Police Shooting Ranges

Nov 25, 2016

2017 promises to be a year for increased training and indoor range usage. Officers will need to master weapon upgrades designed for current priorities in use of force scenarios. For example, an ongoing concern has been gearing field response to the precise nature of the threat. Hence, frontline officers must train on a wide spectrum of new equipment – everything from military-stylepatrol carbinehigh-powered rifles, to less lethal options. Such purchases demand significant indoor training. Consequently, with increased usage ahead, departments must examine the status of their ranges for environmental sustainability and other training issues.

Meggitt Training Systems has a 90-year history of designing and installing ranges according to environmental principles that negate adverse impacts. Beyond government regulation, Meggitt puts an additional measure into practice when designing and installing a range: the first industry-wide standards dealing with all range health and safety issues, including lead toxicity and hazard management.

Meggitt employs standards that cover the entire spectrum of health and safety – from zoning and location to lead abatement and containment, to proper ventilation. When carefully followed, these standards can improve environmental range safety for any law enforcement agency. For example, to minimize and control lead on indoor firing ranges, the standards require awareness, proper ventilation, medical surveillance and administrative controls along with good practices and procedures. As a critical first step, Meggitt recommends verifying existing range conditions and an impact study, including evaluation of ventilation and airborne testing during range use.

Plan with Environmental Stewardship in mind. Before you design, build, redesign or modify a law enforcement shooting range, you should ensure from the very beginning that it conforms in all ways to the highest health and environmental standards. Go one step further and educate range personnel and frequent users about protective health measures.

Safe Noise Levels
To avoid hearing damage, understand how to measure noise levels and keep them within safe ranges. The best gun range designs always address two primary noise considerations: the sound level within and noise transmission outside of the range. The sound produced by gunfire seems deafening outdoors, but when the acoustic energy is confined to an indoor space as in a firing range, it gets even louder. To protect against hearing damage, one’s 24-hour noise exposure at the ear should not exceed 70 decibels (a weighted sound measurement that describes the level of sound and noise).

Eye Protection
Demand that shooters use protective eyewear. Certified optician Liz Martinez DeFranco wrote: “Eye protection is essential for anyone using a firearm, whether at a shooting range or in a forest or field.” The act of shooting, in any circumstance, can damage the eyes. After all, shotguns and rifles are held on the shoulder, while handguns are no more than an arm’s length away. These different shooting activities all occur in close proximity to the face, which means you should take every precaution to shield your user’s eyes from harm. With today’s ammunition and extensive use of jacketed or semi-jacketed bullets, there is an increased chance a small particle can return toward the firing line and cause injury to the shooters.

An adequate ventilation system accounts for a substantial cost for indoor ranges, however, it is important to ventilate adequately so customers and employees can breathe easily. Consequently, you must recognize and adhere to health standards when specifying the range ventilation system. Interestingly, the major concern of regulators is not as much for users as it is for the facility employees or the range master, who will be spending much of their time in the shooting environment. Ideally, plan for state-of-the-art ventilation equipment rather than risk being forced later to upgrade or totally retrofit an inadequate system at considerable expense. A professional HVAC engineer with range experience will design the healthiest air recirculation system that meets current government regulations, and a properly designed ventilation system should remove contaminants such as airborne lead.

Lead Poisoning
All employees must understand the risks of airborne lead and the necessity of precautionary measures. Any employees exposed to lead throughout their lifetime should regularly measure the residue absorbed in their bloodstream.

Recycle lead and other munition waste. Not only are most munitions recyclable, they can also return money to a range facility. Rubber traps are ideal for recycling as much of the ammunition found in the rubber material remains intact and can be easily recycled. Interestingly, military munitions management emphasizes recycling as standard operating procedure.

Consider rubber media as well as steel bullet traps. Ballistic containment requires a careful examination of your own situation. Every range project is unique. First identify the shooting activities to be conducted along with the type of weapons and ammunition that will be used. These parameters will influence the most effective type of bullet trap for your range. Here, too, you must assess the environmental performance of the bullet trap to ensure long-term range sustainability and mitigation of lead hazards. Although some experts consider rubber as the best bullet trap technology for capture and containment, both steel and rubber traps have advantages for ranges, depending on usage, ammunition and a host of other factors.

Modular Design
Divide your range into bays to allow modular cleaning and maintenance. If your range will exceed 12 shooting points, bays can help manage capacity. Keeping your range clean and well-maintained is critical to a healthy environment. However, it can be costly to shut down an entire range for the cleaning process. With separate shooting bays, you can stay open for activity. Generally a 10-point range will function more efficiently if divided into two bays of five points each and a 12-point range into two bays of six points. By dividing the range into bays, you can separate shooters by skill levels and conduct training classes without interference. You can also improve other efficiencies by lighting and ventilating only the bays in operation.

New Technologies
Explore phasing out lead bullets consistent with your budgetary resources. Bullets manufactured from plastics or ceramics are becoming increasingly available. Although so-called “less than lethal” bullets have downsides in actual law enforcement usage, their projectile dynamics can be useful in range training.

Introduce realistic training simulators when appropriate. Realistic simulators can be especially good for new or “problem” shooters as they have no significant environmental impact. Law enforcement ranges have been increasingly incorporating virtual training facilities; some combined virtual and live-fire systems allow a seamless transition within a day’s training.

Last summer, at the 110th annual Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) Conference, Meggitt Training Systems showcased the FATS L7 virtual system and innovative BlueFire wireless weapon simulators, as well as live-fire range products for a comprehensive weapons training solution. Ed Duckless, President of Meggitt Training Systems, Quebec, said, “Meggitt’s live fire and virtual training products are designed in partnership with our customers, ensuring the systems fulfill existing and future training needs.”

The correct handling of firearms by law enforcement is in the spotlight these days, and if you consider the increased usage of your range over the next year, these guidelines become even more imperative – they can help you ensure a safe and successful year for training.

Paul Romeo is Director of Business Develop­ment at Meggitt Training Systems (Quebec).