Of the three pistol ranges I have available to me, one is my favorite and I prefer to do all my shooting there.  The area is well bermed, open and airy with early morning and late afternoon shade.  What’s especially attractive about the range is the backstop is mostly mudstone and at least 40 feet tall.

My Favorite shooting Range
The green stuff on the backstop isn't the top; it's what's growing out the side of it.
Mudstone is relatively soft.  Soft compared to granite that is, but not as soft as mounded dirt.  Bullets, from .22LR to .30 caliber rifle hit the stone, damage it and are in turn deformed, robbing the bounce back of substantial amounts of energy.  This makes for relatively safe shooting, but even considering this we require eye (and ear) protection.

Typical pistol impact marks in the soft mudstone
Pistol bullet marks in soft mudstone.  The marks are shallow but wide craters.

.45 ACP recovered bullet after hitting mudstone backstop
Mushroomed .45 ACP.  Most of the mass is still present.

However, we recently brought out some steel to work with. 
Poppers are great.  They can be adjusted to fall depending on the bullet's kinetic energy (E=0.5Mass X Velocity squared) and shot placement.  

Steel poppers in front of  back stop
Steel poppers in front of back stop
They provide instant feedback and are easy to reset.  Almost everyone likes shooting reactive targets.  But bounce back from steel is a problem.  We got a little complacent and despite being about 10 yards from the steel, we experienced a wicked little bounce back.

A group of us were talking, when one of us experienced a stabbing pain in her right arm.  Under the shirt sleeve we found a little abrasion and indication of really impressive bruising to come.

Ricochet bullet and the resulting injury
Fortunately she didn’t require much more than a bandaid to keep the blood off her clothes.  We moved all the shooting back another 2 yards to increase the distance.

Because we were a tight little knot of people we saw it land and we found the bullet.

Ricocheted .45 ACP bullet
Recovered ricochet deformed .45 ACP bullet

The lead ricochet weighs 185 grains from a 230 gr copper jacketed .45 ACP.  We know this because only one person was shooting and we simply asked what he was shooting.

Compare this to the mushroomed 230 gr copper jacketed .45 ACP bounced off the mudstone (it never hit steel).  The ricochet off steel has more sharp edges and is a little more aerodynamic.  They were also found at two different distances indicating the mushroom had far less energy than the ricochet bullet.

What I think happened is the bullet hit the edge of the steel plate, smeared some of its mass off and bounced off the mudstone and then it was on its way to my wife’s arm.  Examination of the bullet seems to show two distinct impact surfaces.

The color is real, most of the swelling is a wide angle lens effect
A day or two later... Ouch!!!  Most of the swelling is a photographic artifact of using a wide angle lens for a close-up.  This is an upper arm.  Imagine your face or eyes.

I always ask, is there valuable content here or just yak-yakking?

Well, in the city with its steel and concrete, ricochets are likely.  Hollow points can minimize this problem, but not prevent it.  So even if you’re not an active participant, you could be injured by Betty, the bouncing bullet.  

As a participant it could be your Betty Bullet that injures a bystander.  Even worse, you could be injured by a bounce back and blinded or incapacitated.  Think about your target and not only what’s behind it, but what obstacles might obscure the path to it.  Under stress you might not even see those parking meters.

So always wear safety glasses.  You can find nice stylish ones in tints and colors that wrap around your face.  At night wear the cool yellow ones that help reduce glare.  Do this constantly and you will be soon be known as Joe Kool, but the joke will be on them.

Don’t scrimp with cheap glasses!

On the range, I suggest wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants, a ball cap as well as eye and ear protection, of course.  Increased distance from the firing line to backstop might help.  If your backstop is tall enough, consider what might happen if you pull the steel out another two yards.  The first ricochet has farther to go before hitting the backstop.

Flexible rubber barriers between the targets and backstop could help too.  I used to shoot at a range that hung industrial conveyor belts behind the targets but in front of the backstop made of steel belted tires.  That really stopped the bounce back.

Move everyone but the safety officer and shooter back from the firing line.

Nobody is reporting good results with frangible bullets.  There is no data, no penetration studies, not even stopping power discussions by lying pathological gun writers.  Frangible bullets haven’t reached the required state of development that they provide good penetration, expand in tissue and disintegrate if they hit anything harder than bone.  But someday they might, so keep an open mind about them. 

They might be the magic bullet we want.