steel railroad rails safe

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crsteven
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steel railroad rails safe

Post by crsteven »

Have some steel railroad rails to setup my own range for small bore. Someone suggested they wouldn't be safe because of ricochet, true or is there a setup to get around the issue?
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Re: steel railroad rails safe

Post by cedestech »

Don't see how they could be much different then square tubing or angle iron that I have seen on most other target stands even at 40 yards. The soft lead when hit at anything close to a right angle the round tends to fragment as opposed to fly off in a big chunk.
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acorneau
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Re: steel railroad rails safe

Post by acorneau »

Like Emmett says, if you're just shooting normal lead standard velocity rounds you have nothing to worry about.

If you start shooting steel BB's or jacketed centerfire rounds at it then you need to be careful.
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Re: steel railroad rails safe

Post by atomicbrh »

I use them for smallbore and have not had any trouble.
Mine are sitting on short treated ground contact 4 X4's at 90 degrees to the rails to get the rails off the ground some to make the targets easier to see.
Some ranges have grader glades, steel angle, drill pipe, full backing plates and all kinds of things that bullets hit at odd angles.
Railroad iron is no different from those things. I have noticed some people put wood in front of their rails because they are afraid of that railroad rail curve but they get splintered up and have to be frequently replaced. Wood is too expensive to do that now.
The weird thing about railroad iron is that when somebody has it, it cannot be recycled like other scrap steel except by a railroad company.
The scrap companies will simply not accept it because the meth addicts will cut it up into sections for scrap. Your area may be different.
My neighbor is a supervisor for a railroad company that builds railroad tracks, bridges and crossings.
He can get me all the crossties I want, but cannot get me rails.
When I turned up with rails, he was curious about how I got them.
If somebody has rails, they should give them to you for free because they actually have zero value.
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Re: steel railroad rails safe

Post by MOTO VITA »

atomicbrh wrote: Sun Oct 10, 2021 5:27 pm I use them for smallbore and have not had any trouble.
Mine are sitting on short treated ground contact 4 X4's at 90 degrees to the rails to get the rails off the ground some to make the targets easier to see.
Some ranges have grader glades, steel angle, drill pipe, full backing plates and all kinds of things that bullets hit at odd angles.
Railroad iron is no different from those things. I have noticed some people put wood in front of their rails because they are afraid of that railroad rail curve but they get splintered up and have to be frequently replaced. Wood is too expensive to do that now.
The weird thing about railroad iron is that when somebody has it, it cannot be recycled like other scrap steel except by a railroad company.
The scrap companies will simply not accept it because the meth addicts will cut it up into sections for scrap. Your area may be different.
My neighbor is a supervisor for a railroad company that builds railroad tracks, bridges and crossings.
He can get me all the crossties I want, but cannot get me rails.
When I turned up with rails, he was curious about how I got them.
If somebody has rails, they should give them to you for free because they actually have zero value.
That's interesting, I've been eyeing a small stack of rails near my house. About ten years ago the county reconfigured an intersection and pulled them up and left them lying there. The tracks served a large,long closed, WW 2 era foundry, I suspect that they may have belonged to the foundry. No one would miss them but I wouldn't be comfortable cutting them up and loading them.
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Re: steel railroad rails safe

Post by atomicbrh »

I would look up the county tax records to find out who owns the property where the rails are located and contact the owner to see if they will give the rails to you. You are actually doing a good thing for them because it is just not worth it for them financially to go to the expense of hauling it to the scrap yard. I will be out on the smallbore range later today and measure the lengths mine are cut to. All it takes to make them manageable is a torch.
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Re: steel railroad rails safe

Post by MOTO VITA »

atomicbrh wrote: Mon Oct 11, 2021 5:52 am I would look up the county tax records to find out who owns the property where the rails are located and contact the owner to see if they will give the rails to you. You are actually doing a good thing for them because it is just not worth it for them financially to go to the expense of hauling it to the scrap yard. I will be out on the smallbore range later today and measure the lengths mine are cut to. All it takes to make them manageable is a torch.
The county shows no parcel # or owner for the land. I guess it's an aboned BNSF right of way, if I follow the right of way to where there are active tracks its shown as BNSF but there is still no parcel # or owner listed. There are nearby parcels that are listed as "OWNER, USA" and "Taxpayer. Bonnevile Power Administration". That seems pretty weird in itself. I'm pretty sure that if I could find someone to ask the answer would be no, just to get rid of me, but as i said no one would miss them if they were gone. I'm wondering if railroad right of ways are federal property, anybody know?
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Re: steel railroad rails safe

Post by atomicbrh »

My neighbor retired from the railroad and then went to work for the company that has a contract with the railroad to build track, bridges, crossings,etc.
Your scrap rails are probably in that limbo where the rails are not owned by the company that installs them but the railroad does not care about them because rails are the contractor's responsibility. What I would do is find out which company maintains the rails, look for the supervisor in the truck not in a office somewhere or the guy running the welding/contouring machine and ask for the rails. There is no clickety/clack gaps in railroad rails anymore. The gaps are welded and contoured by a machine. So those rails you see are probably out of spec and obsolete.
My rail sections were already cut at 54 inches. I use stake type stands for Rams or swingers. So you might need longer sections for rams?
I do not have any pads, marks or paint on the rails. I put a bank of 5 chickens, pigs or turkeys on each 54 inch section with a gap between sections of rail to place a swinger or a paper target stand.
I put a target on each end. Then it is easy to judged where to put the middle target and then #2 and #4.
I have a few 1/5 scale targets that did not cast perfect and will not sit that securely on a individual pad. One thing I really like about railroad rail is that you can move those less than perfect target a few fractions of an inch backward or forward on top of that rail and they will balance and sit perfect.
My advice is to figure out how to get those rails before a dopehead thinks they can scrap them for money and steals them.
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Re: steel railroad rails safe

Post by MOTO VITA »

These are torn up rails on an abondoned line there is no maintenance, and I'm sure you're right about them being obsolete, there only value would be as scrap. I know nobody would miss them, I just don't like the idea of having to explain what I'm doing to a Deputy who just happens to be driving by while I'm cutting them up (they're right next to a county road). I know if they were in manageable lengths they would be long gone. I'll keep thinking on it.
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Re: steel railroad rails safe

Post by atomicbrh »

All it takes to get them legally is somebody with the railroad, county government, rail maintenance company or property owner of the old foundry signing their name on some paper you write up. The length of the rails is not what is preventing them from being stolen by the druggies but the fact that the scrap yard cannot legally pay a individual for rail. If scrap yards paid for rail, railroad companies would cease to exist because the druggies would pull up every rail in the country. They can do amazing things overnight. We were at a park about 40 minutes away a few weeks ago. The soccer fields there had some of the tallest light poles I had ever seen considering they were wood. They were tall enough to be transmission line height and quality. Looking closely we noticed some doper had climbed dozens of these nice poles and cut the wire close to the housings right at the top. Mrs. atomicbrh asked me how they could do that without a bucket truck. I told her they were probably crazy enough to use a climbing stand like deer hunters use.
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Re: steel railroad rails safe

Post by pdeal »

Regarding the danger- I assume the rails are sitting either upside down (animals sitting on the flat bottom) or right side up (animals sitting on the top)?

I do think with the exposed rail there may be a decent risk of a bullet coming back at pretty good speed with a very particular type hit to the rail. If you look at the side of the rail it has nice radius corners. If you hit tangent to one of these radii I think the bullet might just follow the contour right around the rail and come back at you. If you welded a piece of flat bar along the side this would be prevented. Sketch below

Left side shows my ricochet idea, Right side is my flat bar ricochet prevention idea.
Rail Ricochete.JPG
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Re: steel railroad rails safe

Post by acorneau »

Pete,

Yes, the rail is usually set bottom-up.

I have shot at several ranges with these kinds of rails and the ammo that we shoot (standard velocity lead) can't hold itself together, it just flattens and/or fragments on impact.

Of course I would never say "never" but the chance of a ricochet off one of these rails is really, really low. You have more of a chance skipping a shot off the top of the rail sending it over a berm.
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Re: steel railroad rails safe

Post by atomicbrh »

These soft lead smallbore bullets have never been a "JFK magic bullet" problem with enough energy and integrity to hold together and follow a contour. When Winnsboro was going hot and heavy, a spotting scope would reveal what looked like a agitated hornet's nest at the target rails. So many bullets bouncing around out there that it was difficult to see the path and hit of our own bullet. We would think, "How can there be a single target left standing with all these bullets flying around?" We have the flat down and curve up to make poorly cast targets sit more steady. When we shot USPSA Steel Challenge and One on One Steel matches, a jacketed bullet was always used. It was nothing to get cut by fragments of those jacketed bullets. I have been cut on the arms many times and on the cheek just under the safety glasses once. The worst to me was to have the jacket fragments scratch the paint off the roof of my truck. After I noticed that, I tried to park where it would not happen. During these handgun matches, there might be as many as 9 different courses of fire set up with each course of fire on its own individual range surrounded by massive berms. Almost every time somebody got cut, it was not from the course of fire we were on but something coming over a berm during a down time for scoring, painting or shooter switch. The main lesson was put safety glasses on before you get out of the truck and keep them on all day. This lesson was emphasized in the safety meetings. And yes the courses of fire and shooter to target distances were carefully measured out to meet USPSA safety regulations. I typed all this just to explain how other nonsilhouette disciplines think about ricochets.
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Re: steel railroad rails safe

Post by OldRanger »

At our range in MT one day Dave Bonner came up to me and said "Kris, I didn't want to say anything, but I don't think this range is safe." I was a little taken aback and said "What do you mean?" He said "I just got hit in the penis with a ricochet!" He then pointed to a hole in his sock and said "See!"

:))


We used railroad rails for years, I never heard of an issue. Other than Dave of course.
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Re: steel railroad rails safe

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atomicbrh wrote: Thu Oct 14, 2021 6:43 am These soft lead smallbore bullets have never been a "JFK magic bullet" problem with enough energy and integrity to hold together and follow a contour. When Winnsboro was going hot and heavy, a spotting scope would reveal what looked like a agitated hornet's nest at the target rails. So many bullets bouncing around out there that it was difficult to see the path and hit of our own bullet. We would think, "How can there be a single target left standing with all these bullets flying around?" We have the flat down and curve up to make poorly cast targets sit more steady. When we shot USPSA Steel Challenge and One on One Steel matches, a jacketed bullet was always used. It was nothing to get cut by fragments of those jacketed bullets. I have been cut on the arms many times and on the cheek just under the safety glasses once. The worst to me was to have the jacket fragments scratch the paint off the roof of my truck. After I noticed that, I tried to park where it would not happen. During these handgun matches, there might be as many as 9 different courses of fire set up with each course of fire on its own individual range surrounded by massive berms. Almost every time somebody got cut, it was not from the course of fire we were on but something coming over a berm during a down time for scoring, painting or shooter switch. The main lesson was put safety glasses on before you get out of the truck and keep them on all day. This lesson was emphasized in the safety meetings. And yes the courses of fire and shooter to target distances were carefully measured out to meet USPSA safety regulations. I typed all this just to explain how other nonsilhouette disciplines think about ricochets.
Very true. Many years of USPSA, ICORE, IDPA and 3 Gun matches from all over the country I've seen (literally) dozens of people hit by full lead, bullet jackets and various kinds of shot which rebound/ricochets/bouncing off of steel/redirected by old bent/concave steel general stupidity and just incredible bad/weird luck. I've also seen pepper face from both ends of a gun due to poor loading and various gun failures and pieces of lead and bullets jackets from hits on (mainly) steel targets back to the face. And since OldRanger brought it up I was at a match in Buffalo TX - mid 70s - when a guy got hit right on the prong with full lead .40 bullet that rebounded off of a full sized popper made of mild steel which had taken a concave bend in the center. He was running the timer for the shooter on a Classifier. Actual blood blister resulting. It wasn't at sock level however...

Personally never saw a bullet come back to the line off of a railroad rail but.....

Wear glasses ALL the time at the range. Make your kids wear glasses even though they do have a spare eye.
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