Home CCW Weekend: Inexpensive Practical Shooting Targets CCW Weekend: Inexpensive Practical Shooting Targets For Serious Training

CCW Weekend: Inexpensive Practical Shooting Targets For Serious Training


By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

If you read the gun magazines and the good gun blogs (hopefully that includes this one…har har har) and watch stuff on YouTube, you’ll notice that the targets people tend to use are often kind of expensive.

Steel targets aren’t cheap, either in-store or online.

There’s also the problem of availability.

While the silhouette targets like the IDPA, IPSC or QIT targets, either the paper versions or cardboard, aren’t necessarily expensive it is also the case that not many stores that sell targets – either gun stores or sporting goods stores – stock them.

Granted, that’s a your-mileage-may-vary thing; your area may be different, but I can only find paper IPSC silhouettes at one store in a 60-mile radius. Nobody stocks QIT or IDPA targets, and those three are some of the most popular practical shooting targets.

This is the stuff you’re supposed to use if you want to train worth a darn, right?


Instead of settling for whatever you can get or being at the mercy of Amazon, a bit of knowledge and ingenuity can get around supply or cost issues and still do practical training.

First, the knowledge portion. Consider, for a moment, human anatomy.

No, not those parts. Get your mind out of the gutter.

The vital areas of the chest are more or less contained within a certain space. If you can improvise a target that’s the same size, then you can practice placing shots inside a target area of that size.

The chest box, containing the heart, lungs, major arteries and blood vessels and the spine, could fit within a box 8 inches tall by 10 to 11 inches wide. As it happens, that’s the size of the top plate in a plate carrier, and is also the size of standard printer paper.

If you’re hurting for targets, use a blank sheet of paper turned sideways or – to use computer/printer vernacular – in landscape mode.

Similarly, the Down 0 zone of an IDPA target is an 8-inch circle. Therefore, a good substitute can be a paper plate as paper dinner plates are 8-inch plates. They also happen to be much cheaper than IDPA targets.

You can take that a step further.

Say you wanted to simulate the head and chest boxes of an IDPA target. The Down 0 area on the head is a 4-inch circle.

Now, presuming you have a target stand that you can attach a sheet of cardboard to, you can more or less set up the Down 0 zones on the target by attaching an 8-inch paper plate in the chest area and a 4-inch paper plate in the head area.

You miss the -1 and -3 zones, of course, but you still get the same targets of the same dimensions for training purposes, whether that’s for competition, defense, or – if you do both – both.

Another way to do the same thing is to use NRA B-8 25 yard targets. The 8 ring is an 8-inch circle, and the black area – the 9- and 10-rings – are a 4-inch circle. Staple or tape up two B-8s and you’ve basically got the same thing going on.

While silhouette targets aren’t common in stores, I find that NRA B-8 targets are.

Or, you can just find a downloadable version and print a bunch of them out. Or find a different free, printable target with roughly the same design; a 4-inch bullseye and 8-inch outer area.

IPSC and USPSA silhouettes are a little different. The A zones are 6″x10-11/16″ for the body and 3-¾”x2″ in the head.

The best practice for replicating that target is to make a template that you can apply to a cardboard box. The good news there is cardboard boxes are cheap, and if you order stuff from Amazon or other online retailers regularly, there’s a good chance you’ll have a few about.

Standard USPSA/IPSC targets are 18″x30″, so you’ll need a cardboard box that breaks down to that size.

There’s instructions on how to make them at GreatOutdoordinary, if you’re interested.

Of course, you could always just order a crap-ton of whatever practical target you want to use and resupply before you run out and figuring any of this stuff out would be pointless.

But, with that said, if you were having issues with getting a target that actually helps you do practical pistol training, these are some cheap hacks that let you get what you need using less-expensive or more common materials.

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Sam Hoober is a Contributing Editor to AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.