My final decision was to make a wooden form, pour about 3" of concrete, and then add three layers of scrap wood on top. The three layers should protect against any bullet ever splattering or bouncing back off the concrete unless it happened to exit a worn out hole. The only materials I purchased for this project were three 80 pound bags of Quickcrete for $11.00.
Step 1 - Design
I decided on a 36"x36" concrete area with the bottom of the concrete starting at about 40" off the ground. This will give plenty of room on the target area to have multiple targets and also be at a height to shoot in a standing position just like you would at a pistol range.
Step 2 - Build Basic Form
I had a half sheet of 3/4" OSB and three new pressure treated 2x4x8' that were the remainder from another project. My son and I cut this wood to build a form that would create a 36"x36" concrete area and the outside 2x4s also function as the legs to get main target area 40" from the floor. I also put a bead of caulk on all the inside joints because I didn't want watery cement mix to leak all over the basement floor. One final thing was to drive some nails on the inside of the form area with the a good portion of the nail exposed so it would be embedded in the concrete. This just helps to hold everything together.
Step 3 - Mix Concrete
We started out mixing the concrete in a bucket, but quickly abandoned this and actually mixed it all in the form area. We used the three 80 pound bags of Quickcrete (the ones with the rocks) and half of another bag that I had on hand. This quantity worked out nice and ended up being about 3.25" of concrete. I let this cure for about 18 hours before going to my next step.
Step 4 - Add First Layer of Wood
Since all the longer scrap wood I had on hand was only 3/4" thick, my first layer ended up being part OSB and some pine 1x4 boards. You can see this in the photo in Step 5.
Step 5 - Add Second Layer of Wood
For the next layer, I framed in the area and then added a layer of wood on the inside. For the inside boards I only used one regular nail in the middle of the board and then 2" airgun brads on the corners. My thoughts here were to make it secure enough to hold a second layer, but not so tough that replacing a board would be a major challenge.
Step 6 - Add The Final Layer
Just like with the last layer, I framed in the area. This time I used some 2x6 material for the outside frame. Then I added the interior boards going in a pattern that would be 90 degrees to the second layer boards. I only nailed these in with the 2" brad nail gun so removal would be real easy for replacement when worn out. Honestly I would be surprised if I ever replace a board below this level. Time will tell.
Step 7 - Relocate and Stand Up
This ended up being the biggest challenge. The total unit weighed between 300 and 400 pounds. I was able to stand it up on it's top edge (upside down) and push it across the floor to relocate it to the correct area. Once there, I got it flat on the ground with the legs against the wall and front side facing down. Next was the feat of standing it up. We kept lifting one side at a time until I had abut five 2x4 blocks holding the top edge off the ground. From there it was all muscle, but we got it standing up. Because of the layers of boards added to the front, the unit wants to fall back on you. Make sure you hold it in place while positioning it against the wall.
Step 8 - Anchoring To The Wall
I think you can easily see the value in this step. If this ~350 pound mass happened to fall on you, it would be a major injury. Just like with the other supplies, I anchored it with stuff I already had around the basement. On one side I used a shelf bracket and the other I bent a piece of metal and screwed this to existing studs.
Step 9 - Lighting & Targets
I used a clamp-on work light to provide some additional lighting directly on the target area. I also hung one of my fancy "A Real Man's Objective Reviews" targets, but most of the time I will staple a sheet of paper and draw a large dot with a chisel tip marker.
Step 10 - Enjoy!
My setup actually works out that I have a 7 yard shot standing behind my table saw and a total 14 yard shot maximum. This should be more than sufficient for me to work on my pistol shooting skills. The below photo shows my first target using my Sig Arms Trailside 22 Pistol while shooting freehand at 7 yards. Clearly you can see why I want more practice.
After removing the target, the photo below shows the bullet entry into the wood for these first 10 shots. They are nice clean holes going in and nothing coming back.
The next photo shows the end of a short first session shooting with my son. I think you can see that after a couple of sessions the concrete will be the structure finally stopping the bullets. The middle group on the left has 8 bullets stacked in on top of each other and were shot from a Ruger 22 Charger from 14 yards. At some point I will use a stiff wire (coat hanger) and stick it down some of these holes to start measuring erosion of the concrete, but I think I have many more sessions before that is a real concern.
For those of you who may be worried that a stray bullet could make it outside the 3'x3' area, the wall behind that area of the house is all brick. If for some reason we did miss the bullet trap, it would stop when it hit the bricks.
Bottom Line (Original Post):
After this first session, I'm really pleased with how this bullet trap has turned out. Only time will tell, but I believe I have a pretty durable setup. As it gets more use and I gain more knowledge about the setup I will update this post.
Just for kicks, I also purchased an inexpensive steel 22 bullet trap from Cabelas and plan to do a normal review. The combination of these two may be the ticket to keep me from having to replace sections of wood on my backstop and for having a larger area for trapping bullets since the steel bullet trap is small (10"x11").
Update: You can see the Do-All 17/22 Bullet Box review at this link. I would not reccomend using this trap on any indoor range at your house. Details are in the review.
After the second session of shooting, I learned something. The bullets stack up quickly in the wood if you put a bunch of shots in the same general area. I noticed this when one of the boards on the top layer started backing away from the surrounding boards. I tried knocking it back in, but something was clearly in the way. After removing the board (easy to do since I had only used the 2" brads from my nail gun and maybe this is also why it started backing away so easily), I could see that the lead bullets had stacked up and started wedging against this board. The photo below shows what it looked like when I removed the top board.
These were lead pieces that I removed from the wood. There was large chuck that had fused together to produce a 3/4" size nugget.
Stacking bullets on top of each other is the goal for shooting, but this creates problems for this type of bullet trap. You can see from the holes shot in the wood that there were some areas where the lead would get packed in a very local area.
After cleaning all the debris and lead out of the wood, I put this board back in place to see what will happen next. In my case, scrap wood is cheap and the end goal of trapping the bullets is still successful.
Bottom Line (Update #1):
Maybe I'm trying to reinvent the wheel here, but at least I'm having fun. Is this wooden/concrete bullet trap perfect? Clearly not. Is it stopping the bullets like I planned? Clearly yes. As I keep shooting and learning more about using this method, I will continue to update this post.
I was considering using a steel bullet trap on the front of this wooden/concrete backstop. You can see the Do-All 17/22 Bullet Box review at this link. I would not reccomend using this steel bullet trap on any indoor range at your house. Details are in the review.
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