In order to practice for the rimfire matches, I needed some targets that would mimic the various rifle and pistol stages. Plate racks and dueling trees are all well and fine, but the problem with those types of targets is that they are linear, i.e. they are either horizontal or vertical. Here is a pic of a dueling tree and a plate rack:
The matches, however, have targets that vary in height and are spread apart. Here’s a picture of what the targets look like in a match stage:
Since the range I’m a member of only has a plate rack and a dueling tree, I needed to find a way to practice that was more realistic. (Note: I am not a member of the same range that holds the matches. Been on the waiting list for 5-6 years and still haven’t gotten the phone call yet.) The only solution was to build my own steel targets. The problem is that steel plates are really expensive. I studied the targets used at the matches and decided this was something that I could do.
I sketched out the basic idea and bought the plates from a local gun store. I ended up with six of the 3/8″ thick 8″ wide round plates. While the targets in the matches vary in size and shape, round will be fine for practice. I made each of the stands two feet wide. The uprights were varied in length. I made two of each length: 2′, 3′, and 4′. Since each target could be set up individually, this allows me to move them around and set up various scenarios. While it won’t allow me to completely duplicate some of the match stages, it gives me a chance to practice shooting targets that are spread out and vary in height and distance.
It is also worth mentioning that the uprights can easily be removed from the bases. This makes transporting much easier. Here are the new targets all set up and ready to go to the range.
Now that I had my plates, I had a new problem: how to get them from the parking lot to the pistol pit. Since I sometimes want to shoot by myself and didn’t want to have to carry them 100 yards every range session, I needed a way to easily move them around. So I went to Lowe’s and bought a cheap garden cart. It does the trick.
There are drag race stages that I cannot emulate without buying some very large plates. I’ll need two rectangle pieces (18″w x 24″h) and one 12″ circle. What I’ve got is a step in the right direction, and it only took myself and a friend of mine a few hours to cobble together. The nice thing about 3/8″ steel is that I can also shoot these with centerfire pistols. This allows me to practice with 9mm, 38 Special, and 45 ACP.
Who knows if this will translate into making me a better shooter? Either way, it’s certainly fun to shoot at steel because you get that immediate feedback. One of my concerns was making sure the steel had the correct rating (these are AR500). The other big concern was making certain that I wouldn’t get ricochets. I used a carriage bolt, washers, and a spring to attach the plates to the uprights. This is how the targets are hung at the match, and thus far my new plates have been safe. In the future, I’ll be purchasing some professionally fabricated plate mounts. For now, the goal is to be able to practice inexpensively. The biggest reason I have chosen rimfire matches is because the time and monetary commitment is relatively small compared to just about every other shooting sport. A brick of .22LR at Walmart means you can shoot a match without killing an entire afternoon reloading ammunition. If I wanted an expensive weekend hobby, I’d have picked golf.
If you want to make your own steel targets, I highly recommend it. I saved a lot of money doing so. The main things you want to focus on are getting the right kind of steel and making sure the method of attachments puts the steel at the correct angle to eliminate ricochets. Don’t mess around with the plate attachment. I can assure you, from personal experience, that you don’t want to dig an extremely deformed 45 ACP round out of your shin. It should go without saying, but ALWAYS wear good eye protection while shooting steel. If you don’t feel comfortable coming up with your own plate mount, these are an inexpensive and effective choice:
Safe and happy shooting to you and yours,