Air rifle targets perform a multitude of roles such as helping shooters practice their technique, zero their set ups and understand the extent to which they need to compensate for pellets as they drop over different distances. On a more light-hearted note, there’s nothing better than spending a few hours knocking over tin cans and punching holes in paper. Regardless of what you want to use them for, it is imperative that targets are used safely and bear in mind that it is your legal obligation to ensure pellets stay within the boundary of your property. Make sure you have a safe backstop to shoot against that is big enough to stop any errant pellets and will not result in ricochets. A large and effective backstop is even more important if you are not able to set up with a large, safe fall out zone.
Choosing an Air Rifle Target
The range of targets available is enormous, varying from simple paper or card targets to some truly innovative reactive targets. If you’re looking to practice your shooting technique, or test how your rifle works with different types of pellets for example, paper targets are ideal and will give you a permanent record. Of course, paper targets come in many different formats and largely a matter of personal choice. Be sure to pick targets you will find easy to see at the distance you wish to shoot, and will enable you to see where your pellet is striking. If you’re looking to have some fun, there’s a whole range of targets including many you can improvise yourself, such as bottle tops, tin cans and ice cubes.
Spinners are available in a range of different sizes and, as the name suggests, will spin freely when struck. They usually attach to a firm surface like a tree stump or wooden post with a screw. Make sure you have a safe backstop and fall out zone in case you miss, and be aware that pellets are likely to ricochet when you score a hit.
Moving targets are not often used by airgunners for the simple reason they are not considered conducive to safe shooting.
Print your own air rifle targets
The internet is full of free, downloadable targets that you can print off as many times as you like. If you intend putting targets into a pellet catcher its a good idea to print onto thick paper or even card if at all possible. If you’re planning to simply pin the target to a backstop, normal paper is fine.
Reactive air rifle targets
Reactive targets are not only great fun but many are also a good test of a shooter’s abilities and that of his or her set up. A great many targets fall into the reactive target category – basically any target that results in some kind of movement or reaction as a result of clean hit to the target area. This can include targets that have a bell which will ring only if a pellet is shot through a small hole, to more dramatic and inventive targets that set off streamers or result in a loud bang and puff of smoke. You don’t need to spend money to enjoy reactive targets, indeed some of the best can be found around the house such as ice cubes, plastic bottle tops and that old faithful the fizzy drink can. Though undeniably great fun, make sure the reactive targets you choose won’t upset the neighbours.
Rat shooting targets
Many targets are designed to mimic airgun quarry species such as rats, rabbits and squirrel and corvid bird species. They vary from simple paper targets to reactive targets that will topple over or ring a bell if struck on the kill zone.
Swinging targets can be great fun as they represent a different challenge to static targets. The best ones are ones you can make yourself simply by tying bottle tops or tin cans on a piece of string. The longer the string, the more your target will swing when hit. Making sure you have a solid and safe backstop is even more important given the zone you will be shooting at is likely to be larger than for a static target.
Silhouette targets and knock down targets
Usually made in the shape of typical airgun quarry species like rabbits, squirrels, crows and rats, silhouette targets are often also known as knock down targets for the simple reason they will topple over when a pellet hits a target area. Made from metal, some are reset by pulling on a piece of string, others must be reset by hitting a second target area successfully. Some basic maintenance is needed – the pivot mechanism needs to be oiled occasionally and you’ll probably want to give them a lick of paint every now and then. Silhouette knock down targets are a good test of a shooter’s skill and are used in some competition shooting disciplines.
Metal vs Paper targets
Paper targets are cheap but, for obvious reasons, can only be used once. Some paper targets, such as the Shoot ‘n See brand are treated with a couple of coatings. When hit, a bright green layer is exposed, making it easy to see pellet strikes from distance. Such targets can be repaired with stick on patches, but still have a short life span. Metal targets are of course more durable and can be painted when they start to look tatty. Oil any springs or pivots and make sure that if planning to use high powered usually licensed air rifles, the metal is capable of withstanding harder strikes.
Target pellet traps
Pellet traps usually comprise a slot or some other holding mechanism to secure a paper target and an open area behind which is designed to capture pellets when they pass through the target and strike the back of the trap. Not only do they reduce the likelihood of pellets ricocheting, they also help collate spent pellets so they can be recycled or disposed of properly. Ideally pellet traps should be mounted on a wall or board that will provide a safe back stop in the event of a miss.
Air rifle target FAQs
Should I buy air rifle targets?
You can download free paper targets from the internet and you can make or improvise your own reactive targets from tins can, bottle tops and the like. Knock down silhouette and other reactive targets are relatively cheap to buy and last a long time.
Can I reuse air rifle targets?
Most paper targets are usually a use once and throw away item whereas metal and many other reactive targets can be shot at thousands of times.
How big are air rifle targets?
Paper targets will vary in size according to their intended use. For example, some competition targets have a bullseye that is not much larger than an air rifle pellet. Most reactive targets have a ‘kill zone’ running from a couple of inches to half an inch in size.
What distance do I shoot air rifle targets from?
You can shoot targets at any distance you like as long as you are sure it is safe to do so.
How to score air rifle targets?
Competition rules will vary, but generally speaking it is accepted that if a pellet breaks the line on a target it will score the higher value. Tears caused by pellet holes are usually ignored and it is the hole they make that counts.