July 23, 2019
Technical Considerations for Constructing Indoor Ranges in Population Centers
Placing an indoor firearms range in a populated area can mean access to a larger market. As we described in our previous post, it’s also an excellent way to reach new customers who might not otherwise seek out a shooting center. However, locating a shooting center in a more heavily trafficked area can present challenges.
Indoor shooting centers are still rare in urban areas and, as such, many local authorities do not have regulations in place for building a range that is both convenient for its guests and respectful to and safe for its neighbors. Building off our experience designing the Keystone Shooting Center—the first indoor range in Cranberry Township, outside of Pittsburgh—here are two top considerations that work to help put local authorities and neighbors at ease.
Every location has its own quirks that dictate how much soundproofing is necessary, but the best practices for soundproofing a structure are fairly consistent wherever you decide to build.
Conventional ranges are built within concrete boxes, a very effective shape for both safety and soundproofing. Walls made out of solid concrete help to keep sound contained, although it adds some expense, and a roof made of hollow-core plank concrete can help contain vibration.
The location of a range makes a difference in the degree of soundproofing needed. The closer a range is to surrounding buildings, the more intensely it has to be soundproofed. If the range shares a wall with neighboring buildings, the owner may want to enlist the help of an acoustic engineer.
Our Keystone project involved a standalone building surrounded on three sides by hotels, which certainly don’t want the sound of gunshots disturbing their guests; our occupancy permit was tied to the decibel rating at the property line. We had to guarantee that we would contain sound in the building, and we took additional measures to make sure we did.
Although the sound of traffic from a busy road nearby helped mask sounds escaping from the range building, we built a secondary wall containing sound insulation to separate the range from the rest of the facility and prevent sounds from escaping the range. The wall was specially constructed for maximum sound insulation, with an internal layer of gypsum board covering six-inch-deep steel studs with fiberglass insulation, a one-inch air gap, CMU solid fill, then a two-inch layer of the sound-absorbing material, porous expanded polypropylene (PEPP).
When designing a shooting center in urban areas, safety is the utmost concern. Firearms ranges in rural areas are typically outdoors and use the natural landscape to contain fired bullets. Obviously, that’s not an option with a range completely contained within a building. While no material is completely bulletproof, walls can be designed to withstand various calibers. The Department of Defense has guidelines on this. Walls with CMU solid fill construction offer the most protection without adding steel; they are able to withstand bullets of at least .50-caliber without additional steel plating, making them cost-effective for most ranges.
Floors and ceilings also must be considered. Floors should be constructed of higher-density concrete (4000 psi is recommended) to limit the potential of fracturing and potential deflections.
Ceilings should be lined with steel baffles designed to redirect bullets downrange. Different range designs require different baffle design. With fixed firing lines, for example, where the shooter is stationary behind the firing line, the baffles can be spaced further apart and still contain a bullet fired at any angle. When the shooter is allowed to freely move downrange in tactical bays, sometimes used for law enforcement qualifications, baffles with a closure panel must run the length of the range in order to redirect bullets fired from any point within the range.
At Keystone, with 24 shooting lanes (3 shooting bays with 8 stalls each), we used 1/8-inch steel ACT facing panels. The ACT panel is an affordable panel; once it gets hit too many times, it’s easy to switch out. We used Action Target’s ceiling baffles, which also absorb sound and are easily replaceable with various finish options.
When planning a gun range, location matters. Keystone’s location near a shopping complex has been a huge factor in its success. The shooting center has become another stop on a day off, not a special trip, and thanks to an open design, it invites new shooters to make spur-of-the-moment decisions to take a look inside. Being close to high-traffic areas, however, makes safety and soundproofing even more vital. A gun range can be a good neighbor with the right design decisions. Still, building in population centers might require discussions with residents and policy makers, and as we’ll discuss in our next article, it may also require familiarity with zoning codes and regulations.
For more information on soundproofing, bullet-proofing and other design considerations, check the Whole Building Design Guide, range design criteria from the Department of Energy and the General Services Administration.