall now since it's somewhat overgrown. This is good, it holds the dirt in place. It is approx. 9'-10' tall and 8-9' deep x 24' wide at the top. Maybe 25' deep at bottom. It took a very good man about 1/2 day to build the berm. Behind it is empy forrest for over a mile. Nearest neighbor is around 700' beside/behind. I use the range average 2-3 times / month for 2-3 hours. Distance from the shed to the wall is 75 yds. Gongs are 3/8" plate, impervious to lead pistol rds., standard .30 rifle ball (Garand) will bore right through them. I have to re-build the central part of the walls once / year or so, not a big problem.

There is a risk. It's tiny and I'm willing to risk it. I would have to miss the entire berm and have someone in the line of fire - the odds of both happening at the same instant are miniscule, but not zero. Ricochets off a vertical wall or plates are quite easy to stop. Life is risk, you mitigate what you can. Total cost, including the shed was around $3,000 iirc. Worth every cent.

Someday someone may buy the land behind before I can get it and build, and that will be the end of it, but for the last 10 years I've had it pretty good.

Know your local laws - firearms, discharge, noise, nuisance, etc.
Know the area - Google Earth is invaluable here, if the resolution for your area is good.
Forget the tires, sandbags, other gimmicks. Build it with a bulldozer.
The wall is optional, but it sure is nice and holds the front of the berm in place and makes it easy to hang gongs, targets, and so on.

FWIW - I think it will become nearly impossible to enjoy the shooting sports anywhere in the country over the next generation, and there is nothing we can do about it. I hope I'm wrong.

Don't give up - form clubs, buy land, get involved politically, be responsible, admit the simple fact that firearms are in a danger-to-others v. benefit-to-society class all their own. We have to deal with that reality responsibly or we will lose all rights to them.

July 1, 2009, 11:02 AM
That's *AWESOME*. If it weren't so gay, I'd marry you. :D

I dream of something like that. If you ever wake up in the middle of the night and hear maniacal laughter and somebody shooting on your range, just go back to sleep. It's not me - it's a dream.

July 1, 2009, 01:38 PM
I like your idea GBW. That looks like the best/safest Idea!

July 1, 2009, 01:57 PM
I think everybody has said it. Build a berm. Don't shoot into the ground. Don't shoot into the woods.

I have been in the woods and had bullets flying over my head. I was one side of a wooded ravine, and somebody in an apple orchard on the other side was shooting into the treeline. I have no idea what they were shooting at or why they thought it was OK to shoot into the woods. I just know that I never want to have that experience again! :eek:

July 1, 2009, 04:02 PM
I believe that the NRA has published plans for backstops. The most important thing relative to safety is not to fire horizontal to the ground or at an elevated angle. An AK I am sure will go far in excess of a mile with sufficient force to kill. Do not count on trees to reliably stop all bullets.

Concrete blocks and concrete will stop a few shots, but will ultimately be destroyed by an AK. They be can be used in areas not intended to receive repeated impacts. Fill dirt with a lot of clay makes a good back stop. You will need to stabilized it with plants or some other structure. Remember not to shoot about waters wells or areas where water runs off sine lead is toxic. For pistol bullets and .22 I use an angled hardened steel plate. Rifles are best stopped by dirt backstops. You can put your blocks at the top of the earthern berm to catch an occassional stay bullet. The blocks must repleced when they are damaged.

July 1, 2009, 04:48 PM
Wow, GBW has an awesome range and I am incredibly jealous.

I used my yanmar 25 horsepower tractor with a front end loader at my last place to dig a range that sloped downhill. The end of the range was an 10-12 foot deep hole. It was only a 50 yard range and was maybe 10 feet wide. I never found any evidence of bullets bouncing up but I didn't shoot at the ground.

I will be building another one soon as I have moved to a new place.

With sand bags you will be left with bits of plastic all over after 1000 rounds or so. Kind of trashy. A steel plate angled would be your best bet but may cost too much. Cinder blocks won't last too long. Doing it over, I start with an earth mound (or dig into the ground). You want the range side as flat as possible to prevent deflection.

Of course a bullet trap would be your best bet if you can afford it. A friend of mine built one (he is a mechanical engineer with lots of fab experience but it is pretty simple to do if you can weld). His was made from a bucket from a front end loader. He got the bucket for around $500 I think. He cut the bottom of the bucket off and welded it on the front of the bucket. The bottom half was close in, the top half was open. He filled it with sand. It has stood up to a .300 WSM with out any holes. Probably could do more.

July 1, 2009, 08:14 PM
my place has about 4 miles until there is a house ive got 75 yards of woods the a clearing of 275 then dense woods for the next 3 or so miles

what i did is we had a big pile of brush about 10ft tall so i got the front end loader and covered it in sand and lines the back with stacked cinder block filled with quickcrete i did that 2 times

so its a dirt berm about 6 ft thich with brush under it then an 8ft cinderblakc wall filled with concrete then 3 ft of dirt then another wall

we had the blocks so it was pretty much all free but i had to buy like 8 80lbs bag of quickcrete

ill take pics next time i go out to the farm

it woulda been easier to just dig into the side of a hill but...... eastern north carolina is sand and doesnt come with many hills we got sand dunes if that counts

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