Punching paper is traditional, but the changes in downrange scenery are noticeable and anything but subtle. The sport’s newfound youth movement has figured out how to add more excitement in target shooting and the switch to reactive targets is noticeable at ranges everywhere.
Time is Key
“It seems like today, all shooters—young and old—have less time than ever before,” explained Champion Traps & Targets Public Relations Manager Jake Edson. “So, whatever we can do to save them time and increase the fun at the range is what works. That’s why we’ve really focused on reactive targets like our new Center Mass Steel, VisiColor paper and the DuraSeal line.”
Birchwood Casey Brand Manager Eric Miller notes that target preference doesn’t necessarily reflect age or experience. “We do not see a large difference in generations of shooters, but it is more about shooters want to shoot year-round and want a target that is just not a bullseye or traditional style sight-in target,” he said. “Shooters are looking for interactive and reactionary targets. Our Shoot-N-C, Dirty Bird and steel targets give the shooter instant feedback via sound or by visual halos on the targets.”
Champion Traps & Targets expanded its VisiColor line not long ago with the new Real Life, Reflex, Training Silhouette and Fun Games series of reactive paper targets. “Interactivity is key to fun on the range today,” said Will Hemeyer, Product Manager for the company. “Shooters want to have fun and improve their skills with immediate feedback. With VisiColor, visual confirmation is immediate and lets you know exactly how you’re doing.”
“Paper is still king, because of the price and that you can shoot it anywhere,” Edson said. “However, steel is really taking off. More and more shooters are setting steel in locations where it’s feasible…Our new Center Mass targets are some of the first AR500 steel targets available at mass merchants such as Cabelas, etc. Previously, finding steel targets was a localized game because of the cost of shipping them.”
Miller concurs paper, or its variations, aren’t going away anytime soon. “Shoot-N-C as a family have been our best-selling targets,” he said. “The traditional bull’s eye and silhouettes are always proven sellers.”
Heavy metal options increase every month, though. Two years ago FAB Defense introduced Reactive Target Systems (RTS) Targets. Versions available can be used to hone CQB skills or stretch the distance to 300 yards. The spinners, knockdowns and stationary options are all made of non-ricochet components that make them ideal for plinking, gun ranges and law enforcement practice. The self-healing polymer can take thousands of rounds and minimizes the chances of splashback and there are even models with high-tech, wireless features.
Birchwood Casey offers a family of AR500 Steel Targets. Miller said, “The made-in-the-USA targets are manufactured with USA made AR 500 steel. Each target gives instant feedback by delivering both sound and action. Targets withstand centerfire handguns and centrefire rifles…shooters to set up different targets and at varying distances and it gives another dimension to the shooter.”
It’s not uncommon for local shops to fabricate and offer steel targets, but going cheap isn’t necessarily how to add more excitement in target shooting. I interviewed the experts and they provided some important tips to keep in mind as you shop.
As for the future, Edson explains, “Again, I go back to reactive targets and targets that make shooting an interactive experience that can be shared. Today’s consumer likes to shoot with friends and anything you can do to allow interaction, whether that’s competitive or just plain fun, is really what we’re focusing on.”
The experts agree: There’s no generation gap widening on the firing line. If anything, it’s closing. Shooters of all ages—casting their votes with their cash—appreciate the convenience and timesavings provided by modern targets. The “…satisfying ‘PING!’ with every hit” Edson said comes with steel, doesn’t discriminate by age.
The days when we were able to to head out to the back 40 for an afternoon of good old-fashioned family fun behind a trigger may be gone, but there’s a new generation of targets and they’re writing an all-new legacy.