If you want to improve your marksmanship you’ve got to practice, and unless you have a dedicated outdoor range with a sand berm, like one friend of mine, you’re going to need a pellet trap. Even if you have an outdoor range, if you live in the Northern half of this country you’ll need a way to practice indoors if you want to keep your edge.
The simplest and cheapest trap, suitable for low powered (under 5 foot-pound) guns, is a cardboard box tightly packed with newspapers. That’s what I used when I was a student living in a tiny downtown apartment, practicing with my Daisy 717. The problem with this arrangement is that you have to keep replacing the front of the box and eventually you end up with a box filled with a mix of lead and shredded newspaper that’s hard to sort out for disposal. It’s a good system for BBs, as they don’t ricochet, and you can separate them out for reuse or recycling with a magnet.
Another popular homemade trap is to make or repurpose a wooden or metal box that’s open at one end, and pack a 1″ layer of duct seal compound (also known as electrician’s putty), a non-drying, oil-filled clay mixture, in the back of the box. Some use a large electrical box, others build elegant hardwood boxes. The pellets accumulate as a layer on top of the clay that can be periodically peeled off and disposed of. You can buy blocks of duct seal at your local big box home store for $2.50, or buy it from Beeman as “ballistic putty” at a healthy markup. Your choice.
if you’d prefer a commercial trap, the cheapest I can recommend is Gamo’s, which can be had for around $15 from Amazon, though some enterprising sellers ask as much as $40.
It’s simply made from a few pieces of spot-welded mild steel, and if you use anything more powerful than a 10 meter match pistol or rifle on it you’ll knock it apart (I took one shot from my Beeman R7 that knocked off pone of the flanges that hold the pellet receptical on the back.) Still, it’s cheap, it works, it’s easy to empty pellets from, and you can hang it on a screw on the wall. Typically it comes packaged with Gamo’s cardboard “Bone Collector” targets, which look like the above targets but they’re a faded grey and have the image of an elk or some other large ungulate superimposed over the bullseye. They’re pretty worthless for target practice, but you can find the targets pictured with the trap on their own at Amazon, eBay and elsewhere.
A definite step up is Gehmann’s series of pellet traps, available from specialist suppliers like Pilkington Competition and a few eBay suppliers:
These come in three sizes and are designed to fit standard international targets available from Edelmann and Kruger. The largest is the pistol trap, at 17cm X 17cm (6.7″ x 6.7″). I have one of these and I use it a lot with my Alfa Proj PCP match pistol and my Daisy 777. The smallest is the 10cm X 10cm (4″ x 4″) 10 meter rifle trap. The intermediate sized 14cm x 14cm trap is for both rifle and pistol, but I haven’t seen anyone selling it in this country.
The traps are simple boxes that have a spring-loaded plate ahead of the back of the box. The spring is just spring enough to absorb the energy of a pellet fire from a match pistol or rifle and let it drop to the bottom of the box, where it can easily be emptied. They’re pretty small, but even a novice shooter with a halfway decent target rifle or pistol should have no trouble keeping their shot son the target at 10 meters.
Targets for the Gehmann can be obtain from Pilkington, eBay sellers, and other specialist in Bullseye shooting supplies. They cost more than the Gamo targets and other inexpensive paper targets, and with good reason. Take a look at this photo of a Gamo target from my basement range, shot with RWS match wadcutter pellets:
The holes made by the pellet are all torn instead of neatly cut. Now take a look at a Kruger target shot at the same range with the same gun:
There’s very little tearing, even with overlapping holes. If you’re serious about target shooting, these are the targets you’ll want to practice with.
If you want to practice with higher powered air guns, what you need is a trap designed for .22 caliber cartridges. The oldest and the best is the Champion, available from Amazon and most large shooting sports retailers. It’s made of welded steel and build to last. There’s also the similar Do-All, which is more lightly constructed and screwed or riveted together. It sells for about 30% less, but I’d stick with the Champion. It’ll last a lot longer.