DIY Homemade Target Stand

posted in: DIY Gear, What's New | 10

 

In my opinion, having a firearm for personal or home defense is a good idea.  I understand that not everyone feels the same way and I agree that a firearm isn’t for everyone.   But if you’re going to have one, it’s definitely a good idea to train with it.  In fact, I feel proper training is as important (if not more important) as having ammo.

That being said, if you’re going to shoot, you’re going to need targets.  And while paper targets will do the job, nothing during training is more satisfying than hearing the “gong” from hitting steel targets.

But before you can start putting steel on steel, you’re going to need a couple of things.  First you’re going to need AR500 steel targets and second, you’re going to need a way to hang the targets.  Here’s how I built my target stand to support two 10″ AR500 steel targets.

DIY Homemade AR500 Steel Target Stand

I recently purchased 6 – 10″ AR500 steel targets from an eBay vendor Target_Zone.  I chose to purchase from this vendor for several reasons, but the most important one was the hanging tabs.  These targets appeared to have the sturdiest tabs and in the correct position for how I planned on hanging it, but more on the targets in my AR500 Steel Target Review.  For now, back to the DIY target stand.

Unpainted vs painted.  White makes it easier to see your hits.
AR500 Steel Targets ready for hanging

Since I’m normally don’t shoot at an established range, I needed to build a stand to hang these targets from.   If I had the means to do so, I would have like to make the stand out of steel, but seeings how I don’t know how to weld, I went with wood.  After throwing around a couple of ideas, I decided to keep it as simple as possible with this easy to build, easy to transport stand design.  Here’s the list of materials used to build this target stand:

  • 4 – 4′ long 2 x 4′s
  • 1 – 4′ 9″ long 2 x 4
  • 4 – 14″ lengths of 1/4″ chain
  • 4 – 5/16″ x 1 1/4″ bolts, nuts, washers
  • 4 – 1/4″ screw-in hooks
  • 2 – 3/8″ x 4 1/2″ lag bolts
  • 2 – 3/8″ nuts
  • 4 – 3/8″ washers
Target stand material list:  lumber
Target stand material list: lumber
Target stand material list:  hardware
Target stand material list: hardware

 

Step 1:  mark the 4 – 4′ long 2 x 4′s three inches down and center on one end.  Drill a 3/8″ hole all the way through, one hole per 2 x 4.  This hole will serve as the pivot point for the stand legs.

Step 1:  drill 3/8" holes for target stand legs
Step 1: drill 3/8″ holes for target stand legs

 

 Step 2:  put two of the 4′ long 2 x 4′s together and secure with the 3/8″ lag bolts.  Be sure to put the washers in place.

Step 2:  secure the stand legs with the 3/8" lag bolts
Step 2: secure the stand legs with the 3/8″ lag bolts
Step 2:  stand legs secured with lag bolts, washers, and nut
Step 2: stand legs secured with lag bolts, washers, and nut

 

Step 3:  lay the two sets of legs flat on the ground.  Take your 4′ 9″ long 2 x 4 and lay it across the top of the inner leg.  This will serve as the cross bar from which your targets will hang.  Screw into place.

Step 3:  cross bar is secured to the inside legs
Step 3: cross bar is secured to the inside legs

 

Step 4:  target assembly.  Insert a 5/16″ bolt through the target hang tab, followed by the chain, washer, then the nut.  Tighten the assembly and repeat for the other 3 remaining tabs.

Step 4:  target assembly
Step 4: target assembly
Step 4:  tighten the assembly with the chain inline with the hang tab
Step 4: tighten the assembly with the chain inline with the hang tab
Step 4:  rear view of target
Step 4: rear view of target

 

Step 5:  installing the target hanger hooks.  On the cross bar, drill two sets of 1/4″ holes (4 holes total) spaced evenly across the cross bar.  Then screw the hanger hooks in place, opening towards the top.   I gave mine 16″ of space between the chains of the same target.

Step 5:  drill guide holes for the hanger hooks
Step 5: drill guide holes for the hanger hooks
Step 5:  hanger hooks to be used to hold the targets up
Step 5: hanger hooks to be used to hold the targets up

 

This is how the finished product will look.  The 10″ AR500 steel plates hang down from the chains.  When a round impacts the target, it will swing on the chains and lessen the impact delivered on the stand itself.  For easy transport, the legs will fold flat and the total target stand dimension is 48″H x 4.5″W x 60″L when folded down.  I used this particular dimension so that it will fit perfectly in the bed of my short bed truck.

Step 5:  space your hooks so that the targets hang evenly across
Space your hooks so that the targets hang evenly across
Here's a side view
Here’s a side view

 

In order for the target stand to fit flat in the bed of my short bed truck, I had to make the legs 4′ high.  With the stand set up and legs extended, the center mass to the targets came down to 32″ as seen in the picture below.   If the height is too low, you can always move it up by hooking the chain alittle higher up.

Height to center mass - 32"

 

This target stand is easy to build and very cost effective.  Two days after I built this target stand, I took it out to my friend’s property to test it out.  Stay tuned for the followup review of the AR500 targets and the DIY steel target stand.  Thanks and have fun out there!

UPDATE:  DIY Homemade AR500 Steel Target Stand

As mentioned above, a couple of days after building the target stand, I had an opportunity to take the target stand out for testing.  Two 10″ AR500 steel plates were hung from the stand by 1/4″ chains attached to the stand by 1/4″ screw in hooks.  The targets were placed approximately 77m downrange and setup as part of a tactical rifle course.   After approximately 5 hours of training with 6 shooters engaging the target with a variety of weapons, it became apparent that a target stand made of steel would have fared much better and would definitely last longer.

In the wood stand’s defense, it held up fine.  The stand withstood the impact of a variety of calibers and did so without folding over or collapsing.  No shaking of the target stand was observed and at no point did I feel the target stand wouldn’t last the day.  In fact, it did great!  The target stand did what it was supposed to do without a hiccup.

However, as mentioned above, steel would have been the better material choice for target stand for one main reason.  As the impacting rounds vaporized on the AR500 steel targets, it sent shrapnel upto 1/4″ into the wood, chewing it to pieces.  More specifically, the stand supports next to the steel plates and the cross bar directly above the steel plates took the brunt of the shrapnel, making it look like wood with heavy termite damage.  Below are some pictures of the damages sustained from one day of training.

Shrapnel damage on crossbar - left side
Shrapnel damage on the crossbar – left side
Left support damaged from shrapnel
Left support damaged from shrapnel
Shrapnel damage on the crossbar - right side
Shrapnel damage on the crossbar – right side
Right support damaged from shrapnel
Right support damaged from shrapnel

 

Another area that took some beating was the 1/4″ screw-in hooks used to hang the chains from.  I don’t believe any rounds hit the screw-in hooks directly, but as you can see in the picture below, the 1/4″ hooks bent under the pressure of the impacting rounds.  If you click on the picture below, you can see how the hooks stretched near where the threading starts.  In fact, all four of the hooks were bent in a similar fashion.

1/4" screw in hooks not good enough
1/4″ screw in hooks not strong enough

 

Another area that could use improvements was the 5/16″ bolts that held the chain to the AR500 Steel Targets.  Again, I don’t believe any rounds actually hit the bolts themselves, but based on my observations, it appears the pressure from impacting rounds caused the 5/16″ bolts to stretch and deform.

Another failure point - the 5/16" bolts
Another failure point – the 5/16″ bolts

 

On one of the targets, it appears the impacting rounds caused the bolt head to pop off as it pushed the bolt through the hanging tab hole in the target.  On this particular bolt, the nut on the rear had also pushed its way into the hole in the hanging tab.  The nut was so badly rounded that I had a difficult time getting it off for replacement.

Deformed bolt caused by impacting rounds
Deformed bolt caused by impacting rounds

 

The final area I wanted to show you guys was the chain.  Although the 1/4″ chain fared well for the most part, one link on the chain holding the target on the right side stretched open far enough, causing the link to separate and the target to fall off.

Weak chain link caused target failure
Weak chain link caused target failure

 

FINAL NOTE:  Despite the fact that every area of the DIY Target Stand could use improvements, overall it did it’s job well enough.  I suspect as is, the target stand could be used several more times with minor repairs along the way.  As recommended by one of our readers, I plan on replacing the chain with a nylon rope in the future.  Thanks for reading and if anyone has a better target stand idea, please feel free to contact me and share.

Cheers.

~ John, Modern Bushman

10 Responses

  1. FreedomLover

    Looks great. What have you determines as a safe firing distance? May want to use rope instead of chain, depending on your calibre. I’ve broken some chain when I get into rapid fire at distance. Looks great though. Love the concept!

    • FreedomLover: Thanks for your comment. I plan on redoing the review, breaking it up into two different posts; one on building the target stand and one on just the targets themselves.

      I’m going to take your advice on the chains. When I shot the targets with my Mosin Nagant at 77yds, one of the links on the chain actually stretched and broke off. Dynamic rope may have better absorbed the impact alittle better and probably alittle less expensive to replace.

      As for minimum safe firing distance, I would keep the distance recommended by the seller at 100yds for rifle caliber rounds and 50 for pistol calibers.

  2. Nrtheastah

    I just wanted to comment on the construction of your target stand. I built a similar one myself, but made a few changes for portability and serviceability. The two 2×4’s are the same basic design, except I made mine 6 feet tall each. That way, when they open, I have a good 5-foot plus distance from the cross bar to the ground, which means that I can hang a target and guarantee that any missed rounds will hit the berm behind, and not the ground. I also changed the cross bar to a 1×6 board, and made it 5 feet long – long enough to hand a steel plate and at least 4 bowling pins.

    Now, here’s the major difference. Instead of permanently screwing the cross board into the side frames, I drilled 3 separate ¾” inch holes on the left and right sides of the 1×6 cross board and into the each side of the frame. Then I glued 3 pieces of ¾ wood rod into the frame on each side, so that I can put the cross board on and take it off anytime. When assembled, the cross board sits at a backward tilting angle, and will not come off of the pegs, and because there are three pegs on each side, it holds up just fine.

    On the back of 1×6 cross board, I have a section of 2×4 screwed to the back that serves to anchor the mounts for each target. Also, I have the mounting hooks going up at an angle so that the chains don’t actually sit on the end where they can bend the steel mounts – rather the chains sit next to the wood, and the upward angle keeps the targets from swinging off.

    The target frame can be assembled in 2 minutes by a single person, and the weight of the targets helps with stability. All the pieces of wood can be bungied together and transported and carried easily.

    I tested mine with a 12×12 steel plate with a bowling pin on each side, and the pins actually kept any frags from hitting the side of the wood frame – an unexpected bonus!

    Anyways, the whole unit can be transported in a car, and each piece is completely replaceable as needed. Thanks for posting this up!

    • Nrtheastah1: Thanks for the comment. I read through it and visualized what you did. From what I can imagine, I think you did a better job than I did! I didn’t even think about making the legs detachable which is why my legs are only 4′ long. I’d really like to see some pictures of your target stand so that when I build my next one, I’ll go with your modifications. The purpose of my stand was to make it more portable and I think you’ve done that.

      I like the bowling pin idea! Extra target, plus the frag protection. I was concerned with my legs. As you can see in my pic, the frag really tore up the legs. Again, thanks for the update.

  3. I know this is an old article, but I wanted to weigh in on what I did with my target hanging system when it comes to the hardware. My setup is similar except I use bolts for the hanging point on the the wood, and I made my stand using 2×4 sawhorse brackets so it’s all easily portable and replaceable.

    If you go the route of using chain to hang the targets, you must absolutely use at least Grade 70 if you want any kind of longevity. It’s $3.34 a foot at Home Depot as of this comment.

    Use Grade 8 bolts that are the largest size that will fit into the hole. These should be able to take an impact pretty well.

    Get a bolt long enough that you can do this setup -

    Bolt head>(washer if needed)>target>washer(s)>nylock nut>chain>washer>nylock nut

    By moving the chain further behind the target, it will hang at a downward angle that will help lessen the splatter on the frame.

    The use of nylock nuts will keep that connection nice and tight from all the vibrations that the target experiences. The less you have to worry about coming loose, the better.

    • Chris: I should have built the target stand a lot stronger. With smaller caliber rounds the stand would have been fine. But since I normally shoot it with a .308 or 7.62R the stand is pretty much destroyed. Most of the wood is either split or shredded from vaporizing lead. Oh well, my next one will be made of steel.

      • I’ve also modified my setup and am moving away from using wood as much as possible. Even with .22, the splash was too much for the wood to take for longevity. I’m starting to use EMT (electrical metal tubing) as it is lightweight, strong, and nearly as cheap to replace as wood.

        I have also found that washer(s) behind the chain and before the nut are completely useless. They will be bent and nearly destroyed due to the sheer amount of force exerted on the target at impact. I too shoot .30 caliber at my setup which includes a fairly heavy 3/8″ thick x 12″ diameter AR500 target. It is amazing to discover how much power these rounds have. That particular target is hung from a Harbor Freight folding sawhorse, but I had to firmly stake it down to avoid it being knocked over.

        • Funny you say that. After about the 5th time using it, I realized I had made a mistake using wood. Like you said, the wood is just getting hammered. I’m going to look into the EMT idea. At least that way, the bullet fragments won’t damage it.

          Yeah, the .30 caliber does deliver an astonishing amount of force. I had my change stretch and break at the welds, thread strip off the bolt, and (of course) the washers bent.

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