I’ve seen it all over the years. People will shoot at anything they can get their hands on. I get it. It’s fun to shoot stuff. The smell of freshly burned gunpowder, the explosion of debris, and of course, that satisfying crack of sound each time you let off a shot. It’s all extremely gratifying and easy to get hooked.
But there are better and safer ways to experience this thrill than taking your AR to the desert and unloading on a rusty old car. So, let’s get into some of the great target options out there that will help exercise those eager trigger fingers and progress your shooting abilities.
Let’s talk the most basic first: paper targets. You may think that paper targets are not very exciting, but they can be both entertaining and very helpful in advancing your marksmanship skills. This is mainly because you can see exactly where your round is hitting from the hole it leaves in the paper.
With other types of targets, you may just be aiming for a general area, but with paper, you can be precise in your aim. This allows you to accomplish crucial tasks, like sighting in your firearm or practicing your groupings (placing multiple shots within a certain close range of each other).
Paper targets can be a lot of fun because you can do exercises, like having a friend call out specific target areas on the paper to shoot and responding as quickly as you can. Sometimes paper targets are mounted on moving mechanisms too, which creates a great dynamic shooting experience.
If you are just starting out and learning how to manipulate your chosen firearm, paper targets are a great starting point. Remember that a firearm is a tool and just like any other type of tool, you must learn how it functions and how to use it properly with simpler tasks before you move on to the more complex.
Steel and Polymer Targets
Speaking of more complex, the next category of targets I want to mention are steel and polymer targets. These are fantastic for many reasons. There’s something really satisfying about that repeated “ping,” every time you nail a steel plate, and even though polymer doesn’t give you that auditory satisfaction, they also make great reactive targets.
It’s crucial to know that proper steel targets are made of a certain grade of metal. Generally, AR500 or AR550 steel is preferable for target shooting. The hardness of the surface of these types of steel not only ensures longevity of the target but also maintains a uniform surface, which reduces the risk of ricochets. But maybe even more important than the type of steel is having these targets set at the proper angle, about 15 degrees or more. This prevents dangerous ricochets from coming back directly toward you.
An alternative to steel is polymer targets. These are newer in the world of target shooting and a great option. While they do not provide the satisfactory sound of a steel target as feedback, they make great dynamic targets, and you can have a lot of fun practicing quick target acquisition with these types of targets.
Target Ammunition Choice
The type of ammunition you are using should be considered in target shooting as well. I always recommend using the highest quality target ammunition that you can reasonably afford. This will cause you fewer headaches over time and lead to better and more consistent performance. If you need more info on quality ammunition types, please come in and chat with us.
For steel targets, I like to recommend frangible rounds. These are rounds that consist of a bullet that is usually some type of compressed, powdered metal. They disintegrate on impact and eliminate the threat of ricochets. They are very safe and allow steel target practice at much closer ranges, which is great for home defense and close-quarters target training.
Ideally, you want jacketed rounds for target practice, and you will want to choose hollow-point or soft-tipped rounds for defensive scenarios. Your jacketed round will be cheaper, cleaner functioning in your firearm, and will leave a more accurate hole in your target because they don’t expand or tumble like defensive rounds.
So, save your self-defense ammo for its intended purpose and use the cheaper jacketed stuff for practice. This will allow you to become proficient with your chosen firearm, without as high of a cost.
Now for those using shotguns, sporting clays or “clay pigeons” are fun and safe, although they may be more expensive and less accessible than shooting bullets at paper. There are several target games that are traditionally played using clays and they are a great way to acquire and maintain your hunting skills during the off-season.
Remember that, as in anything involving guns, safety is key. For that reason, shooting at objects such as old refrigerators, cars, glass, and other refuse is not recommended. There are too many things that can go wrong, and it’s terrible for the environment and wildlife. We want to leave the areas that we are shooting at as good as or better than they were when we got there. Wildlife can be injured by broken glass and other types of debris. And, of course, irresponsible target shooting can lead to your own injury or loss of life.
These are just some target shooting basics to get you thinking about what types of targets would be best for you and what your goals should be when you go out and practice. Again, if you have questions, I encourage you to come visit us at Los Ranchos Gun Shop, or call us at 505-345-4276 to chat with one of our staff members. We make it a point to stay up to date on the most current products, and we are happy to help you find the right target and ammunition for your needs.
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