by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

dueling tree
NTOG dueling tree made to handle low energy. NTOG provided the photo.

This report covers:

  • From NTOG
  • Interested
  • Some assembly required
  • Yes, it really works!
  • M1 Carbine
  • Testing with steel BBs
  • Target operated perfectly
  • Testing with Dust Devils
  • Smart Shot
  • Modified target
  • Summary

Several weeks ago, reader New to Old Guns (NTOG) contacted me with a new project he was working on — a dueling tree for lower-powered BB guns.

Today’s target is an action target, but it’s one with a big difference. I’ll let him tell you what he first told me.

From NTOG

“It is a “down to about 1ft-lb capable shooting tree”.  Yes, you can have fun with a shooting tree with the Red Ryder!

“The short version — I realized I was having a ton of fun with the big tree “dueling” and “racing” guns like the Vectis, Sumatra, Nova Freedom, and AT44But I couldn’t shoot that tree with my son, as he’s 12 and doesn’t have anything near the about 18 ft-lb needed to flip those paddles.  I remembered a bud talking about bending and flattening cheap spoons for use as targets, and, well, one thing led to another.  Good shooting with the Red Ryder is enough to flip it.  So any BB gun shooting in the neighborhood of 300 fps will work.  That means training pistols like the Sig P226 should flip it too.  Doesn’t that open a world of entertaining practice?

“The BB ricochet problem is of course not to be ignored, but I have two observations regarding that: a) frangible BBs do exist, though I don’t know if they’ll transfer enough energy to flip the paddle b) momentum laws would say that as long as the spoon is free to spin, half the energy goes to moving the spoon.  That means any potential bounce back has already lost about half of its energy.  In our enjoyment, we’ve yet had any bounce back that we’ve noticed.

“I’d also add, it is really shines with guns like the Crosman 73 Saddle Pal, and Walther Lever ActionHonestly, the 73 was probably the most fun of them all.  Pity those aren’t still made.”

Interested

I was interested because I am working on a project to bring some informal shooting competition to the Pyramyd Air Cup next year. Out of the hundreds of people who attend, only the semi-professionals and highly advanced amateur shooters actually get to compete. Doesn’t that seem reversed? Could this dueling tree be the answer? Is it reliable enough and rugged enough to stand up to a lot of shooting? I needed to know, so I asked NTOG to send one for me to test.

Some assembly required

As you see in the first photo, the target is mounted on a long section of 5/16-inch threaded rod. He didn’t want to ship that, which I understood completely. I can buy the same rod at my hardware store, so he sent 6 of the paddle mechanisms. I bought an 18-inch length of rod plus the channel material for the base and a couple other things like washers to get started. Once it was assembled I did some testing right away.

Yes, it really works!

The first test was successful. This target really does work. The spoons have to be loose enough to swing freely but not so loose that they wobble and rob energy from the shot. Let’s look at some detail.

dueling tree detail
This photo shows a lot of detail. You can see the bent wire that stops the paddles when they swing around. But it also made me wonder about the yellow standoff rod that holds the spoon mechanism away from the threaded rod. Is it necessary? The yellow paddle at the top is not a part of the target I am testing. NTOG provided the photo.

When I assembled the target I put just three spoons on my 18-inch threaded rod, as I was only testing the concept. And that got me shooting right away.

M1 Carbine

I chose the new Springfield Armory M1 Carbine to test the target. I wanted accuracy which that gun has in spades and I also wanted a semiautomatic because, let’s be honest — that’s what this target is all about.

Testing with steel BBs

My first test involved shooting steel BBs, because I wanted to know about bounceback. Steel BBs do bounce back from hard targets, and that’s a safety issue. I shot from inside my small patio slab that opens on the back yard and, because the threaded rod I used was low. I was shooting into the ground behind the target.

Out of about 30 BBs that were shot one did came back. It didn’t come straight back at me, it veered off the the side about 10-15 feet, but it did return. I could hear it hit the house at low velocity. So NTOG is right about the bounceback issue; it is greatly reduced. But it isn’t eliminated, and that’s what I wanted.

Target operated perfectly

I was shooting 12-15 feet from the target and the paddles operated perfectly. I had to loosen the nuts on one of them a little, but after doing that, that paddle functioned like all the rest. The paddles came to rest against the wires on either side and didn’t rebound from them very much. The worst that can happen is all the paddles rebound off the wires and swing back to the center of the target. Then you have to manually reset them to see them again.

The M1 Carbine shoots steel BBs at about 420 f.p.s at the muzzle. That’s quite a bit faster than the 275-300 f.p.s. of a Red Ryder, so now we know a range of power that this target works in.

Testing with Dust Devils

NTOG mentioned frangible BBs, so they were next. I have good news and bad news. The frangible Dust Devils did break apart on the paddles, but that pushed each paddle straight back so it wasn’t visible anymore (it was in line with my sight and too thin to see). I thought it might be just a random thing, but after 15 shots did exactly the same thing I knew this target doesn’t work with Dust Devils. Ah, but we are not out of safe BB options yet!

Smart Shot

I tried Air Venturi Smart Shot next. These lead BBs don’t bounce back, either, because lead is soft and deforms when it hits a hard target. Being non-magnetic Smart Shot doesn’t work in every BB gun, but the M1 Carbine handles it fine. Better yet — it works! It moves the paddles and it doesn’t bounce back — at least not from 100 test shots.

I have more to say but now I want to show you the target in action. Here is a little video I put together to show it. In the video I mention that Codeuce made the target, but it was really New to Old Guns.

 

Modified target

I haven’t told NTOG yet about the modifications we made to his design, so he is seeing this at the same time as you. We (my neighbor and I) were looking for ways to build the target for even less money than NTOG spent. Getting rid of the long threaded rod was a big start. If you have scrap wood lying about this target could cost you very little. But more importantly, it still works exactly like NTOG designed.

Summary

I made this report Part 1 because I think there is more to test. For example, does our modified target still work with a Red Ryder, and so on. I’m sure you readers will have more things to check.