If all you shoot are BBs and low powered pellet guns, the only backstop you need is a cardboard box stuffed with newspapers, or maybe an old carpet hung a foot from a basement wall. But once you move into the range of 10, 12, and even 20+ foot-pound guns, something a bit more substantialis required. Pellets can do a lot of damage, and the dust from a splattered pellet can contaminate an area where small children or pets might ingest bits of lead. So let’s look at the options for stopping those pellets.
For years, Beeman sold a “silent pellet trap” for $59.95, which ones fills with Beeman’s “Ballistic Putty”, at $24.95 for 5 lbs. An elegant system, to be true, but one you can duplicate at a tenth the cost. The trap is nothing more than a wooden box, and truthfully, it doesn’t even have to be wood. Those of you who are skilled woodworkers might want to make an heirloom quality box, but those without the tools or skills can use whatever is at hand, like a polyethylene storage box from the supermarket, or even an old electrical box. Mine is made from some 1×4 pine and a piece of 1/2″ plywood scrap I nailed together over 20 years ago. Ugly, but functional.
The “ballistic putty” itself is nothing more than duct seal (one commercial version is sold as DuxSeal), a mix of clay, oil, mineral fillers and a few other ingredients more commonly used to seal electrical ducts and as a fire stop. You can buy 5 pound chunks of it at your local home supply, electrical, or hardware store for about $2.49 for a 5 lb block. Put a two-inch layer of this in the back of your box and it’ll stop most pellets under 20 foot-pounds.
If you don’t like messing about with clay and peeling off the layers of flattened lead that form, you can always use a commercial steel pellet trap of the sort sold for .22 rimfire guns. There are traps sold specifically for pellet use, but many tend to be very light weight, designed for low powered guns. The Outers traps I use cost me $50 some years ago. Today, they’re more like $70-$80, but they are a lifetime investment. And I see that Midway has a “Champion” brand trap for $55.
The fired pellets collect in the bottom of the trap, along with a lot of pellet fragments and lead dust, and so care should be taken when emptying them out. I generally do this outdoors, into a bag or container held downwind. I then give the lead to a friend who casts bullets, and is happy to have the pure lead. If you don’t have a friend who casts bullets (or fishing weights) and you don’t do this yourself, most counties have a site where hazardous waste is collected. Sure, you could just toss it in the garabage, but proper disposal is so easy there’s little reason not to do it right, right?