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How to Choose the Right Shooting Target

Time to Read: 1 m 56s

Picking the best shooting targets can be tricky. The process involves several choices, beginning with the purpose of the practice, gun type, shooting distance, and ammunition.

For example, duck hunters use clay "pigeons" catapulted into the air to practice taking down a moving target with a rifle, while law enforcement officers use a silhouette for training with handguns.

Steel Shooting Targets

Shooters may choose a steel target for long-range practice, such as the AR500 (short for abrasion resistant steel with a Brinell hardness of 500). Steel targets provide a satisfying "ping" sound, letting the shooter know they have hit the mark.


The AR500 target is a tough, long-lasting choice, and both sides can be used, adding to the life of the target. The AR500 typically comes in either a 1/2" or 3/8" thickness, in a gong shape with two “ears” that can be loosely chained to a target rack. This type of mounting allows the target to swing when hit, and then return to its original position.

The AR500 can be used for rifle, pistol and shotgun practice, depending on the distance, target thickness and type of ammo used. Because steel targets may cause sparks or flying metal debris, always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Paper & Cardboard Shooting Targets

In contrast to steel targets, paper targets are not re-usable, but they offer other benefits. Paper or cardboard targets, which can easily be taped to a target board, are much cheaper than metal, and they provide a permanent record. Many different styles are available, with varying details that make practice more interesting, and potentially more useful.


For example, a paper target illustrated with specific animal physiology can help hunters bag more game. Targets with incremental rings or grids can help a competitive benchrest rifle shooter improve both accuracy and precision.

For those interested in handgun practice simulating self-defense scenarios, cardboard or paper silhouette targets made for the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) come with the official scoring rings, allowing shooters to improve their competitive skills.

From paper to clay to metal – the best shooting targets make target practice more productive and more enjoyable.

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