Sunday, September 22, 2013

Build a Moving Target for Your Shooting Range

I live in the country in East Texas, and like most of the country folks around here I enjoy shooting.  City people don’t get the fact that shooting is an enjoyable pass-time for us country cousins.  If you live in the city you probably play golf or tennis or something like that for recreation.  In the country we shoot. 

So since most people around here shoot, most have a designated place where they can do it safely.  Some people have a creek bank or hill that they shoot into, and some have actual shooting ranges.  I have shot on some really fancy ones but mine is just a small shooting range on my farm.  It’s a fifty yard range with target boards for about eight targets.  It’s functional, but nothing fancy.  I recently had to rebuild the target boards, so I decided that I wanted to add a new element to the range; a moving target.  Now you can get as fancy as you want on something like this, but the one I built is pretty simple, and I’m going to share my plans with you.  My moving target is hand operated, so it takes one person to move the target while another person shoots.  I don’t think I spent over twenty dollars to build it.

Here is an overview of how my moving target works.  Basically it’s just a target board that moves on pulleys along a steel cable that is suspended above my stationary target boards.  The moving target is attached to a continuous loop of string that makes it possible to move the target board from one side of the range to the other and back again.  You can move it fast or move it slow.  You can stop it suddenly, then back it up a ways, then move it forward again.  In other words, its motion can be as erratic and unpredictable as you want to make it.  It is way fun to shoot at.

So here’s the step-by-step of how build it:

First you need some uprights to hold the steel cable.  If I had planned this ahead of time I could have just left the end posts on my stationary target board tall enough to hang the moving target.  I didn’t plan ahead so I had to add some uprights to the existing posts.  I used some old steel tubing that already had brackets welded to the bottom, but you could use anything that is rigid and will stand up straight.  I took the two pieces of steel tubing and bent one side of the bottom brackets at a 90 degree angle so that I could use lag screws to attach the up-rights to the wooden post that already had in place.  I also drilled a hole through the tubing, about an inch down from the top, so that I could attach an eye-bolt to each one.  I then screwed the two up-rights to the tops of the existing posts on my stationary target board.  The up-rights are sixteen feet apart.

Next I attached a 3/16th inch steel cable through one of the eye-bolts using some cable clamps.

Before attaching the other end of the cable, I slipped a couple of small pulleys onto the cable. 

I then pulled the cable as taunt as I could by hand, and attached it to the other eye-bolt with a cable clamp.  I left plenty of thread on the eye-bolts so that I could tighten the nuts down with a socket wrench and get the cable really taunt.

With the cable now in place, I went back to the pulleys and clipped a snap connector to each of them.

I cut my moving target board out of some old one-by-twelve inch shelving and put a couple of eye-screws in the top.

Now I can hang the target board onto the pulleys.

Now I attached an eye screw to each side of the target board so that I could tie my string to each side: and two eye-screws to the back of the target board to act as string guides for the moving string.

I attached an eye-screw to each up-right to act as string guides.

Finally, I set a 4”x 4” treated post into the ground up at the firing line so that it is about even with the right end of the stationary target board.  I put an eye-screw into this post to act as a string guide.  The post was about five feet tall and I put about two feet of that into the ground so that the post would be good and solid.

Now I had to attach the nylon string that makes the whole thing work.  This looks kind of complicated from the instructions, but it’s not really.  I’ve added a drawing at the end of the directions to give you a better idea of how the string is rigged.  I started out with the target board moved all of the way to the left end of the steel cable as you are facing the target board, so these directions are written using that scenario.

First, run the end of the string through the eye-screw on the left side of the target board then drop the roll of string on the ground so that it will un-spool as you pull the string through the various eye-screws.  You won’t actually tie the ends of the string to the target board until you have finished running it through all of the eye-screws.

Now run the string through the eye-screw of the left up-right.

Next start the string toward the other up-right, running the string through the two eye-screws on the back of the target board.

Now run the string through the eye-screw on the right up-right.

Pull the end of the string all the way up to the firing line and run it through the eye-screw on the 4” x 4” post.

Now pull the string back down to the right up-right and go back through the same eye-screw.

Finally, pull the string over to the moving target board and tie it securely to the eye-screw on the right side of the moving target board.

You can now pull the string tight on left side of the moving target board, cut the string off, and tie it securely to the eye-screw that you started this whole trip on.

Here’s that drawing I promised you.  This is how the string would look if you were up above, looking down at the target range.

You are now finished.  You have a long continuous loop of string with the moving target board tied into it.  You can go back up to the firing line and test it out by pulling first on one string and then on the other.  If you did it all correctly the target should move from side to side on the cable.

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