The Cornered Cat

If you dry fire a handgun in your home, you will need to be prepared in case your gun loads itself when you are not looking.  This means you will need a backstop that would definitely stop a handgun bullet.  You must be certain that an unintended shot could not possibly do any harm other than minor property damage. 1

What will stop a handgun bullet in the average home? Not an interior wall. Not a standard exterior wall unless it is made from solid brick. Not the couch, not the TV, not the front door.

A two-to-three-foot thick stack of phone books, positioned with the books’ faces toward the shooter, would stop a bullet.  For convenience, you could place these phone books inside a cardboard box, to be pulled out when dry firing and put away out of sight at other times. Or you could cover the box with a decorative tablecloth, removing it for dry fire and replacing it afterward.

A brick fireplace would stop a bullet — but stand back and watch your angles. There is a ricochet potential.

The cement wall in your basement would stop a bullet (ditto ricochet potential).

A very crowded bookshelf, with no airspace between books, would stop a bullet if you fire from the long end. Do not dry fire straight into the spines of the books. Instead, aim at the side of the bookcase, so an unexpected bullet would travel the entire width of the bookshelf before coming to rest somewhere between the pages.

A bullet-resistant vest, hung on the wall, would stop abullet.

A Safe Direction practice pad, while spendy, can be a real godsend for people who must travel and who need a lightweight, easily portable safe backstop.

A five-gallon bucket of sand would stop a bullet. This could be disguised inside a decorative basket, with a fake houseplant such as a ficus tree plunked inside the sand bucket. Such a contraption is a handy place to point your firearm when you must load, unload, or disassemble it (especially in the case of Glocks and other designs which require you to pull the trigger during the disassembly process).

Obviously any or all of these things will result in property damage if you shoot them. The bulletproof vest, for example, would subsequently be useless. Replacing the books would be a drag. Undinging brick or cement walls is difficult; getting sand out of the carpet is nigh unto impossible. But minor property damage is acceptable — uncontained bullets are not.


  1. And embarrassment.