When it comes to modular shooting ranges, two attributes reign supreme: functionality and safety. But let’s face it, no matter how great a shooting range is configured, it’s of little use if it jeopardizes the immediate safety or long-term health of those utilizing it.

To help mitigate the risk of injuries caused by ricocheted projectiles or illnesses due to lead dust exposure, it is critically important that whatever shooting range you purchase features a high-quality bullet trap that’s adequately suited for its end-use. While bullet traps come in a wide variety of makes and models, those most commonly used fall into two basic categories—rubber berm traps and steel bullet traps. So, what’s the difference and which is best for you?

That’s where we come in.

There's a lot to know about shooting ranges. And a modular shooting range is often the key to a top-end shooting experience. CoverSix has collaborated with Action Target, the industry’s leading manufacturers of modular shooting ranges. Action Target designs and builds shooting ranges for clients around the world utilizing both rubber berm and steel bullet traps. Together, they offer the ARCAS modular shooting range experience. 

Based on that in-depth knowledge and vast real-world experience, we’ve compiled the following breakdown to help you make the best, most well-informed decision possible.

Rubber Berm Bullet Traps

A rubber berm bullet trap is exactly what its name implies: a small mound of finely chopped rubber that catches a bullet and contains it, until it can be appropriately discarded.

Generally, rubber berm traps consist of an angled support structure with two to three feet of rubber placed on the surface. The idea behind the design is that the rubber will create enough friction to stop the bullet while also being soft enough to prevent it from breaking apart upon impact. Because of the way this kind of trap collects both bullets and lead dust, it allows for safer cross-range and close-distance shooting. On top of that, RBTs are both cost-efficient and—thanks to their modular design—easily installed into virtually any range. However, rubber berm bullet traps are best suited for relatively low-volume ranges.

With a higher volume comes the higher likelihood of a bullet striking one that is already embedded in the berm, which could cause ricocheting and the added exposure to lead dust. In addition, rubber berm traps have been known to catch fire as a result of a dangerous combination of unused gunpowder and flammable debris. To reduce this risk, some manufacturers pre-treat the rubber used in their berms with a fire-retardant substance. (The ARCAS range uses Action Target's Flame Lock fire retardant.)

It is also recommended that rubber berm traps be cleaned after every 80,000 rounds. Depending on the size of the berm and the number of lanes, this is a process that could take several days and, due to significant lead exposure, requires a trained and properly outfitted team of professionals to complete.

Steel Bullet Traps

When compared to rubber berm traps, steel bullet traps are an engineering feat. These unique traps work by using large steel plates placed at angles that funnel bullets into a cylindrical chamber where they spin until they decelerate and ultimately fall into a container or conveyor system.

The steel bullet trap utilized in the ARCAS range is Action Target's Total Containment Trap (TCT). It is the strongest, safest, and most durable steel bullet trap on the market. It's also more expensive than rubber berm traps and does require a larger footprint. That said, for the money, with a total containment bullet trap, you get a system that can handle an extremely high volume of small to large caliber use, while safely capturing and disposing of both bullets and lead dust—thanks to a separate dust collection unit (DCU). Best of all, TCTs require no downtime for cleaning or disposal. Lead dust drawn into the DCU goes directly into a sealed container while bullets and larger fragments fall into a steel drum.

TCTs are environmentally friendly, can be used for cross-lane and tactical shooting scenarios, and are rated for both pistol and rifle rounds. 

Narrowing it Down

Choosing the right bullet trap is one of, if not the most, important decisions you will make in designing a modular shooting range. Making the right decision comes down to three key factors—use, space, and budget.

For example, suppose you are in the process of designing or retrofitting a relatively low-use shooting range and have a smaller budget. In that case, a rubber berm bullet trap could be a reasonable solution for you. When used and maintained correctly, they are safe and provide a lot of flexibility when it comes to installation.

However, if you anticipate heavy use and have the room, both physically and within your budget, we recommend a Steel Total Containment Bullet Trap. They are the safest bullet traps on the market, and they virtually eliminate costly downtime due to maintenance and regular cleaning.

If you would like additional input on selecting the appropriate bullet trap for your shooting range, or would like to discuss options available through CoverSix, contact us today.