USA –-(Ammoland.com)- Many “gun games” require very specific types of targets. There are paper target sports like NRA High Power, steel target sports like silhouettte, clay target sports like trap and skeet, and even things like 3-Gun where you might see paper, steel and clays all on one stage.
There are even really complicated setups like “Gnat Shooting,” a shotgun game from England that has a remote-control drone with explosive targets on its belly.
Besides all the organized shooting sports, there’s also the time-honored tradition of plinking out on the “back 40,” where just about anything might serve as a target. I’ll confess to having destroyed a faulty toaster on my backyard range. Of course, we cleaned up the mess and disposed of the remains properly.
No matter if I’m competing in an organized sport, or just plinking on my own range, there are some targets that I enjoy shooting over and over. So I compiled this list of my favorites. While I do love splattering cheap 2-liter sodas – especially the orange, red and yellow flavors – I restricted this list to only objects that are made specifically as targets.
So here’s my list of the Top Five Targets For Shooting Fun.
Paper targets are very common, cheap, and easy to set up. Many shooters carry a staple gun in their range bag just for hanging paper targets. But paper can be sort of boring, and sometimes it’s hard to see your hits, especially if you’re more than a few yards away. Birchwood Casey’s Shoot-N-C ( http://goo.gl/xMlgJ0 ) targets flake off ink, revealing a contrasting color below, making it easy to see hits.
Yeah, it’s still paper. But you do get instant target feedback. And they’re peel-and-stick, so you don’t’ have to tote around that staple gun anymore. Best of all, Shoot-N-C targets are relatively cheap. You won’t break the bank at around 13 cents per target for a 48-pack.
4) Clay Pigeons
Clay pigeons, or clay birds, or just plain old “clays” are cheap, available just about everywhere, and a ton of fun. There’s nothing like vaporizing a clay into a cloud of dark dust with a perfectly-executed shotgun blast. Not only are they great aerial targets, you can hang clays on little t-posts or put them in holders ( http://goo.gl/l0J9eh ) as static targets, as is often done in 3-Gun. You can even place them right on the target berm for great handgun and rifle targets.
One of my favorite pastimes was to invite friends over for backyard clays on my personal range. Once the shotgunning was done, we’d grab some of the bigger pieces of clay birds, set them on the berm, and snipe the little orange bits with a scoped .22 from 40 yards or so. We got two great uses out of the clay birds that way.
The downside of clays is that you need a thrower of some sort to properly launch them for shotguns. That can be as simple as a hand thrower, or something like the AT-250 automatic. If you shoot a bunch of clays, they can leave debris. More and more clays are made of biodegradable material that eventually erodes away in nature.
3) Static Steel Targets
I love steel targets. I remember the very first time I ever hit a steel silhouette target at 1,000 yards during a long-range rifle course. The faint “clang” of the bullet hitting metal -delayed a few seconds after the sound of the shot – was pure magic. You can get a lot of enjoyment out of steel that’s designed to stand still, or maybe swing back and forth when struck. One great, durable static target is the MGM IPSC Target with post and base. Want some color and movement to verify a hit? A flash target is the ticket, and often found at 3-Gun matches.
I also really love plate racks. You can shoot down all the plates and tug the strap to reset them – without leaving the firing line. Shoot, reset and repeat – until you run out of ammo or wear blisters on your trigger finger.
Steel can be expensive up front, and must be put far enough down range to avoid bullet and jacket fragment splash back. Also, they are usually rated for certain calibers. Shoot steel only with the calibers for which it is rated. But steel typically lasts for years, and delivers a whole lot of shooting fun.
2) Moving Steel Targets
Moving steel targets combine durability and auditory feedback with movement, making them double the fun. My personal favorite is a Texas star or Whirlygig ( http://goo.gl/Hazdbc ) , as MGM targets calls them. The first shot is easy, but then whole contraption starts spinning and swinging. The only thing I don’t like about whirlygigs is setting them back up, but it’s totally worth it just to knock them down again!
Another moving steel target I really like is a dueling tree, such as the one from Action Target ( http://goo.gl/yaR6y0 ) . It lets you compete against another shooter. A shooting buddy, some semi-auto .22s and a dueling tree is a recipe for a whole lot of fun. The most fun is flipping your buddy’s target back immediately after he – or she – flips it to your side.
If you, or your gun club, or your group of shooting buddies can pool some cash and get a few targets like these, they are completely worth it. You’ll spend hours and hours shooting them and love every second of it.
Compared to all the paper, clay and steel I’ve shot over the years, I’ve barely used any exploding targets at all. But I want badly to change that. Targets that vanish with a flash of light, cloud of smoke and very loud BOOM make me happy.
I’ve grinned, giggled and fist-pumped shooting paper, clay and steel. But when I shoot exploding targets, I often laugh so hard that I have to put the gun down so I don’t drop it because I’m running out of breath and my side is cramping. I’ve witnessed bystanders who weren’t shooting howl with laughter and exchange high-fives and chest-bumps when somebody else connected with an exploding target.
Exploding targets are that awesome – range spectators get as much enjoyment as the shooter. Of course, the problem with exploding targets is that they explode, and as such require knowledge, certain safety precautions, and can be used only in certain places. You can get exploding targets ( http://goo.gl/pFutjH ) for centerfire calibers, and in rimfire formula ( http://goo.gl/NiIMEO ) that .22s can set off.
Just Do It
Shooting is fun, even if all you’re doing is punching holes in a standard paper target. For a really great time, get your hands on some of these interesting targets. Not only will you have more fun, these types of targets are great for introducing new shooters to the range. The more fun they have, the more likely they are to become gun owners themselves. Just make sure you understand all how bullets interact with each of these targets, and take the proper safety precautions.
Thomas Conroy is a firearms aficionado and writer who lives in the Midwest.