Officials take first steps to open shooting range near Cameo
Bench installed to discourage random shooting; spring dedication planned
By Gary Harmon
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Shooters will soon be able to take aim at Palisade’s new Cameo shooting range in De Beque Canyon while planning continues for the development of a top-line range.
By setting up some shooting benches on the site, officials hope to discourage random shooting as town and state officials move ahead with plans for a “First Shot” dedication this spring, Town Administrator Rich Sales said.
Sales and others this week discussed development plans for the Cameo range with Clark Vargas, a Florida-based shooting-range designer, impressing Vargas enough that he stayed an extra day to visit the site.
Gov. John Hickenlooper and others are to be invited to break ground in mid-April, at the site north of the Colorado River and behind the Bookcliffs, Sales said.
The site was long home to Xcel Energy’s Cameo station, an aging coal-fired plant that was decommissioned and demolished.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife and other agencies are working with Vargas to make the most of the site, which organizers hope will attract 50,000 visitors a year, many of whom will spend a night or more and eat at restaurants or take part in other activities in the Grand Valley.
“The bench we’re talking about, it is incredibly beautiful, but also challenging,” Sales told Vargas in the meeting at the Parks and Wildlife offices in Grand Junction.
Plans also call for “pro shops” at the various shooting venues — archery, rifle, pistol, shotgun — as well as indoor classrooms for hunter education, concealed-carry and other classes, and indoor shooting ranges.
Officials aren’t looking to displace sporting goods stores or ammunition suppliers.
“We want to build something that’s complementary,” said J.T. Romatzke, Grand Junction area wildlife manager, noting that shooters sometimes need an extra box of ammunition or the like and ought not have to leave the complex to make small purchases.
Palisade used state grants to buy the shooting range land from Xcel and the Snowcap Coal Co., as well as pay for surveying and engineering plans.
Officials hope that ultimately the range will be a benefit to the entire valley, Sales said.
CVA Helps to Create a Shooting Complex in Colorado
Black Powder Shooting Ranges
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation retained CVA to provide a period correct “Musket Shooting Range” Design that incorporate details to meet industry standard and safety features. The Musket Range is one of the area’s first-ever musket ranges. Colonial Williamsburg is looking at the shooting facility as a way to increase tourism by touting the musket firing range both as an engaging historical guest attraction and as a method for a more hands on approach when teaching visitor’s about 18th century America.
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation relied on CVA’s design for obtaining permitting and performing the construction of the musket range to teach more visitors about the heritage attraction. The range premiered on March 2016 and will offering its guest an opportunity to experience history. The guests will be able to learn about and fire two historical flintlocks, the Brown Bess musket and a Fowling Piece.
For more information about the Colonial Williamsburg Musket Range experience follow the link provided.
Static, Dynamic, and Inter-active Ranges
Over the last 15 years, the cost of shooting range construction has escalated beyond the reach of most municipalities and state organizations, which have to build ranges. The main reason for the cost escalation is that more stringent design criteria is being applied unnecessarily, to range designs, across the country.
Range officers and law enforcement trainers recognize that the buzzwords for training today’s shooters are Static, Dynamic and Inter-Active shooting. We should therefore recognize, in the design, how the ranges are going to be utilized and rely on the appropriate operational rules that the range is going to be used properly, such that the basis of the particular range design is not an over resign. There are actually 3 levels of safe and economical range design, each progressively more expensive that can be produced. Each safe and cost effective for the type of shooting that is going to be performed within, and without sacrificing safety or environmental stewardship.
Therefore, developing definitions for the 3 types of ranges is paramount and will be very helpful to crystallize to the various range designs, the advantages and limits of each design.
Static ranges are the known distance (KD) ranges of traditional design. These are still used in the military and law enforcement for basic courses, for Hunter Education Training and for USA Shooting competition. These ranges are normally used to teach firearms familiarization to the novice marksmanship and most extensively for disciplined competitive position shooting.
The basic design characteristics of a static range are a fixed target line and a fixed firing line or lines at known distances, all the way to 1,000 yards! Each shooter is provided a numbered firing position, a lane, 4 to 10 feet wide by 7 feet tall. The courses of fire are characterized by slow aimed fire (even in the rapid fire stages). A trainee, or competitor is expected to keep all his rounds within a two-foot square target area and indeed, most can after very preliminary instruction. No crossfire from lane to lane is allowed and the position shooting rules, for the particular disciplines control of the courses of fire.
The essential design element to position range is the backstop, even if the range has the extensive proper area for the down-range shooting fan, since it is now required to contain and recycle the lead bullets. Additional features may be designed are side berms, firing line covers, turning targets line and overhead ground baffles for bullet containment. Even though the range is termed static, silhouettes and turning targets within each line are allowable.
Operational rules are essential to a Static range. One is the establishing of the firing line. The firing line is not only the line, which establishes the distance to the target line, but also from safety standpoint, defines the up-range safety area and the down-range danger area. The operational rules control the up-range zone. The range-master or the shooters on the shooting line control the down range danger zone area. All targets are established placed parallel to the firing line and the shooting lanes are 4’, 6’, 10’, and 12’ segments of the shooting line, 4’ to 5’ firing position are adequate for pistol shooting, and 6’ to 12’ wide positions for rifle.
Ground and overhead baffles when required in Static ranges are minimal cost for these position type ranges, in that only the firing line angles needs to be contained for the shooting positions that will be utilized at the particular range (i.e. standing, sitting and prone). A Static range coupled with strict operational rules are very safe ranges, which can be constructed most economically.
Dynamic ranges are the outgrowth of military advanced marksmanship training. The military John Wayne type pop-up target ranges and the law enforcement Hogans Alleys are examples of such.
More recent law enforcement training methods with moving targets & tactical shooting courses have created problems for ranges. Dynamic shooting discipline of IPSC, USPSA, NRA, Action Pistol, IDPA and most recently SASS action shooting have elevated this style shooting to an art form. Dynamic shooting requires we take look at these ranges differently from static ranges, with respect to their design.
Law enforcement has deemed it necessary to and has gotten away from the traditional P.P.C. training (which I don’t agree with) because of the 50-yard shooting, and has been using the standard PPC static ranges at 25-yards and closer in to teach dynamic courses of fire with moving targets (i.e. running man, charging man and cross shooting across 5 to 6 shooting lanes). As long as the training occurs at the center of the existing PPC range, no problems occur. As long as the running man and charging man are kept low, so no bullets escape. No problem. But once these parameters are exceeded, bullets got out of the ranges, resulting in numerous law enforcement ranges being closed across the country.
The opposite has been the experience with the civilian discipline Dynamic shooting range activities such as IPSC, USPSA, SASS, IDPA, NRA, action shooting, etc. because of their operational rules, these shooting disciplines are very safe.
Dynamic shooting is characterized by the shooter knowing the course of fire and although the shooter may be stressed out, and under pressure, as in law enforcement training, the shooter does know where the targets are and how he will engage them. The epitome of this style of shooting again is the action shooting disciplines. In which, the shooters will preview the stages and actually have the course of fire explained to them and then actually do a stage walk thru as a group. Just before each shooters turn, the individual shooter will do a dry practice run, where he practices which and where to engage targets, where to reload, to shoot on the move or to shoot at a specific position
When watching if master shooters in any of these disciplines dynamic shooting appears as a choreographed ballet that is over in the blink of an eye.
Dynamic shooting ranges then are characterized as having moving targets lines, moving targets and moving shooting positions. Steel targets are extensively used which raise other design considerations of minimal distances to the steel and height of berms and ricochet angles. Operational range rules are paramount currently; these are stringent and are ingrained in the shooter. This happens because one shooter shoots at a time with one NRA, USPSA or SASS range officer along side to watch every movement. It results in a very safe sport. The only place a loaded firearm is allowed on Dynamic ranges is at the “stage start” where the range officer commands the shooter to “load and make ready”. Until the stage end when the shooter is commanded by the CRO to unload and show clear.
Just as in Static ranges firing lines, are as operational control lines established. The stage 180-degree line (firing line) is the control line. This 180-degree line is parallel to the stage backstop and in essence establishes the up-range and down-range stage condition, identical function as the static range.
A shooter may not break a 170-degree arch at any time, within any stage. If he appears that he is going to break it. Then the range officer is taught to guide the elbow so the shooter can’t do it.
Action shooting stages (dynamic shooting) each have a backstop and two side berms and are usually 75’ deep x 50’ wide, interior dimensions. Shooting takes place close to the backstop and steel is shot at a 12-yard distance. Because of the close supervision and operational controls, these ranges are normally not baffled. If this type range has to be baffled, the trellis baffle design normally works best and is most economical. The dynamic shooting disciplines each have such stringent safety rules and rules of the game that a round very seldom will go over a backstop. The epitome of design of dynamic shooting ranges is the law enforcement Hogan’s Alley ranges, developed by the FBI and of inspector Callahan movie fame and the permanent USPSA and SASS shooting stages.
Inter-active ranges became necessary to train FBI, HRT operators and to a lesser extent, SWAT units. Swat ranges started on the West Coast with Chief Gates and now each police department or sheriff’s office want one. Traditional and the most effective training is conducted in the “shoot house” with live ammo, in which you can shoot 360-degrees horizontally and vertically, if it’s a multi-story “shoot house”.
The Inter-Active type ranges present the most design challenges. It must have a minimum of 4 walls to shoot within and sometimes a solid roof in addition for vertical shooting. Now, ricochet bullet-proof walls must be designed or as an option, frangible ammunition with a full recycle system can be provided instead.
These ranges, in some instances, must be enclosed as in bullet proof, concrete cubes. A requirement that by extrapolation should not be made applicable to Static and Dynamic ranges.
Other inter-active, moving style courses, using laser on a movie screen can be used to teach shoot, no shoot scenarios. Likewise, simunition and paint ball can be used to teach defensive and assault scenarios. These are really not shooting ranges since they don’t use live ammunition.
If the designer can be told specifically what range type he needs to design for, he can do it in conjunction with the operational and specific range rules and result in the most economical range design, for the particular site chosen.
More specifically the Static Hunter Education/Competition ranges that are so sorely needed around the country can be designed very economically.
Dynamic range usage is in great demand around the country. Police departments and sheriffs offices right now cannot build and upgrade them fast enough to train and re-train police officers. These shooting ranges can be constructed safely and cost effectively, also if dynamic shooting ranges standing are not applied to them.
Baffles, Berms, and Backstops
Pursuant to prior range industry paper on this subject, one specifically by my good friend Dave Luke and shown in the proceeding of the 3rd National Range Symposium of 1996, this peer
review paper is undertaken to document more recent design standards for ranges, solidifying the “No Blue Sky” concept and “Ballistic Sand” 1:1 suggested slopes, design of manger traps,
etc., detailed and specific civilian range minimum design specifications were last presented in the 1999 “NRA Source Book.”
To properly evaluate bullet containment, which is what Baffles, Berms and Backstop do, it is necessary that we evaluate the process of planning range design, construction and operations
problem by considering 4 E’s, of Range Design.
1. The Business Plan and Range Master Plan:
Developing the Business Plan is essential to determine if the range is viable or not and is the Basis of the Range Master Plan.
The Master Plan focuses on the how, what, when, why and whom of the range. These documents are developed during the Master Planning phase and well prior to the design and construction
phases of a range complex. Subsequent, Safety and Long Range Plans are the living document of a range that must be continually reviewed and updated.
If planning is left to the end or a range is not planned, the facility owner/operator will find some undesirable surprises as he prepares to open for business and some of these surprises
may shut him down. The Safety and Long Range Plans are an important part of the Master Plan.
2. The 4-Es of Range Design:
The 4-Es must be used at every step of developing a shooting range. The 4-Es are: Evaluate, Engineer, Educate and Enforcement.
2.1. Evaluate: The range owner/planner design must evaluate the needs of the prospective user presented in the business plan and identify the specific shooting disciplines to be
conducted on the facility. Evaluate how many shooting activities can be conducted on the same ranges, not simultaneously. Review schedules for the various activities to ensure there are
no conflicts in range design and subsequently range usage result. This is an important consideration. While there are a few different shooting activities that can be compatible and lend
themselves to simultaneous range use, most are not.
2.2. Engineer: Each range or range complex must be engineered to accommodate the specific disciplines and activities which have been evaluated on their own as appropriate and are to be
conducted on the same piece of ground/range. Intimate knowledge by the Engineer/Designer of each shooting discipline and their rule book or curriculum specifying the detailed
requirements (if applicable) of each activity static or dynamic is essential. Each discipline’s requirements will have to be considered in detail to ensure no conflicts in firing line
design, target line location, target placement and target set up operation, etc. Time efficiency is also an important consideration when switching from one activity to another. While it
is possible to conduct multiple shooting activities on the same range, single purpose ranges are best and it will require deliberate thought and careful consideration to ensure possible
conflicts are insignificant and kept to a minimum. Once the design criteria have been established and constructed, it will be important for the owner/operator to truly understand that
there will be very little room for change in use without returning to the evaluation phase with additional engineering to retrofit the range to accommodate the new activity.
2.3. Educate: The operators and those who will be using the facility (users) must be educated in the specific Courses of Fire that are acceptable at said range and which firearms,
firearm calibers, positions that can be used (standing, sitting/kneeling, prone), types of firing (slow fire only, rapid fire, etc.) Static and Dynamic are but a few topics that should
be taken into consideration from inception as to how the range will or may be used.
Briefings on the etiquette of firearms safety, how and when to approach the firing line, how and when to change targets, commands that will be used-and their meanings, range officer
authority, etc. Careful explanation in this area will reasonably ensure that the facility will not be used outside of its design capability and thereby cause problems for the range.
2.4. Enforcement: This is the final phase of the 4-Es and ultimately is the glue that will hold all these considerations together into one cohesive package. You are giving instructions
to be obeyed. You are not giving advice. Enforcement solidifies the Planning and Safety Plan. The owner/operator must consider the specific range rules methods and actions that will be
employed to ensure the range is always used well within the design limits. Ultimately, it will be the responsibility of the owners/operators to determine the range use, assuring
adherence to the rules and regulations established.
3. Purpose of backstops, baffle berms and baffles:
Erecting baffle berms and backstops are a necessary and a minimum requirement for range owners/operators who do not control 1.5 miles downrange for pistol or 3.5 miles downrange for high
powered rifle, with appropriate 5 degree left and right safety zones.
I believe and all of us would readily agree that the full surface danger zone (SDZ) ranges are the exception rather than the rule. They are a concept of the past. Therefore, the primary
purpose of the construction of backstops, berms and baffles is to protect against the injury of people, damage to property or both, when a full Surface danger Zone (SDZ) can not be
provided. A secondary benefit is to permit the periodic recovery of lead projectiles, a recoverable and recyclable metal resource that can contribute to the positive cash flow of a range
4. Projectile/bullet containment.
It is the ultimate responsibility of the range owners/operators to ensure that the projectiles fired on their range are contained within the range property boundaries. While it is
entirely possible for an existing range facility to be grandfathered against noise complaints, it is totally unlikely that any governmental body would make the same concession concerning
safety. Therefore, it is paramount that shooting range owners/operators continually evaluate the shooting activities permitted and the requirements necessary to ensure those activities
can be conducted with projectile/bullet containment within the property as the result. The level of requirement necessary for the projectile/bullet containment on the property of a
shooting range facility will dictate the extent of the baffle construction. Side berms and backstop shall always stop the bullets. Baffles shall manage the bullets and its flight
characteristic so it remains on the property.
5. Shooting safety fan.
It is important to frequently remember that while specific range safety fans are indicated in numerous design manuals, these safety fans presume a free and open range.
As more and more controls and barriers are added to the design (both administrative and physical), the range SDZ becomes smaller until eventually the range SDZ equals the exterior edges
of the barriers of the backstop and side berms. This point is not specifically made in the “NRA Source Book” and also is not a logical conclusion by those not familiar with range design,
construction and civilian operation. These same regulatory folks seize on a specification and fail to understand that by adding controls or barriers, the range SDZ is changed and
significantly reduced. Backstops and side berms alone do not remove the requirement of an analysis of the SDZ. Baffles, berms and backstops can limit the SDZ to the range property lines.
The backstop provides the primary impact area for the bullets being fired and to terminate their kinetic energy under normal conditions. They also prevent the bullet from leaving the
range property. The backstop also serves as the storage device for bullets until they are recycled. Refer to prior peer review papers on Ballistic Sand. An important point to remember is
the construction of a proper backstop will not eliminate the requirement to provide a downrange safety fan beyond the backstop for the design type of firearm or caliber allowed to be
fired without baffles.
It shall always terminate the bullet at the property line. The probability of an accidental (firearm malfunction) or unintentional discharge where the bullet escapes the range without
first impacting the backstop must be evaluated and considered as the range design proceeds. This must be evaluated in the context that the surrounding land use changes and encroachments
by development will result.
A major consideration in initial design is to provide sufficient space behind backstop for ease of backstop repair and lead recovery of skips, ricochets and tidily-wings. All too often,
ranges are constructed allowing for the maximum number of firing points and distances to targets in the shortest acceptable width and distance to property lines but with insufficient
space to allow regular maintenance or heavy equipment access all around the range and to the range firing or target line. If insufficient space is not provided, problems will result.
Special consideration is to be provided to interior access and sufficient space, 30 feet minimum behind fixed target lines, for maneuverability of heavy equipment between the target line
and the backstop.
The best outdoor backstop is a manmade earth embankment with a 10 foot high ballistic sand projectile containment face or a natural hill of appropriate size and shape that meets the
specific requirements of the particular range.
Alternative backstops may be used when appropriate earthworks are not available. Preferred backstops include: 1) prepared naturally occurring hills or mountainsides (shaping the slope
will likely be required), 2) earthen backstops constructed from clean fill, 3) earthen backstops constructed from broken material (concrete or asphalt cores) and covered with clean fill
dirt, 4) earthen backstops constructed from clean fill and stabilized internally, and 5) fabricated backstops using steel, concrete, or wooden cribs.
Backstop heights can vary according to the site and use. General dimensions are as follows:
A. Height. A minimum height of a constructed earth backstop is 20 feet. The minimum is acceptable, but 25 feet is now also being recommended. This height is the compacted or settled
height. Height should also be consistent with other barriers that will be incorporated into the range design.
A backstop, ricochet catcher, ricochet baffle or “manger trap” can be installed to reduce the number of bullets escaping the range by tidily winks or sliding up the face of the backstop.
The manger trap is effective in retaining those ricochets that occur off the face of the backstop. While the distance traveled by such a ricochet would be a nominal 50 to 100 yards, this
factor needs to be included in the design calculations, if insufficient distance to the property line is not available. This device is installed parallel to the floor and into the
backstop face and extends to the toe of the slope. The ricochet catcher is typically 15 to 18 feet above the range floor, measured vertically from the ground surface at the target line.
This prevents direct bullet impact into the catcher. The ricochet catcher must be impenetrable to ricochets and should extend completely from side to side and connect the sidewalls or as
substantiated by the design. If overhead baffles are employed, the top of the backstop need only be 2 feet higher than the ricochet catcher. Specific construction details of the ricochet
catcher will dictate the amount of material needed to ensure that the catcher is held securely in place.
B. Width. The width of the backstop should extend at least 5 feet beyond the intersection of the 5º ricochet line from the outside targets/firing position. If the range has high side
berms that closely match the height of the backstop then this requirement need not apply. Keep in mind that earthmoving repair equipment needs adequate area to maneuver and access to
work behind the target line. Therefore, this allowance may need to be greater.
C. Slopes. The backstop side slope (side facing the shooter) ballistically must be as steep as close as possible to 45º (1:1) and not less than 2:1. If a soil analysis determines that
the soil will not support 3:2 slopes to maintain the minimum required slope angle, it will be more economical to remove the poor soils and replace them with more suitable material.
Special techniques may be required to stabilize the backstop above and behind the ballistic sand impact zone.
In poor soil areas, structurally designed soils may be used on the offside of the backstop to stabilize the soil material.
Sandbags, yes; never automobile tires, may be incorporated to maintain the bullet impact side of the slope. There are many other materials and methods that can be used to stabilize the
slope until vegetation can be established. Special netting material is especially useful to establish plants. Heavy vegetation such as large plants or trees should not be permitted on
the range side of the backstops.
Steel backstops are also an acceptable but more expensive alternative when soils are inadequate. The primary drawback is the initial cost. However, if the quantity of shooting is
substantial, the ease of recovering lead may quickly offset the initial cost. Basic maintenance costs also will be lower. Concrete foundation will be required to set and support this
type of backstop. Because these backstops are constructed to the same specifications as indoor range backstops, the 20 feet earthen barrier behind them will be needed.
7. Side berms and walls
These protective barriers may be constructed from earth, precast concrete panels, concrete wall masonry walls, “wooden cribs”, wooden box-type structures filled with pea-gravel, crushed
rocks, chopped rubber tires filled with soil and/or poured concrete walls or panels. The specific type of structure will depend on available space, type of range being built and the
relative initial cost. A major consideration that should be evaluated during the initial planning process is the long-term maintenance cost of the barrier being considered. Most times it
is far more cost-effective to select the construction material that will provide the longest life while requiring the least maintenance. Wood crib baffle require maintenance and if
constant hit, they last only 10 to 18 years.
Exposed tires present problems such as bullet bounce-back that must be addressed before they are used and make recycling of projectiles impossible. If earthen side berms are selected,
the construction methods will be the same as that used for the construction of the backstop. If concrete panels are selected, then site work will be required to build their foundations.
Concrete panels can be tipped into place or set into place using a crane. If masonry walls are selected, skilled masons should be used. Foundations will be required to prevent settling
or major damage caused by ground shifting. Structural engineers should design and licensed concrete companies should be employed to erect concrete structures, especially in earthquake-
prone areas. If concrete walls (precast or poured-in-place panels) are selected, the specifications cited in the “NRA Source Book” should be strictly adhered to. If crib walls are used,
they have to be tested in accordance with the Source Book.
Generally, earthmoving equipment will be used to construct the earthen backstops. If earthen side berms are the choice, then doing earthwork all at once while the equipment is onsite to
construct the side berms is the most cost effective. Side berms generally vary in dimensions according to the specific need. If a side berm is to be used also as a backstop, as some
shooting activities may require, the safety fan rotates and the 180º rule comes into effect. When this instance occurs, the side berm is considered to be part of the backstop and should
conform to the same specifications as the backstop.
In this situation, the overall height of the side berm, for at least that portion that is used as a backstop, shall be the same as the backstop. It is important to remind all range
owners/operators to carefully evaluate the shooting activities to be allowed in their range facility and include them in the master plan.
7.1 Side berm, walls or barrier specifications are as follows:
7.1.1. Height. Generally, side berms, walls or barriers are suggested to be a minimum of 8 feet high, with 10 to 12 feet recommended if the range is going to be subsequently baffled.
Side berms may be used on all ranges and on ranges that go a distance of 1,000 yards. Side berms, walls or barriers stop bullets and are used to allow shooters and range personnel to use
adjacent ranges simultaneously. Another reminder: backstops, side berms, walls or barriers in and of themselves may not eliminate the requirement for a safety fan area.
7.1.2. Length. Except as indicated above, side berms may be the same height and the full length of the range-from the backstop back to 5ft behind the most distant firing line.
7.1.3. Slope. The range side (the side facing the shooter) of the side berm should be as steep as is possible or as flat as desired. These specifications are the same as those for the
Masonry walls are an alternative construction method, as are precast panels. The repair work for damaged masonry walls is labor intensive and precast panel sections, if damaged, may not
be repairable on site and have to be removed and replaced. Initially, an additional number of the precast panels can be purchased. Masonry walls using concrete block shall be fully
grouted and filled with concrete to add strength and impenetrability to the structure. Masonry walls should be reasonably protected against bullet strikes and shall not be placed
immediately adjacent to a firing lane.
Wooden crib side baffles filled with selected materials may be used and are easy to construct if properly designed, but are not easily repaired or maintained.
Obviously, the designs for side baffles will depend upon local site conditions and available materials cost. A point to be emphasized about wooden box side baffles is that they must be
tested before being built to ensure that they will stop the bullet for the designed caliber used in the design. It is the rare exception that will require this type of structure to be
more than 3 inches thick consisting of two sheets of ¾ plywood and 3 ½ rock. A structure made to the total thickness of 6 inches will stop all bullets from normally accepted sporting
arms and individual infantry military small arms.
For legal purposes, when wood rock crib baffles are used, construct a test panel and conduct the appropriate U.L. tests before committing to any major construction expense. Test twice
before building once. Refer to the “NRA Source Book” for dimensions and drawings on how to construct the test panel.
Precast concrete panels set at angles on each side of a static range can economically prevent bullets, regardless of the angle fired laterally, from escaping the range. Panels can be
manufactured onsite and tipped into place. These 4” barriers withstand most bullet strikes without major damage. Stringent range rules will prevent shooters from inadvertently firing
into the barriers. Shooters must demonstrate the appropriate skill necessary not to cause damage to range equipment.
8. Safety baffles
The term safety baffle or overhead safety baffle defines the structure which is used to restrict fired bullets over to backstop and side berms to smaller areas than would otherwise be
possible without them.
Safety baffles differ significantly from sound baffles, which are designed to absorb or redirect sound waves.
Safety baffles are designed to redirect and limit the bullet travel no further than the property line.
The basic design concept is the “No Blue Sky” concept. This means that baffles are erected so that the shooter, from the shooting position allowed (or permitted), cannot see any sky
downrange, either over the top of the backstop or to the sides of the range. The baffles ballistic material then contains the bullet.
Safety baffles may be overhead, on the ground, on top of the backstop, in the roof of the firing line cover up to a 30º elevation, in the form of an elongated box, or as a completed
The principle behind the design is to equip a range with baffles so that if a fired bullet leaves the confines of the range proper, it will fall to earth within a smaller, more
predictable area that is acceptable within the range property, to protect the people or property and adjacent ranges.
If overhead safety baffles are not designed and installed properly, they can cause problems. They may redirect the fired bullet in the wrong direction, back to the shooter, may not
absorb the fired bullet as intended, or there may be gaps that will permit a bullet to escape the range. For any range on which overhead baffles are planned, carefully analyze the
application beforehand and seek a professional design.
8.1 General specifications say that safety baffles must:
8.1.1. Be impenetrable or defeat and limit travel or design calibers to be used on the facility.
8.1.2. Be a minimum of 4-feet-tall for vertical baffles.
8.1.3. Be relatively maintenance-free.
8.1.4. If using concrete must be designed to provide maximum spans l. Span length between columns is a product of lane width.
The specific design and number of baffles that will be needed to protect a given area will be dictated by the amount of free space around a particular range facility that the range can
limit access to.
Overhead baffles are a standard vertical 4 feet high with the bottom edge set 7 to 7.5 feet above the horizontal surface of the range. The width dimensions are the width of the range so
no side light is seen or as properly designed.
For baffles constructed from plywood and filled with high-density material, use 3/4-inch marine plywood on the firing line side, 5/8-inch on the downrange side, and built into a box with
an inside dimension equal to the minimum width of a standard 2×4-inch piece of lumber. Again, the baffle must be tested before use.
Baffles may be built by laminated wood and steel or by a special concrete panel design. Laminating baffles using plywood and 10-gauge steel requires a lamination thickness of three
sheets of plywood with two sheets of steel sandwiched between. Nominally the lamination thickness is 2.5 inches.
Slanted overhead baffles for dynamic ranges are 12 to 24 feet wide and set at a 25-degree angle to the ground as measured from the front edge (the firing line edge being higher than the
rear edge). The slanted overhead baffles are a minimum of 3-inches-thick, prestressed concrete slabs, and must pass 3,000-pound, 28-day, compressive strength test.
9. Ground Baffle
It also is important to keep in mind that it may be necessary to incorporate a series of ground baffles within the overall design. Ground baffles reduce the ground surface area that a
bullet might strike. When properly designed and installed, ground baffles do reduce ricochets, but do not totally eliminate them. When the downrange area is viewed from the firing line,
the shooter will see overhead baffles, ground baffles and the target and backstop immediately behind the target. No blue sky will be visible, nor will any of the horizontal ground
surfaces of the range.
9.1 Generally, ground baffles must be:
9.1.2. Minimum height to correspond with the placement and horizontal surface area to be masked. Multiple ground baffles may be required for a 50 or 100 yard range. The goal is to mask
the range floor beyond the first baffle.
9.1.3. Relatively maintenance free. Ground baffles are designed to meet the needs of a particular facility.
The dimensions for ground baffles are a minimum of 3 inches thick, if made of plywood, and may be backed up by an earthen berm. If a wooden top cap is used, particular attention should
be paid to the direction of the wood grain. It should always curve downward and the top cap is cut at 45º angle side down range
Materials for ground baffles may be concrete (firing line side surfaces should be covered by 1” wood stock covered to prevent bullets from being redirected toward the firing line,
pressure-treated wood, steel (firing line side surface covered to prevent bullets from being redirected toward the firing line, or earth or a combination.
Surface Danger Zone and No Blue Sky Concept
The concept of the Surface Danger Zone (SDZ) comes from WWI when troops were sent in the field for military maneuvers to practice with live fire. One of the maneuver movements that was practiced was coming under attack by strafing aircraft. The practice then was to form the platoon and raise their muzzles up to about 30 degrees and, on command from the platoon leader to volley fire simultaneously, hoping the aircraft would run into the hail of bullets. The resulting 30 degree firing angle is also very close to the optimum angle to achieve maximum range in small arms. Needless to say, troops in the surrounding vicinity up to 3 miles away of the exercise would come under direct fire.
The concept of the SDZ was developed then and used to insure maneuvering troops would be kept out of projectile impact areas of all other units.
When the military developed design manuals for fixed shooting ranges, all open ranges back then, this same concept, the SDZ, was applied to insure no troops would enter the down range SDZ of fixed ranges.
Upon the end of WW II numerous military facilities having shooting ranges were abandoned and the ranges were taken over by civilian shooting clubs and municipalities, presumably these then had proper SDZ.
After WW II another thing happened, suburban development and car ownership exploded creating and allowing encroachment on many shooting ranges endeavors that up to then disturbed no one.
Two encroachment on existing facility societal problems that I am most familiar with are Airports and Shooting Ranges. Others I have been involved in are feed lot slaughter houses and paper mills. These are very expensive facilities to have to move or to site.
Many airports until the late 70’s, early 80’s were routinely closed due to population encroachment creating great expanses for many municipalities. The societal fix was to develop Zoning Regulations that afforded new airport protection “The Airport Compatible Use Zoning (ACUZ)” from encroaching population.
The ACUZ only airport compatible zoning, one the airport is sited. Only appropriate compatible development with in the potential crash and noise zones is allowed around the airport, i.e. commercial, industrial development, no residential.
Ranges like wise in the 90’s were provided “noise” Range Protection from State Legislatures for noise by being provided “grandfather provisions” of different kinds. Feed lots slaughter houses and paper mills have suffered and have been closed due to nuisance odor ordinances.
The Golden Age of shooting began after the war when retuning soldiers wanted to practice the sport and the military still supported firing teams in National Competition rivalry between the services and allowed civilian participation.
The NRA then, as it does without recourse now, was very instrumental in organizing the competition at Camp Perry called the National Matches. It was very impressive to have the Secretary of the Army and the Marine Commandant watch the competition to see which service would be the “National Champions”. This type competition gave impetus to civilian clubs around the country to build and improve former military shooting ranges as shooting clubs to practice their sport.
Unfortunately the Golden Age of Shooting was coming to and end when I started to shoot competitively.
With the advent of the Kennedy brother assassination members in congress decided to defund the services’ competition budgets in 1968 and military support for the National Matches was vastly reduced.
The population encroachment on ranges would not cease however.
For new ranges, the shooting industry recommended in 1989 that since it was unrealistic and no one could afford to provide the full 3.5 mile SDZ down range, that contained range protection should be designed. Fully contained in urban settings and partially baffled for ranges more removed from development.
That recommendation never applied to existing ranges of any specific configuration and it was left to the engineers and range designers to figure out what specific low cost fix should be implemented to make existing ranges work economically..
The Industry finally addresses this concept in the NRA Manual of 1989 revisions to the prior manual. ‘All bullets will be contained within the ranges property lines”
Prior to the “Source Book”, the design industry had been shocked by a court ruling that closed the Tampa Police Range. A range very important to the competitive shooting fraternity. The Tampa Police Range had for many years hosted the National Match Mid Winters competitions that started the National shooting schedule for the country.
The Nationals at Camp Perry are usually set for July at Camp Perry. The Mid Winters were scheduled for mid February to mid March to allow each State to hold a Regional and a State championship in between the Mid Winters and the Nationals.
The Tampa Police Range (TPR) unfortunately on the police side got a bullet out. Half of the ranges the civilian side had just been re-built as a totally enclosed baffled ranges. The TPR and PC was willing to upgrade the rest of the facility if they would be allowed to operate the baffled portion while improvements were being made. The range needed the cash flow.
The judge however “closed the range” on the basis that the Sheriff testified that a shooter could still shoot to the rear or from the parking lot and hit the city. The Judge shut the range down permanently.
It might be pointed out that the class action suit by the people living in the subdivision down range is said to have been orchestrated by a DEVELOPER WHO COVETED THE RANGE PROPERTY.
The Sheriff who testified as to the range being unsafe, subsequently after retirement, went to work for the developer. A fine high school sits on the site with the developer subdivision behind. “No more Mid Winters”.
Throughout the 70’s and 80’s the concept of “No Blue Sky” expensive ranges had been discussed and applied in design, but is no where really codified.
The “No Blue Sky” concept relies on range rules that require the shooter not to chamber a round until he is an approved position such that when he chambers he can not see blue sky. When this occurs then the bullet can not get directly out of the range if adequate baffling material is used.
This principle then also developed tube ranges and bench rest ranges where the firing line is baffled and a horizontal slit of limited height is provided by relatively thin sheet metal plywood. In both instances, the only thing the shooter sees is the target and the back stop.
More sophisticated baffling methods were shown by the NRA in the 1998 Range Source Book where wood, wood and gravel, and wood and steel, and steel, rubber baffles are shown as acceptable methods of baffles to destabilize or stop the bullet and when coupled with the range rules of “No Blue Sky”, a safe design results.
Another concept change that occurred in the range design industry was the decision not to mention the SDZ’s. It is the very, very rare case where land is available. The concept now is to contain all projectiles within the vertical projection of the ranges property lines in the order to make ranges defensible against trespass law suits.
The only remaining argument now among the designers is the use of the proper materials to achieve the task.
For a firing range with sufficient property it is not necessary to stop the bullet at the baffle. Destabilizing the bullet and causing it to fall within the properties controlled safe zone is sufficient.
If you don’t have a large shooting range parcel or property, more robust baffles are needed, until finally the bullet is contained within the perimeter of the range itself.
The “No Blue Sky” concept is the most economical way to make ranges safer.
Design Criteria For Ranges
(This article is reprinted from the Third National Shooting Range Symposium, 1996 with permission from International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.)
I’m a competitive shooter. At one time I shot more than 50,000 rounds a year in practice and competition. I’m also a civil engineer and a small-arms shooting range designer by avocation. I get to do what I love for a living. I’m lucky.
I will be presenting guidelines on how to design ranges, but more importantly the reasons for design considerations.
There is only one overriding design criterion paramount to the design of shooting ranges and that is safety. There is an adage known by experienced range designers and range operators: A completely safe range cannot be designed. A safe range results if, and only if, it is safely operated and if the participating shooters are controlled by the rules and safety policies.
Shooters are controlled by safety rules and safety policy which must be enforced on your range. Rule violations must have consequences. If you don’t enforce your rules, then you are just giving advice. It’s important to ingrain the idea into shooters’ minds that unintentional discharges can occur to everyone.
Range managers can create safer ranges by focusing on the following:
- teaching shooters how to approach the firing line.
- teaching shooters proper gun handling on the firing line.
- providing safety areas.
- teaching shooters that only aimed fire is allowed.
- teaching shooters all range rules.
Cost effective, safe range design can only result if safe, controlled shooters are an assumption.
To reiterate, range managers must ingrain the idea into shooters’ minds that unintentional discharges will happen. I have been shooting for more than 30 years. I have had unintentional discharges. When this happens, it is very traumatic. You become very embarrassed. The only thing that can save you is that you have been taught to keep your muzzle pointed downrange so when the discharge occurs, no damage is done.
Knowing how to approach a firing line is a courtesy that needs to be taught to all shooters. For example when a new shooter walks behind other shooters, that new person must know how to handle firearms behind other shooters in a way that puts them at ease.
At your range, you must insist that shooters will execute aimed fire only, and this does not include how quickly you fire. You can have very accurate rapid fire at your range. However, the type of firing that you allow must be in relation to the distance to the target and has to be a process of: aim, fire and hitting the target (you must insist on this) and not your backstops or wooden frame, which will destroy property. Shooters, of course, must also be made to know the administrative rules.
Cost effective range design results only if the designer assumes that the shooter is going to be controlled. Analyze what I just said. If the designer knows that the shooter is not going to be controlled, the only thing that can be designed would be a box with 16-inch thick walls for the shooter to enter. That would not be a very pleasant shooting experience.
The referenced range specifications and definitive drawings I will be using as examples are from Army Regulation 385-63 Safety Policy and Procedures for Firing Ammunition for Training, Target Practice and Combat. This manual clarifies certain requirements on ranges, reviews ballistic data, and incorporates new standardized range design. Other examples are from the National Rifle Association’s “NRA Range Manual.”
Let us look at the following diagrams, and then you can see the reasons why ranges are designed the way that they are.
Figure 1 is a surface danger zone diagram of a shooting range for a single small-arms shooter firing at a fixed ground target. The center line is the vertical line through the middle of the firing fan. Each side of the center line, you have a 5-degree sector. That 5-degree sector is the dispersion or wobble that the shooter holding a firearm would be expected to have downrange. On either side of that 10-degree arc, the designer provides another 5 degrees to each side for ricochets and for any misalignment or inaccuracies. Adjacent to that, the designer provides an area that is called an “A” area. Typically, for small arms, it is 100 meters wide. The distance from the firing line to the maximum trajectory line is called the “A” distance. Table 1, Figure 2 provides reasonable ranges for small-arm caliber bullets.
A designer develops the impact sector area by first imagining a person who is firing at ground level at a surface target being able to deviate 10 degrees each side of a center line of fire and allowing him to raise the rifle or the pistol at a 30- to 35-degree angle. These are the angles that will give a maximum trajectory. You now have the maximum distance of impact and a description of the area that is impacted by a range.
This surface danger zone to provide a safe area for one shooter to shoot is a very large area and in most urban locations would be cost prohibitive.
Figure 2 shows a 200-yard range. It is 100 yards wide by 200 yards long. That gives an idea as to the amount of area that is required for a safety fan for that size range if it were nonbaffled and did not have a backstop.
To give you an idea of distance, Table 1 shows the maximum range of typical small-arms ammunition. The .22 long rifle is going about 4,590 feet. That’s just under a mile. The .223 travels about two miles. The .30-caliber is going about 15,000 feet or three miles. Those are considerable distances.
Maximum range of typical small arms ammunition
Dimensions of areas and range
Figure 3, Figure III shows the trajectories of national match bullets. These trajectories were developed for the .30-caliber rifle bullet as the bullet was improved. Experimenting started in 1919. Four years later, the bullet was further developed, where there was the 150-grain, .30-caliber bullet with a flat tail which gained 900 feet. Then it was redesigned from 150 to 170 grains. They got 2,700 feet more distance, as shown in Figure 3. For shooting maximum distance, the rifle was aimed at 30 degrees. In Figure 3, Figure III, the bullet basically rises up 1,500 yards and travels 17,100 feet or 5,700 yards.
In 1922 and 1923, bullet design was improved by developing a 6-degree boat tail. The next refinement in 1924 and 1925 resulted in another 3-degree angle in the back to make a 9-degree boat tail, for an additional 3,600 feet. That’s how the 10,000- to 15,000-feet trajectory was developed for the .30-caliber match bullet.
To give you an idea of trajectories, Figure 3, Figure II shows typical trajectories when shooting at 1,000 yards. The rise to the summit is about 5 yards. The lower trajectories are shooting to 500 yards.
Thickness of material for positive protection against direct impact for caliber ammunition listed in Table 1
The bullets to contain in a range design are powerful bullets. Table 2 gives the thickness of materials required for positive protection against direct impact for different calibers of ammunition. Take a look at the .30-caliber ammunition. It takes 7 inches of 5,000 psi concrete to contain it; it takes about 20 inches of broken stone, and it takes about 48 inches of earth.
As a design consideration, if you’re going to stop a round, you must completely stop it. Table 2 distances are minimum distances to be provided in designs. If the designer wants to slow the round or contain it within a shot fall area, then one can make the assumption that proportionately, if 7 inches of concrete stops the bullet, then 3 1/2 inches of concrete will take 50 percent of the energy out of a .30-caliber round. Therefore, the designer can make estimates as to how to slow a round and where that round would fall, giving the designer the choice not only to completely baffle, but also fence the shot fall areas to prevent access to those areas.
Let’s discuss the physics of a bullet in flight. Figure 4 shows forces acting on a bullet and the start of its flight. The bullet has a center of gravity through which the force of gravity acts. The quick burning powder will give it a pressure impulse at the tail of the bullet which provides direction of flight and exit muzzle velocity. The front of the bullet, however, is going to hit air resistance which will slow it down and generate, along with gravity, a resultant force that retards the bullet.
When we’re discussing trajectories, as in Figure 5, the base of trajectory is at the muzzle, the origin of trajectory. It is always horizontal to the earth or perpendicular to the pull of gravity. For shots that are made within 10 degrees up or down from the horizontal, the designer can assume that the line of sight is parallel to the base of the trajectory. This, however, will not be true when shooting down into a valley and also not true when shooting up into a hill steeply.
Figure 6 shows flat and plunging trajectories below 30 to 35 degrees, giving maximum trajectories. These are flat trajectories. Those shots are the ones that we’re most concerned about as designers. Shot that is fired above 30 to 35 degrees provides plunging trajectories. That trajectory mainly occurs with artillery guns; it is the normal trajectory of an artillery shell. The trajectories that we are discussing are flat trajectories for small-arms ammunition, i.e., direct fire.
Figure 7 shows motion of a bullet being fired. Due to the force of the inertia, and without any gravity, it would move horizontally in perpetuity. A .30-caliber round travels at 2,800 feet per second, and within the first second of flight that bullet is 2,800 feet downrange. By the fifth second of flight, it would be 15,000 feet downrange. This is maximum distance as limited by the pull of gravity.
What actually happens is that Mother Nature has the 32-foot per second acceleration constant that is called the pull of gravity. Gravity starts acting on a bullet immediately as it comes out of the barrel and is no longer supported by the barrel.
Figure 8 shows bullet drop in a vacuum acted on by gravity. In one second the bullet falls 16.1 feet. In five seconds, which is the maximum time of flight for the .30-caliber bullet exiting at a maximum range angle, it would have fallen 402.5 feet, which is quite a distance. If a man, 5 feet 6 inches tall, fired on the horizontal plane, one can calculate that bullet is going to hit the ground quickly, and it does. The design problem is, that by the time that bullet falls 5 feet 6 inches, it is already 2,800 feet downrange. At most ranges, shooting will occur inside of 200 yards. With a very flat trajectory, a bullet has to be contained or slowed down in the design, because so much energy still remains.
Figure 9 (a combination of figures 7 and 8) shows that the motion of a bullet when fired horizontally and acted upon by gravity without air resistance arcs down immediately upon leaving the support of the barrel. What must the shooter do in order for that bullet to hit your bull’s eye? The shooter inserts an angle of elevation into the gun, as shown in Figure 10. The angle of elevation is inserted with the sights in order to provide the trajectory that hits your bull’s eye. Note that the base of trajectory is the horizontal.
Figure 11 shows the elements of trajectory. It graphically gives a description and summarizes what a trajectory is. There is an ascending branch or summit; this is the point in which the pull of gravity equals or reduces all vertical velocity. Then there is a descending branch. The velocity in the horizontal at the point of impact is called terminal velocity. A .30-caliber going its maximum distance of 15,000 feet impacts with sufficient force to penetrate about 2 inches of wood.
Bullet containment and angle control
Now that we have gone through ballistics, we need to talk about range design to contain bullets and control angles. A typical range, as in Figure 12, requires ample parking for shooters unload gear and feel comfortable. Parking must meet the design criteria of your locality.
The range has to have an assembly area where shooters can check their gear. There must be a ready area for shooters before they go to the firing line. At that time, shooters may start wondering if their sights are set properly. They may want to check their sights and scopes. To remedy this need, range design should provide a safety area. A safety area is nothing more than a place for shooters to handle their guns unsupervisedly. A requirement of a safety area is that no live ammunition is allowed, since unsupervised gun handling will take place. No ammunition is allowed, period.
After checking their gear in the ready area, shooters go to the ready line. The ready line is a control line to enable officers control over shooters going to the firing line. Some type of fencing must be provided to prevent indiscriminate access from the ready line to the firing line without going though a control point or past a range officer.
At a prescribed distance from the firing line, the range has target lines. The firing fan in Figures 1 and 2 shows a 50-degree angle that set up the ricochet area. In order to catch all ricochets, the side berms must extend far enough to contain any ricochets. That is the main purpose of side berms.
If the designer projects to the backstop a line that is perpendicular to the end of the firing line 90 degrees to it, the designer must provide a backstop with sufficient runoff to the right and left to contain rounds with a 5-degree wobble, which is predicted as normal dispersion.
The designer would provide ground baffles to catch rounds that ricochet. The purpose of ground baffles is to intercept rounds skipping and rising. Theory states that a ricocheting round leaves the point of impact at the same angle under which it impacted. In reality, that’s not true because there are a lot of surface irregularities. The designer, however, must follow the theory. The designer places ground baffles to intercept the ascending ricocheting rounds before they get over the backstop.
In front of the firing line, the designer places overhead baffles to contain shots that would otherwise travel over the berm. Figure 12 shows the optimum, most cost effective range that can be designed to contain rounds.
One of the most important criteria to control range construction cost is to select a proper site. There must be sufficient distance behind the backstop so that sound does not affect the neighbors. You don’t want neighbors to complain. Also, if a round or a ricochet gets out, it should fall within the range’s nonaccessible fenced property.
If you build in a populated area, your range must be totally baffled so that the range owner can demonstrate to a judge that a round cannot escape. Ranges are very expensive to construct.
The Tenoroc Shooting Range (see Figure 13), which was part of the field trip tour, was constructed using these guidelines and was moderately priced. Tenoroc will contain a round in a prescribed area should it escape through the baffles.
Let’s look at an example of baffling requirements. A shooter, at a 5-foot-6-inch eye level, is in a covered pistol line (see Figure 14), so you should design a baffle so that his line of sight goes below the first baffle, as shown by Figure 14′s dash outline. The shooter’s line of sight would intercept the backstop 5 feet from the top. All shots that are fired within this height are going to impact the berm.
If you were to take an angle up to 35 degrees up from the muzzle, some type of structural material must be provided on the roof to make sure that a bullet does not go through unimpeded. It must be intercepted so that it will not travel maximum distance. The recommendation for Tenoroc Shooting Range was a construction of sheet steel sandwiched between wood.
Figure 15 shows a pistol range cross section of a typical baffled range design. This example shows the 5-foot-6-inch eye level shooter in Sections A or B. If he makes a shot that is just caught by the bottom of the first baffle, then it is also caught by the top of the second baffle, which gives you an 85 percent reduction in energy for that bullet.
The next design consideration would be shooting from the bench. If the shot clears below the bottom of the second baffle, it is intercepted by the top of the berm. All shots are contained. Obviously, this range should not allow prone shooting. A prone shooter could only shoot safely on top of a table.
You must be able to control the shooting that is done within your range. If you want to allow prone shooting, additional baffles must be built to contain those lower shots. The cost to do so would be considerable.
Figure 16 shows typical backstop construction. The core area is made out of the cheapest material that you can find-a clay or soil to stand up on a 1-to-1 slope. If you use sands, the natural angle to repose will result in about a 1-to-1 slope. This results in a more expensive berm.
You’ve heard about lead considerations. One recommended design feature for new ranges is to construct an impervious layer to intercept any lead leachate, so that leachate runoff would be directed into a ditch. That ditch would be directed to some type of pond. If lead migration results, and you have to do a cleanup, you know exactly where you to look for that lead. Adding a soil amendment such as lime to raise the soil pH is also recommended to reduce solubility and lead migration.
Any new design should allow for eventually removing about 3 feet of the front of the back berm’s face periodically. There are many opinions about how to handle lead. I believe that to get out from under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act definitions of hazardous waste, you need to recycle lead. Recycled materials clearly are not a waste. If lead is not waste, it can’t be a hazardous waste. When recycling after lead sifting, the remaining tailings can be controlled through soil amendments to prevent groundwater contamination. If all these design features are implemented, a new range should be in fairly good shape with respect to lead.
Another range design consideration to stop shot is to build a manger (see Figure 15) especially in areas where shooting steel targets takes place. The manger will keep ricochets from going over berms in ranges where you shoot steel chickens and plates and other types of reactive targets.
Also, some range managers do not mine the lead on a periodic basis the way they should, or they shoot more and put more lead downrange than they mine. This creates an armor coating situation which causes bullets to ricochet. The manger solves this problem also.
In armored backstops the bullet can impact and skip, or it can roll up the hill or dislodge other bullets which sail back over the berm. In that case, lead can scatter 70 to 75 yards behind the backstop. The way to stop this would be to put in a ricochet catcher (see Figure 16, Detail 1). Normally the ricochet catcher is built 5 to 6 feet from the backstop crest. It protrudes 5 to 6 feet from the face of the backstop.
Figures 17 and 18 are typical baffle designs.
Figure 19 is another type of range baffling. This is what is called the Venetian blind baffling. To the left in Section A is your firing shed. Approximately 8 feet from the firing shed, the baffles are about 1-foot centers. The baffles are vertical 2-by-12-inch boards.
As you get further away from the firing line, the baffles get spaced out. The theory behind this design is, any shot that could get through passes through two pieces of 2-by-12-inch material to reduce bullet energy.
The designer can do a lot of things to control angles of escape. Figures 20 and 21 are typical Air Force designs. What the designer has chosen to do in this design is to raise the shooting line 3 feet above the ground. Ground baffles are 3 feet high so the shooter is now shooting over the top of the ground baffles when shooting prone. Then, overhead baffles are set 9 feet above the ground.
If you analyze all of the angles of escape, no bullet can get through when firing from the firing line. This type of design then allows for prone shooting to occur. With respect to the Air Force design, it is more expensive than what you saw at Tenoroc Shooting Range yesterday.
Typical ground baffles depicted in Figure 22 are sandwiched composite construction. In Detail 1, it was chosen to put additional earth material behind it in order to stop the shot.
Baffles shown on Figure 23 are what is called the 45- or 90-degree exit angle baffles. The design is recommended by the National Rifle Association for urban areas. Basically, it is steel construction with prestressed hollow core concrete slabs at a 25-degree angle.
The recommendation is that if property owners have built or could build dwellings within one-half mile downrange of your property, you could possibly get by with a 45-degree angle design and should baffle the range completely, from the firing line to the target line.
If neighbors are within one-quarter mile, then the recommendation is to use a 90-degree design. This design is such that if someone pointed a firearm up and fired vertically, the bullet would not leave the range.
Gateway Rifle and Pistol Club
Figure 24 shows a range design of which I’m very proud. This is the Gateway Rifle and Pistol Club, a 2,700-family member club where I’m president. It was designed by competitive shooters. It is made available to the public in Jacksonville, Florida, because we need to provide a place for members of our community to shoot.
Gateway has 16 ranges that are operated by competitive shooters. At least two competitions are conducted every weekend. Gateway is open 363 days out of the year. We let day guests from the general public use our range.
The pistol complex has 15-, 25- and 50-yard lines. The smallbore rifle complex is 100 yards long. Gateway has a 200-meter highpower rifle range. The range has a silhouette range at the center; action pistol has seven ranges to the east. There is a 100-yard rifle practice range in the northwest corner and an air gun range in half of Building 1.
The 15-yard pistol and 100-yard rifle ranges alone provide income for 25 percent of Gateway’s budget annually. That is income from paying guests who are coming off the street.
Gateway’s ranges face northwest toward airport property, which surrounds us to the north, east and west. We have entered into a lease arrangement for airport property off the easterly property line. We shoot shotgun, and the shot fall is off of our property to the east on leased airport property.
Cultivating your neighbors is something that has to be done by the range operator and is something in which Gateway members and board of directors are very active. We support local politicians; we support 4-H; we help with YMCA. This type of activism has made us a valuable part of the city fabric. The city considers Gateway an asset, as opposed to a sore spot or liability.
Ranges site selection has got to be done with respect to the safety concerns that I just covered. The site selected is going to dictate how much money you’re going to spend developing the range.
Before you can get to range construction, a master plan is a must. Go to a professional designer to help you. You’re probably going to have more shooting range in mind than you can afford.
After that, come up with a financial plan. Your financial plan is your reality. It separates needs from wants. Your master plan shows your ultimate development, but your financial plan tells you how far you can go budget-wise, or how to stage your construction until you can achieve your total master plan.
If you proceed with your range which is designed by a professional, you then can apply for permitting. Once permits are obtained, then you can do your construction in phases. Again, let me reemphasize, completely safe ranges cannot be designed. Remember that a safe range results from controlling your shooters.
The most important decision in range design is site selection with safety in mind. Selection of the proper site results from a proper range master plan, and reality only happens as a result of a financial business plan. Once the site is selected, preliminary site plans are developed, and estimates of cost are derived.
The project should be designed according to phases which will generate income to allow construction of subsequent phases proceeding to completion.
Hopefully, this presentation has informed you as to how a properly engineered range can be cost effectively designed
Another Great Design by Clark Vargas, P.E. – Innagural Match for CMP’s New Talladega Marksmanship Park
CVA Redesigns Sanner’s Lake Sportsman Club
Q. One of our DNR State Parks has an area we are discussing for building a Sporting Clays Course on. What are the specific issues with having the shot fall zone on a Flood Plain vs. Flood Way? The area is prone to flooding but not very often. I think in talking with NSSF years ago we were told you cannot drop lead shot into the floodplain or floodway? Please advise.
Flood plain floodways are synonymous for purpose of this discussion. The prohibition is “no shot fall on waters of the United States or wetlands without a permit”. Floodway are not jurisdictional with respect to water ways on wetlands restrictions and can and could be used for Parks and Recreational purposes if areas are subject to periodic flooding, they will eventually dry out, can later be reused for those purposes when dry.
Shooting ranges are an acceptable use of flood plains. You however cannot fill in the floodways or flood plain without compensating for the cross sectional flow area in situ and flood volume. Make sure the lead can be managed to be recycled and as in any other location.