NAUGATUCK — The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is making changes to the High Rock Shooting Association range since a hiker found spent ammunition near a trail.
The hiker, who also shoots at the range, found spent bullets near the trail that runs behind range in the Naugatuck State Forest, about 600 feet off the range, on Nov. 28, DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain said.
State environmental conservation police investigated and found the spent bullets to be from the type of handguns that are fired at the range, Schain said. He said the bullets either skipped off the ground or ricocheted off metal targets.
“You never want to have the bullets like leaving the range area, but when they do skip or ricochet, the velocity is greatly decreased and there’s much less danger of getting struck by one,” Schain said.
No one was hurt by the stray bullets.
In response, the DEEP has closed the section of trail that runs behind the range and installed signs warning people away. The range faces a steep hill which rises behind the targets. Schain said closing the trail won’t inconvenience hikers as there are plenty of other paths to get them where they want to go. The closed section is not part of the state’s blue-blazed Metacomet trail which runs through the forest.
The DEEP also stopped allowing the use of metal targets and changed the direction of shooting for the line of fire for handguns so they are shooting toward the area where the backstop is the highest, Schain said.
He said the DEEP is working to expand the berm behind the range and has a long term plan to move hand gun shooting to a new area adjacent to the current range.
The High Rock Shooting Association has leased and managed the range from the state since 1989. It is open to the public on weekends and club members during the week. The Naugatuck Police Department also uses the range for training. The association currently has about 110 members, Schain said, and the range attracts about 7,000 shooters per year.
Schain said no one has found bullets outside the range since November and this is the first such incident in many years.
“It still should not happen,” Schain said. “That’s why we took the steps we did and we’re going to continue making improvements there.”
President of the association Ray Hanley declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation by DEEP.
Schain said the investigation concluded several months ago.
On the association’s Facebook page, Karen Anderson wrote that rule changes were made at the direction of the DEEP.
“We are working diligently to improve the safety of the range. Shooting pistols on the right and long guns on the left, may seem as an inconvenience to some, however we ask for your patience … The changes will remain in place until we are able to get all necessary improvements in place. This will take some time & I cannot provide a time frame, but please understand we are doing the best we can to comply and are working hard to keep the range open for all to continue to enjoy. The changes we’ve made beat the alternative,” Anderson wrote.
Nowhere on Facebook did the association mention the reason for the rules change.
Some people on the Facebook page said they hope the new rules are not permanent because it is inconvenient to run back and forth between lanes to shoot both pistols and rifles. Others said they liked pistols being separate because it helps control the loud noise from rifles.