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Backstop for shooting

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Jake Benson, Aug 27, 2011.

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  1. Jake Benson

    Jake Benson Member

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    I just bought two S&W revolvers. The 649 and 686. I have five acres in semi-rural area and want to put up a shooting range for my wife and I. I have done some research and here are my ideas. I would like input from anyone with experience with their own shooting range.

    First idea. Stacked tires filled with sand. Five or six tires arcross, stacked about six feet high. Another row behind them, staggered to fill in the gaps. Also maybe having the stacks curved a little to give it a wrap around look. The cons to this as I have read are that tires can cause ricocheting. But what about either bales of straw in front of the tires to catch any ricochets, or attaching carpet to the fronts for the same purpose?

    Second idea. Using railroad ties. Two across and stacking them around six feet high. Another tier behind the first, off-center to fill in the crack where the first tiers come together. These could also have a tier on each side, flared out to form something of a semi circle. Again, I have read railroad ties can cause ricochets, but what about the staw bales in front of them, or carpet attached to the front of the ties, top to bottom?

    Third idea. This is probably the best but also the most difficult. Just having a couple loads of dirt or sand dumped in the area of shooting. This would be the most difficult because the range would be down in the woods and very difficult to get a dump truck down there without cutting down some trees.

    I would also build a shed, closed in on three sides with roof, and sound proofing it to muffle the gunshots. There are other houses in the area, although none are closer than 500 feet from where I would be shooting. The range would be facing a direction where there are no homes, and about 300-400 yards straight down the range is a giant embankment, perhaps 20 feet high, at the top is a plateau which has chicken houses on it. The embankment is not on my property so I could not use it for a backstop.

    The other factor here is I don't have a lot of money to be spending on this. I want it to be safe but made as cheaply as possible.
     
  2. possom813

    possom813 Member

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    I've just got a pile of dirt for a berm, or a tank dam, whichever is better at the time.

    If you were building one from scratch, without wanting to spend a lot of cash.

    Get 4 good poles and sink the front two and rear two poles about 10-12' across from each other.

    Going front to back, around 8' between the front poles and back poles and have all the poles about 7' high.

    Get some treated lumber, 2 by 4,6,8,10,12 or whatever you back have and board up three sides, leaving the front open.

    At the bottom of the front, nail enough of the 2 by's to make it about 15-20 inches high.

    Fill it up with sand the best you can, it will cave at the front and be thick at the bottom and thin at the top.

    Take your tires and stack them however you want behind the back wall all the way to the top to stop anything that penetrates the sand and wood.


    Also, you may want to check your local ordinances, seems like you have to have so many acres to have a berm/shooting range.

    my .02
     
  3. M2 Carbine

    M2 Carbine member

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    I am not a fan of tires or railroad ties. Both can deflect the bullet back at you.

    Check around and see if you can get someone with a front end loader to pile up a dirt backstop for you.

    This is mine and I consider it about a minimum size as far as safety. I have a front end loader and I keep working on building the backstop larger.
    Rangecover.gif

    Natat52yards.gif


    The use of steel plate can also help as a backstop. This is my backyard range. Again the dirt berm should be as big as you can manage.
    Backyardshootingberm.gif


    Remember it is completely your responsibility to assure that no bullet leaves your property. Not only must you never miss the backstop but you are responsible for everyone that shoots on your range. Like the girl in the above picture. I would be foolish allowing her to shoot a pistol at 50 yards if I wasn't sure that she would not miss the backstop.
     
  4. Jake Benson

    Jake Benson Member

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    Thanks for the pictures. I agree with you. I have decided a dirt backstop is the way to go. One thing that occurred to me was renting a bobcat. That would do the trick. Your pictures give me some more ideas as well. Thanks.
     
  5. Bravo Sierra

    Bravo Sierra Member

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    As you say, you could rent a bobcat. Figure out how wide you can get something back on your land, and how level the terrain is, how many rocks, etc. getting in your way.

    A bobcat or skid would work if you don't have much space. You could rent a tractor with a bucket in front and a blade in the back, to scoop and push the dirt for your berm.

    Get the widest you think you can get back on your property, with room to maneuver around. More cubic yardage per bucket = less work and operating time.

    The old fashioned way would be to horse it in with an oversized wheelbarrow.
     
  6. Shadow 7D

    Shadow 7D Member

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    I'd still go with the rail road ties :)

    BUT used as a retaining wall so you have a consistent mound, line up or drill the ties (or logs) then use rebar like huge nails and you should be able to build something pretty permanent.
     
  7. M2 Carbine

    M2 Carbine member

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    Be very careful if you aren't experienced with a front end loader. When the bucket is full the tractor will roll over very easy when the bucket is lifted high.
    nwetractor-1.gif
     
  8. dickttx

    dickttx Member

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    Went through the same thoughts a year or so ago. Finally ended up using my pond dam, at an angle, so there was nothing behind it.
    Remember from several years ago, building retaining wall, flower beds, etc., that crossties were pretty expensive even then ($10/$12 each.) Hauling them is also not easy, need at least a 16' low boy. I have a JD 4400 with a loader, but unless you have sand or soft soil that is not powerful enough to do the job.
    Renting a Bobcat is probably the best, however, unless you are experienced in operating it, they turn over pretty easily.
    Hiring someone with a Bobcat to do the job for you might be the best overall.
    Any way you go, it is going to cost some $.
    Good luck on your project.
    Attached photo is what I ended up with.
    I did buy a few bags of playsand to stack behind the target so I could mine my lead easier.
     

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  9. Owen Sparks

    Owen Sparks member

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    Dirt backstops work fine as long as they have a good sheer cliff face like the one in the picture M2 Carbine posted. The problem with dirt piles is that after time they tend to erode and settle into a mound. This mound can act as a ramp and cause bullets to angle off like a bank shot in billiards and lob them off your property. This problem is made worse in this time of year when hot dry conditions bake the dirt and make it hard and we all know what happens when you shoot a hatd flat surface at an angle.

    Dirt backstops are safe if you maintain them with a bulldozer but shooting at a 45 degree slope is asking for trouble.
     
  10. slowr1der

    slowr1der Member

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    This is something I've also wondered about. We have some land that's pretty much flat, but it's very wooded. I'd like to be able to shoot on it, but I'm afraid to, so I want to build a backstop. I really have no way to get a tractor, or anything else back in there, so I'm thinking if I ever want to shoot on it, I may have to remove some trees.
     
  11. GCBurner

    GCBurner Member

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    With a low lying dirt berm, please be aware of what is on the other side, for at least 2 miles down range. No matter how good a shot you think you are, the occasional round is going to go flying over the top, and if it hits something, or someone, on the far side, you will be in a world of trouble.
     
  12. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

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    You can construct a burm without having to haul in a bunch of dirt and sand. Use a ditch witch or a tiller that will loosen the soil, and then just pile it up on the front side of the trench. Just plain common dirt is more effective at preventing recochet than tires or carpet and bullets aren't going to get through it.
     
  13. Shadow 7D

    Shadow 7D Member

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    Build a slight rise/mound, the for the back stop you dig a mound by scooping the dirt out and piling on the back side, till you end up with a sloped ramp down 6-7 feet backed with an above ground mound. with the rise, you have a lane of fire that downward facing, but the lead can be a bit hard to mine.
     
  14. Larry E

    Larry E Member

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    The range I was a member of some years ago tried dirt filled tires, and found that if a bullet hit them just wrong it could go flying to who knows where. On the other hand if you can bury tires in the backstop as filler, and make sure that they can't be or won't be exposed I'd think that would work well. Anything that's hard (railroad ties) or flexible (tires) has the possibility of causing ricochets which can go anywhere.

    I'd use the largest pile of dirt that I could build or find. A good wooded hillside on your property with a backstop cut with a front loader or tractor is ideal IMHO.
     
  15. labhound

    labhound Member

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    Backstop is built with railroad ties 7 feet tall braced with 6x6 treated posts and filled with 1 1/2 dump truck loads of dirt. Shelter is a metal carport with 4x8 sheets of styrofoam sheets on the ceiling to help muffle sound but more is to be added.
    566468[/ATTACH]%20 Pistolrange016.jpg %20"] Pistolrange008.jpg Pistolrange016.jpg 566472[/ATTACH]%20 Shootingathomerange007.jpg %20 Shootingathomerange005.jpg %20"] Shootingathomerange009.jpg Shootingathomerange007.jpg Shootingathomerange005.jpg Shootingathomerange014.jpg Pistolrange007.jpg
     

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    Last edited: Aug 30, 2011
  16. heeler

    heeler Member

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    That's a nice setup labhound.
     
  17. sugarmaker

    sugarmaker Member

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    A man in Essex, Vermont was shot dead at his dinnertable 2 years ago by some guys shooting into a, 8 foot dirt pile backstop over otherwise flat ground. One of them overshot the berm by accident. Would you stand 1/4 or 1/2 mile behind your backstop, on your neighbor's property (if you own 5 acres...) while you or your guests are shooting, every time? If not, it's probably not safe.

    have 2 home ranges - 1 100 footer out back here and I shoot into a mountain, down in a gully, nearest house is 500 feet away, not in the direction of the target, and blocked by the hill. I have a berm similar to yours as the primary backstop, the 200 foot hill is for good measure. The other I shoot into a hill but the backstop isn't as good, 200 yards into a 20 foot upslope and we own the next 3/4 mile - no houses (or power poles, nothing...) for 20 miles within +/- 30 degrees in that direction, and I can see for 100 yards beyond the target.

    One or two rounds is one thing, but a shooting range needs to account for things not going exactly right - as they say, stuff happens.
     
  18. heeler

    heeler Member

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    Safety can never be over looked but in labhounds range as well as M2 Carbine's the trees alone would make it extremely unlikely for a bullet to get past that point.
     
  19. labhound

    labhound Member

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    I'm actually shooting downhill and past the backstop are woods and a swampy creek bed. The nearest house is across the creek bed then up hill and through 500 yards of woods. The nearest road is about 250 yards behind me and my house is 200 yards off to my right and slightly behind me. City code requires you be a minimum of 100 yards from any road and 200 yards from any house before you can shoot.
     
  20. atlantis

    atlantis member

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    Labhound's setup is pretty much ideal. The lady shooter is kind of cute, too. But lab could lose some weight. ;)

    To the OP, if you go with a dirt pile, do some research as to the specific dimensions.

    From elsewhere:

    I remember considering such a thing for myself and when I found out how much dirt was involved, went a different route.
     
  21. labhound

    labhound Member

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    That's my wife. Not only is she slimmer and cuter than me, but most days she out shoots me! :eek:
     
  22. conw

    conw Member

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    I like to use a flash mob as a backstop. This conveniently solves your problem as well as one that keeps recurring in the S&T section as a hard-to-answer question. :uhoh:
     
  23. M2 Carbine

    M2 Carbine member

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    Other than the normal safety rules we all follow, I tell shooters at my place I have only two rules that must never be broken.
    You are free to do any kind of shooting that you can safely do but......
    1. Under no circumstances are you to miss the berm. Shoot within your own limits.
    2. Do not shoot me.

    Not necessarily in that order.:)


    When someone new to my range shoots, first we shoot close up, about 5-7 yards, so I can see that they know what they are doing.
    We have all seen those people that talk a good story but actually can't hit a barn from inside it. Generally their other gun handling is poor to.
     
  24. heron

    heron Member

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    Here's mine -- it's a flat box full of sand, 4 ft square, sides made of 2x8's, front and back covered in 2x10's. Half a ton of sand in it, IIRC. I think I bought half a yard, and it just about fit.

    I got the idea from this delightful article:

    http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/bot7.htm

    It works, too: stops .357 Mag, 9mm (from a carbine), .223, and 20 GA slugs.
     

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    Last edited: Aug 30, 2011
  25. Owen Sparks

    Owen Sparks member

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    That angled pile of dirt that labhound pictured can act as a ramp and lob bullets for hundreds of yards if it gets hard in a drought. The dirt should be behind the railroad ties rather than in front. Every stray bullet carrys a manslaughter charge. Safe backstops should be at a 90 degree angle or less. Anyone who has played pool should be able to figure this out. It is not rocket surgery.
     
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