Target Types

Target Types, Part One

There are as many paper target types as the day is long. There are the standard round bullseye targets, animal silhouette targets for hunting….turkeys, deer, etc. And there are targets in the shape of a human torso.  And to extend the human torso types even further, there are photographic targets of actual bad guys…those in which the bad guy is pointing a gun at the shooter.

When selecting which targets you want to use, consider what your practice purpose is. Are you honing your skills for hunting? For competition shooting? For new gun familiarity? For self-defense? For fun? Since most of what Dakota Firearms is all about, concentration will be for familiarizing yourself with a new gun and for self-defense. 

This is an NRA target, a typical example of the standard bullseye target with concentric circles.

After you purchase a new gun, your goal is to gain mastery of it. To that end, your best target choice is the traditional round bullseye target. Why? Most of these targets contain either a series of concentric circle lines culminating in the center bullseye or they have a grid pattern of horizontal and vertical lines, or a combination of concentric circles and a grid. The last type is the best out of all the bullseye targets because you want to use these lines to judge how well or how poorly you are shooting. 

Within this group of bullseye targets, there are two basic styles, “reactive” and “non-reactive”. The “non-reactive” targets are the traditional black and white targets with the bullseye area in black.  Depending on your distance to the target and the lighting conditions at the range, any holes put into the black area of the target may be difficult to see. The only way to see how well you just shot is to get up close to the target. The other type is a “reactive” target. These targets have two distinct colors, one bright and one dark, with the dark area usually making up the bullseye. When you shoot at these targets, a bit of the light color seeps through and surrounds the hole you just made. So, if you have a yellow and black reactive target, if you shoot the black bullseye, the hole created by your bullet will have a small bead of yellow seeping through and surrounding the hole. This yellow bead showing up as the circumference around the hole makes the hole far easier to see at farther distances and poor lighting conditions.  Based on just this eye relief alone, reactive targets are preferred over non-reactive targets.

This is a reactive target. Notice how the shot holes have a yellow circumference around the hole…way easier on the eyes.

Since you are not practicing for competition shooting, you will not practicing how close you get to the absolute dead center of the bullseye. Rather, you will be practicing to place your rounds into groups. If you are a new gun owner, your shot placement on the target will probably be all over the place.  AND THAT IS OK! If you hit the target, you achieved your first victory. As you continue practicing, getting more comfortable with your new gun, and gaining mastery over it, by using the “Shooting Fundamentals” taught in our training classes, your shot placement will get better. The holes in the paper will begin to get closer together…into tighter groups. You may start off with a group the size of a dinner plate, but over time the size of the group will be that of a coffee mug. So, what if the group is to the left and outside of the bullseye? Nothing to worry about. That can be corrected if you are shooting in the same general area with regularity. New shooters attempt to get every shot into the bullseye, and get disappointed when they don’t. But if you are regularly shooting tight groups with bullseye type targets, now you are ready to move on to self-defense practicing.

Realistic photograph of bad guy with hostage target. This makes for interesting training as you attempt to take him out without injuring the hostage.

Self-defense practice is more concentrated shot placement than gun familiarity training. Why? Because the purpose of self-defense training is to place shots to neutralize a violent attack. That means on an attacker, the best shot placement is “center mass”, better known as the chest. First, it is the largest area on humans, and therefore the easiest to hit after the adrenaline has kicked in because you are threatened by a violent attacker. Second, it contains the most vital of organs, the heart. The second best shot placement is the head, because it too, is vital, but smaller than center mass, and a little harder to master. Therefore, the better targets for self-defense are those which are silhouettes of the human torso.  These generally have concentric circles around the chest and the head.

There are other subjects for targets, if you want to shoot just for fun. Some of these are of Osama Bin Laden, Dr. Fauci, snakes, zombies, etc. The download section of this web site has a few you can download for free for fun.

The other component of self-defense training is psychological. It is in our DNA to not take a life. But some day, you might need to do just that, because it may be either your life of the life of the attacker. So, to begin to condition your sub-conscious mind to shoot at another person, the absolute best targets for that psychological conditioning are the ones which are actual photographs of bad guys pointing one or more guns at you. Practicing with these types of targets, can, over time, subconsciously train your mind to permit you to shoot someone.

Target Types, Part One Read More »

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.

Target Types, Part Two Read More »