MAKE YOUR HANDGUN PRACTICE SESSIONS MORE FUN AND EFFECTIVE BY ADDING VARIETY TO YOUR
Make your handgun practice sessions more fun and effective by adding variety to your targets. By CCH Staff
The more you practice good fundamentals, the better shooter you’ll become.
That should be obvious. But once you’ve received some training on what those proper fundamentals should be, what is it that will keep you returning to the range on your own for practice sessions that will not only maintain, but enhance your skills?
Certainly, determination to be a better competitive shooter or to be better prepared for a self-defense situation can play a part. So too can the need to test new guns and loads. Simply put, however, the more enjoyable your practice sessions, the more you’re likely to practice on a regular basis.
A big part of that enjoyment is what you’re shooting: your targets. Here’s a look at some of the types of targets and how they can benefit your range sessions.
Paper targets, especially when attached to a larger cardboard backer, are great for sighting in your handgun—finding out how your sights are regulated to see where particular ammo loads impact in accordance with your point of aim. Paper targets are also good in helping you to identify problems in your fundamentals. Depending on where your hits are grouping, you can tell if you have a problem, such as yanking on the trigger, anticipating the shot or limp-wristing.
Targets like the Shoot-N-C targets from Birchwood Casey and others provide splatter or a ring of color around a bullet impact so that you can more readily see your hits from a distance. To extend the life of these types of targets, some come with self-adhesive pasters, round paper patches to stick on the targets to cover the bullet holes.
New shooters should start on paper until they’ve mastered the basics. Then it’s advisable to transition them to reactive targets—targets that clang or move when hit—to maintain their interest.
There many types of steel targets: falling plate racks, hanging gongs, spinners, falling pepper poppers, silhouettes and dueling trees to name a few. All have two things in common: longevity and instant feedback.
A typical steel target will last for thousands of rounds. When the paint becomes worn away, you can either stick new paper bull’s-eyes on them or simply apply some spray paint in a high-visibility color.
A hit from a bullet will typically disturb the painted surface to show you the location of the impacts, but for general confirmation of a hit, the steel will make a pleasing “clang” sound, and many will then either topple, swing or spin depending on the type of target.
Another benefit is that you don’t have to walk down range or scan the target through a spotting scope to see
“...YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN TARGETS, WHICH OFFERS THE GREATEST VARIETY FOR THE LEAST AMOUNT OF MONEY. YOU’RE LIMITED ONLY BY YOUR IMAGINATION.”
if you’ve hit the target. You’ll know instantly if you’ve hit steel.
Some steel targets, such as hanging plates, never have to be reset. Others, such as spinners, reset automatically. Still others—plate racks for instance— often have long pull ropes to allow you to reset the targets without the need to walk down range.
Plate racks are great for building speed at target transitions. Dueling trees are great for shooting fast and accurately under pressure as you go head-to-head with another shooter where each of you tries to swing all of the metal targets to the opponent’s side.
Plastic targets are often a great alternative to steel. They are lightweight, making them very portable compared to the sometimes very heavy steel setups. Plastic targets include swinging plates and animal figures, but the ones that seem the most popular are the multiple-facet plastic balls.
Plastic ball targets come in various sizes. Throw them out on the ground ahead of you. Depending on where you hit them, they will dance, spin, fly or skid along the ground. The balls are especially great for practicing quick follow-up shots as you try to keep the ball rolling, never knowing in advance where the ball will move.
Most plastic targets are self-healing. Bullets pass through them and the holes close. They’re usually good for thousands of rounds. Another benefit is that there is less of a chance of a dangerous ricochet with plastic compared to steel, making them more appropriate for closer-range shooting.
Of course, you can make your own targets, which offers the greatest variety for the least amount of money. You’re limited only by your imagination. Take scrap paper or cardboard boxes and draw crosses or bull‘s-eyes on them with a marker and you have
targets. If you want fancier paper targets, many can be downloaded from the Internet. The National Sport Shooting Foundation (NSSF) at www. NSSF.org/Shooting/Targets is one source.
Aluminum cans and plastic bottles and jugs make great targets and are available in a variety of sizes. You can fill a plastic jug with colored water, seal it and it will provide a spectacular burst on the first impact. And like the improvised paper targets, the cans and bottles can go back in your recycle bin when you’re done with them. Other popular improvised targets include old bowling pins, baseballs and golf balls.
Target stands to mount backers or hang targets can be fashioned from wood or for a more portable option: PVC pipe. Shower curtain hooks can be used to hang many types of targets and backers. You can also device hooks from old wire clothes hangers to hang clay pigeons from your target stand. Clay targets are very fun to shoot with a handgun.
A key thing to remember with improvised targets is to use items that are easy to clean up and won’t create a hazard. That means no glass containers.
KEEP IT INTERESTING
Once you’ve mastered the shooting fundamentals and you know where your handgun is hitting with a partic- ular load, switch to reactive targets to increase your speed and enjoyment level. Adding variety to your targets will keep you coming back and it’s a great way to cement the interest of new shooters. It’s easy to get people to try shooting once. Getting them to come back time after time for the fun of it is the bigger challenge.CC
“THERE MANY TYPES OF STEEL TARGETS... ALL HAVE TWO THINGS IN COMMON: LONGEVITY AND INSTANT FEEDBACK.”
Above: Not all paper targets have to be boring. From animal figures to zombies, companies offer just about anything you can imagine. Jeffreymetcalf31/ Dreamstime.com
Not all hanging targets are steel. This DuraSeal Interlocking Diamond Spinner Target from Champion Targets can last for thousands of rounds and presents little chance of ricochets. Champion Target photo
The old standby: an aluminum can still makes one of the best targets. Many improvised targets can be found in the average recycling bin. Gualberto Becerra/Dreamstime.com
Pepper poppers are narrow silhouette targets of steel designed to fall over when struck by a bullet. They are often used in various shooting competitions. Guy Sagi/Dreamstime.com
Above: Shooting steel targets provides a satisfying “clang” for instant feedback of a hit. And steel targets will last through years of hard use. Action Target photo Right: Steel plate racks are often used in shooting competitions and are a good test of speed and accuracy. Action Target photo
Below: Plastic targets are becoming increasingly popular as they’re reasonably priced, lightweight and portable, and can withstand thousands of bullet impacts. CCH Staff photo