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various shooting targets

A Guide To Shooting Targets

While shooting at bottles and cans are great, cheap fun, more serious shooting is going to involve some shooting targets. While perhaps not strictly necessary (more on that in a minute) the fact is that paper targets let a person dial in their accuracy to an even greater degree and also keep track of groupings.

A person shooting for more than just fun - say to dial in shooting skills for concealed carry, competition or hunting - should get the most out of their time at the shooting range. Targets are a tool to do so.

Paper Shooting Targets: Easy, Cheap and Efficacious

paper targets

The simplest, most widespread, most economical and the most effective type of targets are paper targets. Paper targets are also the most diverse, as there are so many different varieties. There are paper bullseye targets, paper silhouette targets, image-based targets (such as a torso/upper body) and so on.

The first great thing about them is that they're cheap and they're everywhere. They're also recyclable, if you care about that sort of thing.

Bullseye targets are the most common, of course. They can be mere sheets of paper, though some are made with sticky backing - think of it as an enormous sticker - for easy application onto a larger object at the range.

Metal Targets for Low-Tech Reactive Shooting

shooting targets guide

Metal targets are bits of essentially metal plate. Just like paper targets, they are incredibly diverse and they also happen to be the most basic of reactive targets as metal targets aren't generally perforated by bullets the way a paper target is.

The reaction of the target depends on the target. Some, like a gong target, merely make a noise. Some fall over. Some metal targets, like a gunfighter tree, spin after being hit.

Some metal targets feature a free-floating target plate behind a larger plate, like a plate floating behind a silhouette that one shoots at through a hole roughly where the chest cavity would be.

Other Reactive Targets

reactive targets

There are other types of reactive targets as well. Small hard foam "jumping targets" are very fun, as they "jump" when you hit them. Keeping one in constant motion is difficult.

Another type that's popular with the hunting crowd are essentially hard foam cubes, usually about the size of a small cooler. They fall over when struck, and can be used as a firearm or archery target.

Also popular are bowling pin targets. Essentially, one suspends a bowling pin in some fashion - like tapping a hole through the center and threading a metal rod through it - and the bowling pin reacts to being shot. Spinning bowling pin targets are quite popular...and a lot of fun!

There are much more advanced reactive targets available, such as those employed in defensive pistol shootings sports and combat ranges, though such targets are not necessarily used often by most shooters. Not many shooters have access to a range that has such targets available.

Silhouette Targets

silhouette targets

Silhouette targets can be metal or paper, and can be reactive or nonreactive. They also happen to be among the most useful for developing practical accuracy. Some metallic silhouette targets are shaped in the form of a miniature animal, or a cowboy or some along those lines. Such targets were formerly a prominent shooting sport, but it has fallen out of fashion.

More common silhouette targets are shaped something like the torso or upper body of a person. Paper silhouette targets are often used in pistol qualification shoots, and for good reason. Silhouette targets, such as the FBI's QIT bottle targets, simulate shooting for vital areas, so they are very good for teaching a person to reliably hit center mass.

Such targets are the default in many pistol shooting sports as well.

As an added bonus, you can even use Alien Gear's free downloadable 8.5" x 11" target for when you're at the range:

Sam Hoober

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.