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Machine Design

All clean on the firing range

In the past, firing ranges used smash plates to ensure bullets stopped without ricocheting.

But this creates lots of lead dust, a health hazard for those at the range and the environment. Then Ron Coburn of Savage Range Systems, Westfield, Mass. (, invented his Snail Trap bullet trap. It uses low-angle entrances — 12° for rifles and 15° for pistols — to prevent bullets from punching through the entry ramp which guides rounds into the trap's deceleration chamber. Bullets enter then circle the round chamber until they lose energy and drop through a slot in the bottom. (For example, a .30-06 bullet will make about 130 rev in 3 sec before dropping though the slot.)

The Wet Snail Trap keeps lead dust and any other by-products from getting in the air by applying a mix of biodegradable oil and water that encapsulates any dust and lead particles before they can become airborne. This system lets indoor ranges exceed OSHA standards for air quality.

The company also now makes a Dry Snail Trap that uses a different method to trap dust and pollutants. A Pulsatron Self-Abatement system builds a door of positive air pressure across the mouth of the deceleration chamber. This air keeps particles inside the chamber or flushes them into a bank of filters. The system also sends bursts of air into these filters, keeping them constantly cleaned. It is a closed-loop system, with air eventually passing through a series of HEPA filters before recirculating through the system. These filters ensure no pollutants make it outside the trap.

An Automatic Bullet Recovery System takes rounds that fall out of the deceleration chamber and conveyors them to a container for recycling. This means the range does not have to be shut down to clean the trap, and no one has to handle spent lead bullets and fragments.

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