A shooting range is a welcome addition to your home, as it is a great way to entertain guests, hone your skills as a marksman, or simply celebrate the Second Amendment. It takes a lot of planning, however, and should not be a task taken lightly. Having a shooting range is a huge responsibility and comes with many risks. You have to think about equipment, safety, insurance, and maintenance on top of everything else.
This can seem like an awful lot to think about and could even deter you from getting started. The cost alone could be something too much for some. It helps to have some outside experience to lend a hand in this venture. No need to stress though, here is a handy guide to get you on your way to putting together your own home shooting range and how to make sure everyone stays safe while firing away.
Know the Purpose of Your Shooting Range
This is something you have to figure out before committing to building a shooting range at home. The last thing you want is to put together a shooting range only to regret building it.
Some questions you can begin answering yourself to figure out the purpose of your shooting range include:
- Do you have a career in law enforcement or the military and want a private place to sharpen your skills?
- Do you want a place to keep friends entertained?
- Is this going to be something you want to use for recreation in general, even privately?
All of these questions can help decide what direction to go in when designing your range.
Experienced Shooting Range Vendors Are Available
Ultimately a home shooting range is a great investment. It is a great way to privately practice self-defense, learn about firearms, and get yourself acquainted with the culture that comes with being a marksman. You can practice long distances if you like to hunt, close range if you are trying to get comfortable with pistols, or any other number of ways to utilize a shooting range for your own personal growth.
There are so many people to talk to about the joys of owning and operating a private shooting range, so do not hesitate to ask around and get to know some of the gun owners and range regulars in your community. Talking with a local range master is a great way to get some insight and learn a thing or two from a pro if you are new to the dos and do-nots of life on the range.
This seems like the obvious play but should be mentioned no matter how handy you think you are. There are tons of vendors worldwide that will offer their services to guide either you or a third-party general contractor to help build it. There is a lot that goes into installing an extension of your house specifically designed for live firearms. A vendor will be able to assist the contractor in terms of safety and suggesting the layout.
- You should always go with a vendor, despite it costing more.
- Cost should not be something you should be cutting corners around when it comes to building a shooting range.
- It is so much more than simply shooting a target in your basement.
- A vendor will help make judgment calls on whether or not your house can even support something like this or figure out where the best place to ventilate gunsmoke would be.
If you are inexperienced in building shooting ranges in your home, then it is all but decided that you should have someone helping you out with expert guidance. Leave it to the professionals and take the stress out of your life, trying to make every single decision yourself based on guessing. All it takes is one oversight for someone to possibly lose their life. It is not worth the risk of building a shooting range alone.
Plan for Your Shooting Range
Planning extends outside of literally planning how to build your shooting range. It is something you have to plan with the local municipality. This can certainly slow down your progress. However, this is non-negotiable. It is better to play ball with whatever codes and requirements they pin on you than to harm anyone else because you did not want to consult with your local officials.
- Take a full inventory of structural integrity, gas lines, or anything else that might hinder adding a shooting range to your home.
- Do not do anything without triple-checking your home’s blueprints.
- Consult with local officials to help plan and adhere to codes and guidelines for your shooting range.
You would not mindlessly dig out a giant hole in your backyard to build a swimming pool, right? The same thing goes for building a shooting range. If your shooting range is going to be indoors, for example, it will likely be in a basement. What happens when you do not plan properly and accidentally shoot a gas line or some other calamitous scenario similar to that – you could have avoided it all by consulting someone.
It really helps to build a healthy relationship with these officials, as they make a lot of decisions in your area. It is wise to stay on their good side so you are not held liable for any false complaints or fined more money than you can count. The idea of having an unregistered shooting range in your home is not a great look in the eyes of the public; imagine how it could look in the eyes of a court.
Safety in Your Shooting Range
It goes without saying, but safety should be your absolute number one priority when it comes to building a shooting range at home. Safety comes in more forms than just having a first-aid kit and a phone nearby to call 911. You should be taking inventory of all sorts of equipment such as what kind of concrete is being used, ceiling measurements, soundproofing, protective eyewear, and other helpful gear.
- Being proactive in this instance is going to pay dividends down the line.
- Do not cut corners just to get the project done faster.
Concrete in Your Shooting Range
Concrete, is your biggest source of ballistic protection and should act as an immovable object to stop projectiles in their tracks. You should be checking for what type of concrete already exists in whatever surroundings you are building your range in and what type of concrete is about to be used to build the shooting range itself.
Did you know so many types of concrete existed? Hollow core or precast concrete is an absolute no-go and needs to be replaced immediately. These types of concrete are great for building sturdy foundations quickly and will more often than not be filled with foam or otherwise have other inconsistencies that make them ineffective around live-fire. It is paramount to locate these pieces of concrete and replace them.
You will want to find heavier, more solid types of concrete. They should be eight inches thick and specifically use 4,000 PSI concrete in their design. Filled CMU, tilt-up, or pour in place will be your best options. These will ensure the safety of anyone using your shooting range and will keep any bullets from damaging your foundation or possibly straying away from its intended path by splintering the concrete.
Safety Equipment for Your Shooting Range
You should never build a shooting range in your home without taking the time to budget money aside for special equipment designed for live-fire exercises. These pieces of equipment will not only protect your eyes and ears but also make the experience more enjoyable and stress-free so you can focus on bettering yourself as a marksman. There is a fountain of options available to make your home set up a safe and fun environment.
Eyewear is a must for any experience on the range. They protect your eyes from burning in the event of gunpowder blowing back into your face from discharging your weapon. The biggest benefit, however, comes from being shatterproof or otherwise impact resistant. This is a massive factor that comes in handy if debris is present or a spent bullet case hurdles towards your eyes while firing.
Do not go the cheap route with these, though. You should always stick with a trusted brand, and something the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rates highly. The ANSI runs rigorous tests on brands of protective eyewear and has very strict criteria for what makes the cut. Going with a cheaper product or regular eyewear like sunglasses will not protect you. Do your homework and pick up a pair that works.
The same can be said for hearing protection. There are lots of options when it comes to how you protect your ears, whether it be earplugs or over-the-head noise compressors. Shooting a gun is obviously extremely loud and will leave your ears ringing. Over time this will cause loss of hearing if the right protection is not being used. Do the smart thing and get ahead of it by using some combination of hearing protection.
Notable Equipment for Your Shooting Range
Now that all of the precautionary elements of your at-home shooting range are out of the way, it is time to explore some different amenities you can purchase to make the most out of your setup. There are a number of different pieces of equipment to purchase that will not only improve your quality of life but also make it a fun and relaxed place to enjoy yourself without having to turn it into a chore.
- Target retrievers take time to set up, but they do exactly what the name suggests; retrieve your target. By attaching your target to the apparatus, it will move it along a linear track to and from the user with ease. Consider a wireless system with hidden target clamps to increase safety and reliability.
- Bullet traps are a necessary part of any home gun range. Once the bullet is fired, it will enter the trap and cause it to lose its momentum to ensure that it does not damage anything and ends up somewhere that it cannot hurt anyone.
- Shooting lane dividers are great in general, but even more so if you find yourself building a range with more than one lane. They protect each person from any mishaps by being placed between each lane with ballistic-resistant material.
Having any number of these pieces of equipment will make your firing range a safe and enjoyable place to be. It is always more fun when you do not have to worry about all of the things that could go wrong with a lesser setup. Having things like ballistic dividers, bullet traps, and target retrievers are ways to improve everybody’s target practice.
The Benefit of Target Retrievers
Having target retrievers keeps you from physically running back and forth down your shooting lane to set up and replace a target. Common target systems provide wireless capability and include preprograsmmed drills to make your experience fun and enjoyable.
Make sure that you select a range manufacturer that has a history of providing parts and services for your equipment. It’s essential that they are committed to their product and customers. Find a company that provides a warranty greater than 1 year. Bullet Traps Are a Must for Your Shooting Range
Bullet traps are specifically designed to stop the momentum and capture your bullets.
There are several types of bullet traps. However, for an indoor shooting range built at home, you will likely deal with either a steel deceleration trap or rubber berm trap. These traps are necessary to keep bullets from ricocheting all over the range, potentially hitting someone, or damaging your home.
A deceleration trap is essentially a metal chamber that captures fired bullets and relies on their kinetic force to move in a circular motion until they eventually slow down and fall into another container underneath that you can clean out over time. Once the gun is fired, the bullet travels into the trap and decelerates.
A rubber berm trap utilizes a steel structure that is built at a 30-degree angle and holds 2-3’ of chopped rubber. The bullet is fired into the rubber and decelerates in the rubber media. Over time the rubber berm would be cleaned out in order to remove the build-up of lead and copper jacket material.
Shooting Lane Dividers Add Protection
You have, without a doubt, seen a ballistic divider or shooting lane divider before, especially if you were a fan of any cop-dramas on TV. These are what separate the stalls in a shooting range, and they offer a spectrum of benefits. These heavy-duty ballistic steel plates or bulletproof glass panels keep you safe from other people in the firing line or anyone there that might be stopping by to say hello.
Accidents, unfortunately, do happen, and in the event of someone next to you having something go wrong with their firearm, it is important that anyone standing nearby is not injured inadvertently. Bulletproof glass protects you from accidental discharges and makes sure you can see everything going on clearly by being able to see through it at anyone around you. These come in different grades so consider what you need most.
Ballistic steel plates are the heavy-duty variant of this and can withstand just about anything that might take place within its confines.
Ventilation and Filtration in Your Shooting Range
Something you may not have considered yet is how much lead is going to be sitting around your shooting range. These particulates are extremely damaging to your lungs and body in general. The number of toxicities in the air from having a home shooting range is not a joke and should not be taken lightly. Luckily, you can set up a ventilation and filtration system to balance out these chemicals and keep your home safe.
The second you fire your weapon, you are contaminating the air in your shooting range. This is obviously not ideal, especially over an extended period of time. Without ventilation and filtration, there will be smoke build-up which will cause conditions to become hazy, and it will be tougher to breathe in there with all of the contaminants floating around. By installing proper ventilation for a shooting range, you will eliminate these threats.
The key to this is to create negative pressure within the range space, provide proper airflow and install HEPA filtration. The objective is to filter the bad air out and makes sure it does not go outside of the range. These ventilation systems are separate from the house ventilation, and they are naturally pretty expensive, but they are extremely important in ensuring everyone’s safety and health.
Maintaining Your Shooting Range
By now, you have probably started to recognize the need to maintain your shooting range. The best thing you can do for yourself and your firing range is to be proactive towards anything that could possibly go wrong. Work with your range manufacturer and ensure that you have the maintenance protocol understood. By regularly checking your equipment, the status of your ventilation, making sure nothing is broken before use, and cleaning out your bullet trap, your range will perform for a very long time.
Keeping your shooting range properly organized is very important as well.
- By separating ammunition from firearms or keeping all of your safety equipment and medical equipment readily available, you will be well on your way to making sure no one has anything to worry about.
- It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to stay ahead of anything that could possibly go wrong.
Your shooting range’s longevity hinges on the amount of upkeep you put into it. Caring for your shooting range regularly will result in a clean and healthy environment for everyone. Going the extra inch one day could go an extra mile the next. Never stop looking for ways to improve your shooting range. Maybe consider hiring someone to help you clean it every month or so, depending on how often you use it.
That being said, do not hesitate to bring in outside help if it becomes too overbearing for you. Good range manufacturers will provide aftermarket services to support warranty, maintenance, and even collect your metals when your traps have filled.
Insuring Your Shooting Range
And last but certainly not least, we have insurance for your shooting range. You will need insurance to make sure you are covered in the event of an accident, be it mechanical or physical.
Even if you wanted to try and run the risk of using your shooting range without insurance, chances are you would have had to file for it as part of an agreement with the local official you consulted to get whatever permits or approvals to build it in the first place. It is oftentimes a requirement by state law, but even if it is not, it is truly in your best interest to get it no matter how careful or responsible you think you are.
There are insurance agents out there who specialize in firearms and shooting ranges. Contact the NSSF (national shooting sports foundation) to obtain recommendations and references.