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Don’t go to the range; stay at home to enjoy year-round shooting fun
by Tom Gaylord
Copyright ©2006 All Rights Reserved
With the right airguns, it’s not only possible to shoot at home, you’ll wish you’d started years ago. I’m not talking about your backyard. Some folks have large private backyards that let them shoot without disturbing their neighbors. But many people are squeezed into closer quarters with neighbors who’ll call the police if they see someone outside with a gun. However, a home is still a castle, and yours can have a shooting range inside.
Lucky, indeed, is the shooter with a large basement, attic, garage or shed. These are ideal places, because they are usually away from the other family members. That also increases the margin of safety. But, you don’t have to have a private space!
Any interior room with sufficient distance can be quickly turned into a range. I have set up ranges in bedrooms, living rooms, hallways and even in my office in a modern commercial building.
The secret to shooting in small spaces with thin walls is a quiet airgun. There are several to choose from. If you like pistols, Daisy’s Avanti 747 Triumph is perfect. I shot one in a modern office building in Baltimore while an adult education class was underway in the next room, and nobody knew I was there. The 747 is a .177-caliber single-stroke pneumatic that takes one easy pump-stroke to charge it. It is so accurate that it can hit the eraser on the end of a pencil every time at 33 feet. The fully adjustable sights help you move the strike of the pellet to the center of the bullseye.
For rifle shooters, nothing is quieter than the IZH 61 five-shot repeater. This .177-caliber sidelever is a spring-piston rifle with the same pencil-eraser accuracy as the Daisy. The sidelever is so easy to cock that young shooters can also work it. The rifle is priced below $100, yet it comes with fully adjustable sights that can be converted from open to a target aperture with parts that come with the gun. The stock is adjustable for very small children all the way up to adults.
If you want to shoot as quietly as a mouse’s cough, Daisy’s Avanti 499 Champion is the world’s most accurate BB gun. It can shoot 10 BBs through the hole of a Lifesaver candy at 5 meters (16.4 feet). It is easy enough for a six-year-old to cock and light enough to shoot all day, though the adult-sized stock may have to be cut shorter for youngsters.
A not-so-quiet action pistol that’s fun indoors is Walther CP99. It’s an 8-shot pistol that fires with every pull of the trigger and realistically copies Walther’s 9mm P99. Used with either the Quiet Trap or the 850 BB trap, the only noise will be the discharge of the gun. For more fun, shoot at the Gamo Rocker pellet trap, but be sure to use a very good backer board because this trap is smaller.
You need to catch all pellets or BBs when you shoot indoors. Pyramyd Air’s Quiet Pellet Trap is perfect for both types of ammo, though the impact putty compound does need to be cleaned from time to time. For steel BBs, I recommend using Crosman’s model 850 pellet and BB trap with guns shooting under 350 f.p.s. and the quiet trap for higher-velocity BBs.
The impact sound is often louder than the gun’s report; but, with either one of these traps, there’s almost no sound at all. The quiet trap makes zero noise, yet it is suitable for powerful pellet guns up to 1,000 f.ps. in .177 and 800 f.p.s. in .22.
To protect the wall behind the trap, I recommend a plywood or chipboard sheet at least three times the size of the trap. It will stop any stray pellets or BBs from hitting the wall or door behind the trap. That’s very uncommon, of course, but when others shoot your guns or when you shoot a gun you aren’t familiar with, it’s good to have the extra protection.
What about more powerful airguns?
You can shoot more powerful airguns in your house, but you’ll need a stronger trap to contain them. Pyramyd Air stocks a heavy-duty pellet trap that’s strong enough to stop a 40-grain bullet from a .22 long rifle cartridge. It’s strong enough for any smallbore (.177, .20, .22 and .25) airgun made. However, when the velocity of a lead pellet exceeds about 600 f.p.s., the pellet starts breaking up on impact, and that generates both fragments and lead dust. You may not want lead dust in your home, so stick with guns that shoot slower than 600 f.p.s., or use a quiet pellet trap for guns shooting from 600 up to about 1,000 f.p.s. The Quiet Trap generates no lead dust if the pellets are cleaned out after use.
Shooting safety is always an issue, and inside the home there are some additional things to think about.
- People who are not shooting should be kept away from the downrange area. If the pellet trap is located near a door or hallway, do whatever is necessary to prevent anyone from wandering downrange. This applies especially to young children. If you shoot down the length of a hall, always stop if a person has to use the hall and wait until they have come out before resuming.
- Keep pets away from the pellet trap. Cats and small dogs are especially attracted to the noise of a pellet striking the trap.
- Pellets shot at velocities above 600 f.p.s. shatter into fragments when they hit a hard surface. Set the trap inside a large cardboard box tray to help contain the fragments. Sweep up after every session if there are small children or pets that might ingest the lead particles on the floor.
- BBs rebound from most traps. The Crosman 850 trap I mentioned has ballistic curtains to contain stray BBs, and the silent trap is filled with impact putty that holds them tight. After you’re done shooting, a sweep of the floor with a strong magnet will collect any stray BBs before they get sucked up by the vacuum cleaner or eaten by a child or pet.
- Everyone in the shooting area should wear safety glasses.
- You must use an approved pellet or BB trap. Cardboard boxes filled with newspapers will not contain your shots for very long. In fact, they won’t contain even one shot from a powerful airgun such as an AirForce Condor. A Condor will shoot through a 2×4 or the wall of a house and still have enough force to severely dent appliances such as washing machines or refrigerators.
Construction of the range
The ideal distance for an indoor range is 33 feet or more, because so many airgun sports shoot at 10 meters. If you don’t have that much room, use smaller targets and use whatever distance you do have. I have 16 feet in my garage, which is the international competition distance for BB guns.
The trap should be approximately the same height as the muzzle of the gun. If several people are using the range and are both standing and shooting off a bench, locate the trap at about four feet off the floor. Shoot straight into the trap, not on an angle, to prevent ricochets.
It’s important to have good light on the target. The shooting area should be not as well lit, so the targets appear very bright in comparison. A clip-on light with an aluminum reflector that you get for a few dollars at any hardware store is a great way to light the target. A single 75-watt floodlight bulb is bright enough if placed within eight feet of the target.
You’re going to want something on which to put your guns, pellets and other items, so plan for a shooting table at the firing line. The table should mark the line that no one passes when shooting is taking place.
Shooting at home is fun!
If you follow the safety precautions outlined in this article, shooting at home can be great fun. You will be surprised how much it increases your opportunity to shoot.