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Education / Training Introduction to Field Target – Part 3The targets – Part 2

Introduction to Field Target – Part 3The targets – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1 – How it all began
Part 2 – Targets Part 1

We are talking about the airgun sport of field target and right now we are in the middle of a discussion of the targets, themselves.

Dick Otten targets
Dick Otten’s After Hours Target Company has produced the widest range of target types over the years. I have known Dick since he started his business, and I’ve been privileged to watch him grow as a maker. When he first began his targets were similar to the homemade kind, made of wood with metal washers around the kill zone for durability. That sounds real good when the committee is discussing it, but in practice, those wood targets get shredded by indifferent shooters pretty fast.

An early Otten wooden target. The kill zone is protected by a thick steel washer that you can’t see.

Dick moved on to steel targets and played with different paddle mechanisms for several years. He was always searching for greater reliability, which is very important in the field target game. And that’s something that you must learn, if you are going to pursue this sport. There are many makers of field targets who haven’t got a clue what their targets are being used for. They don’t play the game themselves and so they’ve never had occasion to use their own products. While what they make may look artistic, it may not function very well. Or they may just blunder and do it right without knowing it.

This is the Rolls-Royce of field target mechanisms. It’s butter-smooth, ultra-reliable and can be adjusted to fall with a cross look! Dick Otten makes it.

Here’s the front of Otten’s target. He’s put the reset cable on an eyebolt, way out in front, so it can’t get caught on anything. And he has put a fancy steel cable with a snap loop on the end. This is so easy to set up for a match! By the way, how easy is it to see that 3/8″ kill zone? It has a red paddle. Imagine it at 60 feet under the shade of a bush!

Air Arms target has the reset string attachment way out to the side of the target. Do you think they put it way out there because there is a problem with snagging? You’re right!

I have a bunny target (not the one shown above) that was made as a rimfire target, if you can imagine that! There is no rimfire version of field target, yet there used to be several targets made for it. They were made by target companies who often have little grasp of the market they serve. My target has a paddle that has absolutely no connection to the target! It is possible to knock the paddle down and leave the target standing. But if you pull the reset string hard when you reset this target, the paddle sticks in the kill zone in such a way that it drags the target back for a fall when it’s hit. It takes at least 12 foot-pounds on the paddle to get this one moving, but with a powerful rifle, this target works very reliably. It cannot be used in a match because of the power requirement, which I would like to discuss now.

How much power to topple a target?
I haven’t mentioned power before, but in field target the power is limited. Mainly the limitation is to preserve the targets. A Career 707 pumping lead out at 60 foot-pounds will often shake a target down without hitting the paddle. It will also leave dimples on the target, eventually ruining them. So most American FT clubs restrict the power of competing guns to 20 foot-pounds at the muzzle. My club would chrono each gun before a match and we also weighed the pellet before taking the shot. There was no room for argument with that arrangement, but we took the word of shooters using guns with adjustable power. If they promised to keep their power dialed back below the limit, they were good to go. I remember the one match when I shot my best ever score, only to realize after the match I had done it with my .22 Career set at 26 foot-pounds. There was no power check that day, but I always knew my high score was probably inflated a little by the extra power I used.

My club set its targets to fall with four foot-pounds on the paddle. That way, even 12-foot-pound airguns could be certain to work all the targets out to 55 yards. On match day, I tested every target with a .177 air pistol at point blank range. If they didn’t fall – and in the beginning a great many did not – then we either adjusted them on the spot or swapped them out. That was actually a Darwinian practice that eventually removed all the weak sisters from our stable of targets. We wound up with a group of proven targets that we reserved for matches and a few troublemakers that we put on the sight-in range.

The fallen target must get up!
Knocking them down is only half the battle. The targets have to stand back up reliably every time or the match is over before it gets started. This is where bad field targets show their true colors. Pull cords can get easily fouled in superfluous hardware sticking out of the front of the target and nothing you do from the firing line will reset it. Then you have to call a cold range and walk down to untangle it. After the third or fourth time, that gets old. Good field targets reset without problems – and there used to be darned few of them that did. Today’s targets seem to be more reliable as a whole, but they still are not perfect. And please don’t ask me whether such-and-such a target works good or not. I have no way of knowing without trying them all, and target makers change their designs without telling me.

Painting targets
Field targets can be works of art, or they can be simple silhouettes of animals with a single color. The work of art is a thing to behold – but maybe not to shoot at. Give me a simple paint scheme every time. Experience has shown that a simple black target is the easiest to see in all light conditions. The paddle should be a contrasting color. My club used international orange, blaze green and red. The orange paddles were easiest for me to see because I am colorblind. The red paddles were barely discernible against the black targets. Remember – these targets can be under a bush 40 yards away, so light is very important.

After the paddle has taken 10-15 hits, the color will be gone. Then it is a shiny gray color. My club stopped in the middle of a match and repainted all targets. With two people working, it takes just 10 minutes to repaint 30 targets both black and orange. This break, which was usually 30-45 minutes long, gave everyone a chance to top off their reservoirs and have a quick lunch. Restroom breaks were also taken then, or during the match, and handled within the squad that I will discuss next.

I am finished with the targets, but I’ll probably have to come back to them as we move forward. Isn’t it amazing how much there is to these simple mechanical devices? A successful field target club probably spends more time on its targets than any other single aspect of the sport.

44 thoughts on “Introduction to Field Target – Part 3The targets – Part 2”

  1. Sorry B.B. -this is of target-but may be of intrest to some of our readers. I have had 2 rws 350 mag in .177. The 1st one failed after a couple of weeks and without a hitch Pyramyd trplaced it, in fact they had set me a new one even bore the danaged gun reached their facility. The 2nd one failed after to 30day period and had to be returned to umarex. For all you rws/diana owners I will keep you informed as to my progress with umarex–after all a waranty is only as good as the service provided

  2. Rather than paint the trigger, the current best solution seems to be to use a colorful (flourescent orange or green works well) tape on the back of the front plate. This is not knocked-off when hit (the pellet passes through) while painted paddles are often wiped clean of paint after just a few hits.

    I use (somewhat) flourescent green masking tape. I make a three-layer sandwich for the kill zone by folding over a piece big enough to cover the kill zone and then taping that to the kill zone with another piece of tape. It will not affect the energy required to actuate the target. All (usually) shooters get a good look at the kill zone rather than just the first couple of shooters.

  3. Don’t know if this is the right forum or not but I have a question. Just dropped a Maccari tune kit in my Marksman model 70. I have less than 100 pellets through it. Chrony shows 100 FPS less now but much smoother. How long should I wait to see max. velocity. Any benefit of spacing the mainspring to recover lost velocity and if so how does one determine how much you can space a mainspring. Greatly appreciate your input. Awesome article on tuning an R1!

  4. Auto reset tgarget have been considered, as have those that operate with a controller like a TV.

    The problem with both is more complexity and cost. Clubs have to own 30-50 targets and keep them operating and complexity flies in the face of that.

    That said, a well-designed target that resets might be nice.


  5. Joe,

    I have used the tape approach,which is more durable I will admit. However cleaning the old tape off the paddles can be a chore, and some targets will not tolerate much buildup.

    Still, tape will get you through a match better than paint.


  6. KAN,

    To measure the length of a fully compressed mailspring, measure the diameter of the spring wire and mutiply that times the number of coils in the spring. Round any extra coils off to the nearest 1/4 coil. The answer will be within about 0.010″ of the actual length, which should work.


  7. To B.B. and anyone else intrested-my 350 had a little less than a 1000 rounds thru it. I called umarex and was informed that somehow the mainspring tube was bent. They said they replaced the mainspring, the mainspring tube and added a washer to the breachseal to make it fit better. B.B.-does any of this sound right to you-why would they have to add a washer to make the breach seal fit better-does it sound like there jurry rigging the thing? I have also requested that they chronograph the gun using pellets in the 10gr class and due to all my added expense they send my gun home overnight. I have also notified Ryan-AT UMAREX that I am writting a blog on this-where it will appear-and what there level of customer service will be.

  8. I am actually considering making a prototype in my shop of an auto reseting target using a small battery operated high torque friction gear box. We’ll see what happens! Right now I’m making a home-made monopod, I’ll post the pics when its done.

    Paul C

  9. scott298,

    Okay, that was exactly what I expected. That “mainspring tube” as they call it is the spring guide, I beleve, and I suspected it had broken. That makes the gun hard to cock towards the end of the barrel stroke.

    As for putting a washer under the breech seal – that is a new one to me. But these guys see many more 350 magnums than I ever will, so I would trust what they are doing.

    Let’s watch this.

    By the way, you are a different person than Scott, aren’t you? I have to start using everyone’s complete handle to keep things straight.


  10. B.B.-I usually go under scott298 and I wrotethe feedback on the cabela’s bench. As far as symptoms the gun became hard to cock the after it did ecery time after it would make a ratchiting sound–and you still have to see the movie Shooter-thanks Scott298

  11. Scott298,

    I saw Shooter last weekend. Good flick, but not very real. However the shooting stuff tried to be correct, and I have to respect that.

    I did like it for the action. My wife and I both like to see stuff blow up.

    I remember the cocking sound you reported and I believe then I said I thought it was a broken mainspring guide. It could hardly be anything else.


  12. B.B.-Scott298–I have been looking for a little considering from umarex for the cost and dissapointment of being without my 350 in .177-so far all they offered is free pellets. It they won’t up the anty which pellets should I choose and based on what they have done to the gun will I have to go thru the whole breakin process all over again? Thanks again Scott298

  13. Scott289:
    I The main spring tube they are talkng about is basically a shimmming cylinder made of thin metal that goes in the piston. It takes up space between the spring and piston walls. Because it has a seam down the side I guess the edge pried up and was making that ratchiting sound against the coils as the spring was compressed.

    The RWS guns are bone dry inside from the factory and I preferr to lube tune them with JM Moly and JM Heavy (or velocity)Tar. Of the 4 RWS guns I have done this makes a night and day difference on the guns firing and cocking smoothness. Even though the 350’s have not been that twangy when fired compared to the 34-36 series RWS guns, they both cocked with a dry noisy grinding – old matress spring compressing – noises when I cocked the things. When I took them apart they had no lubes of any noticable kine on the guides, spring, piston or seal! The triggers do have some grease on them however.


  14. BB: as to your comment :”putting a washer under the breech seal – that is a new one to me” The RWS gus I have 3 out of four the o-Ring in the breach was seated so far in the grove that it was not sealing properly. The RWS schematics show 2 breach seal shim washers below the breach o-ring. Sometimes the gun has 0,1 or 2. They are VERY thin shims and depending on how deep the o-ring grove was cut on manufactrue you can need different # of shimms. On one 350 I have 4 shimms to give the o-ring enough material above the breach face to seal the chamber on closing and firing the gun.


  15. bb,

    a week or 2 ago i asked you about a carbine spring gun, an you said the lightning xl tactical is a good choice…which caliber should i pick? is it too slow in 22…will the arc be too great?(btw, it is rated at 900 fps in .177, 600 in .22)


  16. BB, you are welcome. Your words are better than mine in describing things. Piston liner is exactly what I should have used. Thank you for all you have helped me with this great blog.

    FYI I just measured an original RWS breach o-ring shim for inquiring minds. ID = 0.363″ OD = 0.487″ and the thickness is 0.0055″


  17. KAN

    It is hard to tell how many shots for velocity to come back up or if it will by very much. Usually JM kits are designed for the gun they are built for and adding spacing can make the gun harsh again taking away from the smoothness Jim’s work has provided. I feel that adding spacing in front of the top hat or not, is not for adding velocity but to change the pistons mass. This level of tuning is more for the pro tuner and they do not share this information much on the net, so you must do any learning trial and error. I myself am a home tuner and I am satisfied with dropping in JM kits and lube tuning. The most I get up to is buttoning the piston.


  18. BB,

    What are paintball guns filled with? I saw a paintball adapter and i will get one of them in addition to the scuba adapter. Its a 300 bar din to paintball adapter for my carbon fiber air tank.


  19. sumo,

    Paintball guns use CO2 or air regulated down to about 800 psi. Those regs don’t hold up long because they have 4350 psi on one side and 800 on the other.

    Some shooters use nitrogen, because they can get it, but I’m not sure the guns are supposed to use it. The danger there is when nitrogen at 6,000 psi is introduced into a tank rated for 4350 (300 bar). Gonna at least blow a burst disk, if not the entire tank. And that’s when people die.


  20. B.B.

    How is 6000 psi related to nitrogen?

    The first time I filled a paintball tank it was filled with nitrogen, but only to 3000 psi (the tank’s rating). It was at a combined welding/gas/paintball shop and they bought nitrogen instead of having a compressor.

    One other question. I just read that it is bad to store your guns in foam lined gun cases because the foam absorbs moisture and can cause your guns to rust. In a humid climate I can see that as a problem, but is it a problem in less humid climates (e.g. California foothills)? Are there other reasons to not store guns in foam lined cases? Gun safes cost quite a bit, but I need to keep my guns locked up since I have kids.

    .22 multi-shot

  21. .22 Multi-Shot,

    Regarding foam lined gun cases:

    I have used the inexpensive Doskocil brand of these for my longarms for years, and I discovered that I could keep them rust free, but I also took extra measures to ensure they stayed that way.
    I applied a light film of Birchwood Casey’s Sheath rust protectant to the steel surfaces, then I put in one of those aluminum cased silica packs that can be rejuvenated by tossing them into an oven when the convenient color indicator window changes from clear to pink to indicate that it is saturated with water vapor.
    Of course, I don’t just leave my guns in the case for more than six months at a time.
    I take them out at about the six month point, check for any signs of rust, do another light Sheath wipedown, check the silica pack, then put the gun back in its case.
    Of course, any shooting sessions are immediately followed up with a cleaning, wipedown, then replacement in the case.
    Just check on your gun in its case, the same way you would a sleeping baby.


  22. I keep my rifles in Foam lined Plano and Doskil cases, however they are first put in a silicon impregnated gunsock. I like to use the Bore-Store brand. I also keep the end of the sock open at the end, so it can breath.

    -Paul Capello

  23. Thank you Scott and Paul! Up to now, all I’ve done is wipe my guns down regularly with a silicon cloth. I’ll look into your suggestions.

    .22 multi-shot

  24. .22 multi-shot,

    Nitrogen is available in large 6,000 psi tanks, so paintballers are using it to fill the small tanks on their guns. Several have bragged to me that they can fill their small tanks to 6,000, including one local paintball store owner. They do not understand or appreciate how the safety factors work in pressure vessels. That’s what I was referring to.

    There are two kinds of foam – open-cell and closed-cell. The open-cell kind is very hygroscopic and will quickly rust anything that is stored in it.


  25. Doskocil uses closed-cell foam, since they understand the problem open-cell foam causes. Open-cell foam is found in Chinese gun cases sold at discount stores, where the buyer don’t care or know about the specifications.


  26. Joe,

    I see. Well, the paddle has to be colored in some way, so I guess painting is still it?

    I have used tape on paddles, but like I mentioned, it built up to the point of causing the target to malfunction. I could never get it off.


  27. Thanks B.B.

    Yikes! 6000 psi into a 3000 or 4500 psi tank! I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents.

    I have DoskoSport and MTM Case-Gard cases for my pistols, but my rifle case is an unknown aluminum case.

    DoskoSport says the following about their foam.
    ‘Proper cleaning & oiling of your fire-arms before placing them in your case actually “ages” the foam and acts as a retardant against rust.’
    ‘PPlus, the thick foam in our cases enables them to withstand extreme treatment.’

    MTM Case-Gard doesn’t say anything about their foam.

    Is there anyway to tell whether a foam is open or closed cell?

    .22 multi-shot

  28. .22 multi-shot,

    There probably is an easy way to spot the difference, but I don’t know what it is.

    I do know that MTM is a quality maker, too, and they use closed foam. I have used their case for years without problems.


  29. BB,

    On the tape over the kill zone…

    No, the paddle is not (or does not need to be) painted. Basically, you are shooting at the tape over the hole. The pellet just goes through the tape and actuates the paddle. Try putting some tape (any kind — masking is fine; any color) behind the kill zone and shoot at the target.


  30. Joe,

    Thanks for that explanation. It took a moment, but I now understand. The tape is on the back of the target face, covering the kill zone. Of course it will work.

    But does the tape ever get pulled off in the middle of a match? If you taped on a dewy Maryland morning, that would be my worry.


  31. BB,

    I usually only tape targets beyond about 25 yards. The closer ones kill zones can usually be seen without doing anything and small kill zones get shot out fairly quickly. The tape lasts through at least a match for me (we had 31 shooters with 2-shots each at the last match and some tape was left on all the bigger kill zones).

    For the smaller kill zones, you can polish the paddle and paint the back of the target something bright — then shooters will see a reflection of the back which is usually better than a shot-off paint surface. Keeping the edges of the kill zone sharp and clean is one of the best ways to make small, close holes more shootable.


  32. BB,

    The tape idea came to me from Tim MacSwain up in Canada. I don’t know if he was the originator, but I certainly was not. I may be the originator of painting the back of the target face and polishing the paddle.


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