Airgun pellet catcher – what is the ideal choice?

If you’re looking for an airgun pellet catcher with minimal noise and risk of ricochet, then Roddy McCafferty has the perfect solution.

Roddy already owned a BSA target holder, some scrap wood and a couple of wood screws, so the only real expense was the Blu Tack itself

If you are new to the wonderful world of airgun sports then you’ll want to get in as much practice as possible in order to become really proficient with your new purchase.

But it’s important to realise that airguns, whether sub-12 foot pound rifles
or lesser-powered pistols, are certainly not toys. Given the correct angle and a good tailwind, an air rifle pellet can travel 400 yards or so. And the air pistol, even at the more modest six foot pounds of maximum muzzle energy, can have a range of 350 yards.

When I was younger and more prone to demonstrating my prowess (showing off), I used to sit tin cans out at longer plinking ranges and proceed to hit more cans than my rifle-equipped competitors (shades of Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars).

Anyway, I digress. The point is that the first thing to do before you start shooting is to establish an effective and reliable way to stop those pellets, and that means a pellet catcher and a decent backstop to ensure your shooting is always safe, even if you miss the main target.

Roddy’s choice of material and design tick all the relevant boxes for safety and silence, as well as the ability to recycle all that valuable lead
This .177 pellet shows the deformation it sustained after hitting the Blu Tack – it didn’t even make its way through to the metal holder behind

Lucky for us, there is a perfect material that’s readily available and is relatively inexpensive that catches lead alloy airgun pellets really well – and that material is Blu Tack. It has the properties of a “non-Newtonian fluid”, and what this means is that the faster and harder it is struck with an airgun pellet, then the harder it resists that impact.

To prove the point I tested a variety of pellets at contact distance with three full-powered rifles of different calibres. The pellets all stuck in the gummy material and actually deformed. So having now found a good catching material, I then went to work on building a backstop and chose a scrap piece of MDF board that I had lying around. 

Wood on its own does not make a good backstop. If it’s too soft, pellets can travel straight through it, while if it’s too hard, pellets can bounce off, but MDF is perfectly safe to use when covered with Blu Tack, and the more, the better.

Wood isn’t the best material to use as a backstop on its own, but this sheet is being clad in Blu Tack and will be placed in front of some paving slabs

While the Blu Tack will catch the pellet, it’s still a very good idea to make your backstop as substantial as possible, so a metal sheet would be an even better choice. Responsible actions like this demonstrate that you are taking your sport seriously and may calm the natural fears of a caring parent or concerned neighbour.

You are the ambassador of your sport wherever you go, so it is good practice to start as you intend to proceed by letting folk know you are a good, trustworthy person.

Anyway, ample Blu Tack stuck to your back board will provide a really good backstop. It could also be used as a basic target holder on its own because paper sticks easily to this material. That was its initial purpose anyway!

But as I already owned a metal BSA target holder, I decided to modify this
too and place it in front of my backstop. For ease of use I made an inverted T-piece out of wood and attached my metal pellet catcher to it with two wood screws.

Roddy made an inverted T-shaped wooden frame out of some offcuts of wood so his BSA pellet catcher could be used freestanding

For extra safety I put more Blu Tack cladding on the exposed wood at the front of my inverted T-piece. This prevents any chance of a pellet rebound, so is an extra layer of safety, both for myself and any interested onlookers.

If folk know shooting airguns is safe as well as being fun, then they are more likely to want to have a go themselves. The shooting sports need as many people on their side as possible, so keep it safe!

If you are shooting outside then you can always use a few garden canes and some brightly coloured string to make lanes so that no one can cross into the shooting zone. I am sure you can come up with your own good ideas and innovations.

If you have followed these basic ideas you will have a pretty safe target practice setup for your air rifle or pistol. I find that two layers of Blu Tack strips is adequate to catch lead alloy pellets at 10 yards or more.

Still it is pretty inexpensive to buy, so adding an extra layer or two will provide you with a longer shooting session before you need to remove the pellets from the Blu Tack and reform the material. 

Some of the pellets I fired had become “welded” to each other by pressure impact. It is easy to remove the lead with a small metal tool and save it for recycling. I use an empty tin can to contain the spent pellets until I can get them sold to the scrap dealer and buy more ammo with the proceeds!

Got your backstop set up? Read more about pellets

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