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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.