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Posted:  4/17/2013 10:00 AM #37380
CTD Blogger

Joined: 7/14/2009
Posts: 10828
Last Post: 8/20/2014
Subject: Gear Review: Cheap Reactive Targets
From   by Joe Grine- Shooting paper targets is great when you’re at an organized range such as Tri-County Gun Club in Sherwood, Oregon. The downside is that there are lots of Safety Sallies at these types of ranges, and the range nazis keep coming up with more and more PITA rules all the time. So Chris and I prefer to shoot at the various gravel pits in Mt. Hood National Forest – the further out from PDX the better. So when we travel out to Forest Service land for a day of range-nazi-free runnin’ and gunnin’, we like to shoot at reactive “feedback” targets. We’ve tested quite a few of the more commonly encountered cheap portable targets over the past year or so, so here’s the G2 on them . . .


There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing an audible “clang” or the sight of a target spinning in response to your well-placed shot. And in the long run, reusable targets can be quite cost effective, especially when compared to “shoot-n-see” types of paper reactive targets. Here is what we’ve tested so far:

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Champion® DuraSeal Varmint Targets.

One of my favorite cheap reactive targets is the Champion® Duraseal™ Varmint Target.  As the name suggests, these are made of a self-healing plastic under the proprietary name Duraseal.

Duraseal is a type of plastic that closes up on itself after a FMJ bullet or .22LR passes through it. Most bullets pass through Duraseal leaving only a very small hole. That allows the target to absorb thousands of hits. Hollow points, on the other hand, will take chunks out of Duraseal, so avoid those types of bullets if possible. Also, 20 grain .17 HMR rounds will also take smaller chunks out of Duraseal, but those holes aren’t large enough to cause concern.

These particular targets feature a metal counterbalance, which is the secret to why they work so well. Even a .22LR will make these things spin. The closer to the head you hit them, the more they twirl.

Walmart sells them for about $15.00 each, which is a good deal considering that these suckers can survive thousands of hits. I mostly shot at mine using my CZ 452 (.22LR) or my Savage 93R17 BTVS (.17 HMR). I like to set these targets up at distances from 50 yards to 125 yards and practice shooting unknown distances with my .22 and .17 HMR. I get better at estimating distances by using them that way. In addition, I’ve gotten better at using the BCD reticles in my Leopold VXII and Burris Fullfield II scopes, when shooting at these targets at different unknown distances.

Overall rating:  These targets get a “Do buy” recommendation, especially for .22LR, .17 HMR, and .223 Rem.

Pro tip IDon’t shoot these with pistol hollow points, because it really eats them up.

Pro tip IIBuy these in an assortment of the available colors (zombie green, orange, and black).  Depending on your background and lighting conditions, one of the three colors will always stand out better than the other two. On the dark, overcast day I took the photo posted above, TTAG reader Aharon and I found the black target to be damn near invisible at 50 yards even with a  3 x 9 x 40 Leupold optic set to 9x. But the zombie green and orange targets were easy to spot.



The small rodent targets discussed above are great for rimfire shooting out to 125 yards or so, but for practice at longer ranges using .204 Ruger, .223 Rem, or .22-250 Rem, you’ll want a larger target. Do-All Outdoors scores a solid hit with their 3-D Prairie Dog Target.

As the name suggests, this thing is roughly the size of a prairie dog – about 12 inches tall by 3 inches wide. It’s held up by a large spring that allows the target to rock back and forth when hit, giving visual feedback. The target returns to a stationary position after a few seconds, allowing quick follow up shots. It’s mainly designed for rifle shooting, but there’s no reason you can’t use pistol ammo, too. As shown in the photo above, however, hollow point 9mm bullets take big chunks out of the Duraseal,™ so you’ll want to avoid these types of bullets.

I bought this target from Nachez Shooting Supplies for around $60.00. It pays to shop around, since Cabalas has the same target for $80.00

Overall Rating :  This rodent gets a “Do Buy” recommendation, especially if you’re going to be shooting at it from 100-400 yards or so with a .22-250 or .223 Rem, etc.

Fun fact:  My secretary at work thought it was a sex toy. Really.

Pro Tip:  The spring is the vulnerable part of this target. So either dig a hole deep enough so that spring is below ground level, or put some rocks in front of the spring to protect it from errant shots.


Image 5 
The most disappointing target I tested was the “Big Gong Show” target by Do-All Outdoors. The problem is it really doesn’t spin like you’d expect it to. In fact, it really doesn’t do much of anything most of the time, making it difficult to know if you actually hit the damn thing. It’s most effective with big, slower velocity pistol rounds such as the .45 ACP. When shot with one of those man-stoppers, it tended to sway back and forth a bit, but nothing dramatic.

As it turned out, I ended up shooting the aluminum rod after about 100 rounds or so, and that pretty much ended the fun until I could jury-rig something to get it back in action. I hung it between two vertically-aligned PVC pipes using some 550 cord, and frankly, that arrangement greatly improved its function because it reacted more violently when hit.

Overall Rating:  Pass. Kinda boring, doesn’t do much unless you hang it from a string similar to the Caldwell Gong below.

Pro tip:  Again, don’t shoot at this or any other Duraseal target with pistol-caliber hollow points. In the photo above, you can see where hollow-point ammo cratered the “Big Gong Show” target.


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At $120.00 – $140.00, the Caldwell Magnum Rifle Gong is not exactly “cheap,” but this has become my favorite long range target. The overall size of the stand is 38 in. wide by 33 in. tall and it weights around 21 lbs. Caldwell also makes a nice range bag ($24) in which to carry the gong. 

The 10-inch diameter plate is 3/8 inches thick made out of AR-550 steel. This is some serious hardened steel, which isn’t even dented by the .308 Win BTHP rounds I shoot at it. Ironically, some .30-30 SPs launched from a 26-inch barrel Model 94 put an ever-so-slight dimple in the steel when shot from 50 yards. Go figure.

The Caldwell Gong makes a very loud, satisfying “clang” sound when you hit it, in addition to swinging back and forth nicely. You know when you’ve hit this bad boy.

I own two of these gongs. Mostly we use them for rifle shooting, and set them out anywhere between 100 and 600 yards. On a recent trip to the infamous hellion quarry near Estacada, former Navy SEAL Mark M. shot the 10 inch gong with boring regularity at 100 yards with the open sites of a Benelli M-4 loaded with slugs. No damage was done to the plate.

It’s also fun to set the two gongs out at 25 and 50 yards and practice rapid fire pistol drills, alternating between each target with each shot. I’ve heard some guys say that it’s risky to shoot steel targets at close range (and maybe that’s true) but so far I haven’t had any issues. Knock on wood. Feel free to post any horror stories if you are aware of  (confirmed) bad things happening when shooting steel targets suspended by chains at those distances.

Image 7

The weakness in this system is that the tubular steel frame is relatively delicate and probably can’t survive too many direct hits. So don’t let your friends shoot at it if their aim sucks. Also, the tubing will get chewed up by the lead/copper splatter, so don’t expect it to stay looking pretty for very long.

Having said that, TTAG’s Chris Dumm shot it with birdshot from new Mossberg 930 (see photo above), but the birdshot did nothing except scuff the paint. But honestly, shooting at these targets with bird shot is a kinda lame, so save your birdshot for clay pigeons.  Also: buckshot, slugs, or rifle bullets would have been a different story – if they hit the chain or the tube, expect holes to result.

Overall rating:  I highly recommend this target, so long as you’re careful not to shoot the tubes.

Pro tip:  As I learned through trial and error, you can re-paint the surface of the gong with spray paint, but you really have to use primer first.  I first tried using just plain old fluorescent yellow spray paint from Home Depot, but it wasn’t really thick enough to effectively cover the dark spots made by bullet impacts. That, and the paint peeled off in sheets when struck with a bullet.  Spray cans of primer, on the other hand, worked great, and once coated with white primer, the yellow spray paint worked much better.

Pro tip II:  Buy some extra chain and “S” hooks (or anchor shackles) at Home Depot, Acer Hardware, etc. Not only do the S hooks wear out from friction with the AR-550 plate, they also tend to get shot up fairly quickly:

Image 8

If you shoot the chain, that’s really not a big deal, because Home Depot sells replacement chain at a fairly cheap price.


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While the Duraseal spinner targets give you visual feedback, anybody who has watched a Hickok45 video and lusted after his backyard shooting gallery knows that metal targets are awesome because of the audio feedback they give. Unfortunately, they tend to be expensive unless you have a gearhead friend that runs a machine shop. Also, the mobility factor is pretty low, so it can be a PITA to schlep them to the range. So when I saw that Wal-mart was selling these metal spinner targets in their brick and mortar stores for $37, I decided to buy one and give it a go. I’ve bought a couple more since then, and overall I think they are OK, but not perfect.

But before getting into my findings, however, I should point out that Wal-mart is selling these targets on on-line for $57, a full $20 more than their brick and mortar price. Go figure.

As for my review – let me state that I typically shoot at mine with FMJ  9mm, .45 ACP, .380 Auto, .38 Special and a few .357 Magnum rounds – usually at about 10 yards or so.  The targets themselves have held up admirably, but the four hinges are considerably more vulnerable – and tend to break with the first direct hit.  Nothing that a bit of duct tape can’t fix, however.

In the interest of full disclosure, there is a particularly negative review of these targets at GunsAmerica. Apparently, their testers shot the top target with .308 Win and were disappointed to find out that the target won’t hold up to that powerful of a round. Part of me says “Well, duh…what did f**k did you expect?”

However, in defense of the reviewer, the manufacturer says right on the box says that the target is designed for “9mm to .30-06.” Hmmm. I honestly don’t know if something was lost in translation or what, but these targets are definitely NOT designed for high powered rifles. Mine stood up to a few .223 fired at 100 yards without any problems, but YMMV. I wouldn’t shoot at these targets with a high-powered rifle, period.

Overall: Meh. This thing is OK as far as it goes (for pistols anyway), but I prefer the Jumping target if you can spring for the extra $$$.

Pro tip:  The target is designed so that you stick the 4 legs into the ground for stability.  That works pretty well if the land you are shooting on has a nice layer of topsoil or clay.  But we typically shoot in gravel pits, and so the legs don’t work well on a surface of hard rock or gravel. Ditto for frozen soil, hardpan, or sand.  So I drilled some holes in some scrap lumber and I was good to go. See photo above. If you bring your cordless drill with you to the field, you could even drill the holes directly into a fallen log or tree stump.


Image 10

Champion DuraSeal Double Gong Spinner Target (Radiation Green)

As much as I really like Champion’s little prairie dog targets, I’m not as thrilled with their Double Gong Spinner ($24.00). It really doesn’t do all that much. When I shot it with 9mm, it will typically rotate a little, so at least you know you hit it.   But I was expecting it to spin around a few rotations, and it really doesn’t do that. Also, it lacks the audio feedback that you get with the metal spinners. Overall, it’s kinda boring, so pass on this one in favor of the Wally World metal spinners or something else made out of metal.

Overall rating:  Pass. Boring. Snooze.


Image 11 4.75 inch AR 500 Target

I saw these thingies down as Sportsman Warehouse for $59.99 and decided to give one a try.

They’re made out of AR 500 steel, are heavy and very durable. They come painted an orange color but I repaint mine after every range trip. I’ve shot it with .223 Ball, .308 ball, 7.62 x 39, 12 gauge 00 Buck, etc. and lots of 9mm, and the target is no worse for wear. As with all AR 500 steel, if a round hits right on the corner it will take a little bite out of the edge, but that’s really no big deal.

I think the Jumping Target is, in the long run, going to be a better deal than Do All’s “Double-Blast Spinner Target” reviewed above. It costs a little more up front, but it’s both a better design and made of better quality steel. It will handle the high-powered rifle rounds, and it gives you that satisfying audible steel feedback we have come to know and love. Plus, it flips when hit with a rifle round, so you can actually “walk” it down the range by shooting at it. Like other steel targets, they are easily repainted in between range sessions.

Overall Rating:  Do buy. Long term, the welds may prove to be a weak point, but so far they have held up to hundreds of hits. 

Pro Tip:  When you repaint these, don’t do it in your front yard without putting down a drop cloth first, because you will get paint all over the grass and the love of your life will get pissed at you. Trust me on this one.


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Do-All Outdoors Steel .22LR Spinning Target

I saw these .22 LR spinner targets on sale at Big 5 Sporting Goods and brought a couple home. 

Along with the Champion Dura-seal Varmint targets, these spinners have become some of my favorite reactive targets for shooting .22 LR. They react very violently to a direct hit, with the paddle making an audible “clank” sound, several 360° rotations, finally settling down after 5 seconds or so. If you time your shot correctly, you can actually stop a paddle from swinging, which is tons o’ fun.

Although they hold up extremely well to .22LR, I did notice that .17 HMR puts a slight dimple in the steel. For testing, I shot the target once with a 6.5 x 55 Swedish Mauser and, predictably, it ripped a big hole in it. So don’t do that. Other than that, this target is a winner.

Overall rating:  Do buy, but only for .22LR.

Pro tip:  Because I shoot in gravel pits, etc., I drilled some holes in a 10 inch wide pine board and use that to stabilize the target (see photo above). I usually place a large rock or two on top of the wood to hold it down, and this arrangement has worked quite well.

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