Yup, archery can be a great sport and all…
But it can leave your pockets very hollow.
And so every trick that can save your bucks is always welcome.
Personally, I have mastered the art of creating inexpensive targets. And the little savings I make have made me a much happier shooter.
So if you’re looking at how you can cut down the cost of constantly replacing fallen targets, this post is for you.
Let’s jump right in.
Ways to make an inexpensive DIY archery target: The basics
As you might expect, some of us want to save extremely so they choose the cheapest locally available objects to use as targets.
Now, using straw bales, hillsides, and their ilk is okay but they rarely last.
Which bring us to the big question:
How do you make lasting targets for your practice?
Let’s start with the essentials..
A lifetime archery target has two major components..
1. The Frame
The frame gives your target its shape and balance.
You can use materials like cardboards, wood, PVC pipes, metal, or any solid substitute.
2. The Backstop
This arrests your arrows to avoid them scattering all over the place.
You can make good backstops from soft materials like foam, cloth, carpet, straw, hay, and more.
As you might guess, backstops made of rocks, bricks, wood or similarly hard materials will most likely ruin your arrows – creating an unnecessary expense (and negating your savings effort).
Inexpensive DIY Targets Projects
Now I will take you through the steps of making some of the cheapest archery targets..
Project 1: Cardboard archery target
Step 1: Assemble the materials
- A sizeable cardboard box
- Stuffing materials such as shrink wrap
- Packing or duct tape
Step 2: Obtain a sizeable cardboard box
The box should be 46cm (18”) thick for high speed arrows shooting and 30cm (12”) thick for regular arrows shooting.
Other dimensions will depend on your luck with cardboard boxes. However, it should be big enough to make a 18 x 18” (46x46cm) target.
Step 3: Pack your box
Pack as much shrink wrap, plastic bags, or expanding insulation foam into the box. Most of these are readily available in local stores.
Do your best to ensure that the stuffing is packed tightly.
Step 4: Seal your box
Using a packing or duct tape, completely seal the box.
That’s it…you now have in hand a handy archery target at an unbelievable price.
Project 2: Wooden archery target
Step 1: Gather the materials
- Lumber (at least 12 inches) deep
- Chicken wire
- Scrap denim
- Heavy duty staples
- Tyvek/tarps/ground cloth
- 1”x4” (19x84mm) planks
- A sledgehammer
Step 2: Construct a sturdy wooden box frame
Design and assemble a sturdy wooden frame. The dimensions should be about 24” long X 24” wide.
We use the 12 inches lumber depth since it has great arrow stopping power.
Step 3: Block with chicken wire
Cut and install chicken wire (size it to cover the box dimensions fully) first to one side of this box (this becomes the back). Just wrap it around its sides and staple as many times as necessary.
Step 4: Stuff the box
Now pack suitable materials like scrap denim into the box. You can also stuff shrink wrap, plastic bags, foam, or any other compressing packing material.
Use the sledgehammer or any other suitable weight to press the stuffing so that it’s tightly packed in the end.
Step 5: Seal any gaps
If you notice gaps in the stuffing, push in more smaller scraps through the wire until no visible openings are left. Even then, continue squeezing the packing to compress further.
Step 6: Block the remaining side
Now attach to the front of the box another cutting of good quality chicken wire. You still wrap it and staple around the sides.
Step 7: Finishing
Lastly, add a cover to the shooting surface with your selected material, for instance, ground cloth.
But since this will need occasional replacement, its best to fix it underneath the 1×4 planks as they’re effortless to remove.
Ordinarily, this target can handle target shooting from compounds and recurve bows up to 45 lbs.
Project 3: Foam archery target
Targets made from foam material are also considered durable and pretty strong. And it’s very easy to make one.
Here are the simple steps:
Step 1: Assembling the materials
- Ethafoam sheets (2” by 2”)
- 30″ by 30″ board (1)
- Smaller 30’ x 5’ x 1’ pieces of wood(3)
- Slim 30’ x 2’ x 0.5’ pieces of wood (2)
- 1” Screws
Step 2: Create several pieces of foam
You can start by cutting 5 pieces of the 2” by 2” Ethofoam sheets.
Step 3: Assemble the boxGet the bigger board (30″ by 30″) and fix the three small boards, one to the bottom and the remaining two to either side (of the board).
You can just screw the pieces to the back board though some find nailing easier.
Step 4: Add the foam
Now add the Ethofoam five sheets you had previously cut into the partially complete box. Usually, even 4 layers of Ethofoam hold up really well so the 5 layers will last longer.
You can glue these sheets together face-to-face to create a thick book-like foam board that you insert as one piece if you so wish.
Step 5: Cover the box
Get the twin slim pieces of 30″ x 2″ x .5″ pieces of wood and fix one to the back of the frame and the other on the front side (where Ethofoam is).
The top of the frame should remain open to allow you swap out the foam pieces when they get a beating.
What I love most about this target is that you can easily tweak it to add more layers of foam.
This will help you achieve ideal thickness depending on factors like the type of arrows you shoot and the points you typically use.
Indeed, of all the DIY targets we have discussed, this is the best for broad-head arrows.
Project 4: Carpet archery target
This utilizes stacked layered carpet swatches to stop arrows.
Step 1: What materials do you need?
Source the following cheaply
- 2″ X 12″ boards (2 pieces)
- Carpet (enough of it…you might use a lot)
- Threaded dowel rods(4)
- Fitting washers and nuts (2 per dowel rod making it 8 in total)
Step 2: Prepare the carpet
Get your carpet and cut it into as many strips (measuring 36″ X 11″) as you many need (mine used 87 pieces).
Note that carpets are pretty easy to cut but it’s a shame that one takes quite some time to get them done.
Step 3: Drill holes into the frames
Take both boards and drill 4 holes in every corner. The holes should be aligned at the same point on each board to make your threading step easier.
Step 4: Fix the dowel rods
Take the first 2×12 frame and set it on the ground.
Pass your dowel rods through every hole on the bottom board. You should attach nuts and washers to their ends to help them function as feet (in the target).
Step 5: Paste all the layered carpet
Now grab your carpet pieces and stack them as high as you possible on top of the bottom frame.
Step 6: Install the top frame
Take your other frame and again push the dowels through their holes while pushing the wood down on to your carpet stack furthest possible.
Your final task is to put the washers and nuts that remained on the top end of the dowels then tightening them the furthest you can.
Step 7: Compression
As always, you need your carpet target tightly compressed. This you can achieve by sitting solidly on the top frame for some moments. You check and repeat until you’re satisfied.
A huge advantage of this type of DIY target is that you can get the carpet for free. Besides, the 2″ X 12″ work bench is big enough to support wheels on the bottom for easier movement.
Project 5: Bag inexpensive archery target
Step 1: Assemble the materials
Here you need to get the following:
- One burlap sack
- Animal bedding chips
- A heavy string/cordage (sufficient length)
- A needle that works with heavy string
Step 2: Stuff the sack
Take your bag and stuff the animal bedding chips tightly. It’s true that you can use alternatives like potted soil though we won’t advice this because it can be hard on your arrows.
Step 3: Sew the end
Your needle works with the burlap so sew starting on one side towards the other to seal the stuffing inside the sack.
Enjoy and don’t forget to mount something behind this target whenever shooting with high poundage bows.
Why archery targets makes sense
Our forefathers were not really bothered by targets and would shoot at practically anything including walls.
But a lot of water has passed under the bridge making archery targets all the more essential.
Let me point out a few reasons why I believe every enthusiast ought to shun target-less practice.
1. Archery can be risky
First, bows ,as well as arrows, are so much advanced today (and risky) and you don’t want to be prosecuted because you shot a stranger going about their business when practicing.
This is important since a missed arrow (shot even using a lightweight recurve bow) can deflect and overshot your target by as much as 50m (sometimes more).
A compound bow is even worse and potentially overshoots by over 100m.
2. Save your arrows
Secondly, archery targets arrest arrows so you’ll save your arrows. Needless to mention, over time, even basic wooden arrows can be expensive.
Additionally, like you have seen, the materials used to make targets are forgiving and won’t damage your arrows (when you’re pulling them out).
3. Improved accuracy
You also improve your shooting accuracy.
You see, since you’re aiming at something specific, you’re likely to be consistent and artful in the long run compared to when you’re shooting at random objects in the range.
Where to mount your target
If the law allows and you have space to practice in your garden, well and good. Fix it where your heart desires and get firing.
But if you’re not this privileged, you can simply convert your garage, basement, or shed into a safe practice ground.
Mount your target here properly and limit access to your converted range by pets and people.
Home practicing is convenient because you can do it even during terrible weather (it’s punishing to go out during chilly winter) and can save you plenty of time.
Having said that, there was a time I used to shoot indoors and you can try it too if worse comes to shove.
The secret is building a compact archery target that perfectly fits tiny spaces.
If you get it right, you can even fix such a target on a table in your spare bedroom and enjoy your bows and arrows up close and personal.
Otherwise, you have to haul your bow and freshly-made target to off-site where you can safely shoot arrows.
- Always store your home-made targets appropriately. Yes, its ‘lifetime’ but most will die if you expose them to damp conditions due to rot and mold.
- If you choose to stick to straw bales because of their abundance locally, only use the freshest, driest bales. That’s because aged ones get damaged pretty quickly.
- Field tips do not lodge in target materials because of their pointy conical shape so always use them for target shooting practice.
- Target size matters and the bigger your target, the bigger your room for error.
- Foam frame targets are traditionally lightweight and moves easily to just about anywhere.
We all agree that archery can be a very good sport so you need to be smart and try to make savings wherever possible.
One way of doing this is by building the above discussed inexpensive DIY archery targets.
The best news is that like you have seen, making a target from scratch is straightforward and anyone can do it.
In addition, most of the materials we have used are readily (and sometimes freely) available.
So, why should you continue forking our tons of cash on expensive targets which are no better than these self-made ones?