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There are several steps you should take as you design your outdoor range including; site selection, planning, SDZs, support facilities and design criteria. The information below is for general use; excerpts and paraphrases were taken from the U.S. Department of Energy Range Design document  dated June 2012, which can be downloaded here. Other range design guideline sources are available and you should choose the one that is most applicable to your
needs and all federal, state, and local codes.
1. Site Selection

  1. Outdoor range sites should be remote from other activities and should not extend across traveled roads, navigable waterways, railroads, or other areas.

  2. Protect against areas down range from unauthorized access while firearms are being discharged. 

  3. Utilize natural barriers around the site. The best site is one with a natural backstop for projectiles to reduce the cost of constructing earth impact berms.

  4. Orient the range to the north or slightly to the northeast.

3. Surface Danger Zones (SDZ)

SDZs should be established to contain all projectiles and debris caused by firing ammunition (See Caliber Table). SDZ dimensions are dictated by the types of ammunition, types of targets, and types of firing activities allowed on the range. A basic SDZ consists of three parts: impact area, ricochet area, and secondary danger area (See Figure 1).


Other illustrations showing the application of the basic parts in the design of SDZs for various kinds of range activities are available in the DOE Range Design download above.

  1. The primary danger area established for the impact of all rounds extends 5 deg. to either side of the left and right limits of fire and downrange to the maximum range of any ammunition to be used on the range.

  2. The ricochet area is 5o to either side of the impact area and extends downrange to the maximum range of any ammunition to be used on the range.

  3. The secondary danger area is that area paralleling, and 100 yards outside of, the outermost limits of the ricochet area and extending downrange to the maximum range of any ammunition to be used on the range.

  4. Post proper signage

4. Support Facilities

Range planners should consider the site-specific need for the following range support facilities.

  1. Targets

  2. Target storage

  3. Bunkers, trenches, and protective barriers for personnel protection

  4. Range control towers

  5. Toilets.

  6. Range poles, banners, markers, and signs

  7. Communication systems

  8. Access and range roads

  9. Parking areas

  10. Potable water

  11. Target maintenance

  12. Ammunition storage

  13. Power

  14. Sewage

  15. Other Utilites

5. Design Criteria

1. Firing Line Items - consideration of floor surface and overhead containment

2. Firing Point - which is the area required for the shooter, shooter’s equipment, scorers, and range officers

3. Selection of Ballistic Materials, Cladding, Cover Material

4. Landscaping for windbreaks, erosion control and noise transmission

5. Target Line and Mechanisms 

6. Impact Structures

7. Side Containment (See Table 2)

8. Overhead Baffles

6. More Information

The U.S. DOE Range Design document includes more information such as earth impact berm and ballistic overhead canopy details (see examples below). Other information includes multiple-lane rifle range and multiple-lane pistol range layouts, side protection berms, moving target ranges, baffled bullet stops, baffled ranges, indoor range design, outdoor range design and live fire shoot house.

Be sure to download the full document as available at the top of this page.

2. Range Planning

  1. Firing into upward sloping land and land with natural backstops of hills or mountains is recommended.

  2. The ground between the targets and firing line should be free of any hardened surface such as rocks or other ricochet-producing material.

  3. The surface may be sodded or planted with low-growing ground cover.

  4. The overall size will be governed by the range distance and number of firing positions.

  5. Shooters should have secure footing.

Max Ammo Range
Backstop Design

Ballistic Overhead Canopy


Earth Impact Berm for Shooting Range


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