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Bullet Trap Technology

In August 2004, the NDCEE, in support of the DoD, demonstrated and validated a bullet trap technology at a host installation, Fort A.P. Hill, as an alternative to the conventional soil berm/backstop. The NDCEE validated the ability of the bullet trap to reduce the amount of lead that soil berms release into the environment. Fort A.P. Hill chose to retain the bullet trap due to positive test results and is in the process of acquiring funds to implement this technology on its largest small arms firing range. In addition, efforts are under way for the NDCEE to demonstrate and validate the technology in at least one different climate area (e.g., hot, cold, or high precipitation).


Technology Description

Bullet traps are designed for use on outdoor small arms firing ranges to capture and contain bullets, thereby reducing, eliminating, or otherwise controlling lead contamination. The bullet trap technology is an alternative to traditional soil/sand berms, which are prone to soil erosion and the possibility of migration of lead and other heavy metals off of the range. The NDCEE validated a bullet trap that utilizes the granular rubber material as the stopping media to first decelerate the bullet through friction and second to encapsulate the bullet. Because the bullet remains intact, fragmentation and lead dust are significantly decreased or eliminated. Contained bullets are recovered by sifting the granular rubber. Once the bullets are removed from the stopping media, the granular rubber is placed back into the bullet trap for continued use and the collected bullets are properly recycled or disposed of. This bullet trap system is constructed from the bottom up and includes a layer of rubber sheeting, a water-collection system and reservoir, granular rubber, and a top protective rubber cover. The technology is fully contained. It is built over a dirt berm and uses a support frame that is comprised of flame-resistant and recycled polyethylene. The top rubber cover is used to prevent precipitation and moisture from entering the bullet trap. Other bullet trap technologies are available in several designs, including the use of a steel decelerator, rubber blocks, or shock-absorbing concrete as the stopping media. These technologies have not been evaluated by the NDCEE.


Lead contamination reduction and elimination in soil and the environment

Technology Benefits and Advantages

· · · Captures and contains bullets, preventing them from penetrating and contaminating the soil May accommodate tracer/incendiary rounds as long as proper maintenance occurs in accordance with the manufacturer's recommended repair protocols Prevents/eliminates ricochets, fragmentation, and the creation of lead dust, thus lowering health and safety concerns · Is constructed from flame-resistant and recyclable materials (i.e., automobile tires that are shredded and sized to approximately the size of a BB pellet) · Is self-healing and low maintenance · Does not require any utility support such as power or water · Incorporates a water-collection and containment reservoir in the event that precipitation enters the bullet trap, which ensures that potentially contaminated water does not migrate outside of the bullet trap · Enables collected bullets to be recycled or disposed of properly while the granular rubber is placed back into the bullet trap for further use

Troops firing upon the bullet trap technology


Technology Limitations

· · Is limited to accommodating rounds that are 12mm or smaller (e.g., 5.56mm, 7.62mm, and 9mm rounds) Requires further research to accommodate rounds that are greater than 12mm, such as 50-caliber rounds that measure 12.7mm



NDCEE FY04 Accomplishments

The NDCEE completed a demonstration at Fort A.P. Hill that consisted of live-firing more than 30,000 rounds of 9mm, 5.56mm, 7.62mm, and 50-caliber ammunition, including tracer and armor-piercing rounds, on four lanes equipped with the test bullet trap. A draft Demonstration/Validation Report was prepared and submitted to the Government. The report contains a pictorial record of events, results of the demonstration, associated maintenance and firing data forms, as well as captured lead/bullet removal data. During this demonstration, a total of 82 pounds of bullets and approximately 17 gallons of leadcontaminated water were removed from the bullet traps. Based on positive demonstration findings, the installation has confirmed its intent to retain and take ownership of the bullet traps.

Economic Analysis

The capital and maintenance costs for the bullet trap technology will vary depending on site requirements and use. However, it is generally under $51 per square foot. For instance, the capital cost for the technology that was demonstrated at Ft. A.P. Hill would be approximately $60,000. Maintenance costs during the six-month demonstration were less than $12,000, primarily associated with sifting bullets from the granular rubber and removing/disposing of the water from the water collection system. Specific cost items included labor, associated materials and tools, analysis of collected water as well as waste disposal. Waste materials included bullets and water, which were removed from the bullet trap.

Suggested Implementation Applications

An implementation candidate is any outdoor small arms firing range at which 5.56mm, 7.62mm, and 9mm rounds are fired. Further testing is planned before concluding whether tracer use is recommended. The United States military operates greater than 1,800 small arms firing ranges. Use of the bullet trap technology on outdoor ranges may serve as a means to reduce or control lead contamination by reducing the risk of contaminating soil, groundwater, and surface waters as well as associated remediation issues.

Points of Contact

· · Hany Zaghloul, ODASA(ESOH), (703) 602-5526, [email protected] Gino Spinos, NDCEE/CTC, (814) 269-2894, [email protected]

Applicable NDCEE Task

Commercialization of Technologies to Lower Defense Costs (Task N.319)

Transferring Technology Solutions



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