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Last fall, I made a bullet trap for my cap and ball pistols from a full-sized printer paper box. This is the kind of box in which the top slips over the bottom half.
First, I cut a scrap of 1/4 inch plywood to fit just within the box, and put it on the bottom.
Then, I put a layer of newspapers about three inches thick.
Note, a typical newspaper is too short to completely fill the top of the box, so I rolled newspapers and stuffed them in this cavity as I went along.
After this layer of newspaper, I put in another piece of close-fitting scrap 1/4 inch plywood. Then I added another three or four inches of newspaper. Then I stood in the box to compress the newspaper a bit.
Every three or four inches of newspaper, I put in a close-fitting piece of plywood. This was done until the box was completely filled to the brim. Finally, I placed another close-fitting scrap of 1/4 inch plywood on top of the layers and compressed the contents level with the top of the box.
The top of the box was then slipped over the inner box and attached together with plenty of duct tape all the way around the edges.
The result is a bullet trap that weighs about 30 pounds.
While at Wal Mart, in a discount bin, I found a strap-adjustable lumber carrier with a handle. This made a perfect handle for the box. I simply looped the strap around the box, secured it with its Velcro closure and voila! A handle on top of the box for easy carrying!
A rope handle on top of the box would work as well. Handling and carrying 30 pounds of dead weight in a box this size is cumbersome without the handle.
In use, the box is stood on end, facing the shooter.
A target printed on 8-1/2X11-inch paper fits nicely on the front. Affix targets with a staple gun, the type used for home projects and not the office types.
I set my staple gun to leave the staple projecting a bit from the surface. A thin screwdriver blade inserted under the staple pops it free of the target easily.
After shooting for nearly a year, the box was finally splitting along its seams. Also, I was curious to see how much lead was in it.
So, I went to the local gravel pit and shot into it for the last time. Then, I slit the box open with a sharp knife.
This is a messy job, as you can imagine, because much of the paper in the center of the box is reduced to a fine, fibrous powder. A piece of screen with 1/8 inch grid helped separate the bullets from the powder.
I brought along a large garbage sack to sift into, so I wouldn't leave a mess at the range. This worked well.
Don't slit this box open at home or you'll release a cloud of paper powder and confetti --- and Mama will bury you in your OWN box.
I had to pick through large hunks of paper and plywood around the outer edges of the box, where bullets rarely struck, so it's a tedious job disassembling one of these bullet traps for the lead.
Took me about an hour.
But the reward was about 10 pounds of clean lead balls for the melting pot.
Also, I was able to examine the balls and see the rifling around their edges and other items of interest.
Some balls carried the heavily greased felt wad with them all the way into the box. This was a shock! I believed that the felt wad would fly off upon leaving the muzzle.
Now, I'm thinking that perhaps I should seat a thin, waxed paper wad between ball and felt wad, to discourage adherence. I think the waxed paper from a milk carton would be perfect for such a wad.
Those who cast their own bullets often find it difficult to find pure, soft lead free or even at low prices. Recycling your lead balls gives you a constant source for the bullet mould.
Many of the balls I fired were made by Speer, Hornady and Warren Muzzleloading --- companies that pride themselves on having very soft lead balls. A quick check with my fingernail verifies that their lead is, indeed, very soft.
As for penetration in the box:
The .44 and .36 caliber balls penetrated about halfway into the box. An occasional ball went about 3/4 into the box. I found two pockmarks at the rearmost piece of plywood, indicating a ball had struck it and bounced back into the box.
This probably occurred that very day, when the much-used paper in the box offered very little resistance.
None of the balls went out the back of the box.
I also shot a few conical bullets over the past year, and found they penetrated only a little deeper than a round ball.
While testing a new .22 pistol a while ago, I used the box for a target holder. Surprisingly, most of these .22-caliber bullets penetrated nearly the depth of the box.
Is the .22 more powerful than the .36 or .44 ball? Noooooo, but having less of an area, and pointed like a drill bit, it doesnt' have as much frictional drag on its surface as the balls.
Anyway, if you wish to recover your lead balls from a revolver, this is how to do it.
I'm certain that the lead balls from a rifle would go through the box, just as most of today's pistol bullets would zip through it.
Some of the stouter .44s (Ruger, Walker, Dragoons) with conical bullets might zip through it too. If you shoot these, I'd suggest 3/4 inch plywood for the baffles and placing a plywood baffle every two inches or so.
I used 1/4 inch plywood because it was free.
But if you only shoot cap and ball revolvers with lead balls --- and the occasional .22 pistol --- you can capture your lead with this cheap trap as I've outlined above.
Most offices have a few empty printer paper boxes sitting around, free for the taking.
A large box might be used to capture .58 caliber rifle balls and Minie' bullets but it would be a heavy thing to lug around. Perhaps two of the above traps, one behind the other, would do it.
The bullet trap is certainly cheap enough to make, to warrant some experimentation.
 
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