Dealing with Reality – The New Rifle Range
A Message from our Club President
Rifle Range: Recently I received an email from a Club member who was privy to a few conversations and a Facebook thread with folks from the Island who “question the safety of the planned rifle range as well as the perceived noise and potential for lead pollution.” When our Club member asked for details about where their concerns arose from the answers were “pretty vague.” As a result I thought I would use this President’s Corner to make it crystal clear our motivations, plans and strategies.
From time to time I have been exposed to individuals some of whom live on the Island and some not (they own property on the Island) who have opposed the enhancement of our rifle range and in fact sometimes the Club’s very existence. It is been my observation that these folks are often short on facts but long on passion. I had one individual, in a somewhat agitated moment, make claim we were developing weapons of mass destruction. I can assure you that we have no chemical, biological nor nuclear weapons or agents on our property.
The concerns fall into three generic categories: safety, noise and lead management. I will get into each of those areas but first there is a bit of history I should cover. Our decision to temporally close the existing range was exclusively the Club’s decision. No government body of any kind stepped in and directed us to close the range. The Club did this purely out of selfless and altruistic desires to make the range safer and quieter than it has ever been, for the community.
Safety: Let’s talk first of safety. There is no evidence to support the contention that a projectile has ever left the rifle range. Yet these allegations have been made. About 18 months of so ago I received a call from the President of Meadowmeer Golf Club asking if we were depositing bullets on his country club. I asked if he had seen any evidence of that, he said no. I asked where he got such a notion. Apparently an individual had made the call to him making said claim. I assured him that that was not the case. He was satisfied. Nonetheless, such unfounded rumors fuel a small smoldering patch of discontent.
The historical absence of projectiles leaving the range can be attributed to our muffler boxes that limit where the rifle muzzle can be pointed and the practices and procedures relating to the range use. At no time is any range open at the Club without the presence of a Range Safety Officer (RSO). These RSOs are NRA educated/certified and are permitted to conduct a BISC range session only when they complete a program of familiarization with our range policies/procedures and signed off by either the Chief RSO or one of the Senior RSOs.
The existing range back stop is approximately 25 feet tall and will be augmented with a 12 foot tall crushed rock filled range cap which will serve three purposes: 1) It will effectively capture bullets in a sand berm (new to the range). 2) It will cap the range so that possible ricochets will bounce harmlessly off of or be captured by the berm cap. (It is unlikely that there will be any ricochets as sand is a very effective medium at decelerating bullets.) 3) It will cover the sand so that effective lead management practices can be deployed to limit exposure of the lead bullets to rain and to enable relatively easy for lead removal in compliance with EPA guidelines. The range will also feature no blue sky beams which will serve to prevent projectiles from leaving the range.
Note: We did on one occasion in 2003 have a projectile leave the pistol range and that prompted an immediate closure of that range and a multiyear project to reengineer the design that features rock filled walls and ceilings and no blue sky beams. That new construction and the development and deployment of enhanced range safety practices and policies give us great confidence that the 2003 event will not happen again.
Noise: State law Chapter 173-60 WAC http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=173-60 deals with noise. Section 173-60-050 subsection (b) establishes an exception to the Chapter i.e. “Sounds created by the discharge of firearms on authorized shooting ranges.” It should be noted that this state law permits authorized ranges the right to discharge firearms 7:00 am and 10:00 pm. However, we the Club voluntarily limit range use between 9:00 am and 9:00 pm and never permit shooting on Sundays prior to 1:00 PM so as to not impose on worshipers. And it is a rare day (if ever) that shooting extends anywhere near 9:00 pm.
Moreover we have taken steps to reduce/mitigate the emitted noise on both our pistol and trap ranges. The design of the pistol range encloses the range on five sides and features the use of sound absorbing materials. The Club spent $135,000, not including extensive donated labor, in building this range. The trap range now features an “irregular surface” wooden fence instead of highly reflective concrete blocks. The irregular surfaced wood tends to break up noise waves. We have heard positive reports from the folks in the surrounding community. We haven’t yet conduced db tests to validate this empirical observation but we plan on doing so. Note: we have also done penetration tests and a shotgun discharge does not pass through the fence.
We are taking several steps to mitigate noise on the rifle range. 1) Our existing rifle range building is in the shape of a band shell which tends to project the sound outward. This building is being disassembled. Our new building will be of a gable design and will more effectively contain the shooters, firearms and noise. 2) It, like the pistol range, will have sound absorbing materials within the building to absorb noise. 3) We will again be using muffler boxes which will further mitigate the noise based at least in part on Army Corps of Engineer designs.
Lead Management: We follow practices and policies established by the EPA regarding lead management i.e. “Best Management Practices for Lead at Outdoor Shooting Ranges” https://www3.epa.gov/region02/waste/leadshot/epa_bmp.pdf and NIOSH (affiliated with the CDC) http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2009-136/pdfs/2009-136.pdf for practices relating to lead exposure at indoor firing ranges. Now we don’t really have an indoor range but the material is in part useful relating to how we manage aspects of the ranges such as lead collection and disposal, and signage relating to hand washing after shooting.
As stated above the rifle range bullet berm will contain a sand trap (EPA recommended) to capture rifle bullets. This is a highly effective way to capture bullets and to prevent ricochets from bouncing upward and out of the property and it facilitates lead mining. As stated we will also have a cap over the sand which inhibits ricochets for leaving the property and inhibits rain from entering the sand and reaching the lead. We will mine the rifle sand berm much like we mine the pistol range sand berm which we have done twice since the pistol range was built. There we mine the lead in accordance with the NIOSH guidelines and take the lead to an EPA approved lead recycler (Navy City Metals in Bremerton). In May 2015 we mined about 3,800 pounds of lead out of the pistol range over two days and delivered it to Navy City Metals within the NIOSH recommended 24 hour period.
The EPA guidelines talk about bullet berm design and recapture of lead on the ground. We had the surface of the trap range mined for lead about two-three years ago and recovered about 80,000 pounds of lead. That may seem a lot but it is not as we are a small range. We regularly test the soil on the trap range for acid levels to ensure that the soil is basic. If soil becomes too acidic (trees make the soil acidic) we treat the ground with dolomite or some similar product to ensure that the soil remains basic. This prevents acidic soil from dissolving the lead and more of less fixes is as inert. We also track all the shots on the range so that we know when the range should be mined again.
As to the rifle range part of our new range will encompass a trench which will accumulate the water both coming off of the hill to the West and rain that falls directly on the range. The range surface will also be treated with dolomite plus the 100 yards trench will have at least 30 yards of limestone that the water will filter through serving to trap lead thus better ensuring that no lead leaves the property. Again this is an EPA recommended design.
It should be noted that we have submitted our drainage plans to the City and received permit approval for our approach and have submitted plans for the berm cap to the City and are awaiting the permit approval for that aspect of the range enhancement.
One last point is that historically Kitsap Health department has tested our runoff and our pond on the East side of Sportsman Club Road and there is no lead present in the runoff or the pond beyond expected background levels.
If you have any further questions please feel free to contact me. As always we welcome your feedback.
I can be contacted at 206-842-6016 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bainbridge Island Sportsmen’s Club