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Practically Shooting

Range Improvements at my Local Club

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I belong to two conservation clubs with shooting ranges.  One has a very nice range, and the other club… is close.  The close club is naturally the one I’m a lot more active in, and I use the range often.  

Unfortunately, this range gets little upkeep, and to be honest, the range never was much to start with.  The firing line has only four benches, and even that makes things crowded.  There is a nice tall bank at 100 yards for that berm, and the 50-yard berm is OK, but the two shorter ranges of 25 yards and 50 feet are pretty bad.

They have very small backstops made of poor material, with small target hanging areas (20” high and 48” wide) of which only some is useable.  These close ranges use steel backstop plates instead or dirt, and the mystery grade of steel plates are in poor shape.  Although no target is to extend beyond the backstops, we have caught people posting IPSC silhouettes here, even though they extend over the top by a lot.  “Oh we won’t shoot at the top part!”   Yeah.

No rapid fire is allowed on the property due to the small short range backstops.   Centerfire rifles are not allowed on these backstops either, so if you want to zero a new rifle you have to start at 50 yards, which is a bit far for my comfort for some rifles (and shooters).    

I hate those steel plates with a passion.  

Change is slow coming in this club.  Glacially slow.   A few of us have wanted these short ranges rebuilt for years and are just now getting it done.  Consideration of these changes only happened because a proposed move/land swap fell through and I used that opening to push for upgrades as a necessary concession of staying.  It was finally admitted that it needed done,  but that was about all.  
That’s all I needed.

Even with that, it has taken 20 months before the first dirt has been moved.  I had to really push it through, and more or less went ahead and did it while some in the club weren’t paying attention.  

Volunteers were rounded up.  The “old guard” questioned the need for the work, but plenty of people showed up eager to make things better.  It is probably no surprise that none of the regular range users showed up.  

Clearing away dead trees and years of untamed growth was done before we could get started on the planned work.   This alone opened things up a lot, and we gained more useable space at the 100-yard and 50-yard berms.

The first big thing to do was to give something to those who didn’t see a need for change.  The 50-yard berm was lengthened enough to allow twice the target space.  The only match held now at the club is BR-50 (.22 rifle Benchrest at 50 yards).   They have four shooters on the line at once, and scatter targets across the range to do it.   Only two targets are placed at the actual 50-yard berm.  One is placed in front of a pile of spare dirt that’s not quite 50 yards downrange and is a different height than the rest.  Any gain this shooter may have is more than offset by this target being among the trees, so it’s shaded and hard to see. The fourth target, well, I don’t even want to talk about.   

We ended up adding some length to both ends of the 50-yard berm instead of just one end.  Widening the 50-yard berm now allows a second target hanging board that’s 24” by 48”; plenty of room for two more 11” wide targets.  
(Naturally, it drew complaints from the first one to see it.)


This had to be done first, because the new short range berms will block the space they used for their “extra” targets.  We wanted to give them something before taking that away.  

Next was my favorite part of it all: Ripping the short range steel plate backstops out of the ground.  This turned out to be easier said than done, since we couldn’t find the bottom of these plates at first!   There was nearly four feet of them buried in the ground (Why???) so they didn’t just pop up.    I might have shed a tear when each came loose.

The new 25-yard berm is considerably larger than the old 20”x48” steel plate, at seven feet tall by 23 feet wide.  It’s basically a box filled with dirt.  The box is built from stacked telephone poles which is then filled with dirt.  Anything legal for use on the property (anything below .50BMG) can be shot here.  
With its height, any shot that would go over it should be stopped by ballistic panels hanging in front of the firing line.  


All that's left to do here is to level it by cutting the right side down some, and putting the target boards up.  It will have two 4x8 ft target backers.  

Next up is to build the new 50-foot range berm.  This will be located directly in front of the 25-yard berm.  It will have a 4x8’ target board. Half of this berm will be cut below ground level, so it will not block any of the 25-yard berm.  However, if someone shoots over the top of the 50-footer, the 25-yard berm will catch it.   Like the new 25-yard berm, it will also allow anything club-legal to be shot into it. 

Once that is completed, something else might appear.  I have a plan.   But that will be a surprise.  

We have borrowed a 104-hp John Deere tractor and loader for some of this work.  In a couple of days I’ll talk to the owner and find out if we have to give it back or have a couple more weeks.  If we can keep it a little longer, we can sneak in that last little item.  

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  • 3 weeks later...

After posting the above, we had a period with a lot of rain.  We had a three-day stretch where we got over four inches.  Before that could dry, we got another two days of rain, then another three days.  


The dirt around our new posts was a hard-packed clay, but it turned into the consistency of pancake batter.  The work on the 50-yard berm held up.  The 25-yard berm was all-new.  The pressure of holding the walls made from horizontal poles filled with heavy dirt was too much.  The posts pushed outward, allowing the wall poles to squirm around and get out of shape.  It didn't collapse, but a lot of dirt washed out.  

The 25-yard berm (7 feet high and 23 feet wide) will need to be rebuilt.  We don't see a way to do it without digging all the dirt out to re-set the posts and re-stack the walls.   


But it will be nice when done.  So we keep telling ourselves.

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