The Beginner’s Guide to Reactive Targets

reactive targets

What would be an ingenious invention for anyone that wants to improve their accuracy and speed when shooting? You don’t have to think outside the box for this one… Targets that react when struck, or reactive targets. These are basic for military and law enforcement, but they also are beneficial for the general public.

They are beneficial because they:

  • are safer than homemade or improvised targets
  • show an instant or very visible reaction to being struck
  • improve firearm accuracy and confidence
  • are motivating, entertaining, fun
  • are cost efficient
  • prevent a litter and debris-filled backyard or shooting area (that would come from improvised targets)
  • are weatherproof and withstand wind and the elements

Types of Reactive Targets

reactive target types

Prepare yourself, we’re going to open your eyes to a whole lot of fun here.

  • Steel targets. Steel targets are some of the most popular and most widely used reactive targets. They are common with shooting competitions, military and law enforcement. One of the main reasons a quality steel target is safe, is because of the angle (20 degrees) they deflect at. This angle maintains any bullet fragments or ricochets will be deflected safely away from the shooter. Also, we would just like to note that with a smaller caliber handgun (such as a .22) you need to be standing at least 15 yards away to shoot at steel targets, with magnum or higher- 50 yards, and then at least 100 yards with a rifle. Well made steel targets usually have at least a 500 Brinell hardness number (BHN). That number is calculated through the test of how much resistance happens when a carbide steel ball is projected at the steel target (calculated with a 12.6 kg basis). The BHN is configured by dividing the size of the dent made the carbide steel ball, to the weight of the steel ball. I know it’s all very confusing, but basically trust that BHN is a worldwide standard used to find the hardness of steel. So when you look for a steel target you could be spending anywhere from $50 to a couple thousand dollars. A point to note though, is you are saving cost by buying a quality steel target that can actually be shot upwards of 10,000 times… Little, dinky targets you buy at Walmart or Cabelas add up, because most of them are unsafe and done once you shoot them even just 25-50 times.
    • dueling tree targets – these are usually set up with a long steel pole and two sets of different colored targets on each side that are hinged to the pole. When you shoot a target, they swivel to the other side of the pole. They are perfect for challenging a friend to a quick draw to see who can get all their targets to the other side first. DISCLOSURE:  competitive couples might need to refrain… My husband and I can’t even play the target shooting on the Wii without getting crazy and accusing each other of cheating… shout match, ensues… etc… it’s like playing monopoly with your firearms. Not a good idea.
    • pop-up targets – These targets can be fun if you get more than one and make a field of them, the way they’re designed is just as the name suggests, they go down when you shoot them and then pop back up.
    • gongs – another self explanatory steel target, it should make an audible “gong” noise when shot! Super satisfying, bring the zen to your shooting *wink*
    • Target men – these type of targets are usually shaped like a torso and a head and have two critical shot areas, one near the head and one near the “heart.” There should be a hole near where the heart and head are, and a metal target should swing out to indicate contact. These are fantastic to further challenge your accuracy, or for those training for finesse in life and death situations.
  • Bleeding targets – These targets are usually designed as the upper body of a character, and when you shoot them they bleed. Characters include zombies, Taliban, clowns, crooked politicians, nazis, and yes even one that looks like Obama (shame shame). The “bleed” because they are filled with many paintballs that leak when shot.
  • Tannerite – just do us a favor real quick and search Tannerite on youtube, yes it’s a wormhole, but just promise us you’ll come back after you watch a couple hours of things getting blown up. Tannerite is a patented explosive made with a combination of ammonium nitrate and/or ammonium perchlorate, and aluminum powder. It explodes when you shoot it. Reactive targets don’t get any more badass than this.
  • Spinner targets – Pretty self explanatory, and sounds so satisfying. I want to get one now.
  • Jumping targets – usually made out of self-healing plastic (plastic that swells and fills in holes after being shot), these brightly colored plastic thingymabobbers are designed in shapes that will jump and bounce when shot, making for an unpredictable target.
  • Color changing targets – targets that do just as it says
  • I’m sure we’ve missed a few, let us know in the comments!

Our Top 5 Picks: The Best Reactive Targets

reactive shooting targets

  1. MGM IPSC Hostage Target with Post and Base Steel – This “target man” target gets high reviews, has 500 BHN, and lets you adjust it to your level of difficulty. Yes, at $485 it is very pricy, but like we said above, with the amount of time you’ll have this guy and shoot him, it will redeem your money back. This is for those who have the money and would really like to jump in and work on improving their accuracy.

  2. Sonic Boom 10-Pack Rimfire Target – We just want to throw out a big CAUTION  with this one, because this isn’t worth losing a limb or even your life, lets be real careful with this stuff. Also just do a quick google of your local laws on exploding targets real quick. Now, with all that out of the way… you can now feel like you are the star of a Michael Bay movie.
  3. Jumping Targets AR500 Steel Dueling Tree Target AR-1035 w/ Free Shipping – Another pricey target at $365, but entirely worth it, this dueling tree target gets reviews for being high-quality fun. Bonus, it’s made to be collapsible so you can easily tote it around.
  4. DuraSeal Varmint Spinners – These spinner targets come in a variety of very visible colors, are extremely affordable, and are made in that new fangled, self healing plastic stuff. And yes, they get amazing reviews.
  5. New Design Versatile Armor “Gong” – What could be better than the sweet sweet gong of success? Built to last with high quality steel, this comes in at a medium price of $155. Only rule is you must clasp your hands together and bow every time you make a hit.

Time for the Range

reactive gun targets

Reactive targets are tons of fun, they get you motivated to get out there and get shooting. They make improving your accuracy effortless, and are well thought out so you can shoot without manually resetting or having to walk to your target to make sure there was contact.

Don’t stop here guys, if you’re a level above what we’ve listed and want some more options and information, it’s out there! For instance, there is a nifty camera and display screen that you can set up in front of your target for long distance, it’s a surprisingly convenient setup for those not wanting to “go the distance” (works up to a mile) out to their target after shooting.

We would love to hear from you if you’ve used any of the reactive targets we mentioned, or open up our eyes to one you’re using! Let us know in the comments!

Lastly, we purposely did not mention one thing here and that is DIY (do it yourself) targets. Some people make DIY steel targets, and we’re just going to stop you right there to tell you how SKETCHY that is… Ricochet is a very real and dangerous thing. It’s worth the money to buy a steel target that has been thoroughly researched and that has a 20 degree deflect angle. There might be other targets out there that are worth the DIY hype but we’ve yet to find one.

Stay safe and have fun out there folks! Happy pew pew pewing!

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