Savage Range Systems 9/2/03 4:21 PM
May/June 2000 Reprinted with permission from The Range Report
They Built A Better(Bullet)Trap
By Robert Hausman
Savage Arms, an innovator of rifle manufacturing
for over a century, is now on the cutting edge of
technology to improve range air quality.
"Why smash a bullet, creating a great deal of airborne lead
contamination, when you can decelerate the bullet and minimize the
resultant pollutants from firing a gun?" was the question Ronald
Coburn, Savage Range Systems inventor, asked himself one day in
Coburn, who is also Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the
famous centerfire rifle manufacturer, decided there had to be a
better way of handling the necessary job of test-firing the newly-
made firearms his factory produces.
"We make 550 guns per day and shoot one proof and two function
rounds through each," Coburn says. "Air quality tests found we had airborne lead in the factory and some employees were
found to have lead particles in their blood streams. We, like most firearms firms, were using a smash plate system in our
range. In thinking of how to solve the lead pollution problem, I realized it made much more sense to slowly decelerate the
bullet as there will be less damage to the bullet and less damage to the stop plates."
Simply put, Coburn's idea, called the Snail®, uses the principle of deflection to direct a bullet into steel entrance ramps using
scientifically-calculated angles and, finally, into a deceleration chamber. In this round, wetted chamber, the bullet's kinetic
energy is directed against itself, as the projectile spins around until it loses energy. Then, coated with lubricating fluid to
capture the lead dust, it drops out the bottom of the unit ready for recycling.
For example, a .30-06 bullet will make 160 revolutions in the deceleration chamber before its energy is expended. It takes
between one to two seconds from the time a bullet is fired until it circles through the trap and loses all its energy.
The deceleration chamber is designed to not impact with the bullet, thus the bullet remains in one piece, further reducing
airborne contamination. The lubricating fluid continually being recycled to flow over the angled approach baffle plates
prevents metal-to-metal contact. It is the lead on steel contact, such as occurs in older smash plate range systems, that
produces airborne lead contamination.
There is no head-on bullet contact with the plates in the Savage Snail® system, as the bullet actually slides along the
lubricated plate surface, virtually preventing the formation of airborne lead.
In 1991, after a couple of years of testing and development, Savage introduced the world's first environmentally safe bullet
trap. Savage has since expanded its range systems to provide a one-stop, full-service to the shooting industry for all indoor
and outdoor firearms traps and ranges.
Originally designed for firearm, ammunition and accessory manufacturers, Savage bullet traps/range systems are also
successfully utilized by gunsmiths, armorers, ballistics labs and private, public and military ranges, and training facilities.
Today the company offers bullet traps and complete ranges in various product levels to accommodate handguns, shotguns
"In addition to the standard items in our brochure, we at Savage Range Systems pride ourselves on building personalized
custom bullet traps tailored to the needs of each individual customer," says Denette Leader, the company's Operations
"We consider ourselves as the leader in health and environmentally safe bullet trap technology," Leader says. "Our bullet
containment systems are designed to capture the bullet safely without risk of ricochet or lead dust inhalation, virtually
eliminating health hazards, environmental damage and the need for costly lead remediation. The systems not only offer long-
file://localhost/Users/mary/Documents/CLIENTS/Snailtraps/2003-Website%20Redo/2003_website/2003/article1%20copy.htm Page 1 of 3
Savage Range Systems 9/2/03 4:21 PM
term solutions to environmental and health hazard concerns, but to longevity and maintenance cost concerns as well."
The Snail® concept consists of several separately engineered and patented facets:
• Non-Impact Deflection: In order to create a nearly impervious surface and to complement the angle of the bullet, entrance
ramps are designed at 15 degrees or less to the horizontal. This allows the bullet to progress into the deceleration chamber
• De-energizing the bullet: The deceleration chamber is circular by design, to complement the curve of the bullet and allow
the bullet to forfeit its energy and drop into a container, ready for recycling.
• Liquid Lubrication to minimize lead dust: The lubricant plays an important role in this unique system. Liquid coats the bullet
and any small particles or dust preventing them from becoming airborne. The liquid is continually recycled throughout the
entire system and need not be replaced, although water needs to be added as some will evaporate.
Indoor & Outdoor Systems
Savage Snail® Technology Ranges are free from the fire risk, hazardous waste generation and high cost of maintenance
issues that plague smash plate and "rubber based" bullet trap systems, according to Leader.
Customers can customize their range system to include safety ceilings and baffles, along with automated bullet conveyor and
recovery units. The company can support the range owner with a variety of services including design, engineering,
equipment selection, installation and maintenance programs, even retrofitting and remediation of existing facilities.
When planning a shooting range, Leader says it is important to specify a bullet trap and containment system that is 100%
compatible with the shooting practices of the range's intended users (i.e. handgun, shotgun, centerfire rifle, armor piercing
ammo, full-auto fire, off-center firing, tournament and/or training).
"This is the most pivotal decision to be made. A truly safe and functional indoor shooting range is actually built around the
bullet trap and containment system," she says.
"Selection of an indoor or weatherized outdoor 'wet' trap and containment system with deflection ramps having angles not
greater than 15 degrees, custom-rated for your projected shooting practices, will not only ensure maximum functionality of the
range, but will also provide for the greatest level of protection of users and the environment (consequently reducing the
prospect of liability exposure for architects, designers, engineers, builders and range operators)," Leader notes.
After choosing a compatible wet trap and containment system, an integrated HVAC and filtration system can be designed.
Modification of existing and/or installation of new systems should effectuate a continuous balanced flow of filtered air past
the shooting line at the recommended rate of 30-50 CFM.
Since wet trap and Snail® containment systems do not generate perceptible levels of atomized airborne lead, filtration
requirements are greatly reduced (typically, inexpensive 95% HEPA systems are specified for re-circulating systems).
For added assurance, the company recommends including safety ceilings and down-range, ceiling-mounted range baffles as
integral components of your range.
Properly installed, composite safety ceilings (extending to at least 10 feet past each
shooting line), and an adequate number of strategically placed complementary range
baffles (suspended at 15 degree angles from the range's ceiling) protect against errant
discharges and straying of projectiles from the range proper. These considerations help
illustrate the evolving complexity of the shooting range systems industry, which is
adapting new technology to meet the growing needs of range operators.
Five variations of the Snail® trap design are available as smaller table top and stand-
alone units. All use low-angle steel plates to guide the bullet over the entrance ramp into
a deceleration chamber where the bullet loses energy and safely drops into a collection
area, ready for recycling.
The "Frugal" series is designed for infrequent use by the cost-conscious gunsmith or
armorer. Mountable on a bench or table, this miniaturized trap can be used to test the
functionality of handguns, shotguns and rifles up to .338 Winchester Magnum. Its dimensions are 24" x 7" x 21" and weights
just 107 lbs. Gasses from the muzzle of the firearm are trapped and distributed through the system, then exhausted via
upper and side vents.
The "Tabletop Gunsmith" has a few more features, including a front door and a perforated bullet tray for easy removal of the
trapped bullets. It is designed for low volume function testing.
The "Box Trap" series is constructed of one-piece welded or bolt-together construction with an impeller pump, collection tray
and tank to contain and recycle liquid. This series also includes a model suitable for testing large-caliber machine guns up to
.50 caliber using steel core bullets. Three models are available, ranging in size from 108" x 24" x 72" on up to 168" x 48" x
96" and weigh from 1,300 lbs. to 6,800 lbs. These models are suitable for velocity, accuracy, and proof and function testing.
file://localhost/Users/mary/Documents/CLIENTS/Snailtraps/2003-Website%20Redo/2003_website/2003/article1%20copy.htm Page 2 of 3
Savage Range Systems 9/2/03 4:21 PM
The "Gunsmith" series of four Snail® traps is specially designed for the gunsmith or armorer desiring to test the functionality
of a broad assortment of firearms. Lead, lead dust, powder and combustion gases are contained within the system and the
expended bullet is collected automatically after being flushed down into a tray beneath the trap. An impeller pump returns
lubricating liquid from the holding tank, to wet the ramps and deceleration chamber. Dimen sions of all models are 44" x 18" x
52" and weights range from 525 lbs. to 750 lbs.
The "Check It" trap series is an indoor or outdoor firearms clearing trap used to dry fire guns to insure live ammo is not
present. It is an essential tool for law enforcement, military and security personnel while providing safety in a space-saving
design. It can handle 12 gauge 3" magnum slug shotguns as well as .308 ball rifle ammo. Dimensions are 24" x 6" x 21" and
weight is 110 lbs.
For the commercial shooting facility, Savage Range Systems also provides complete range services, including engineering,
equipment selection and installation support, along with initialization and maintenance programs.
Full-scale indoor or outdoor range design and construction services utilize the same Snail® technology. Accessories and
equipment available include target systems, safety ceilings, baffles and sound proofing wall coverings. Almost any style bullet
trap can be fitted with conveyor systems to automatically convey spent bullets to a collection drum for easy disposal.
The National Rifle Association's headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia recently installed the most sophisticated state-of-the-art, 12-
station, indoor handgun and rifle range in the country utilizing Savage's Snail® design to provide superior lead control and
Many government and private ranges use Savage Snail® equipment, including virtually the entire firearms manufacturing
industry. In fact, the list of users of Savage range equipment reads like a virtual "Who's Who" of the shooting world, and
includes Alliant Tech Systems, AmChar Wholesale, Beretta Firearms, Blount, Speer and CCI, Browning, Colt's, Davis
Industries, Federal Cartridge, Glock, Inc., Hodgdon Powder, KBI, Inc., North American Arms, Remington Arms, Smith &
Wesson, Sturm, Ruger and U.S. Repeating Arms/Winchester.
Military and law enforcement users of Snail® bullet trap and containment systems includes: Aberdeen (Maryland) Proving
Ground, Arkansas State Police, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, Connecticut State Police, Delaware State Police,
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, Massachusetts State Police, and the U.S. Army, Air Force, Marine
Corps and National Guard.
file://localhost/Users/mary/Documents/CLIENTS/Snailtraps/2003-Website%20Redo/2003_website/2003/article1%20copy.htm Page 3 of 3