Make Reactive Paper Targets

Make Reactive Paper Targets

A reactive target is a nonliving shooting target that does something when it’s accurately engaged by the shooter. Among other reactions, that “something” can be falling, spinning, hopping or even exploding. If you shot cans with your father’s .22-caliber when you were young, you were shooting reactive targets, because you were rewarded with a reaction when you shot well. Commercial reactive targets are usually steel, but shooting steel has its own hazards, among them fragmentation and ricochet. Reactive paper targets are easy to make and hazard-free.


1. If precision shooting is on your agenda, then you can make a very simple reactive paper target by using any cardboard silhouette target in any stationary stand. Purchase some yellow paint-gun balls. Yellow shows up well from a distance when it explodes. Using rubber cement, glue the paint-gun balls to the front of the cardboard target where you want each bulls-eye. Let them dry. Mount and shoot. An accurate hit on one of the paintballs will reward you with a yellow explosion.

2. For simulated combat shooting with less accuracy, for example, rapid fire or practical pistol shooting, build a cardboard “balloon-drop” target. Lay your 2-foot and 3-foot pieces of two-by-four end to end, flush. Screw in the door hinge so the two pieces will fold together when hinged. Nail the 4-foot length of two-by-four to the open end of the 2-foot piece, like a T. The long board will join the short board with the short board flat and the long board on its edge. You should now have a giant T on the ground, the T-cross on its edge, centered atop the T-stem. The “stem” is lying flat, with the hinge on top.

3. Cut a 3-inch hole in the cardboard silhouette, center of mass. Mount the cardboard silhouette on the 3-foot two-by-four arm of the target stand on the side of the two-by-four that folds inward. Staple the silhouette so the bottom edge is one foot from the end of the board. When the stand is on the ground now, you will be able to lift the target up into a vertical position. Screw a 2-inch wood screw into the upward facing surface of the 4-foot board, top dead-center. Leave an inch of the screw exposed.

4. Blow up a balloon to approximately 8 inches in diameter. Tie it off. Tie a 4-foot length of string to the balloon. Place the balloon behind the target silhouette and feed the string through the 3-inch hole. Tie the other end of the string to the screw, holding the target vertical. Keep enough tension on the string to ensure it will hold the target upright. Place a sandbag against the hinge, on the inside of the stand, to prevent the target from falling forward.

5. Place a filled sandbag on each wing of the T-cross board. This stabilizes your target stand against wind. When you hit your target center of mass, the bullet breaks the balloon, and the target falls backward.