Building A Backyard Range

More than 50 million people enjoy shooting sports in the United States and yet finding a local gun range to shoot is becoming increasingly more difficult. Many states are working to increase legislation on ranges making it extremely difficult to participate in shooting sports and train with your firearm. Building a range at your own property can be the perfect solution giving you the freedom to shoot when you want without interruption and construct a range that allows you to train how you want.

A few years ago, I began searching for a property that would accommodate constructing my own shooting range. With my dreams in action, I finally made it happen. It is a continual work in progress. To help get you started in the right direction, below are a few tips from my journey that I hope will help you construct your own backyard range.

Laws

Before you begin construction on your range, you will need to visit with your county planning department. While there, thoroughly review your state and local laws and zoning ordinances as well as any potential neighborhood covenants, codes, and restrictions that may be in place regarding the recreational use of firearms on your property. You will also want to identify, if any, Environmental Protection Agency restrictions on lead ammunition or regulatory requirements for reclamation of spent lead ammunition.

This is also a great time to discuss your construction plans with the planning department in the event that you need to apply for permits or update your property site plan.

Additionally, you may consider having a conversation with the local code enforcement personnel to inform them of your plans to construct a range on your property and that you have verified that it is legal and in accordance with local zoning ordinances. This will help them manage neighbor complaints that they may receive once your range is established and you start shooting.

Resources

The National Rifle Association has an online Range Development and Operations course that is designed to educate people that are looking to build a public range or private range. The comprehensive course that gives helpful information regarding environmental concerns along with indoor and outdoor range construction. For a much lower price point, the NRA Range Source Book retails for $59.95 and has over 30 chapters that will help you get started on your indoor or outdoor range.

Clearing your shooting lane may require the use of heavy equipment.
The foundation of the 100 & 200 yard line upon completion.
The addition of creosote railroad ties for the backstop will complete this pistol range.

Location

One of the basic rules of firearm safety is to be certain of your target and what’s beyond it. The first determination to choosing the location of your gun range is identifying a location that you have a safe natural backstop or the next option which is to build a backstop. If you are going to construct a backstop, do some research as there are a myriad of ideas online that will help to determine the perfect backstop for your intended use.

Generally speaking, constructing a safe backstop will require heavy equipment and the possibility of bringing in top-soil. Creosote railroad ties are highly recommended for backstops when coupled with a hill or dirt behind it. When solidifying your range location, keep in mind how far the bullet could potentially travel if it misses the target and or ricochets in another direction.

Construction

The two-story shooting facility allows for two consecutive courses of fire and maximizes space.

How you decide to build your range is going to depend on how much space you have and of course what type of shooting sports you participate in. Regardless, staying out of the elements certainly lends itself to shooting more comfortably and frequently. With that in mind, you may consider modifying a shipping container into an indoor shoot house. The type of shoot house that you may consider building will once again vary depending on your end-use. For me, I wanted to create a place that I could get out of the elements and zero my rifle, collect data and do some training all while staying on a budget.

To spruce up the interior of a used container, simply add a fresh coat of paint and foam flooring.

There are several major advantages of using shipping containers as an accessory building. The first is that they are very affordable to acquire and are quite clean inside, water-tight and rodent proof. Often times, permits are not required to place a container on your property which can save you thousands of dollars over a newly constructed building.

The other great attribute about shipping containers is that they can be stacked atop one another. The layout that I chose placed two of the containers parallel with each other and the third container horizontal on top of the two. This configuration allows the opportunity to run two active lines of fire concurrently. Roofing kits can also be acquired and erected creating a shop out of your containers.  

For my construction project, I purchased three 40’ High Cube shipping containers, a set of used windows off Craigslist, a used commercial man door, and three eight-foot commercial garage doors. Once I determined my window sizes and door openings, I had fabricators cut out the openings, framing them with steel in order to maintain the integrity of the structure. Keep in mind, if you plan to install roll-up doors, you may want to invest in a high cube container to allow adequate roof space for the garage door hardware in the ceiling of the container.

For sound reduction, consider adding foam floor tiles to the interior of the building and/or foam acoustic panels to the ceiling. Regardless, always wear adequate hearing protection while shooting from within the container.

Shooting Bench & Props

The addition of a traditional shooting bench will provide a stable place to shoot while zeroing a rifle or gathering data. Adding items to your range like a barricade, rooftop, tank trap, or plastic water barrel will add a tremendous amount of value to your shooting and training experience for many types of shooting sports, especially if you are a hunter or precision shooting competitor. Training with these props will decrease your stage preparation time, decrease your transition time all while increasing your accuracy which is critical while afield in a hunting situation or in competition.

Targets

My dad and I built two target stands. One for the 100 & 200 yard lines.

The type of targets that you choose to add is a personal preference. For my range, we constructed mobile target stands out of pressure treated 4×4’s and 2×4’s. The 1×2 target supports are easily replaced when necessary. And the sturdy construction should last for many years while exposed to the elements. Adding small steel targets to this board creates a dynamic training experience.

JC Steel Slotted Hook Target System with a 66% IPSC.

When it comes to steel targets, JC Steel is an industry leader in quality AR500 steel targets and target hanging systems. One of my favorite target systems is the slotted hook system which attaches right over the top of a standard t-post. This system is extremely affordable yet provides a durable target that will last for years.

JC Steel KYL Rack.

Other popular targets would include a KYL rack, which is a target rack consisting of 5 different sized steel plates. This is a very fun target system because it challenges the shooter.

The addition of creosote railroad ties will complete this pistol range build.

For pistol, I really like shooting the Poor Man Plate rack, the 6-target dueling tree and Texas star to name a few.

Rifle Target Ranges

Don’t be discouraged if you are limited on the distance you can shoot. A 100-yard range can provide exceptional training value for a precision shooter or hunter. To challenge yourself, simply reduce the overall size of your targets. Many precision competitions have 2 MOA target sizes which at 100 yards equates to a 2” target. Use this general rule of thumb in your training. Focus on becoming more efficient with your stage prep, focusing on smooth transitions, shot cadence and overall hit ratio.

If your dream is to be a lead farmer, building a backyard range is a worthwhile endeavor. This is truly a labor of love. When you have steel targets spread out across your range and an assortment of training stages, your backyard will be the go-to place for family and friends to come and train or simply enjoy shooting sports.  

*Please note this is a private shooting range. Memberships are not sold and it is not available for events or lease.

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About the author: Kristy Titus was raised leading a pack string of mules into the backcountry of Oregon, experiencing the thrill of public land, fair chase, western big game hunting. She is passionate in the support of wildlife and habitat conservation, as well as being dedicated to protecting and defending our hunting traditions. She served on the Advisory Board for the Sportsmen for Trump Coalition, also serving as an ambassador for Safari Club International and is a member of the NRA Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Committee.Kristy is a Second Amendment advocate having served on the National Rifle Association’s Board of Directors, and the NRA Youth Programs Committee. She is an NRA certified Basic Pistol Instructor, Refuse To Be A Victim Instructor and Range Safety Officer. Kristy is also a competitive shooter participating in the Precision Rifle Series and National Rifle League Series.As a Turning Point USA Ambassador, she advocates for freedom, liberty, personal responsibility, the constitution and conservative values.She hosts and produces Pursue The Wild, a digital television series airing on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. In her series, Kristy is educating viewers while inspiring movements that broaden the reach of conservation, strengthen support of the Second Amendment and increase shooting sports participation. Kristy is an outspoken Second Amendment advocate that has dedicated her life to teaching and promoting firearms, conservation and hunting. Kristytitus.com Facebook.com/kristytitus Instagram.com/kristytitus YouTube.com/pursuethewild

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • bill March 10, 2020, 4:20 pm

    I hope the floor is bulletproof

    • Mark January 28, 2021, 11:51 am

      Exactly. No way I’m standing up above some suburbunite mall ninja with a loaded weapon. WTH??
      This girl is going to be eating some steel if she hasn’t already… Back up chick or go back to airsoft before you put your eye out.
      Seriously, all you need is a pair of boobs and a ponytail to get guys to follow you, but that’s not really a great qualifier is it? You’re going to get someone hurt badly.

  • Brad Quinlan March 10, 2020, 4:10 pm

    GREAT article!! Some great tips on planning and construction of facilities. Why haven’t I seen an article like this before now? Kudos to Ms. Titus!!

  • Ricky B. March 10, 2020, 3:11 pm

    Very helpful information ma’am, thanks for the article!

    Buying some inexpensive recreation land just to build my own range is something I have wanted to do for some time now. I haven’t really had the time to look into more seriously than very general inquires about how much land I would need and good locations not too far from the city in which I live & work. Whenever I do get around to more than just general inquires the NRA range source guide you provided will be very helpful… Thanks again ma’am!

  • Jack Turner March 9, 2020, 1:13 pm

    Your still pretty close to homes. There is a large subdivision on the rim rock to the left of the photos. Also a housing development over the immediate rise of the 500 and 600 yard numbers. As I recall the numbered hill side is part of the Leslie family property??

  • Mark Barnes March 9, 2020, 1:12 pm

    Kristy ,thanks for all the great ideas ! One important thing to consider is to at least try to orient your range facing south ! It is miserable shooting with the sun in your eyes all day . I love what you and your Dad have built ! You are lucky to have such a supportive Father ! Thus is a great Family asset that will be used for generations to teach family and friends the “Art of Shooting” . Kindest regards , Mark Barnes

  • GaDawg March 9, 2020, 12:04 pm

    Since most states adopt USEPA requirements into state law, don’t be surprised if you find that you have to have a land disturbance plan designed by a licensed professional which includes storm water management for the duration of the construction project and permanent structures for managing storm water runoff. And you may need another plan to show how the spent bullets and casings will be managed or recycled. You may be required to apply for a small quantity generator permit from your state’s hazardous waste management program for managing the quantities of spent lead bullets generated each month (220 pounds per month is regulated under Federal law). Lastly, you will have to manage all of the cardboard, paper, plastics, and other waste materials generated from operations. Open burning of sold waste generated from operation of a shooting range is not legal anywhere and can carry substantial fines ($$$$$). Just be aware of our highly regulated environment and don’t get burned.

  • James Pitre March 9, 2020, 11:43 am

    It is my opinion that your property needs to be posted at the limits of safety with good signage so that hikers/hunters etc know that they are entering an area that is being used as a shooting range and proceeding past the sign(s) is dangerous & prohibited.

  • Little Stevie March 9, 2020, 11:04 am

    After I show her this, I hope my wife will quit nagging me about MY shooting hobby being out of control!

  • bruce March 9, 2020, 10:30 am

    Just my two cents, here: After consulting with local constabulary I built an 8X8X2 plywood box and filled it with dirt. That’s it!

  • Michael Poletti March 9, 2020, 7:34 am

    I have a small range on my 3.35 acres of property in Asheboro,NC .I have to extend the protection now that the state put a road in behind me ,not for the road itself but for the massive amount earth moved & trees cut. Going to add RR ties to the dirt backstop & around. I am also Life Member & Instructor rifle,pistol,shotgun,home firearm safety. I had an idea for people that don’t have a ton of property using shipping containers. Get a 40’er and deck it out inside with lights,bullet proof walls & backstop ,target retrieval rail,bench,and an exhaust fan. The unit could be self contained so when you get it to your property on a spot the customer has flattened out it can be placed there & plugged in . Bet there would be country wide market for them & there is a ready supply of cheap shipping containers. I’m going to try to make this happen been thinking about it for years.

    • PHILIP C SALLEY March 9, 2020, 5:41 pm

      How about two containers end-to-end. As a youth our family had a basement range where I dispensed countless rounds during then long winters. Not so long these days.

  • Stanley March 9, 2020, 7:03 am

    I live in Chicago where the countries largest shooting range is located.
    Well, its not really a range located here as much as Chicago IS the shooting range.

  • Steve March 9, 2020, 6:53 am

    Excellent!
    You just gave me some motivation for my 30 acres in Navajo county AZ…

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