Written by Michelle Henderson – December 17, 2020

4 Key Structural Considerations when Building a Gun Range

In their desire to provide ballistic protection, some range planners have designed highly specialized structures that become unusable for any other purpose. This may not necessarily be of great importance in a municipal range.  However, it does impact a public or commercial range building. You should look for a manufacturer that specifically designs shields and guards to contain misdirected shots within the range and maintain ballistic integrity. Range planners should avoid heavy earthen berms and overly thick concrete walls and ceilings in their building design. Other key structural considerations include:

Walls: Range walls should be of poured concrete or concrete block filled with cement or grout, not gravel. This type of construction provides maximum noise attenuation and ballistic security. Blocks filled with sand are not recommended as any crack or penetration of the block will cause leakage onto the range floor. For additional ballistic protection, steel plating can be applied to the side walls downrange.

Flooring: The most suitable type of flooring for the range is a smooth, non-absorptive hardened concrete floor from the firing line to the bullet trap. The floor will take a lot of low shots, so a smooth floor results in less erratic ricochets. The firing line and the area behind it are typically covered with vinyl or rubber flooring. Due to environmental considerations, floor drains require filtering systems to collect range contaminates. These systems are typically expensive, so the vast majority of range planners today exclude floor drains and sloped floors from their design.

Ceiling: A slab or precast ceiling is most suitable because it normally requires minimal baffles and guards. Guards are still required for lighting, plumbing, conduit, ducts, or protuberances in the ceiling downrange. Therefore, when using a slab or precast ceiling, the range designer should attempt to route pipes, conduit, etc., on the outside of the range and enter into the range only at the points absolutely required. For other types of ceilings, a series of angled air-space baffles or redirective guards suspended at various locations are usually required. The exact placement is determined by ceiling height, range length, and if any shooting activity will be conducted beyond the primary firing line. Meggitt Training Systems provides these suggested placements and load weight computations to the range planner as a part of the drawing package. 

Dividing the Range: Dividing the range into bays should be considered if the range will exceed ten shooting points. Generally a ten-point range will function more efficiently if divided into two bays of five points each; a twelve-point range into two bays of six points, etc. By dividing the range into bays, several advantages can be realized. Among the most significant are:

  • Only lighting and ventilation of the shooting bays being used at the time are in operation.
  • Range does not have to be completely shut down for maintenance and cleaning.
  • Shooters can be separated by type of firearms use or skill level.
  • Special training classes may be conducted without interference from others.

A solid or a minimum 8-inch fully grouted block wall is recommended for separating the bays. The type of shooting activities planned for the range will dictate the thickness. The separating wall should be continuous from the front to the rear wall of the range and extend from the floor to ceiling. This is required for range safety, noise reduction and ventilation integrity. Doors between adjoining ranges may be required to meet fire regulations so the range planner should verify this with the local fire department. Spectator area walls separate the firing line from the ready room or lobby area. Bulletproof glass must be specified for the viewing area that is capable of stopping the largest caliber round that will be shot on the range.

To learn more about designing, building and equipping a gun range, visit Indoor-Range Design Guide request page.