Starting your own field target club: Emplacing targets and target types
by B.B. Pelletier
We’re having some wind here in Texas, so the third report on the Webley Raider 10 has to be postponed. I haven’t forgotten it.
Let’s talk about emplacing field targets and the types of mechanisms they use. You may think you’re done when you buy the targets, but the work has only just begun. You must anchor them to something so each good shot trips their trigger and each bad shot does not. Also, repeatedly pulling on the reset string tends to move the target, so you have to find a good way to anchor it, yet it has to be easily and quickly removable because you don’t want to leave them out in the weather where they can rust. I’ll show you what some people do and what we developed at DIFTA to address this last concern.
Target mechanisms: gravity-type
A field target is supposed to fall when you hit the paddle through the kill zone but remain standing if you hit anywhere else on the target. There are two basic types of target mechanisms that do this. The first is the gravity-based system. In the U.S., Ron Juneau built many of the gravity-type targets we use. In the UK, Nockover built them back in the ’80s.
A gravity system uses the weight of the paddle to drag the field target over center so it falls down. When you emplace a gravity-type target, you have to be very careful to level it so the weight of the paddle will be enough to pull down the target. If the target leans too far forward, the pellet won’t have enough energy to push the paddle over center. If you lean it too far back, the sear may not hold the target upright when you try to reset it. If you lean it to one side or the other, there may be too much friction in the mechanism to allow it to move. For this reason, I always test all targets with an air pistol of about 3 foot-pounds energy. If that will work the target at point-blank range, a 12-foot-pound gun will work it out to 55 yards – the maximum distance allowed.
Target mechanisms – spring-assist types
The other common target mechanism is the spring-assist type that uses a spring coupled with a balanced linkage to pull or push down the target. Though more complex than the gravity-type, the spring-assist type is more forgiving of errors in emplacement, and some are made to even be mounted sideways in trees! That doesn’t mean they’re without fault, though. Spring-assist types also need to be somewhat level and their mechanisms need to be clean, lubricated and free from rust to operate properly. But each year that passes sees more reliable spring-type targets on the market.
Take another look at the picture of the two targets. Notice that they’re lag-bolted to wood bases. I did this so I could stake them directly to the ground for a quickie field target demonstration. An 18″ rebar stake like the one below the targets is hammered into the ground through each of the four holes in the base so the target will stay put for a while. You can run a match with targets emplaced with rebar stakes, but a club won’t want to use them for long. They’re hard to level and they’re difficult and dirty to pull up when the match is over. Let me tell you a much better way of emplacing targets that we developed at DIFTA.
First, all targets were lag-bolted to 2×10 wooden bases. Because the targets come with mounting holes in different locations, this step standardizes them. We made all the 2×10 bases the same length and cut a 45-degree bevel on the front of each base. Let me show you what that looks like.
Next, we made custom concrete bases for every target. These were about 18″Lx14″Wx4″D. If I remembered those dimensions incorrectly, maybe Joe McDaniel, who’s the current match director at DIFTA, can revise them for me. We embedded a piece of looped rebar in the front of the concrete base so we could drag it around. After filling the concrete mold with quickset concrete mix, we stuck in a template of the wooden target base we were using. When the quickset was set up but not yet hard, we carefully removed the template and let the form dry. Now we had a heavy platform that the wooden base slipped into tightly. That base was heavy enough to stay put through a lifetime of resets, yet we could drag it around the lane it was on. That lets you reconfigure the course as desired. The concrete base is left out in the weather all the time, but the targets are taken into a storage shed.
That’s one way of having stable, yet movable field targets on a course. There just wasn’t enough room in today’s post for the target hardware, how I repainted them during a match and maintaining them. That’s next.