New Neighbor's Backyard Range


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The Neighbor
August 20, 2014, 12:04 AM
We live in a rural neighborhood in Central Virginia, everyone basically has 10 acres. Our new back neighbor has just put in a shooting range. Their acreage is pretty long and narrow with the cleared area of it beginning around 100 feet from and extending out to about 200 yards from our house and less that from another neighbor's house. We have kids aged 3, 5 and 7.

I have never fired or owned a gun and really know very little about them or safety in terms of range design (I support 2nd Amendment rights, including the belief that 'arms' is inclusive of far more than handheld weapons). The other neighbors have called local LE due to the proximity of their home to the range as well as the noise level (the Sheriff told the neighbor with the range that he called for backup prior to coming up to the house based on the warning sign posted on the driveway). The Sheriff told them that the range appears to be just at the distance required by zoning and that they might be able to do something based on noise (this neighbor is now keeping a log and has purchased a device to measure the noise). I share their safety concern at some level (to be fair, they are at the target end of the range). My wife is more concerned than I am and also works nights every few weeks while the new neighbor often shoots during weekday hours. I know that he shoots pistols, an AR15 and he told me that he had a 50 caliber out there one day. He also said that he wants to put in a tactical range as well (I have a faint idea of what I think that is).

At this point the 'range' is really just a newly mounded berm (not packed, maybe 8 to 12 ft high?) with a couple flat screen TVs lying against it, some targets attached to the trunks of trees and lots of stumps/logs mixed in with the dirt. The berm sits about 100 yards off of the back of our other neighbor's house with a about 20 degrees off the line of fire. There is a forested section (mostly loblolly pines) between the berm and the house. The neighbor with the range says that the trees would block any stray bullets from hitting their house. I have similar logic from my friends that hunt and it sounds reasonable but not necessarily proven.
Our house sits parallel to the line of fire (about 100 feet away, much of that lightly wooded) with our property line ending about where the berm is built. I am not worried about ricochet where we sit. My worry is more about one of the kids wandering over through the woods and popping out onto the range itself. My wife is very upset by the noise...I am struck by how intermittent it is. It seems like a session may last a couple hours but the number of shots is generally not that high but spread across the hour or two so you can't tell whether it is finished (Is that normal?).

Anyway, I seem to be the only near neighbor that is on speaking terms with him so my plan is to attempt to arrive at a workable solution. He volunteered that if anyone is bothered by the noise to let him know. At that point I mentioned that my wife sometimes sleeps during the day and we talked about whether we could let them know when and he could refrain from shooting. So I feel like they are not necessarily the 'screw you, I'll shoot when I like' type but they are definitely committed shooters (as is their right). He is a former Marine, former due to an injury in Iraq, so he likes having his range. He also told me that he has been trained in safe shooting (I assume by the USMC), but I do not think that is the same thing as range safety in terms of layout, design, materials, etc.

My point? I guess it is to see what advice I can get from other dedicated shooters on:
A- how to approach the whole topic of safety concerns in a way that will lead to productive action;

B- are there resources available (at very low or no cost) to help someone putting in a range to design it safely;

C - what can be done about noise?

My wife is talking about moving, apparently the other neighbor's wife is thinking the same. I feel like we're in the country and this is the flip side of the peace and quiet stereotype of country life. I also feel that going the route of what is legal and what is not will result in no winners. I've lived in an urban neighborhood where neighbors didn't get along and I think that as bad as things seem to people now they can get a lot worse, while still being in full compliance with the law.

I appreciate any advice you all can give on this.

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Armor Snail
August 20, 2014, 12:14 AM
Head over with the family and other neighbors (concerned ones) and have a range session with your new neighbors.
Seeing the range from his direct perspective might help alleviate fears. This way you could also as suggestions of improving the backstop without sounding pushy.

Would make a great picnic day for all. The wives could experience the noise up close. They might even like it.

The kids could all learn proper safety and handling.

Turn all of this into a positive experience. Make new friends & enjoy a safer neighborhood.

Ditchtiger
August 20, 2014, 12:18 AM
Head over with the family and other neighbors (concerned ones) and have a range session with your new neighbors.
Seeing the range from his direct perspective might help alleviate fears. This way you could also as suggestions of improving the backstop without sounding pushy.

Would make a great picnic day for all. The wives could experience the noise up close. They might even like it.

The kids could all learn proper safety and handling.

Turn all of this into a positive experience. Make new friends & enjoy a safer neighborhood.
My thoughts exactly.

toiville2feathers
August 20, 2014, 01:13 AM
Great suggestions guys. But here lays a problem, the guy with the range has been told of the nieghbors concerns. Mr. Range guy as a responsible member of the shooting community IMO should have taken the necessary steps to talk to his nieghbors (he is the new guy) to put these concerns to rest.
I say this because as members of the shooting community I feel we need to police or own ranks, and make fellow members aware that we are responsible members of society. We walk the talk.
I don't know who either person is or where they are located. But this is a conversation and topic we should be talking about and making others aware of actions like this.
Just saying.

The Neighbor
August 20, 2014, 01:28 AM
toiville2feathers I tend to agree more with you on this. A picnic ain't going to happen any time soon, lol. I'm not so much ready to blame the new neighbor for not going out of his way though, it is his property and he's got his rights as far as shooting.
I just don't think he put much thought into the whole thing. I don't see any evidence of a 'design' in the range he currently has up. Even in the spot its located it could've been placed at an angle away from the other neighbors and with the stand backing to our property. I don't think it's a matter of him being a jerk or even not caring. It seems more like he has a lot of experience shooting in a different environment and little or none creating a range in a neighborhood (albeit with 10 acre lots). We have other neighbors who shoot on their property and most have some type of range but it's situated differently on their land. His property is bordered more closely with homes than most in the area.

1858
August 20, 2014, 01:46 AM
The Neighbor, welcome and well done on a well thought out first post. You sound very reasonable and willing to work it out with your neighbor. I've found myself in the same shoes as your neighbor both when I moved to Arkansas and then to Montana. I like shooting and really like having my own range. I used to shoot regularly in AR on a 3.25 acre property and never had neighbors complain but most were shooters too. The same goes for MT with lots of shooters and hunters. I recently bought a house on 20 acres and I'm conscious of noise pollution and don't spend hours shooting magnum rifles. I've invested in a number of suppressors to reduce the amount of noise I make and safety is a big concern.

A- how to approach the whole topic of safety concerns in a way that will lead to productive action;

The best thing you can do is form a friedship with your neighbor so that he wants to work with you rather than against you. He sounds reasonable but if he becomes confrontational you can have the local police assess the safety of his range if necessary. Also, check local laws regarding noise or other forms of disturbance.

B- are there resources available (at very low or no cost) to help someone putting in a range to design it safely;

Old tires are free and can be stacked up and filled with dirt to make a very effective back stop. Three columns of tires stacked like billiard balls makes for an effective bullet trap.

C - what can be done about noise?

Encourage your neighbor to invest in suppressors which are legal in Virginia.

toiville2feathers
August 20, 2014, 03:34 PM
Neighbor;
I didn't intend to paint a picture that your guy next door was a jerk. What I was trying to say was that the bar needs to be raised on the responsibility level of the whole shooting fraternity. Not just your nieghbor, but all of us. When we are in the company of other shooters, a subject like this should be talked about so that we all can become aware of how this effects others. I am advocating that allof us need to police our own ranks, and for those who appear to be unaware, familiarize those who aren't aware of the potential or immediate problem.
My message was not so much directed to your nieghbor, but to the rest of us who are looking on.

Jim K
August 20, 2014, 03:38 PM
First, let me say that we appreciate your consideration and thoughtfulness in contacting us. Many neighbors would have demanded that the police close the range and arrest your neighbor.

The National Rifle Association has range designs that are available at no cost to anyone. Some are for areas that are very built up and may not be practical in that area, but your neighbor might be interested.

In general, a range with a good backstop and responsible shooters will not be a danger to others or other property, and it sounds like the neighbor is OK in that regard. My concern would be whether a shot could easily go over the backstop is a shooter should accidentally point the gun too high.

I like the idea of a "range fun day" and hope the neighbor will take everyone up on it.

Another idea might be to agree on times for range activity. Like no shooting before noon or after 4 pm. I am sure there are other ideas.

Jim

MEHavey
August 20, 2014, 04:28 PM
"...The berm sits about 100 yards off of the back of our other neighbor's house
with a about 20 degrees off the line of fire. There is a forested section (mostly
loblolly pines) between the berm and the house. The neighbor with the range
says that the trees would block any stray bullets from hitting their house."Let me simply say I am not so sanguine.
Not only is that a relatively shallow angle,
but if you can see the neighbors car headlights
glint through those trees, so can a bullet.

Ed Ames
August 20, 2014, 04:40 PM
I would go along with trying to set up a shooting day.

Basic human nature is that it is easier to be considerate towards people you know and like. Maybe do a 3 family grill&shoot. Hamburgers, potato salad, and safe shooting can be a good combination.

Plus you said you have young children but don't know much about guns yourself...it may be a great opportunity to teach them some basic safety so if they find a gun or a friend starts playing with one around them they respond correctly.

As far as building ranges it honestly isn't rocket science. Commercial ranges tend to be heavily overbuilt due to liability and frankly irresponsible new shooter problems, but a perfectly safe range can be built with less than you described. Bullets stop pretty quickly in dirt.

Take a look at this, remembering that even the low cost bullet box they show on page 4 is really for public ranges.
http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/destinations/shooting_ranges/outdoor_shooting_best_practices.pdf

The Neighbor
August 20, 2014, 05:43 PM
I appreciate all of the responses, lots of good info (suppressors, trees as backstops, etc...I might go for a 'range fun day'...but maybe alone).

Toiville - I didn't take your meaning to be negative..for all I know at this point he may end up being a jerk though. I've only spoken with him once so far (10 acre lots don't allow for too much chance running into each other).

Ed Ames - Thanks for that link. I had already checked that one out and thought it was excellent as a primer, gives me a lot of good items to broach as possible mitigations. I still don't know what 'worming' is; I was also surprised by some of the information regarding old tires.

Bobson
August 20, 2014, 05:59 PM
My take on all this is fairly straightforward. If the guy isn't breaking any laws (and so far it sounds like he isn't, with possible exception of noise ordnance/s), there's really nothing anyone can do about it except go and politely share your concerns. I think that's your best bet. It's also easy, immediate, and likely to be effective. Overlooking the possibility of a neighborhood range session is a bit foolish, unless the neighbor has made it clear he won't have anyone over for it. If it gets there, well... you're stuck. Don't let it get there before you've made every effort to be friendly about it, because then you've got no cards left to play.

MifflinKid
August 20, 2014, 07:13 PM
Every bullet that goes down range has a lawyer attached to it.

From your description I do not think his range is well constructed. I think the backstop needs to be considerably higher. It should be 16 feet top to bottom if the dirt is not packed down. Loose dirt will gradually compact and lose a foot or two in height. Any wood in the backstop will rot away further reducing the margin of safety. The backstop needs to be totally rebuilt. It needs to be higher and all wood should be removed from it. If at all possible the dirt should be packed down with a flat top that can be seeded with some kind of ground cover planting. This will reduce erosion and extend the time until the backstop needs to be rebuilt.

Also, it should have berms extending out from it wrapping back toward the firing line. This would greatly reduce the chance of a bullet getting off the property. U or \_/ shaped backstops are much better than simple mounds of dirt. The improved backstop on page 4 of the document Ed Ames linked to would be a good start though I would make the wrapping berms just as tall as the backstop. This will also modestly reduce the sound getting to your other neighbors. You cannot trust trees to stop bullets.

The shooting line could be partially enclosed by berms angled upward by 45 degrees to help redirect the muzzle blast sound up. By this I mean a form like ( ... ) where the three periods are the firing line and the parentheses are the berms. Again, these should be quite high, at least ten feet. From personal experience on the outside range I most frequently use, shots taken just 50 feet away in another shooting bay with tall side berms with slopes are much quieter on the other sides of the berms.

Shooting a .50 BMG on his range is very foolish based on your description. A 750 grain bullet has tremendous penetration capability. Such a round impacting a peaked backstop near the top could easily go all the way though. This is another reason the top of the backstop needs to be many, many feet deep.

My worry is more about one of the kids wandering over through the woods and popping out onto the range itself. Yes or popping up from behind the backstop. I have shot at two ranges where each of these has happened. Both of these ranges are tightly controlled but kids are ingenious and inquisitive. A fence might help but when it comes to children educating them is the probably the best proof.

I think your neighbor is really rolling the dice with his current range design. Given your description I would limit shooting on it to handguns only and limit the distance to just 10 or 15 yards. I would erect a proper frame close to the base of the backstop to hold targets and not use trees to hold targets. Lower powered rounds can ricochet off the side of a tree and go who knows where. (Another reason to wrap berms around the backstop.)

Good luck to you and all involved in this. I hope your neighbor is receptive to change.

alsaqr
August 20, 2014, 09:07 PM
The neighbor with the range says that the trees would block any stray bullets from hitting their house. I have similar logic from my friends that hunt and it sounds reasonable but not necessarily proven.

Your neighbor is very wrong. Counting on trees to stop bullets is asking for a criminal negligence charge.

i hear this stuff all the time. Folks buy a small acreage and construct a "shooting range". Many, if not most of these ranges, are improperly constructed and are lawsuits in waiting.

One of my ranges is over 300 yards from the closest dwelling. i won't shoot high power rifles there because the sick 85 year lady who lives in that dwelling deserves better.

IMO: Anyone who builds a firing range within 100 feet of his neighbors house is not wound very tight.

Adam the Gnome
August 24, 2014, 10:19 PM
Sounds good to me. Would love to have a neighbor home shooting guns all day while I'm at work

au_prospector
August 25, 2014, 06:46 PM
I live in rural Georgia. It is very common to hear range type gunfire at any given moment. The county I live in ~ unless the rules have changed since I last checked in 2007 ~ has no gun noise ordinance, but has a 30 acre/500 foot/150 foot type of rule.
\\\\\\\\

30 acres for a firing range, not within 500 foot of another residence, not within 150 foot of public street. Your neighbor would not qualify with only 10 acres and a couple hundred feet to the next house.

Your local laws obviously may be different than mine.

Also as noted above, his backstop seems inadequate according to your description. I would not give the trees as much credit as you do. And someone commented each round down range has a lawyer attached to it. I belong to a private club which carries hefty liability insurance and is on 225 acres in the middle of urban Chattanooga for example. . . Each range fully baffled and berms from 15-40+ feet of packed clay.

AABEN
August 25, 2014, 07:11 PM
Head over with the family and other neighbors (concerned ones) and have a range session with your new neighbors.
Seeing the range from his direct perspective might help alleviate fears. This way you could also as suggestions of improving the backstop without sounding pushy.

Would make a great picnic day for all. The wives could experience the noise up close. They might even like it.

The kids could all learn proper safety and handling.

Turn all of this into a positive experience. Make new friends & enjoy a safer neighborhood.
VERY well put. THANKS

armoredman
August 25, 2014, 08:28 PM
Does either of you know how to operate heavy machinery? Would the neighbors be willing to go in on renting a front end loader or other earth mover to build this range up to a safe level as described above, then perhaps use it to handle small issues on their property later? Just a thought.

Walkalong
August 25, 2014, 09:06 PM
Sounds like he could use some help in making a safer berm, or maybe even relocating the firing line and/or berm locations.

As posted, is there anyone near who has earth moving equipment? If he brings in loose dirt it is easy to work with. If not, is there anyone who can run a rented machine?

He sounds like someone who would appreciate advise and help that would keep the neighbors safer and happier.

I intend to put in a range on my property one of these days, and I am giving very careful consideration to the location of both the firing line and the berm, with other peoples houses and a safe firing direction being the main considerations.

Welcome to THR.

WestKentucky
August 25, 2014, 10:23 PM
The important thing here is that this relationship between you and your neighbor is very new and needs to grow. I know exactly what it's like to live next to a jerk (and that guy would say the same about me) over stupid petty stuff that happened when we first met. When you get an A-hole you normally get a B-hole too...just sayin... So make friends with the fella, tell him your concerns lightly with a talk about your worried that your kids play in the woods and ask him to find a way to clear the woods before shooting so that they have time to safely return to your property. An air horn is great for that, and that conversation should show that your not pointing a finger but rather trying to be safe. The next thing is to learn a little about his situation. Is he shooting a handgun, a rifle, a cannon, or a shotgun. All of these have very different requirements for safety. Shotgun is the shortest dangerous distance and from your description it could easily be a shotgun range where he shoots clays. Shotgun ranges don't require a backstop and shooters shoot into the air which bothers a lot of folks. It could be a handgun range which is the next on the list. Dangerous farther than shotgun but less than rifle. Handgun requires a backstop but a rather thin one and shooters are often very close so they don't necessarily need to be wide or tall either. Rifle ranges are long and require the bigger, heavier berm but rifles are more controllable and more accurate so there is less chance of a stray round but more danger if it happens. Rifles are dangerous to humans in excess of a mile, but much much shorter after a ricochet or pass through uses up a lot of forward energy. A cannon range is rare and unless your windows are rattling isn't the case. His range may be fine, or it may not. Be a friend, be a neighbor, be a dad. Learn and grow that relationship in a positive way. Obviously some big nonos on a range are alcohol or carelessness, so if those come into play you need to get the authorities involved.

Madcap_Magician
August 26, 2014, 12:32 PM
I don't think it appears that your neighbor is a jerk, but it is pretty clear that whatever his experience with firearms, he hasn't thought through the implications of the makeup of his range.

It sounds like his property runs behind several other properties lengthwise, and there is no berm or fence beyond the immediate backstop to his targets. This is an extremely hazardous arrangement, especially if property lines aren't marked by fences and the area is wooded. It would be easy for children (or anyone really) playing in the "Back Forty" of any of the adjacent properties to inadvertently wander within his line of fire, a danger that is exacerbated by the distance of his range (much easier to notice people approaching from the side on a 10-yard pistol range than on a 200-yard rifle range) and the presence of wooded cover and undergrowth.

Even heavy woods will not reliably stop bullets, much less .50-cal. rifle rounds. I would be extremely skeptical of anyone planning to shoot .50 BMG in a range set up like that. Even a solid earthen berm reinforced by backfilled tire stacks is not guaranteed to stop a .50 BMG. Furthermore, even though a bullet fired into the woods will eventually stop, there is a great chance that where it stops could be in someone else's property entirely, and its flight path can be distorted by the natural foliage.

I'm sorry, but that's just plain dangerous, and I would not be real happy with your neighbor's carelessness, even if he's a great guy otherwise.

twofifty
August 26, 2014, 03:34 PM
This:
"The berm sits about 100 yards off of the back of our other neighbor's house with a about 20 degrees off the line of fire"

to me presents way too much of an opportunity for an ND to be launched directly toward the neighbor's house. The intervening loblolly thicket does not constitute a reliable stop bullet trap. The backstop -a mishmash of dirt, logs and rocks- may be as much of a ricochet slinger than a bullet stop.

No doubt the retired Marine is a competent firearms user, but he's not likely given range design much notice when he was in the service (as pointed out by MadCap).

Do you know another retired military, of higher rank, that lives nearby or is a friend, that might join you in a constructive conversation with your neighbour?

I like the ideas of pooling community resources to get a loader, a picnic gathering, anything that keeps a 2-way dialogue going rather than bringing in the cavalry.

edit: I also very much like the suggestion to put side berms at the firing line, so as to deflect sound upward....and having side berms (U shape) in the target area to contain ricochet and splatter.

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