Advice for a Shooting Range on my Property


March 8, 2011, 04:59 PM
I live on seven acres NE of Dallas in a fairly rural area. We have some nice "country neighbors" close by who don't mind the occasional controlled shooting spree.

We have a small pond in pasture with a good sized berm. When the wife is agreeable I can generally get away with shooting .22lr back there. She's not thrilled when I do it because it requires penning the horses in their sheds, which is a hassle. Secondly, even though I have a good backstop (It's a good berm about 20 feet across and 6' high when shooting from the ground surface. If the pond is dry, which is usually is, you're about 5 to 6 feet below grade.) I'm still firing in the general direction of the house, which is maybe about 75 yards away.

I'm been mulling things over an have maybe come up with another option. The west side of my property is bounded tree line and a ditch. Opposite that is a field used for hay. The ditch is about 5 feet deep, but very overgrown with vines, dead trees, etc. Due to the slope of the Property the ditch serves no functional purpose as most water is diverted into the pond, and any overflow water never makes it to the ditch.

A cross section would look something like this
Looking north there is a slight rise so the natural slope would serve as a back stop.

My plan would be to clear brush and offending limbs in the ditch to clear a shooting lane 25 yards long. At the terminus of the range I'd dump dirt backed by maybe some cinder block or some other retaining feature to keep the dirt in place.

I figure that this is a good solution since the remaining vegetation on the top of the ditch would muffle noise from the range. I figure that I could put a little shelter or some stable platform to shoot off of too which could be a big-kid clubhouse.

Any ideas or suggestions?

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March 8, 2011, 05:58 PM
I want a range on my property too. I would have...
300 yard range
10 foot tall U shaped backstop of railroad ties and dirt
A ramada with 2 concrete benches
Floodlights for night shooting
Ceiling fan
Water and electricity run out to the structure
Small refrigerator
Storage cabinet for targets, chronograph, wind flags

Side range for archery and tomahawk/knife throwing

M2 Carbine
March 8, 2011, 08:08 PM
I don't remember the details but some years back it was against the law, in the Dallas area, (Dallas county??) to shoot on less than 10 acres.
Something to check into before you invest any money.

March 8, 2011, 10:43 PM
You didn't say what you are going to shoot there, except for the 22LR you mentioned. But for a back stop the berm should be 6 feet thick and 10 feet tall and at least 8 to 10 feet accross. If you are going to do anything over 100 yards I'd build it even taller 15 to 20 feet high.


March 9, 2011, 07:48 AM
If sub-sonic ammo will function in your 22, give it a try. I shoot it around horses and it does not really bother them. If that doesn't please the wife, sounds like the perfect excuse to purchase a suppressor for that 22 (just to please your wife).

Depending on where the property line is on your ditch profile, you may could excavate the side of the ditch that is toward your property and place that soil on the other side. This would get you (shooter) lower and raise the bearm. Not sure about Dallas soil, but you may could do this with a farm tractor w/ a front bucket.

March 9, 2011, 07:55 AM
id be really careful if you alter the ditch that can get you in very expensive trouble if anything goes wrong

M2 Carbine
March 9, 2011, 09:19 AM
Any ideas or suggestions?
I've got two on my place. One 50 yard range in the backyard for handgun and 22LR.

The second range is in the woods and is 115 yards.

Bottom 50 yards.

Build the berm as high and wide as you can.

Owen Sparks
March 9, 2011, 11:12 AM
Angled slopes do not make good berms. A typical pile of dirt can act as a ramp and lob bullets onto neighbors property like a bank shot on a pool table, especially after the dirt has settled from rain and sunshine and become hard. I learned this after salvaging a bunch of .308 tracers that came off a machine gun belt and fired them into a neighbors dirt pile through my M1-A. It stoped most of them but several arced upward headed for parts unknown so I quit shooting there. A sheer cliff cut into a hill with a buldozer is the safe way to go though it has to be maintained periodically as rain will gradually erode it into a slope over time.

Another option is to salvage a big piece of sheet steel and angle the top towards the shooter about 15degrees. This will deflect the rounds downward into the dirt. I saw one of these back stops that was made from sheet metal salvaged of an old water tower that blew down in a tornado many years before. The owner had a sand box built under it to capture and recover the used lead which he saved for casting new bullets.i

March 9, 2011, 11:53 AM
What is behind the 'berm' in the general direction you will be shooting, say for a mile minimum - you must assume that sooner or later a shot will go over. Simply saying don't miss the berm isn't good enough, because if that rule is broken, even once, it's too late. 7 acres doesn't sound nearly big enough unless it butts up against a national forest or some such.

Owen Sparks
March 9, 2011, 01:11 PM
I shot in a pistol match once where a parked cars window was smashed by a bullet about 150 yards behind the berm (it belonged to the guy who won the match!) The berm was an eroded hilside that was cut at 90 degrees originaly, but over a few years it had eroded into a 45 degree slope by the time of the accident. A 200 grain chunk of lead does not have to be traveling very fast to be dangerous.

Prince Yamato
March 9, 2011, 02:14 PM
I'd recommend getting a .22 suppressor. Keeps things quiet. Then, go about building your range.

March 9, 2011, 02:38 PM
I'll post some picture and descriptions of where I plan on the setup tonight along with maybe some google earth images or something.

March 9, 2011, 11:51 PM
We have benches at 100, 200 and 300 at our place. I can shoot out to 400. Backstop is a 100+ foot hill. Currently have Railroad ties set in place as a retaining wall.

If the guy would sell us the place next to ours I could have out to 800 yards and could probably sneak in a grand with proper planning. BUT its a bit expensive.

I would suggest selling your property and buying a gravel pit or something similar. LOTS of room.

You could bulldoze an area flat, and move earth to have earthen walls up along the side like many ranges do. It Would take some work and a bunch of money though.

March 10, 2011, 11:38 AM
I live in a very rural setting with the nearest neighbor being 1/2 mile away and own WAY more than a few acres.
I constructed years ago a 6' high by 8' wide by 4' deep box of treated posts and 2x material. I built a cross wall running length wise and filled the front section with sand and then placed steel plates in the rear section backed by more sand.
It's been 6 years and not one bullet has gone thru this puppy. Every few years I lay some more plywood over the front of the box before I loose all the stuffing.
I am lucky enough to own the mountain behind this box, but having been shot at inadvertently a few times paranoia runs deep and hence the caution.YMMV!:scrutiny:

March 10, 2011, 11:48 AM
Would your county commissioners have anything to say about this constuction?

March 10, 2011, 11:59 AM
In my county you can build anything without permits, though if you build a house they will tax you for it.
You only need a permit for septic construction or for doing any work near a class 4 or better stream.:neener:

March 10, 2011, 12:17 PM
I definatelly have to move to a place like you guys have. Good luck in the South Fl area trying to find convienient shooting. The warm weather is great, but I have been trying to get my wife to move to Texas for some time now. Maybe now that she is retiring.
I would love to open my door and walk over to my outdoor range, you guys have the life.

March 10, 2011, 12:47 PM
In my pistol range backstop, I have the notion of providing a relatively "soft" outer layer so as to avoid deflection (such as woody debris, feed pad scrappings, manure, barn muck, etc.) while having a harder inner core (such as rock, brick scraps, old engine block, whatever) to deform or outright stop a bullet. A deformed or fragmented bullet would then have a tough go of it trying to leave the pile back out through the outer soft layer.

For my rifle range, I have a hillside, with a long distance beyond free of intrusion.

As to livestock, this is pasture with cattle and horses. This bunch is actually attracted to the sound of gunfire, maybe they're re-incarnated U.S. Marines...but I think it's just that they associate the noise with people and come running. I have had to stop shooting on more than one occasion and go run them off, only to have them drift back in again. It can get pretty frustrating.

March 10, 2011, 01:03 PM
Depending on how much lead you're putting down range you might want to check with the EPA about clean-up.
This happened to a guy that lived around a public lake that used it for drinking water.
When put up his "for sale" sign for his house IT hit the fan.
ALL the dirt had to be put in 55Gal. drums and shipped out.
The money he rec. for his house basicly went for the clean-up.
Even if the EPA isn't involved think about it.

March 10, 2011, 03:28 PM
Thank you for all the great discussion and advice. I'll put my two cents in so I can explain a bit more about my setup. I didn't want to load the OP with too much detail, but now I feel I need to add a bit more to fill both the intentional and unintentional gaps.

My main purpose would be to use the range for shooting .22lr. Occasionally, I'd like to use the range for some centerfire handgun practice.

As far as I can tell the ditch does not currently serve any hydraulic purpose. I've walked around my pasture and pond while it is raining and due to the "bank" along the sides of the ditch it doesn't collect any water.

Here are some actual pictures of the area I'd like to convert.
This is the area where I'd place the firing line, shooting would be on the left hand side of the photo. This photos shows a spot we cleared a last Thanksgiving as seen from the surrounding grade, the ditch is about 6'+ wide. There is a slight rise as you approach the ditch before it drops down. From the surveys I have my property line is on the far side of the creek.

View from the firing line
This view faces south towards where the eventual berms would be. I would have a lot of vegetation to clear out to make it the 25 yards. I estimate the depth of the ditch to be about 4'. I figure that I can use the sides of the ditch to reinforce my berm and only have to pile up around 2+ feet of earth to make an appropriately sized pile above the ditch.

Here's a diagram overlayed on a Microsoft Bing image:

Aside from mine, the nearest houses (not pictured) are 260 yards east and behind the firing line and 330 yards and 35 degrees east of the firing line.

As much as I'd like to move and strech my legs into a larger property it's not feasible at this time. Not sure I was entirely clear either, but we live on our small piece acreage as well and have a lot more than money invested in it. Hopefully one day we can have someplace a little larger to call our own, but for now we're sticking with what we have.

I'm an environmental consultant so trust me I know about lead contamination. I actually worked on a project where an old sporting clays course was purchased for development into a residential community. There was a lot of excavation and grading and soil washing going on there. Since this is a residential property and drinking water is supplied by groundwater I don't forsee a problem. Great foresight though. Every time I see a driving range I think, what a great place to shoot trap, then I remember all the hassle with the prior cleanup I mentioned.

Anyway, thanks all for the replies, I hope this bumps the thread an I get some more great replies. If this sounds feasible after discussions with local folks and y'all's advice I'll post progress updates.

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