Lockdown boredom breaker: print your own novelty air rifle targets!
PUBLISHED: 09:29 10 February 2021 | UPDATED: 09:29 10 February 2021
Airun shooter Peter Yeats reveals how he’s been staying sane throughout lockdown, and how to print off some novelty air rifle targets from the Web
Whilst I’ve been stuck indoors, for self-isolation initially and then the pre-Christmas lock-down, I’ve been shooting at paper targets in my steel target holder, to keep my eye in and to keep using my rifles, instead of just letting them stand. Of course, they were prepared and ready to shoot so all I had to do was to set up the holder with some of my standard paper targets. The trouble was, it quickly became a feeling of ‘same old, same old’, and I realised that I was repeating a familiar process with equally familiar targets. I was keeping my kit in good working order and keeping my own shooting technique well-honed with stance, grip, eye-alignment, breathing, trigger technique, follow-through – it was second nature, really – and that’s the point. It was all too familiar. It needed an injection of FUN.
With a decent shooting distance, I could have set up my cocktail stirrers – they always provide a genuine challenge, depending on range, and which end of the stirrers that I’m aiming for, but indoors – my double garage, to be exact – the range is short and the pellets require the pellet-catching funnel of my steel target holder. Shooting in a garden, surrounded by neighbours with children, is an absolute non-starter; despite the ease with which I could ensure that pellets would stay legally within my garden, the noise of gun and pellet completely rule this out.
So, I found myself looking online at the vast number of paper target designs and types available, either to buy, or as free downloads. A Pinterest or standard search for free targets got the ball rolling, but it became obvious very quickly that the variety of available target types cater for virtually any kind of session. The standard targets that I wanted to change from were there in abundance – zeroing and bullseye discs for every occasion – and there are free downloads for every kind of standard competition target for airguns and firearms, if you are FAC and can practise with longer ranges. However, I wanted fun targets to play with, for my practising.
The class of targets that I looked for first were from the usual air rifle quarry – rabbits, rats, and grey squirrels, mainly, but the choice open to shooters is huge, and I like that I could choose between silhouettes and photo-realistic targets, with or without superimposed target zones. The silhouettes, it seems to me, offer a mid-point between standard black and white bullseye targets and photographic quarry targets, so they still feel like serious practice. The photo-realistic targets offer the kind of sight image that you might actually see in the field, and they have the bonus of providing the illusion that you’re not stuck in a garage repeating exactly the same scenarios.
Other options could be simulating the big-game hunting experience by taking a copyright-free image of the ‘target’ in its environment and printing it out for your target holder. Perhaps you could find an image of several water buffalo, thereby incorporating several targets in one print. One advantage of this option is that you can imagine what the actual sight picture might look like, without the expense of a safari or shooting at diminishing numbers of big game – and it’s a novelty, a change from the standard bullseye – something enjoyably different.
As for my own novelty targets, I started by looking at the quarry-based idea and photo-realistic images that replicated my own sessions in the field. I even considered printing them so that the close-range sight image matched the scale image of my quarry at my usual hunting distance and sight magnification. All of this can be done quite easily with photo-editing software. However, it did seem a little over the top when the novelty factor is all I was really looking for.
In the end, I rather liked the SWAT-type targets; the militarised torso targets, assailants, and zombies as much as anything. They’re not the sort of targets I’d ever shot at before and are probably more familiar to airsoft shooters, or paintballers. That could be why they particularly took my fancy at this time; for me, at least, they ARE a novelty, a bit of frivolous fun to pep up my practice.
Of course, you can always use your own pictures/photos to print out unique targets that are exactly tailored to you. All you need is a computer, a printer, basic image-editing software and a little time to fill. When making your own targets, one of the main issues is to pay attention to image scale and cropping, so that the sight image of the printed target is exactly what you want. Make sure that the image size allows for the perfect fit in the target holder. Also, avoid printing in photo quality; printer ink is extremely expensive so print quality should be ‘normal’ or ‘draft’, not ‘fine’ or ‘photo quality’. Lastly, cut cardboard backing squares to reinforce your new paper targets because you will shred them!
With these factors in mind, if you also feel the need to re-inject the novelty factor into your paper-target practice, dust off your printer, scour the Internet for free targets, or copyright-free images, then get creative on your laptop and discover the vast possibilities for variety and novelty targets available to us all. Above all, have fun!
Check out these great websites for free target downloads: