Picking out shooting targets shouldn't be rocket science, right? After all, its main purpose is to take a few bullets, so how complicated can they be? Of course, nothing in life that's worth doing is all that easy. Shooting targets come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and materials, and which one is best for you will depend on what your goals at the range are. Your options will look much different if your goal is just to fire off a few rounds and have a good time than they will if you're at the range for serious practice.
Choosing a Material Type
Static targets come in a few different materials, but the most common are metal and cardboard. Cardboard or paper targets are the most common type found in many indoor ranges. They offer a few advantages, the most obvious of which being their relatively low cost and easy replacement. You can find paper targets in a wide array of shapes and sizes, which is why they are often used in training programs. Printed paper targets can also be useful to better see shot grouping or to provide multiple target zones.
On the other hand, metal targets offer something that paper can't: immediate feedback. There is no mistaking the sound of contact with a steel target plate, and it provides shooters with an immediate indication that they have hit their mark. This is invaluable for training, and it's also a great way to have a little bit more fun at the range.
Reactive vs. Static Targets
There's another wrinkle in choosing the right type of target: reactive vs. static. Static targets are exactly what they sound like. When using a static target, there is no engineered effect when a bullet hits the target or a specific zone. In other words, these are traditional targets that take a hit with no extra drama. You can find static targets in any material.
Reactive targets are all about getting the most feedback possible. These are generally only available as steel targets, and there's an almost limitless variety of types that are available. The simplest reactive targets are simply designed to recoil and rebound when hit, while more complex ones may do everything from raise an easily visible flag to create an explosion of refillable material. Depending on the type chosen, reactive targets may offer practical help for training or they may simply be a fun addition to your day at the range.
While paper targets may be common at many ranges, steel targets offer several advantages as well as the opportunity to shoot targets that are more interesting than static plates. They are well worth considering to add some variety and feedback to your range days.