Discovery of quiet ammo means a return to the backyard shooting range

“What the hell is the matter with you?” came the voice from above.

It’s a question I’ve grown accustomed to. It seems there is a rather significant disparity in perceptions of what one might consider normal. Perhaps it is a gender thing, as the question seems mostly to come from the female of the species, in this case, my used-to-be wife.

Best my memory serves me, the first time I heard it was at age 3, when my mother, upon noticing I had stopped along the sidewalk of Main Street in the small town we lived near to pee on the red bricks of the bank, wanted to know what the hell was the matter with me. Being a farm kid who peed wherever the urge took, I didn’t understand the problem.

Funny that no one asked me the question when I got married too young, or when I made the youthful mistake of thinking I should buy a house in town to start things off right in the strange enterprise of matrimony.

To that point, I had always lived in rural settings, where I could walk out the front — or back — door and shoot. It had not occurred to me how important that was until it was taken away. Gone were the days of working up loads for my rifles and testing them instantly, and adjusting and checking again. The ritual of shooting a little bit every day was no longer an option for me. I was a member of the gun club and I could go when time allowed, but driving to the range to shoot a few rounds wasn’t always an option.

Then in late December, we were having one of those stretches of below-zero weather and, coupled with the lack of daylight, I wasn’t getting to the range much. One of those days I was in the crawlspace, looking for something, and it occurred to me that if I dug a hole deep enough to stand in at one end, and put a backstop at the other end, I could practice offhand shooting with my .22 rifle. I was competing in silhouette shooting at the time, practice was important, and I figured the noise would be confined to the crawlspace.

When my wife was gone, I would take a shovel and dig like a gopher, and in a short time I had my range set up. I reasoned that if I only shot when she was gone, she would never know.


It turned out my timing was off, and with earmuffs on, I didn’t hear her come home early. It also turned out that the shooting could be heard outside the house. My indoor range was short-lived.

So I spent a lot of time on the range, and then entered law enforcement, where the job found me on the range constantly. Nevertheless, I missed the freedom of rural life. The niceties of paved streets, plowed roads and regular electricity just never meant that much.

“Guess we would be able to shoot out here,” Christine had said as we walked around the place that we would eventually buy. During the first look around the property, we heard the sound of gunfire all around us, and after we bought the place, we realized there was a commercial shooting range a half-mile away as the crow flies.

The property on one side was bordered by wooded ground, and no houses anywhere close. A high bank provided a safe backstop for all sorts of shooting. It took some time to get it the way we wanted it, but soon enough we had cleared the area for the range, had a bench for rifle shooting and a big deck where we could set up clay pigeon throwers and shoot right off it. By using biodegradable clay targets, we didn’t have to worry about clean-up. For us, it was a slice of paradise in our yard.

When we moved to our place, Jack and Gunner were our only dogs, and they were already conditioned to shooting. As we added puppies, we began to realize the benefit of a neighborhood that shoots a lot.

The pups grew up with the sound of gunfire as a normal part of day-to-day life. Parker, the mama to the litter of setters we kept, would go with us to the trap range on Sundays and fall asleep behind the firing line.

When the litter came, it was summertime, and as soon as they could get around we had them out on the deck all the time. They grew up with the sound of gunfire. At our yard range, we started with .22 rimfire shooting and gradually acclimated them to larger guns, with no issues. All of them went hunting and when they learned what the sound of a shotgun meant in the field, they were delighted by the noise.

Then one day, a few years later, a neighbor was shooting a loud rifle, and Colt, one of the setter pups, had a panic attack. He ran into the shop and crawled under a bench, shaking uncontrollably. We still don’t know what happened, and the strange thing is while in the field, shooting doesn’t bother him. We think something happened while we were gone that started this new behavior.

His anxiety with gunfire around the home is heartbreaking, and we’ve had to stop shooting. We’ve tried all sorts of remedies with little change. Even shooting a long-barreled .22 rimfire, which is relatively quiet, would tail-spin him. How awful must it be to be a dog named Colt, and be scared of gunfire.

Not long ago, while picking up a variety of .22 ammunition for load testing a new .22, I noticed a box of .22s marked “Quiet-22.” The box listed a muzzle velocity of 710 feet per second (fps), well below the 1125 fps that breaks the sound barrier and most of the sub-sonic .22 cartridges with a velocity of 1050 fps.

Fired from my 24-inch barreled, bolt action .22, the Quiet-22s make little sound, they are accurate (at least in my rifle), and the point of impact compared to high velocity .22 Long Rifle cartridges is just a bit low at 25 yards. I can shoot them at home, and Colt is comfortable with the slight sound. Over the past couple of months, I’ve shot them a lot and now have started shooting the sub-sonic versions, which are a bit louder, but Colt is doing OK with them as well.

The 710 fps cartridges are so quiet it seems you could shoot them almost anywhere, provided there is a safe backstop (their slow velocity does not change the safe procedures you use for all firearms), without offending or even drawing any attention from anyone.

They might even have saved me, at least one time, being asked what is the matter with me, and it makes me wish I still had a crawlspace.

Steve Meyer is a longtime Alaskan and avid shooter who lives in Kenai.

Steve Meyer | Alaska outdoors

Steve Meyer of Kenai is longtime Alaskan and an avid shooter who writes about guns and Alaska hunting. He's the co-author, with Christine Cunningham, of the book "The Land We Share: A love affair told in hunting stories."