Reactive Targets for Airguns
Reactive targets for airguns – that is ones that move when they are hit – are a great way to add interest into your shooting. Sure, paper targets are useful, particularly when you are sighting-in or testing new pellets for accuracy. But the immediate gratification of shooting at a target and seeing your success proclaimed by a movement is really unbeatable for many airgun shooters!
Practice makes perfect, they say. Target practice is important for all shooters. It enables us to hone our skills and enjoy doing it! It can also indicate the longest range at which shooter, airgun, pellets and scope can make a guaranteed hit. For airgun hunters, this essential to ensure that you are able to make humane, one-shot kills.
Most of the targets listed in this review are multi-use. That is, they are designed to be shot repeatedly.
But all reactive targets need to be treated with respect. They’re mainly intended for use with .177 caliber air rifles and can be damaged if hit with very high power airguns. The reactive targets used in Field Target shooting, for example, are very heavily made but there’s still a maximum power limit of 20 Ft/Lbs muzzle energy imposed on competing air rifles as repeated hits from higher power guns will cause irreparable damage.
CAUTION: Reactive targets made of steel – that’s most of them – are designed to be shot with lead pellets. Alloy pellets may bounce back at the shooter. Steel BBs certainly will!
HAM’s advice is strongly to use only lead pellets with steel reactive targets. And, of course, always to wear shooting glasses!
In this feature, we look at a few of the reactive targets for airguns that are out there. We also give a personal view of the high-level benefits of each type of target. Of course there are many more reactive targets available, from many different manufacturers and brands. But I think we have most of the basic types covered here.
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Metal Traps, Targets & Ranges
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Targets and Traps
One of the most common reactive targets for airguns is the spinner. There’s endless versions of this basic target type available and for good reason. They’re cheap, easy to use and give good confirmation of the hit: the paddle spins around the rod most pleasingly!
There’s no resetting required. The target paddle drops automatically into place by gravity.
Pros: Low cost makes great value target practice.
Cons: Usually best for lower-power airguns or shorter ranges.
Daisy ShatterBlast targets are brightly-colored targets much like mini sporting clays. They break up when hit in a very satisfactory manner when hit. So, obviously, there are one time use targets.
Normally they’re held in plastic target holders. However, it’s very easy to shoot the target holder by mistake and it’s then destroyed. Why do you think there’s no target holders shown in our photograph???
Cons: Flimsy holders, single use targets are expensive for repeated practice.
These reactive targets for airguns usually combine the capabilities of a target with a pellet trap. The targets are shot down one-by-one and the system is then reset by shooting the central paddle.
Although the pellet collection area is limited to a letter box-like central slot, this means that these are the only reactive targets for airguns that could be used indoors. They’re suitable for short range use – 10 yards or less.
Rocker targets are really only for use with low-powered airguns and certainly ONLY for use with lead pellets. High powered airgun will cause damage to the trap and the pellets may fly back. BBs and alloy pellets WILL fly back!
Also, hit targets are held down by a magnet. If the target is hit very hard (with a high powered air rifle), the magnet will not be able to catch the falling target and it will bounce back up.
Pros: Could be used indoors with appropriate precautions.
Cons: Low powered, short range use only.
These are the target types used exclusively at FT matches. A central paddle (usually painted yellow) must be hit, then the whole target falls. Hitting the target outside of the yellow “kill zone” does not result in the target movement and is regarded as a miss.
This type of reactive targets for airguns can be used at any range. The yellow “kill zone” can be made smaller by means of a “reducer”, as seen on our photograph.
This is a very popular type of reactive targets for airguns and is a great practice target for airgun hunters. Many of these targets are very sturdy and will give a long life. There’s also a wide variety of target shapes and faces available, including different animal and bird shapes, zombies and more.
For stability, Field Targets are attached to a heavy weight – like a cinder block – supplied by the shooter. So there’s some assembly required.
And these targets are manually reset by pulling on a string from the firing point. This is useful as it’s not necessary to go downrange to set the target. But you do have to contend with strings snagging on plant growth and rewinding the string after use can be tedious. Most FT shooters use a fishing reel to wind in the string.
Pros: Sturdy, reliable, versatile.
Cons, Assembly required, need manual resetting when hit.
This type of reactive targets for airguns has multiple individual target paddles mounted on a star-shaped, spinning system.
When one target is hit, it falls back and is retained by a magnet. The target system then becomes unbalanced and the targets will rotate for some time until a point of balance for the star assembly is reached.
Once all of the targets are down, the shooter need to go downrange to reset them. (Unless you’re a very good shot and can shoot the targets “back up” without hitting the target arms and causing serious damage, that is!).
These targets are supplied unassembled and the kit of parts can look daunting. But they’re not so difficult to assemble as it first looks.
Rotary targets are ideal for practice by airgun hunters, as they can practice hitting moving targets. This is also the ideal reactive targets for airguns if you want to shoot with a buddy. Set up two rotary targets and the first one to “clear” his/her complete target is the winner. Such competition encourages taking the risk of shooting at the target when it’s moving and improves shooting skills.
Again, rotary targets are best used with .177 caliber air rifles, as they will be destroyed by repeated strikes from high power air rifles.
Pros: Practice with moving targets, ideal for informal competition.
Cons: Relatively complex and expensive. Manual resetting required.
Reactive targets for airguns can give hours of fun. They encourage practice and enable us all to improve our shooting skills. If you don’t own any reactive targets, you need one. If you have one already, you need more!