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How to Build Your Own Gun Range

How to Build Your Own Gun Range

Shooting firearms is a huge part of my life. Back when I lived in suburbia, that meant driving a long way to the range, setting up my targets, practicing, tearing down and driving home after hours and hours away from the family just to throw a few rounds.

As I dove further and further into the firearms world, I knew I had to find a better way to do this whole range thing. I tried buying a property on the edge of town where I could shoot, but that still had limitations with neighborhoods building up around me, concerns with safety and residential proximity and noise complaints coming in daily. After years of dealing with half measures my family and I decided it was time for a more permanent solution.

Step 1 – Find the right place

I wanted a farm with plenty of room for a range and also to manage for wildlife, specifically whitetail deer and waterfowl. Here in Minnesota with all our wetlands there are actually lots of places that met these criteria. With that said, this property needed to have a gun friendly local government, sheriff’s department, and neighbors that could handle my heavy shooting at the new place, which took a bit of searching to find. After 18 months of looking, research and maybe a bit of luck we found the farm we now call F5.

How to Build Your Own Gun Range

To find the safest layout for his range, Josh Froelich relied on satellite imagery and some research to make sure the range worked best for him and his neighbors.

Step 2 – Make a plan

I sat down behind my PC with a satellite view and figured out the safest direction possible to shoot on the new farm. I was looking for the furthest distance beyond the backstop location to the next residential area and I built my range plans around this data.

How to Build Your Own Gun Range

To find the safest layout for his range, Josh Froelich relied on satellite imagery and some research to make sure the range worked best for him and his neighbors.

I knew I wanted a shooting bay for pistol and shotgun work, and a couple of long-range shooting lanes, ideally out to 500 yards or more. With the way my property was setup, I drew it all out on the map and had myself a plan.

I talked with the city about permit requirements, referenced NRA range best practices to figure out shooting backstop recommendations, and drew up what I thought was the best plan possible with the information I had pulled together. I wanted to leave as much of the farm wild as possible to allow the wildlife to flourish so I only really used about 8 acres of the farm in my plan for the range.

Step 3 – Build it

To actually build this thing I leveraged the professionals. I hired the excavating company that built Forest Lake Gun Club here in Minnesota to make sure it was done right. I sold the timber we cleared to make room for the range to a local logger and leveraged that timber value to cover the cost of clearing the shooting lanes and got my wildlife clear cuts done in the process.

Before this project I had no idea how valuable the timber was. Most of the work on the land was traded straight up for timber value, which allowed me to get the shooting bay built and shooting lanes cut out and groomed only slightly over my original budget. I leveraged free used tires from the local tire shop for my long-range target backstops and filled them with dirt by hand. I figure I moved about 1700 5-gallon pails of dirt by hand (and ATV) out to those tires over about a 4-week period and lost a few pounds of body fat in the process. I certainly could have rented a skid steer or tractor and moved the dirt that way, but my personal labor is free. I was already over budget and the last thing I wanted to do is have to wait on additional finances to get this place completed.

One of the things I hadn’t considered was erosion. Once spring came and the rains hit, I almost panicked when I started to see my shooting berms wash away and erode. I brought in some landscaping companies and considered Hydroseeding the berm to get some vegetation growing quickly to stop the erosion, but I didn’t want to introduce an invasive plant species to the landscape here, and was worried about a big rain washing out my investment.

I settled on hand seeding it with an oat cover crop and a native seed blend covered by an erosion blanket to hold everything in place. While far from the least expensive option, this made the most sense to me. I have so much time and money invested here I wasn’t willing to risk further erosion on the berms and further stress watching it happen.

How to Build Your Own Gun Range

Selling the timber cleared to make room for the range helped finance the range itself, going a long way toward keeping the project on budget.

Step 4 – Equipment

After I got backstops in and done, and the berm and range floor in, I had to get shooting props like walls, fault lines, roof top, tank traps, Vtac barricades, steel targets, and target stands—the whole 9 yards. I am far from handy and I have no business building things, so I hired out the prop build to a good buddy of mine who made it all happen. I partnered up with shootsteel.com to help me get steel on the range for a good price and now… Well, now we shoot!

How to Build Your Own Gun Range

After a lot of research, planning, and hard work, the range is ready for live fire. To get all the props he wanted, Froelich relied on a little help from his friends.

Lesson Learned

  1. Pick the right place and the red tape is minimal
  2. Outsource things not within your skillset
  3. Labor is free, free is good – #DoWork
  4. Lean on your network – people will help!
  5. We live in America – carve out your slice and make it your own

Summary

What a project! Six months of planning, work and execution, a few more dollars than I hoped to spend, some sore hands and back and I have my range ready to go. I train several days a week for competition here at the farm and can sneak out to get that work in over lunch or whenever I have a few free minutes to burn. Keeps me close to the family, organized and on task with my range time and now I can finally share this crazy passion of mine with the world. Do you love to shoot and train with your firearms? A project like this one just might be for you!



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