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Steel Target Tree

If you are a shooter you know that punching paper while a great way of practicing marksmanship does tend to get a bit monotonous. Checking targets (depending on distance) often requires having to walk back and forth to check the target and to see where the holes are. This is particularly true with small .22 caliber holes.  I had an idea awhile ago of building a target tree to practice with my .22 rifles. The idea revolved around being able to shoot at something from different positions (standing, sitting, prone) and being able to tell instantly where I was hitting. That led me to look at steel targets.

I know about dueling trees which flip back and forth when hit on each side. I have a steel target that has four targets that flip up with another on top that when hit releases the targets back down. That’s okay but one only gets one hit per target before having to reset them.  I wanted something that simply registered hits and emulated the targets I often practice with at 25 yards.

My search led me to a company called www.shootingtargets7.com that sells steel targets online at very reasonable prices. They have a variety of targets including round targets (called gongs) bulls eye targets (gongs within gongs) and silhouette targets (IDPA style). They are also selling rectangle targets as well as ISIS and Zombie head figure targets  They are made from AR400 & 500 armor steel. They come in various thicknesses from 3/16″ for rimfire and 9mm up to 1/2″ for the big stuff like 50 BMG.  They also come in various sizes from  3″ to 33″ in diameter. Since I was only going to shoot .22 LR I opted for the 3/16″ targets.

Bare targets laid out in formation. They come unpainted.

Bare targets laid out in formation. They come unpainted.

My tree would have a large 8″ target at the top to shoot from the standing position at 25 yards/meters. That simulates a target at 100 yards.  The second tier would be two 4″ targets for the sitting position at 200 yards.  Tiers three and four would be a row of three and row of four 3″ targets for prone shooting.  Basically, three and four simulate 300 and 400 yard targets.  All of those targets fit into a medium flat rate USPS box for cheaper shipping.

Once I got the targets I had to figure out a way to mount them.  They have mounting tabs at the top and people often hang them with chains. My idea was to make a portable stand that I could fold up and take with me.  I decided to use angle iron, threaded rods, lock nut and washers. I would use metal “S” hooks to hold the targets and spacers to keep them separated and spaced properly.

At the hardware store I bought 9 feet of 1/2″ angle iron.  Ten 1/4″ lock nuts, ten regular nuts, 2 fender washers and 8 feet of 1/4″ threaded rod.  I had some thin metal rods from some political signs I would cut, bend and use as S hooks to hang them on the threaded rods. I originally was going to use nuts and washers as spacers to keep the targets from moving side to side. I remembered I had some old garden hose so I cut and split the pieces to fit over the rods.

Front side. I used thumb screws and S hooks to put it together initially, replaced by nuts and garden hose.

Front side. I used thumb screws and S hooks to hold it together initially, replaced by nuts and garden hose later.

The S hooks were used initially as well. In trial runs of rapid fire I inadvertently shot one of them free. Other shots hammering on the targets tended to pull the bends out of the hooks.  Eventually I decide to cut and split more garden hose. A three or four inch piece of hose, split in half and then folded over cross bar/rod was the plan. A bolt/nut and washer held the target in place. The rubber hose would absorb any inadvertent bullet strike. I actually use both the S hooks and garden hose.

Back side. Note the support leg construction and garden hose holder on lower levels. Of course you can paint the targets anyway you want as well

Back side. Note the support leg construction and garden hose holder on lower levels. Of course you can paint the targets anyway you want.

Assembly involved cutting two 3 foot pieces of angled steel. I then drilled holes for the four threaded rods. These were the cross pieces to hang the targets on. I screwed basic nuts on each end of the rod to center them in the angled steel. A lock nut went on the outside to secure them in place though you could used standard nuts and lock washers.  On the third rod from the top I also added two 24″ legs. I used a washer between the ladder legs and the support legs to they could fold up. There is also a piece of angled steel to adjust the angle of the support legs. The support is drilled at one end to slip over the threaded rod. At the other end it is drilled then notched to fit over the rod in the support legs. This allows  the frame to be angled depending on the terrain which is often a berm or uneven ground.

I think it is important to note that none of the dimensions are set in stone. One could make the legs longer and place them farther apart. The rods could be be longer as well. I chose the current dimensions to be easier to transport. I should also note that the frame is reversible. This allows one to simple turn the frame around to continue shooting. Shootingtargets7 says actually good for the targets to shoot both sides as they tend to bow on one side after multiple hits.  Paint both sides, shoot one side until the paint wears off then flip around.

Support leg detail. Note the washer

Support leg detail. Note the washer

Support arm assembly. Note the adjustment notches. Also note the bullet splatter on all the parts

Final Thoughts

Overall I am pretty happy with how it turned out.  I’ve used thousands of rounds on it over the summer and it works well.  It is also quite portable and can be set up on an incline or against a target berm.

The garden hose does get brittle in cold weather and will tear when hit. It also tends to wear from the lead spatter against the targets. As a result I’ve shot several of the smaller targets loose. I will continue to try various configurations of S hooks or garden hose as hangers.

In retrospect I would probably buy a 6″ target for the top row. I got to the point where the 8″ is too easy to shoot from the standing position and I would often just shoot the 4″ ones instead. Aim small, miss small someone once said.  That’s what practice will do.  On the other hand the 8″ target is challenging at 50 yards standing and 100 yards prone.  It should be noted that while these targets will withstand 9mm handgun rounds, shooting them with something larger than .22 will knock the entire stand over. If you want to shoot something other than 22lr on you will need to stake the frame down or secure the gongs in another manner.

Since I’ve had these targets I’ve bought a number of other targets from shootingtargets7.com including some of their silhouette targets which I shoot at out to 150 yards.  I have them set up with hanging chains and 4×4 beams.  I am also in the midst of putting together another large order of 4″ gongs to use as falling plates for pistol practice.

I’ve found the targets from shootingtargets7 to be the best deal I could find. They ship promptly and often have special and holiday deals.  They also have a variety of target stands, hangers and target stencils on their website.

Though I’ve been buying from them for awhile I just recently learned that they have an affiliate program which I have joined. If you click through using the banner here on nylonrifles and buy something it will help  offset the cost of keeping this website going (and get my wife off my back for spending so much money on this).  So  if you do buy steel targets buy them through nylonrifles.com (until I can figure out how to put the banner ad up) there a link in the  Part and Gun Resources section in column on the left side of the page or click on the link below. It will help support us.

Link: https://shootingtargets7.com/store/?acc=14bfa6bb14875e45bba028a21ed38046&bannerid=5


About The Author

Mac created nylonrifles.com. It is the premier website and largest source of information on the internet about Remington nylon rifles. Mac spent 34 years in law enforcement, campus law enforcement and emergency management before he retired. He is a former Federal Firearms License holder and private investigator. He has a BS in Criminal Justice and Master's Degree in CJ and Security Administration. He has taught criminal justice at a college level and is certified and has taught numerous law enforcement, security and emergency management classes, including classes for the US Dept of Homeland Security. He currently is an emergency management and security consultant as well as being a Revolutionary War Veterans Association Appleseed rifle instructor. He is a Second Amendment Foundation Life Member and NRA Life Member and Range Safety Officer.


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