Stuck at Home? Shooting Things Around the House

There is a whole industry geared up to supply all of your shooting needs but a fun day in your garage doesn’t require a second mortgage. There is a world of targets and gadgets that are cheap or even free if you know where to look. As a shooter with kids or a trainer, you can make things more interesting with a little creativity.

Airsoft rifles like this PROFORCE MCX VIRTUS AEG rifle are available through the mail and make great stay at home trainers.

Reactive Targets

Stationary paper targets serve an essential function, but they require a lot of work and can be boring. Shooting things that move is a more realistic challenge. Reactive Targets provide instant feedback and discipline the shooter to keep their sights on the target in preparation for follow-up shots. They force you to break the shot when the target is in position pushing you to better trigger manipulation. 

I don’t like balloons, soda cans, and bottles as targets. They create clutter and make a mess. You might as well just dump a trash bag in your back yard and shoot it. While any target requires some cleanup, let’s look at some things that are easy and cheap.

You can use nested cardboard boxes as a backstop for airsoft targets. If you put enough old magazines or any other paper in them, they stop metal BBs or pellets with no ricochets.

IC13 F.A.T. Targets trap airsoft BBs, but you have to hit the A-Zone. Great incentive to step up your game.

Cookies and Crackers

If you look around the house, you may have some stale or beyond expiration date (if you are the kind of person who checks dates) cookies or crackers. The dollar store always has a sales rack of packaged cookies and crackers….for a dollar each. They explode in a satisfying manner and are completely bio-degradable, heck they even provide nourishment to local wildlife. The humble cracker makes one of the most environmentally-friendly targets out there.  

Dinosaur Hunt

Most kids have an abundance of old toys, things they have outgrown or broken. This game takes its name from toy dinosaurs but can be played with anything. Place the dinosaurs, little green army men or whatever you have in front of a safe backstop and take them out. Old sticker books can provide fun targets too.

Sick of Care Bear? Hate the Taco Bell Dog? Minions got you down? Fight Back.

Golf Balls, Tennis Balls, and Wiffle Balls

How many times do you find golf balls in your yard or at your local park? If you have a golfer or tennis player in the family, there are worn out balls around.

I like cheap whiffle balls from the big box store. If you have a little leaguer, you may have a few old ones. They are bright and quite reactive to hits while staying together. Golf balls are great, they even have special tees to position them but they can travel pretty far if you hit them with something big.

This airsoft red dot Glock 17 was built bu Black Ops Paintball for law enforcement training.

Pool Noodles and Pipe Insulation

Pool noodles are around everywhere. If you have kids, you probably have some. They come in bright colors. I cut them into soda can sized chunks to make great reactive targets. They self-repair and are easy to carry around.

Pool noodles will react to any hit from airsoft to .50 caliber.

You can hang them up with string so you don’t have to chase them down the range. Some types of pipe insulation will work too if that is available. They can also be used to make firing lines or fault lines. If you cut them to size, you can run a string through four sections and make a shooting box. You can tie a stack of sections together and improvise a shooting rest.

The humble pool noodle can serve another vital function in remote areas if you have a five-gallon bucket and some polite paper. Idea and image courtesy of cooldiyideas.com

Skeet and Shotgun Shells

My gun club is a shotgun club. They make a big mess but provide fun targets for the rest of us. At every skeet range, there are unbroken and relatively undamaged skeet on the ground for the taking. These are great reactive targets that are bio-degradable. When the skeet gets wet, the shotgun guys often dispose of them providing cases of skeet to the rifle and pistol range. Put them on a berm at a distance where they are hard to hit and have at it.

Shotgun shells are frequently found at ranges. Brightly colored and small, they make challenging targets producing a very satisfying flip when hit.

Junk Mail and Yard Signs

Flip over that garden service flyer and draw a circle. There’s your target. Amazon shipping box? Even better. Yard signs for real estate or political campaigns are often abandoned. They stick in the ground and stand up on their own making ideal targets or backers. Markers, tape and spray paint can make them anything you need. When I get stickers in the mail, they go right in the range bag.

This target stand and base are made completely from yard signs and junk mail. All I added was eight wood screws. SIG 320 with Romeo 1, Grey Ghost slide, Faxon barrel, and CMC trigger.

Cookie Tins and Baking Sheets

Even after Christmas is long past, the fruit cake is still there on the 4th of July. About the size of a deer’s vital hit area, cookie tins are great for pre-season practice. If you have a baking sheet that is burnt and ruined, you can punch a few holes and hang them up.

Old pans and serving bowls make shiny ringing targets that will take dozens of hits.

Giant Dice and Yard Toys

Perhaps my favorite range toy is yard dice. They are great for shooting games of all kinds. Using numbered targets, you start with the dice in your shooting hand, gun in a holster or slung on a table or the ground. Roll the dice, shoot the target or shooting position called for by the number on dice.

Soccer Training Marker Cones are plastic cones eight inches in diameter and two inches high. Tiny and almost weightless, they fit in any shooting bag. Made from ultra-strong plastic you can step on them without damage and they present no tripping hazard. They come in bright colors and make highly visible firing lines and position markers.

There is no limit to the targets that you can build with stuff you have laying around. Make sure you always have a safe backstop and that your targets won’t cause ricochets. Your backyard, basement, and garage can all pull duty as a safe training facility if you do the work and put a little thought into it.

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About the author: Mark Miller is a former Customs Agent and a Green Beret who served in Afghanistan and a number of other live fire locations. A student of firearms and shooting, he is an FFL and a SOT. The guiding philosophy of his life is that terrain and situation dictate tactics and the enemy always gets a vote on any plan.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Bruce April 6, 2020, 12:42 pm

    If you do the wax bullet thing, be sure to drill out the flash hole. Leave just enough edge to support the primer. This keeps the primer from backing out and locking up the action. Also, keep these modified cases carefully separated if you reload. Lots of fun to be had and terrific practice!

  • Doug Sullivan April 6, 2020, 8:04 am

    I’ve shot skeet on a lot of ranges in a lot of states, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard skeet targets caklled “skeet”. They’re “targets” or “birds”. Skeet is the name of the game, not the name of the target. Otherwise, good article.

    • Mark Miller April 6, 2020, 10:39 am

      I would not argue with you about this, I don’t play skeet. Everybody I know that puts them on the berm and shoots them with rifles calls them skeet. I guess I could have used term skeet targets.

  • Paul April 6, 2020, 6:09 am

    Many years ago, I learned from reading Bill Jordan’s “ No Second Place Winners” about “squib loads”. Bill made
    Low velocity, .38 caliber rounds with spent brass; using only a pistol primer as the power source to send a wax (paraffin) bullet down-range. He would press the business end of an empty brass cartridge into a half inch tray of recently cooled wax, thereby forming the projectile. Having removed the spent primer and replaced it with a new live primer, he then had a perfect low energy bullet he called a “squib load”. I tried this back in the day, as I was a deputy sheriff and was looking to improve my “draw and shoot” ability without having to go to the range, which was pretty far from my home. I hung up a blanket, and pinned silhouette paper to it. I was amazed at how much energy was supplied by a mere pistol primer. The plug of wax moves out of the gun accurately, and at a velocity you can barely see the wax bullet as it flies down range a splats against your paper. It’s a lot of work, but if you reload, or have any interest in learning to reload, making squib loads can be a lot of fun. A pretty safe way to practice combat shooting in the comfort of home.

    • Mark Miller April 6, 2020, 10:40 am

      They used to make re-useable rubber projectile that served the same purpose. If you have reloading gear and a revolver, this is a great way to pass the time.

    • JCitizen April 6, 2020, 1:44 pm

      Ahh! Bill Jordan! Them was the good ol’ days! Back then I was buying plastic brass and bullets, and only the primer was the real thing. I could shoot my black plastic wad cutter shaped bullets down in the basement without a care in the world. I don’t even remember what I used for targets or back drop, but I should have planned, because it was difficult to recover the plastic bullets. I was just a kid after all. I was lucky my parents gave me so much freedom! I was actually safer than trying to shoot my CO2 pistol down there! Later in college police science, I learned to reload the real wad cutters for class practice.

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