Gun range maintenance, whether indoor or outside, is particularly focused on their client’s safety whenever they use their facilities. Two forces, unfortunately, work against the gun range owners despite their best efforts. On is the natural ricocheting of bullets whenever they strike a hard object on impact. The other is Murphy’s law and it invokes the inexplicable rule of “when something can go wrong it will.”
This latter point was recently observed at Logan’s Rendezvous Gun Range. The shot was “one-in-a-million” according to witnesses. Ricocheting off the target, it managed to strike a sprinkler, despite the use of baffles, creating a rainstorm in the firing range to the surprise of the shooters. Rare instances can even turn to oddity as in the case when a bullet ricocheted off an armadillo and hit a man. Murphy’s law is always present!
Typically, the scenario of a ricocheting bullet arises from a bullet striking a hard object on impact, usually at an angle. Since the bullet can’t penetrate the object’s material on impact, it takes the course of least resistance and diverts it course. As per above, wild incidents do occur, but modern ranges have accommodated for ricocheting bullets based both on science and experience, leading to safer ranges, fulfilling assurances of safety users expect.
Still, the techniques employed to reduce ricocheting bullets continue to evolve. Some of the newest techniques designed to prevent or blunt the impact of ricocheting are quite creative. One of the most promising techniques uses granulated rubber to trap the bullets. It’s a soft media that allows for quick and simple cleaning, while reducing the potential for ricochet by allowing spent bullets to move easily within the granulated material.
This example emphasizes the focus of change and design. One is to accommodate bullets and their fragments (less fragmentation) and ease of cleaning. Of course, a solid maintenance program that schedules cleanup regularly is part of the process. Others, like the popular steel targets (traps) have re-designed surfaces and concave shapes to reduce injuries from ricochet.
Users of ranges have also employed techniques to preserve or heighten their safety and reduce the risk of injury from bullet and fragment ricochet. The latter is often referred to as “blow back”. They wear protective goggles and clothing. Some have resolved to use pointed bullets rather than the typical rounded bullet that increases further the ricochet incidences and some owners have built booths for each lane to help further protect shooters.
Despite the innovations, safety procedures, and maintenance, the problem of ricocheting persist. Still, the efforts of range owners and innovators have served to reduce the incidents of injuries to it users.
Whether the bullets ricochet or not, they need to be handled safely. The EPA has given best practice management guidelines for how to handle lead reclaimed as spent bullets in outdoor firing ranges.
The nature of the way lead interacts with the environment, especially when heated as when fired from a gun, means that reclaiming lead from firing ranges is more complicated than just sifting the backstop, backstop soil, or rubber, collecting the bullets, and turning them in.
Both the backstop, backstop soil, or rubber and the water in which a spent bullet lands can be contaminated with lead. In an acidic environment, the lead can be highly bioavailable, meaning it may sometimes be ingested by human and animals and could cause lead poisoning and other health effects. Removing a spent bullet still leaves the contaminated soil and water, which may need to be treated as hazardous waste for collection and disposal. For the recycler who collects the bullets, moving the soil around and sifting it for bullets may release lead-contaminated dust into the air, where it can be inhaled. Using water for sifting bullets from dirt produces lead-contaminated groundwater. The EPA guidelines address both how to remove the old bullets, and how to manage the contaminated soil and water to avoid or minimize generating hazardous waste.
MT2 is the Leading and Largest Nationwide Professional Lead Reclamation & Maintenance Contractor for BOTH Indoor & Outdoor Firing Ranges and has served over 1,400 public and private firing ranges in all 50 states since 2000. MT2’s firing range services include complete range maintenance, improvements and lead remediation services.
Contact us today to see how we can help your range and shooters stay safe!