Tag: Berms

Indoor vs. Outdoor Shooting Ranges: What You Should Know Before You Start Building

By Chris Hart, Action Target Range Consultant

Everybody has their own preference when it comes to shooting ranges. Some people like the open-air feel of an outdoor range where they can shoot steel targets at 500 yards while others prefer the air conditioned comfort of indoor ranges where target distance can be controlled with the push of a button. Both have pros and cons and there’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer, but there are some things you need to consider before building a range to make sure you are providing your future customers with what they want and need. To better help you in the decision making process, here are some pros and cons for both outdoor and indoor shooting ranges.

And be sure to try out our Build Your Range tool.

Outdoor Ranges

PROS

Action Target Line of Fire with Swing Up TargetOutdoor ranges generally require less expensive equipment. An outdoor shooting range can be as simple as a shooting line and a dirt backdrop or as complex as a law enforcement proving ground with moving targets and realistic tactical simulations. Either way, the equipment you need for an outdoor range will probably be less expensive than an indoor range because you don’t need a building to house it in.

Outdoor ranges can provide a greater range of shooting with appropriate berms. While indoor ranges are generally limited to shooting straight ahead from a fixed position, outdoor ranges allow shooters to participate in tactical training with up to 180 degrees of firing mobility. The more flexibility your range offers, the more realistic your training scenarios will be.

In addition to increased firing mobility, outdoor ranges also allow for greater tactical training freedom. Training at an outdoor range can include multiple firing stations, a greater range of distance, vehicle scenarios, and terrain-based exercises.

With an outdoor range, you are less limited in the ammo you can use. While indoor ranges are sometimes restricted to bullets within a certain muzzle velocity and bullet type, most outdoor shooting ranges are virtually unrestricted. Some outdoor ranges are even capable of handling incendiary rounds and artillery fire. While training of this kind may not be necessary or even desirable at your range, the capability is available. Outdoor ranges can also more safely accommodate shooting steel targets.

CONS

Building an outdoor range requires expensive earthwork and soil engineering. Not all sites are immediately suitable for an outdoor shooting range and may require extensive excavation to ensure bullet containment. The less suitable the site, the more money you will have to spend to make sure the backdrop and containment systems meet federal regulations and local statutes. You also may have to bring in power, water, and sewage hook ups from a long distance away, thus increasing the cost and adding to the needed infrastructure of roads, parking lots, and other development.

Due to the open-air nature of outdoor ranges, however, complete bullet containment is usually impractical due to expense. This is why location is such an important element in the building of an outdoor range. Outdoor shooting ranges must be built in an area where an errant shot that goes over the backstop is incapable of doing damage; this is referred to as Surface Danger Zone (SDZ). This can require building the range in a remote area far from the city, and being far from civilization means your customers are going to have to travel a longer distance to use the range.

It is inherently difficult to contain lead and noise at an outdoor range, and as housing encroaches on formerly uninhabited areas, more and more outdoor shooting ranges are being shut down. While the location of your outdoor range may seem safe from housing development, conditions can quickly change and endanger the future of your range. You must try to plan for variables that could affect your outdoor range in the long term future.

Indoor Ranges

PROS

Because indoor ranges can easily be built in the middle of cities, they are much more convenient for customers. For commercial ranges, that means increased visibility and accessibility. For law enforcement, that means a cut in overtime costs for police departments because officers don’t have to travel as far as they would to train at an outdoor range. They can also easily train during inclement weather conditions that would be more difficult on an outdoor range.

Technological improvements are making indoor ranges a more viable option for tactical training. Ballistic doors can allow vehicles to enter the range for training scenarios, lighting can be adjusted to simulate daylight and low light situations, sound effects can be played over the loud speakers to induce stress or simulate a combat environment, and bullet traps like the Total Containment Trap from Action Target allow for increased flexibility in shooting across firing lanes or at moving targets.

For commercial ranges, an indoor shooting range can provide a significant retail avenue. When combined with a retail firearm and an ammunition store, indoor ranges can be highly profitable ventures. Customers are more likely to buy ammo at the range where they shoot and are more likely to buy a gun if there is an opportunity to try it out on a shooting range first.

CONS

Indoor shooting ranges are more expensive to build and require a building to house them. For an indoor range you need to either build a new building from scratch or find a building that meets municipal requirements for parking, sound, and zoning that can be properly retrofitted to house an indoor range. Indoor shooting ranges also often require a target retrieval system, ceiling baffles, fully ballistic walls, bullet traps, a ventilation system, and lighting. All together, the equipment and facility costs can greatly exceed that of an outdoor range.

Indoor ranges are sometimes limited in the caliber and type of bullet that can be fired, depending on the range equipment chosen. The use of old or home-made bullet traps and the increased risk of ricochet that comes with an indoor shooting range naturally limits shooting capabilities. While modern bullet traps provided by Action Target can handle up to .50 BMG, many older indoor ranges cannot allow the use rifle calibers because their old range equipment designs will not safely stop rifle rounds. Because of size and sound constraints, some ranges don’t allow rifle shooting at all.

Indoor ranges also require costly range ventilation systems to meet OSHA and EPA requirements. For the health of yourself and your future customers, I should mention that your typical local HVAC contractor usually cannot properly design and install the type of system required for a clean and safe indoor range that I would shoot in with my own family. Ask your ventilation contractor how many indoor range ventilation systems they have designed and also ask them what design criteria is required to meet OSHA and EPA requirements. If they cannot guarantee that their system will meet these requirements, you might be making a costly mistake.

Rely on the Experts for Help

Whether you are deciding to build an indoor or an outdoor range, I recommend you contact the Action Target representative in your region and they will be happy to answer any questions you have and will help you determine what type of range and what equipment will best fit your needs and budget. They build hundreds of new ranges every year and will be able to draw on their vast experience and resources to help advise you with your project.

Follow this link to try our tool to Build Your Range and get a quote!

Please note, the tips included in this message have been found to be helpful for many clients throughout the years but may not apply in all situations. Please use judgment in determining which tips will be helpful in your particular situation.

What is the Best Bullet Trap for my Range?

Choosing a bullet trap is an important decision that will directly impact a range’s profits. However, it is a decision that often seems overwhelming given the number of options available. To truly understand how important a bullet trap is to range operations and budget, it is helpful to think of the range as a large lead processor and to answer the following eight questions:

  1. Will the range be limited to handguns only, or will rifles be allowed?
  2. What other kinds of ammunition will be used?
  3. How many rounds will be fired each month? Each year?
  4. How do you plan to collect the lead from the trap?
  5. What about lead dust and other airborne particles?
  6. What kind of budget are you working with?
  7. Are there any size limitations?
  8. What about local fire codes and other restrictions?

Once these questions are answered, it becomes much easier to choose the optimal bullet trap that aligns with the range’s goals. Luckily for range owners, Action Target provides different bullet trap choices that cater to the many possible range uses. The two most common options for commercial range use are the Total Containment Trap (TCT) and the Rubber Berm Trap (RBT). Each has obvious benefits for any range, but the difference still depends on the use of each range and the answers to the above questions.

For example, if the range’s business plan calls for a small, low-use facility, then the Rubber Berm Trap is a great option. The RBT requires a smaller footprint than the Total Containment Trap and uses a smaller amount of floor space. It takes advantage of a hassle-free design that requires very little upkeep. It utilizes the practical and beneficial properties of rubber, while eliminating weaknesses and unnecessary elements of other designs. The RBT can also be serviced from the front, whereas the TCT must be serviced from the rear. The bottom line—The Rubber Berm Trap is cheaper to build and easier to maintain.

However, if the range has a high-volume, heavy-use facility, then the Rubber Berm Trap will quickly become a frustration and a large expense. In these types of ranges, the Total Containment Trap is the optimal choice.

AT Bullet Traps Used IndoorThe Total Containment Trap is the dominant industry standard for modern, heavy-duty, steel bullet traps. It is the superior choice for ranges where safety, reliability, simple maintenance, and ease of use are top priorities. The TCT can be used both indoors and outdoors in all types of law enforcement, military, and commercial shooting ranges. The TCT funnels fired rounds into a deceleration chamber, which increases safety for everyone on the range. Action Target’s patented Dust Collection Unit can be installed in the Total Containment Trap, protecting the range from lead dust contamination. The bottom line: Although more expensive than the Rubber Berm Trap, the Total Containment Trap is longer lasting and better for high-use ranges.

Before deciding on a trap, it is imperative to understand exactly what the requirements are to find the trap that supports the range goals. In today’s industry, too many owners are initially enticed by a low price only to be disappointed in the end due to the amount of unforeseen problems. For more information, Action Target has provided multiple whitepapers and a video to help choose the optimal bullet trap—visit the “Related Pages” section of our Bullet Traps page to access these resources.

Law and Order (Part One)

Written by Keith Mehlin

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on August 26, 2010. Due to the popularity of the article and the number of new subscribers since it originally went out, Action Target has decided to republish this two part series.

The Council Bluffs Police Department had an outdoor 50 yard range for 30 years plus located near the Council Bluffs Airport. This range was built in a large depression which was protected by dirt berms on all sides, including a wall of dirt approximately 20 feet high behind the target area. Approximately 5 years before the range was closed we had added computer controlled turning targets from Action Target and a two story control tower. The tower was built with the help of the FBI. Our range was built in such a way that we could easily place vehicles, both cruisers and simulated suspect vehicles, and other types of items to simulate cover and concealment on the range, quite easily. We also had a small structure in one corner of the range that we could use as a shooting house.

The Department scheduled four firearms training sessions yearly for all sworn officers, which were integrated with defensive tactics training. Our tactical team would shoot once a month. Having been a firearms instructor and defensive tactics instructor myself, I know that we were consistently providing for our officers realistic training that would mimic as best we could combat situations on the street.

Once we added the computer controlled target system and the control tower, we did not feel that we were lacking anything. At that time we had no patrol rifle policy so the 50 yard range was adequate for our needs. Nor did we have any safety issues for the officers using the range, which at the time was being used by 24 different agencies in the Omaha metro area. We were not getting any rounds coming back at the officers from the berm behind the target area. We had mined the lead some years before and it appeared to us that it did not need to be done again. We also had no liability issues on the range as far as officers using the range. We had not had an accident or serious injury on the range for the 32 years that I have been a police officer here. The only injury that I can recall came from a top strap blowing on a revolver several years ago, and fortunately that injury was not serious. We were under the impression that with the improvements that we had made, we were good to go for at least another 30 years on the range. Little did we know that was about to change very quickly.

Our troubles began in mid summer of 2002. One of the tenants at a hangar claimed that he had heard a deflected round hit the roof of the metal hangar when he was working on his airplane. He went to the city and the police department and demanded that we immediately close the range. We did not close the range but did an investigation and concluded that a deflected round did leave the range and land on the roof. We contacted Action Target, who immediately flew out and inspected the range. They made some recommendations, which were implemented, and we continued to use the range, believing that was an isolated incident and that we had fixed the problem. This did not please the individual whose roof the spent round landed on.

A few months after that, this same individual made another complaint outlining the same circumstances; however, this time he had the spent round as evidence. After a very brief investigation, we were able to determine that the rounds that were being fired on the range that day were not of the same caliber of the spent round that this person offered up as evidence. Again, we thought we were safe and continued to operate the range.

Action Target Law and Order

That all changed a few weeks later when several construction workers, who were working on a building project near the range, reported hearing deflected rounds going over their heads while they were working. I immediately closed the range because of safety concerns. While we will never know exactly how long rounds had been leaving our range, we feel that we became aware of it because of the encroachment upon the range by an airport expansion project and other building projects near the range. Before those projects, we were isolated enough that spent rounds leaving the range was not a recognized problem.

It was at that point we knew that we needed a new range. Not only were we suddenly without a place to train with our firearms, so was 23 other federal, state, and local agencies. I will always remember the feeling of despair when I realized that my officers and many other officers were suddenly without an adequate place to train to defend their lives and the lives of the people they were sworn to defend. We had to build a range.

The questions that we had when we faced up to the task was where to find the money, where to put the range, how big to build it, and what type of range equipment did we want to use. I knew that I wanted to build the best training facility possible for the officers, but I had no idea how to go about it.

Because the city had been caught flat footed with the range suddenly closing without warning, money was definitely the biggest problem. I decided to attack the problem on three fronts: local money, federal money because several federal agencies used the range, and through a local foundation. Early on in the process I came to realize that without more local involvement, the federal and foundation money would not come into play. I contacted Sheriff Jeff Danker, Pottawattamie County Sheriff, the county in which Council Bluffs is located, and we agreed to make this training facility a joint city county venture. After that decision, and jumping through a lot of political and bureaucratic hoops, local, federal and foundation money was obtained for the building of the training facility.

The research and planning stage actually went quicker than I anticipated. We already had a history with Action Target and were pleased with their target equipment and level of service. I had no knowledge of Action Target bullet traps, or any other traps on the market, but I knew that my biggest concern beyond safety was ease and cost of maintenance. After a short amount of research, I thought that Action Target had the corner on the market on ease of maintaining and simplicity of a bullet trap. The decision was made to go with that company for range equipment.

(This article continues in next week’s newsletter)

Action Target Completes Build for Jay Henges Range in MO

In 1937, the Missouri Constitutional Amendment created the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) to “restore, conserve, and regulate Missouri’s over-stressed fisheries, forests, and wildlife populations.” The MDC administers more than 975,000 acres and maintains five staffed shooting ranges, along with more than 70 unstaffed ranges. These ranges experience tremendous use from Missouri locals, many who are active sportsmen and hunters.

One of the most visited of these staffed ranges is the Jay Henges range in High Ridge, MO, located outside St. Louis. Range Supervisor Jake Hindman estimates that the range, which opened in 1994, receives 20,000 shooters each year. This continual high volume of fire led to maintenance and containment concerns regarding the inevitable lead remediation on the dirt berms. These concerns caused the Department of Conservation to decide it was time to invest in a “Total Containment Range” to eliminate costly lead clean up and maintenance while ensuring that no fired bullets left the shooing range.

The solution was Action Target’s Total Containment Trap (TCT) – Version 4. Some features of the TCT include:

  • Complete access into deceleration chamber
  • Modular chamber plates which require no cutting or welding – all parts bolt together.
  • All rounds fired are captured and guided into the deceleration chamber to expend their remaining energy as they harmlessly drop into a sealed collection system for recycling.

The Jay Henges Total Containment Trap measures 160 ft. wide with 20 shooting positions designed for heavy rifle use from the 100 yard firing line. The trap also features a unique self-supported engineered boom system that integrates into the frame of the bullet trap chambers, creating a support to the upper bullet trap plates without the need for a stand-alone truss system.

In late 2010, the Jay Henges range reopened, showcasing their new look with full concrete walkways, target holders, a bullet trap, and overhead baffles. Action Target would like to congratulate MDC on completing 75 years of public service and for their example in leading the way towards safe outdoor education by providing top notch facilities for citizens throughout the State of Missouri. Many thanks also to Action Target Midwest Range Consultant Chris Hart and Project Manager Brian Sanders for a seamless transition to the new bullet trap.

To read more about the Jay Henges Shooting Range visit http://mdc.mo.gov/regions/st-louis/jay-henges-shooting-range.

The Muzzle-Discipline Solution

By John Krupa III & John Farnam

At a recent Urban Rifle Course held at an outdoor range, a student with the muzzle of her AR (patrol rifle) elevated had a ND (negligent discharge), which put a single 5.56 x 45 bullet over the berm and off-property. The bullet in question subsequently impacted, at a high angle, a lake a half-mile downrange. No injury or property was damaged as a result, but several local fishermen reported the incident to the local sheriff’s office, and I heard about it shortly thereafter.

Berm heights vary widely from range to range. Most are 10 feet or higher. Even so, sending a bullet over the berm is still easily done, no matter the height. Some fancy ranges even have downrange, overhead “baffles” designed to keep bullets–inadvertently launched at a high angle–from leaving the range; however, even at these facilities, bullets occasionally seem to find a way off-property. Additional efforts to contain them invariably convert the “outdoor range” into an indoor range!

The better solution to this issue is muzzle-discipline.Action Target September Newsletter

“Muzzle-Down” is the by-word on all DTI (Defensive Training Institute) Ranges. All rifle, pistol, and shotgun handling is with the muzzle no higher than horizontal. Elevating muzzles past horizontal during administrative processes, and during reloading and stoppage-reduction, is commonly taught in some quarters, but it is wrong and dangerous!

In the incident described above, a rifle muzzle was inadvertently elevated during the loading process, as the student was relying on previous training. We corrected it, of course, but not before that single round departed range property.

When ND’s occur with the muzzle down and angled toward the berm, the bullet hits the ground between the shooter and the berm and can still subsequently jump over to the other side. However, these ricochets are typically low energy and far less dangerous than direct launches. “Muzzle-Up” is bad practice for other reasons too. Handling guns with the muzzle up is an invitation to a disarm, and rifle barrels angled upward will reliably betray an operator’s position and intentions, particularly when he/she is behind cover.

So, our students need to become accustomed to keeping all muzzles continually at a downward angle, coming up to horizontal only when aiming at a target. All administrative processes-loading, unloading, and performing a chamber-check can be (and must be) done with the operator facing in a relatively safe direction with the muzzle angled downward.

With escalating numbers of novice gun owners, preventing gun accidents is rapidly emerging as a critical priority. Gun-fear, trigger-locks, and the “empty-gun/never-ready” philosophy represent only a false and fraudulent myth. Genuine Operators, who carry and deal with loaded guns every day, need a legitimate and dependable gun-handling procedure that is adhered to without fail, and keeping muzzles down is an integral component.

About John Krupa III

John is a police officer with the Orland Hills Police Dept. and has over 20 years of experience in LE. He has previously served as a beat officer, rapid response officer, and firearms instructor with Chicago PD. He is a graduate firearms instructor from the Secret Service Academy, FBI, DEA, and FLETC. John is founder and president of Spartan Tactical Training Group, Director of Training for the DS Arms LE Training Division, and has previously presented at ASLET, GTOA, IALEFI, ILEETA, ISOA, LETC, MTOA, NTOA, and TTPOA training conferences. To learn more about John Krupa III or Spartan Tactical Training Group, click here.

About John Farnam

John has been a police officer since 1971, when he joined the City of Elroy Police Department as a patrolman. He is presently a fully commissioned deputy sheriff Training Officer for the Park County, Colorado Sheriff’s Office. John has written articles about defensive shooting and tactics in addition to several books. To learn more about John Farnam or Defensive Training Institute (DTI), click here.

* The views are the authors’ own and don’t necessarily represent those of Action Target, Inc.