Moving Targets: The Route to Better Shooting Skills

posted on August 19, 2021

Shooting is fun no matter how you do it, but everyone has their own level of enjoyment. Some are content shooting paper targets, while others need some action in their shooting. I find myself in the latter group. Once the gun is sighted-in, I am trading the paper targets for something that moves. While paper targets have a big role in becoming a better shooter, moving targets also play an important role in improving our shooting abilities.

Paper targets don’t move; they are static or fixed. Moving targets put our senses at a different level, and we find it easier to be laser focused to make the target move. When your desire is to make something swing, jump, explode or sound off, you tend to try harder. When you try harder, you get better at whatever it is you are doing. When you are getting better at something, your confidence grows and you end up having more fun!

For those reasons I really enjoy shooting moving targets, and I have found many of the new shooters I introduce to shooting really light up when they hear the metal plate sound off or see the clay explode or watch a target swing wildly. I can easily see them wanting to become better shooters and they soon execute the “sight, acquire, fire” drill better and better.  It is instant gratification!

You can set up your own moving targets from items you find at home, but if you are going to do a lot of shooting or you plan on being serious about it, investing in a quality made moving target will save you a lot of time over the years and offer you a safe setup that you can reliably run drills on or have some friendly competition.

Tree Targets

Tree targets aren’t actual trees, of course! They have a straight vertical metal bar in the middle with paddles that stick out left and right from it on a hinge. When you shoot them on one side, they swing to the other side. You and a partner can “punch” them back and forth. These targets are great for speed drills, honing your sight acquisition, or having a competition to see if you or your partner can put all of the targets to one side or the other while both of you are shooting.

I tested Challenge Targets’ Commerical Grade Rimfire Dueling Tree. It has six 4” AR500 steel paddles that are extremely durable. This target is for .22 rimfire only. For beginners or .22 enthusiasts, this is the product that I have my shooters use.

In our test and use of this target system we found that the paddles rang loud enough to hear with Walkers Razor muffs while shooting, and the paddles moved every time we hit them too. The durable paint on the paddles has held up quite well and is a hit with my daughters.

Plate Rack Targets

Plate rack targets have swinging paddles below or paddles above that you knock down, swing or lock in the UP position (depending on what the manufacturer designed). My go-to plate rack target is Challenge Targets’ Shoot to Reset Plate Rack. This product works well with common handgun calibers and is a lot of fun to shoot. Always check your owner’s manual to verify the safe distance for shooting your specific caliber!

There are four paddles. The shooters shoot three. They lock up out of sight until you hit the fourth one, which causes them all to reset. No more walking back and forth to reset targets! There are plenty of reasons to like this product.

First, it can be broken down by taking off the legs with no tools and put in a truck to go to a friend’s house or camp. Second, the premium package comes with .22 paddles, which easily switch out so you can get the entire family involved in shooting, even the younger shooters. Third, the centerfire setup has a bullseye plate with a 2” aperture to make sure you really put your round in the exact spot to reset the targets. This is a great feature for timed challenges, or just to get your focus dialed in.

We used this plate rack target to knock the rust off our shooting skills. Due to ammo shortages we have not been shooting nearly as much as we would like, and it showed during the first rounds of practice. However, after a few rounds, I was happily burning the paddles up and resetting them without much thought. It felt great to use this target system to rehone my shooting.

There are other moving targets made by various companies out there. Be sure to do your research and get a setup that will last and is made of certified steel. This is why I personally like Challenge Targets. I know the quality is great. You can check out other moving targets on their site.


When using one of the above targets or any like them, keep in mind that there will be a minimum safe distance between the shooter and the target, and that minimum safe distance starts at 10 yards for small-caliber pistols. It increases for each caliber—and there will be a dramatic increase in the minimum safe distance from pistol caliber to rifle calibers. Rifle calibers are considered to have a minimum safe distance of 100 yards. Your owners’ manual should provide specifics, and you should always check those specifics … then go a little further out than required. The reason why is that it is possible for bullet fragments to shatter or break off around the target.

Don’t forget safety glasses and ear protection, and wear long pants. Another primary safety consideration is to be certain of your backstop. Always know what lies beyond your target!




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