There are no special targets that will make us better shooters. To be better shooters we need to use targets for shooting a lot and regularly. Here are some good targets for long-range shooting.
Shooting at a variety of targets and scenarios is more like training. Practice makes us better shots; training wins matches and prepares us for difficult situations. Getting your own targets for shooting is the key.
Not all of us have the luxury to have a shooting range nearby let alone a long-range facility. With a little engineering and help from some target makers, any safe stretch of BLM or other public ground can become our fun house and give us the training we need in between matches and practice shoots.
My formal 1000-yard range is 120 miles one way from my house. I cannot always make it out for practice sessions although I go as much as I can. These days one has to save travel money for the matches so I practice close by the house with the help of some prefab targets.
For getting on paper I use a target board. The rifle has to be printed on paper to see what it is really doing. Mostly it is for shooting groups and sighting in rifles at 100 yards. It is big enough though, I can shoot at further ranges and show hits on the paper while fine-tuning my ballistic charts. This paper target helps me get some of my elevations set and also I can check variances in different climates.
The paper target backstop is made from some scrap plywood and 2×6 lumber that fit into a metal upright stand.
It breaks down quickly and fits in the back of the truck for easy set up in the field. I can staple any target on it and since I shoot F-Class competition I use a replacement center for along-range paper target. For closer groups that I want to record for later reference I use a Benchrest type target that can be put into a ring binder. These are made out of a heavy grade plastic-coated paper and hold up well in a binder. These record the actual group and any other info on weather and the load that was used.
Shooting the paper target is doable out to around 400 or 500 yards without a vehicle to get back and fourth to score the targets. I can usually use the exercise but I don’t always have the time to walk back and forth to 1000-yard targets. Sometimes I will put the ATV in the back of the truck and set up a portable shooting bench like the one Caldwell offers for longer range shooting.
For just getting the elevation I will many times use the Caldwell Tack Driver Shooting Bag right on the hood of the truck (Idaho Shooting Bench) and drive back and forth to the target. It is faster than moving the shooting table to different ranges. The Caldwell bags off the hood are not as comfortable as a bench and a front rest, but for portability in shooting different long ranges in the field they work great.
One way I deal with the walk back and forth on the longer range stuff is to use reactive targets. Once the rifle is zeroed on paper and various elevation adjustments recorded I can practice on reactive targets placed in different positions. In the field being able to shoot targets at 1000 yards and see the hit is good practice and can be done without a couple of range buddies in the pit or running back and forth to see the score.
I was surprised at how inexpensive steel targets from MGM Targets are. Considering they last forever with a lifetime guarantee and include the shipping, a backwoods rifleman can get plenty of long-range practice in the field without going back and forth.
I like the attitude at MGM Targets (Mike Gibson Manufacturing). They dare you to tear up these targets. That’s confidence in their quality. I simply haven‘t been able to shoot these things apart. The strike plates are hard steel and the welds are neat and strong.
They use hardened bolts instead of welding to hold the targets on to the stands so the hardness won’t be compromised from welding heat. About all the bullet does to them is knock the paint off.They come in white, but in winter black shows up better against snow.
There are two plastic squares on the swivel bar; one is white and one florescent orange. The movement of the target is easily seen when the plastic squares move. The hanging gong swivels on a bar of stainless steel and has a zirk fitting to keep it lubricated. This target breaks down and will fit in a car trunk. It goes up in seconds.
Another great shorter range target is one of their poppers. These targets have 5 inch strike areas and reset themselves via spring action. Neither of these targets makes a gong sound when hit but there is a noticeable thwack. I have several different locations scouted that give me practice in different conditions.
Don’t forget to put up some flags to help dope the wind. It is good to have a spotter to help with the corrections. MGM makes such a variety of targets for the competitive shooter the best thing to do is check out their website. www.mgmtargets.com
There are a variety of other reactive targets that will give the precision marksman some good practice and some fun. Try golf balls, eggs, and balloons. The nice thing about balloons is you can make them different sizes. The challenging thing about them is when the wind is blowing windage isn’t the only problem.
Companies like Just Shoot Me make plastic targets that are reactive and come in cubes, circles, and shapes like ground squirrels that can be placed on hillsides and engaged. They jump indicating a hit and can be shot again in a different location. They are extremely durable and allow the bullet to pass and then they close back up. A box of these will last a long time and give many hours of practice in one sitting.
One of the most fun targets to engage at long range are exploding targets. They are small 2×2 square targets that can be bought in a kit and report when hit like an M-80. The active ingredient in these is a binary explosive material called tannerite. Binary means it is two inert chemicals that have to be mixed together to become active. They can only be set off by a high-power rifle bullet strike and are extremely stable even after mixed.
Exploding targets add a lot of fun to the marksman’s training but read all the directions and warnings before using and make sure it is being used within the legalities of your locale.
All my target missions are “leave no trace“. I pick up all brass, target debris, as much lead as I can find (it melts back down into cowboy bullets), even the 22 brass. The only thing left behind where I target practice is the depressions in the ground from bullet strikes.
Caldwell: (573) 445-9200
Eberlestock: (877) 866-3047
Lenny Magill: (800) 942-8273
This article appeared in the February 14, 2011 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.