Targets that React

Sure, we all like to go to the range. But the shooting bench doesn’t forge great shooters, because paper targets have little to do with improving your skills. Reactive targets reveal if you hit or miss instantly, so you can either confirm good habits or know if you need to work on your fundamentals. Plus, any target that spins, gongs, pops, falls over, or blows up is just plain fun to shoot. I’d argue it’s fun that forges great shooters.

Here are several reactive targets that will make you a better shot.

DIY Gong

Homemade reactive targets are limited only by your creativity and budget. Recently I wanted a steel-gong-style target for my long-range deer rifle, so I went to my local metal distributor and bought a 12x20 piece of ½-inch steel. It cost me $32. A friend who had a cutting torch put a hole in the top corners of the plate, and holes in the top portions of two 4-foot scrap pieces of angle iron. At my range—a dirt berm in a field—I drove the angle irons into the ground 18 inches apart, and hung the steel plate between them with rope. I also spray-painted the steel so I could both see and hear any bullet’s impact. Presto—a centerfire reactive target that cost me less than $40. (That's mine at top left in the photo above; another version is below.)

photo from youtube.com.

MGM IPSC Flag Target

For serious practice or competition, MGM's IPSC Flag Target is worth the investment. This humanoid steel cutout is intended for self-defense training, but it's good for any type of practice. The vital zone is a 6-inch hole that's backed by a hinged steel plate. If you miss the vital zone but hit the outer target, it'll ding and shows the bullet's impact. If you hit the vital zone, the plate swings out and engages an orange flag that can be seen from hundreds of yards away. While pricier than most targets, it's good for handguns or rifles from virtually any distance, and it will last for ages. MSRP: $467.

MGM IPSC Flag Target is a humanoid steel cutout intended for self-defense training.

Action Target Rimfire Dueling Tree

Rimfire rifles and handguns offer valuable practice at a fraction of a centerfire's cost, recoil, and noise level. The Rimfire Dueling Tree is a vertical stand upon which six plate-style steel targets swing to the other side when hit. Competitors race to see who "cleans" his side first. Featuring ¼-inch steel, the unit weighs 35 pounds, so it's portable. What's more, it's just plinkin' fun. $149; actiontarget.com.

Champion Soup Can Target

The a plastic, tin-can-looking Champion Soup Can, which was introduced at this year's SHOT Show, is made of proprietary Dura-Seal material that self-heals after taking a bullet. It will last two forevers. Remove the lid and fill it with talcum powder, chalk, flour, colored water, or whatever. Then watch it blow its top when you blast it with any bullet up to .50 caliber. $27; championtarget.com.

Budget Targets

Buy aging fruit that’s on sale, 2-liter soda bottles, water balloons, clay pigeons—anything that’s cheap, plentiful, and safe to shoot will do. Use your imagination, and then blow your creation to smithereens!