Hitting the "green" target at Valcartier firing range

Overview of the bullet catchers behind the targets that collect the projectiles.
Overview of the bullet catchers behind the targets that collect the projectiles.

Every day, bullets fly on the Nicosie firing range at the 2nd Canadian Division Support Base in Valcartier. Unlike at traditional firing ranges, the ecological footprint of this new “green” firing range has been greatly reduced with the new bullet retrieval boxes, designed in Canada by the team of researchers at Defence Research Development Canada (DRDC) Valcartier.

The Canadian Armed Forces have long shared ecological concerns about contaminants from spent bullets on their firing ranges. The solutions found abroad, however, were very costly. “Inspired by the need for an economical yet effective technology on the firing ranges, DCC, DRDC and the Institut national de la recherche scientifique researchers, and the environmental branch of the Land Force and 2nd Canadian Division Support Group in Valcartier worked together to come up with an innovative concept,” said Francis St-Georges, DCC Team Leader, Environmental Services.

Out of this inspirational partnership was born the first ecological firing range in Canada, specifically designed to reduce the quantity of contaminants leached into the surface water and ground water. To achieve this, the traditional firing range butts were cleaned up and renovated, and steel sandboxes were installed. These boxes, covered with a membrane that closes on itself after the bullet penetrates, captures metals from small arms projectiles, while also preventing seepage water from reaching the firing range’s water table.

In two years of extensive testing, these unique structures proved their effectiveness. An independent study estimates that, over a 20-year period of use, these bullet retrieval boxes are 54 times more cost-effective than traditional sand butts because they cut down on the frequency and cost of maintenance at the firing range. A double bonus!

“It is important to recognize the tireless efforts of Dominic Faucher, Coordinator, Environmental Services at DCC, who was directly involved — from the planning stage to the post-site operations stage — in managing firing range munition residues while also ensuring compliance with the Defence Environmental Strategy. Given the resounding success of this project, it should be adapted to other firing ranges with different climates in other parts of the country,” St-Georges concluded.

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