Target Types, Part Two

The other type of target is everything but paper.  This includes steel, aluminum, and hard rubber targets. Some are the shape of dinner plates.  Others are novelty targets such as silhouettes of squirrels, rabbits and crows.  Some are in the shape of a torso.

This is a set of 5 steel dinner plate targets. In this photo, the shooter will be off to the right. As each plate is hit it falls backwards. After all five have fallen, from the shooter’s table, the shooter pulls a cord, and these targets reset, again sitting upright for the next round of fun.

I arrived at my outdoor range one day and noticed a man teaching his wife to shoot.  She was shooting his .38 snubnose at a close up paper target, and as I stood behind them and watched, I could tell with the expression on her face, she was having difficulty hitting the paper target let alone scoring bullseyes.  A .38 snubnose is a great little handgun, but not my first choice for a new shooter who has never held a gun, let alone fired one. 

The range we were at consisted of paper targets on the left side and steel targets on the right side.  The best way to teach new shooters is not to have them shoot for bullseyes.  Remember, as they are new, they will be shooting all over the place, assuming they hit the paper at all.  So, rather than having new shooters attempt to hit the bullseye, the best approach for live fire training is to have them shoot at a target which will instantly let them know they hit it.

This is a self-healing hard rubber target, designed specifically for .22s. As you can see, the target can hang from chains attached to the two holes on top.

To that end, I suggested this couple move to their right and shoot at the steel targets.  If the target is hit, the shooter will hear a distinctive metallic “plink” sound.  In addition, these targets are hanging from chains or on pivots, so they will move when hit, a visual cue you hit something.

The point here is that first time shooters simply need to see success right away.  They don’t want to or cannot afford to go through half a box of expensive ammo just to “get inside the black”, and that is where these other types come into play.  Those dinner plates the wife was hitting were 6” in diameter.  Small by steel target standards but large when compared to paper “bullseye” standards. 

The couple took my advice, moved to the right and the wife began shooting at steel 6” dinner plates, squirrels and rabbits.  After one or two missed initial shots she began hitting the targets.  The targets began gently swaying back and forth like a clock pendulum and the distinctive plinking sound was heard.  The wife turned around and gave me the biggest ear-to-ear grin, realizing she was finally hitting something.  So, a frustrating time at the range turned into a fun time at the range.

This type of novelty target is a 1/2″ thick steel gopher. It sits on the ground and when hit, say the head, it drops backwards. The base has a counterweight to automatically bring the target upright again.

The nice thing about these steel targets is that they are very thick pieces of steel, some up to ½” thick.  I say this because aluminum coffee cans can offer just as much fun, but one has to be careful.  The difference is that they are extremely thin compared to steel.  When I first began shooting when I was about 9 years old or so, my father took me to an empty corn field.  He took an empty coffee can, inverted it and stuck it on top of an old corn stalk in the middle of this empty field.  The stalk was high enough and flimsy enough so that even the slightest breeze would wave it.  I shot my father’s .22 rifle at this inverted can and it moved, albeit slightly, but it moved.  That means I hit it.  So, aluminum targets can bring much enjoyment.

Another type of non-paper target is the novelty rubber ones.  These are made out material similar to self-sealing fuel tanks in airplanes.  They are designed only for .22s.  Using any larger caliber would obliterate the target.  They are designed in unusual shapes and offer up some kind of movement when hit.  They spin around like an Olympic gymnast on the high bar, wave back and forth like a clock pendulum, or twirl around like a dreidel.

This type of novelty target, when hit, will spin around the axis, similar to an Olympic gymnast on the high bar. This is designed for .22s.

If you are shooting at a public range or a range of a gun club, check with the club on the kinds of targets you can or cannot use.  One such target material that is strictly verboten is glass.  Never, ever shoot at glass targets, like empty pickle jars.  Hitting it creates glass shards which must be cleaned up.  Shooting at glass targets is the fastest way to get you kicked off the range.