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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.

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Do-All Outdoors 3D Prairie Dog Self-Healing Target

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

Here they are in action:

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.

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Image 5 Do-All Outdoors Impact Seal Self-Healing Big Gong Show Reactive Target 

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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Caldwell Magnum Rifle Gong

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.

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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, Ace 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:

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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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Do All Double-Blast Spinner Target

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.

Here is a video of this target in action:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ_WLR6AOvo

Overall: Meh. This thing is OK as far as it goes (for pistols anyway), but I prefer the Jumping Target.com 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.

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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.

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JumpingTargets.com 4.75 inch AR 500 Target

I saw these JumpingTargets.com thingies down at 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 ball, 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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41 Responses to Gear Review: Cheap Reactive Targets

  1. Idk. For $180 you can get the Grizzly Reactive Auto-Reset reviewed by TTAG, and be done for a long, long time. It should save $$$ in the long run.

    • We took the Grizzly out a few weeks ago, and somebody at the range hit it with several rounds of steel-core or tungsten-core ammo. I think it was another group of shooters, since we’re careful not to shoot steel at steel, but it cratered the target face pretty bad. It wasn’t any of our normal ammo, because I’ve seen how regular FMJ and HP ammo just splashes off of it. Even a .308 at 50 yards can’t ding it.

      Luckily, all I have to do is unbolt the target face and shoot the other side. As long as we steer clear of steel-core ammo, we’ll get years from it.

  2. I see those pyramidal ‘jumping target’ style targets at the big local shows here in Wichita once in a while, they come in 3 or 4 sizes. Dunno if they’re a local make or what. Always thought about getting a couple. Next time I see them I’ll ask what they’re made of, I’d hate to go putting holes in them with the .30-30 or .30 carbine.

  3. I own the Caldwell gong target and it has held up well vs. 223 fmj (minimum distance of 100 yards) and 308 fmj. Hundreds of rounds downrange on it and its got a few dimples for sure. The frame IS the weak point. Luckily my friends are decent riflemen, but I’ve got a few holes in it and can see where another close shot to one of those holes could take it out. I hang my two other steel rifle targets off of a galvanized tube frame, so when the Caldwell frame dies, I’ll just migrate the gong over to another home-made tube frame. Pretty cheap to make.

    Yes, S-hooks. Keeps spares. 😀

    Just a side note: Last year I let a good friend take a stab at it with his 22-250. I was almost certain it would penetrate. Sure enough, I’ve got a clean hole right through the center of my gong. We now laugh when we get a weird gong tone we’ve come to recognize as someone getting a ‘hole in one’ on the gong.

    • I’m really surprised to hear that the .22-250 would penetrate that steel. I guess the speed of the round (3600 – 4000 fps) is what makes the difference. The instructions do state that you should shoot at the plate at 100 yards r more, and using rounds that are slower than 3000 fps.

  4. This is awesome, I made myself a paper target holder but it is wearing out and I was looking for an alternative. Next time I go to Wally World I will be looking for those varmint targets.

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

    I once brought a blow-up doll to a party as a practical joke, and my secretary thought it was a target.

    Okay, not really.

  6. cheaper method for steel targets. Ebay search AR500 and dont buy less than 3/8ths thick

    you can make stands out of just about anything, I have 5 of them that have held up great.

    i attach them to target stands at the range with chains and steel snap links, generally way cheaper than buying any of the name brands in steel targets.

  7. What? No review of the Caldwell resetting spinner targets? They solve the problem of having to drive the target into the ground or use a board to support them.

  8. One way to get into “heavy duty” steel shooting is to buy plates either online or locally if you can find them and just build a simple frame. Simple 2×4 frames have held up surprisingly well for me, and who doesn’t have some scrap wood like that laying around?

  9. awesome review. i do enjoy the gun and gear reviews on TTAG. i’ve really come to try to read up on here prior to a major purchase, and that’s good…..as i see now with the “meh” and “pass” reviews above. here’s a question for you: while avoiding hollowpoint pistol rounds or HP rifle loads, how do these things hold up to cast lead or “cowboy” loads? really i’m thinking more about the metal targets, not the duraseal types.

    keep up the good work, TTAG folks.

  10. I use the Do-All Outdoors spinner for my spring air .22 pellet rifle. It’s a nice little target and lots of fun. We set point values to the different paddle sizes (10,20,30 pts) and have marksmanship contests based on total points for 5 shots. Now that real ammo is hard to come by or just too expensive, I think the pellet gun and spinner targets are going to get a lot more use this summer.

  11. Oh. My. Gosh!

    I shoot where the soil is extremely hard and rocky, and I never once thought of drilling a hole in a board to prop up my spinner targets.

  12. I’ve been using a retired scuba bottle for my reactive target. It doesnt move much but does make a nice ringing sound when hit. Of course, i emptied it first…….no way i had the stones to shoot it under pressure. I might not have ever been able to find it if i did.

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

    Someday, we should have drinks with your secretary.

  14. I was shooting in the country with some friends and we had one of the Do-All Outdoors Impact Seal Self-Healing Big Gong Show Reactive Target
    after the shooting, we found a 40 cal FMJ lodged in the rubber target. this was shot from about 30-40 yards,
    also can back up that the Do-All Outdoors Steel .22LR Spinning Target does not handle larger calibers well.

  15. The reason “safety sallies” at commercial ranges keep coming up with new rules, is because idiot shooters that don’t understand or bother to do research on safe shooting practices haul trash to the range, shoot steel targets and put holes in them, and generally tear shit up and act like children. One local range has had customers deliberately shoot up eye protection loaned to them by the range, and shoot up the clay thrower. A local members-only gun club has had people haul appliances on the range and shoot them to pieces, leaving trash all over the range for volunteers and other range users to clean up. All it takes is one round leaving the property and hitting something or someone downrange and a commercial range owner can lose everything they’ve worked for and everything they own.

    There’s a lot of information available on how to use steel targets safely – unfortunately you didn’t mention any of it. The rulebooks for IPSC, IDPA, 3-gun and Cowboy Action Shooting are good resources, and several major vendors of professional grade steel targets have extensive documentation on safe guidelines for use of their products. Once a steel target gets pitted or has a hole in it, the odds of splatter coming back to the shooter goes up significantly. Rifles pose the greatest risk, and steel targets shot with rifles need to be a lot farther away than those shot with pistols and shotguns. In 25 years of shooting a lot of steel targets in matches and in training I’ve seen multiple incidents where people were hit with splatter that required a trip to the ER. Several of the situations you describe in your article violate the basic guidelines for safe use of steel targets, as do several of the situations described by the commenters.

    • It’s not up to the author to go into detail on how to use it safely. It’s up the user to know the safety guidelines and follow them and to make sure everyone else firing on the target knows as well. Safety is in your hands and not the author of a review you read.

  16. Plastic soda bottles. Fill them with water, and they throw out spray. Leave them empty, and they fly through the air with the greatest of ease. That way, the target is in a new place after every good shot, and if you’re able, you can try hitting it in flight.

  17. I’ve always kinda preferred live prairie dogs for reactive targets. The sheer acrobatics involved are priceless. There’s nothing like having a ton of fun and leaving a courtesy smorgasbord for the hawks, badgers and coyotes. No clean-up!

  18. What I have been taught regarding the rules for shooting steel are as follows: 10 yard MINIMUM for handgun rounds. 50 yards for .223 and 100 yards for anything more powerful.

    That said, the steel targets we shoot are angled down, so rounds hitting them are deflected down. We do have small round plates that knock down and dueling trees but those are strictly for pistol shooting only.

    Anything closer than 10 yards with the pistol mandates the use of Frangible ammo, which goes to dust when it hits steel.

  19. The Do-All Double Blast spinner is a piece of garbage. I’ve shot it with .223 and 5.56, and if you hit the “circles” of the spinner, it works quite nicely… anywhere else and you’ve destroyed it. Hit a leg? It’s gone. Hit the support beam? It’s gone. Even if you hit between the circles, where the steel has been twisted, you will drill a hole straight through. Drilling holes in wood is a great idea to support it, because late summer, it becomes impossible to get it into the ground. I brought it to the range once and it was useless when I left. Maybe sticking to pistol rounds will save its life, but the box does say up to .30-06. I have some of the spinning prairie dogs coming and I look forward to using them after reading this review.

  20. Holy carp. If you haven’t been rolling your own for the last 20 years, I have no idea what to tell you.

    Everybody does it, and has been for decades. Get some appropriate steel for a c-note and have it watejetted/lasered/whateva. What is this TTAG for 8th graders?

  21. Try using a rail road tie plate and a 5 foot planter hook . . . .15 bux and you’re there.

  22. I worry about shooting at some of the cheap targets. Steel targets are all about the safety built into the design. A company right here in Portland, “Salute” has a huge line of a hundred or so safe steel targets, and it’s really easy to just buy them right on their web site.

  23. I use one of the self sealing orange cubes. Two problems, one if you hit it dead center it doesn’t react, maybe flinches a little. You have to hit it towards the edge to make it tumble. Second it stood up really well to 9 mm FMJs, but .223/5.56 rounds @100′ are tearing it apart.

    The label said it would take anything up to a .50 BMG round. I think they meant ONCE.

  24. Nice review – appreciate the pro tips. Seems like a pain to have to keep switching targets based on caliber. We felt that was the strength of cardboard because you can hit it with any caliber and its very cheap to replace. (Along with no ricochet).

  25. I have one of the double blast spinners, and regularly shoot everything at it from .22lr to 7.65X54r. The thing has held up pretty well, and is a blast to shoot with .40 S&W or 9mm at close range. Two drawbacks, however: The first is that it is an absolute PITA to get anchored well enough in rocky soil that it doesn’t fall over, which I solved by welding it to two big commercial rough mower blades at the shot. And the second issue I’ve had with it is that even at 200 yards, a .300 Win Mag blasted a 1/2″ hole right through the center of it. Also welded the hole back up. So if you have access to a welder and a little bit of creativity, the Double Blast is a worthy adversary.

  26. This review is great on a practical topic of interest. Comprehensive, good pictures, helpful explanations of do it yourself improvements. You’ve actually used the gear. It was also funny. Thanks!

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