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Catch a speeding bullet

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Catching a bullet traveling far faster than the speed of sound isn’t easy.

It was a problem that members of the Ashland Gun and Archery Club decided needed a little Yankee ingenuity.

They wanted to find an easier way to capture the lead and other metals that burrowed into dirt berms, so they created a bullet-proof bullet trap.

While there are similar traps on the market — particularly for indoor ranges — the club on Emigrant Creek Road needed something that could withstand the punishment of at least 10 years of outdoor shooting.

“I’ve never seen an outdoor range that has it,” said Cory Longiotti, owner of Ashland Muffler and Welding. His company helped with the design and fabrication of the trap, and his father, Bill Longiotti, was the key person at the club who saw the project through to completion.

Inside the one-ton trap, two steel plates angled in a V-shape help slow down the projectiles, and a 10-inch pipe with a narrow slit located at the apex acts like a deceleration chamber that spins out the remaining energy, until the fragments fall harmlessly into a bucket for easy retrieval.

“The key is the angle the bullets hit,” Cory Longiotti said.

After extensive testing in 2015, a prototype was developed, and the optimal angle to handle high-powered rounds came in at 22.5 degrees. This allows the bullet to enter the chamber and to begin effectively disintegrating along the interior steel wall. Most of the time, the bullets are unrecognizable by the time the fragments drop in the bucket.

The prototype used AR (abrasion resistant) 400, quarter-inch thick steel, but the club wanted something that would take a direct hit rather than a glancing blow, so they opted for high-end AR 500 steel that is a half-inch thick. AR 500 is the hardest commercially available steel.

The traps, which cost about $4,000 each, look like an A-frame house sitting on its side.

After more than a year of deployment, the traps show little wear and tear other than slight smearing along the steel walls.

And, interest in them has grown.

“We’ve had ranges in Albany and other places saying, ‘Would you build one of these?” Cory Longiotti said.

Bill Longiotti wrote a booklet on how the traps were designed, which he freely distributes to those interested in building their own.

He said the project was born out of necessity.

“To clean out the back berms would take us a week or more of sifting through the dirt,” he said.

Bill Longiotti is no stranger to inventing things. He’s built a carnival-styled shooting gallery, and he made a replica of a turn-of-the-last-century car.

He said he wanted a 4-by-8-foot area in the front of the trap. A sheet of plywood is mounted on the front, allowing a surface to mount multiple targets. The plywood is occasionally replaced and easily mounts with a few screws.

During the testing phase, Bill Longiotti said hundreds of rounds were fired, but he wanted to make sure the bullet traps could take on the ultimate challenge.

They shot .30-caliber, armor-piercing rounds at the prototype. “We didn’t expect the quarter-inch steel to do very well,” he said.

The armor-piercing bullets, which are not normally allowed at the range, only slightly gouged the AR 400 steel.

With the harder steel used in the final version of the traps, the surface has seen only bullet smears.

“It’s been functioning very well,” Bill Longiotti said. He estimates the traps could last up to 20 years.

The first trap was installed at the 200-yard mark, and another three were placed at 100 yards in May 2018.

Dave Dotterrer, president of the gun club, said a $12,000 grant from the Pittman Robertson Act of 1937 paid for almost three of the traps. Last year, the state received $140,000 of its share of the grant, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife distributed the money, collected from taxes on the sale of guns between manufacturer and wholesaler, to clubs throughout the state.

To receive the grant, the gun club had to provide a 30 percent match.

Dotterrer said Bill Longiotti has a knack for creating these type of inventions, and there’s talk of building more bullet traps on the other ranges at the club.

“He dreams this stuff up, and he’s really good at it,” he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune{ } Bill Longiotti fires a rifle at the Ashland Gun & Archery Club on Monday.
Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune{ } Bill Longiotti hangs up a target on a bullet trap at the Ashland Gun & Archery Club on Monday.