Reactive Target Training

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 12.56.20 AMWhen I first started taking my son shooting at the range, it didn’t take long for him to get seriously bored with putting holes in paper targets.  I have found this to be true with many shooters once they get past the initial thrill of firing a gun.  There is certainly a benefit to shooting at a simple flat target, but it can also have some disadvantages. Boredom is one of them.

Boredom is certainly a major concern because it will eventually lead to a deterioration of skills because the shooter won’t be as inclined to practice once the thrill is gone.  But another issue with paper targets is that they aren’t as affective at teaching proper marksmanship as reactive targets are.  So it becomes a double whammy because the shooter practices less, and gets less out of the practice they do engage in.

It isn’t a surprise to anybody when I tell you that you will do a better job, be it shooting at the range or preparing reports for your boss at work, if you receive praise for a job well done.  It also shouldn’t come as a surprise to know that the negative feedback you receive for poor performance can also serve you in a positive way depending on how you react to it.  This is amplified when we are talking about a physical skill.

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Let’s take shooting a basketball as an example.  When you take your shot, you find out in relatively short order whether or not you have practiced good form resulting in a made shot.  You see the ball either go in, or miss, and you make adjustments from there for your next shot.  You don’t need somebody to praise you for using good form because making the shot provides instant feedback, as does missing it.

When we are shooting at the range, there are times, depending on how far the shot is, that we cannot tell whether or not we made the shot or not. And if you miss, you generally cannot see precisely where.  In our basketball example, you know if you miss high, or low, or left, or right.  Target shooting doesn’t always provide this type of precise feedback unless you are utilizing a spotter.

With a reactive target, you know either by sight, or sound, or both, immediately if you hit your mark. And it is scientifically proven that the more instant the feedback, the better from a standpoint of learning the skill.  When shooting, the feedback is usually received in less than a second.  And this positive feedback makes you feel good mentally which helps to ingrain the proper technique.  It also motivates the shooter to correct and then stay away from bad habits that result in misses.

So reactive targets will make you a better shooter, and, they will serve to increase the enjoyment of going to the range which will inspire you to go more often which will result in you becoming an even better shooter.  It’s a win win.

In my opinion, the best reactive target are steel. You see your hits and you hear them instantly.  Depending on where you shoot though, steel targets might not be available to you. So an alternative must be found if we are to receive the benefits found in reactive targets.

One very popular type of reactive target are the color changing targets.  Essentially what happens is that when the bullet passes through it, the area around the hole will change color to distinguish it from the rest of the target.  Let’s say the background of the target is black, when the bullet goes through it, the color will change to orange, or green or maybe yellow.  You will be able to see, even at some distance whether you have hit it or not.  You will not get an audable sound, but you will get instant visual verification.Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 1.02.52 AM

If you want something that is a step up from the color changing paper target, you can opt for a self-sealing plastic target.  These targets come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, even ones that resemble and work just like steel targets, but without the distinctive sound you get from steel.  Still, these self-sealing targets are a fun way to practice shooting and most outdoor ranges will allow their use.

So do some research on what is out there in the way of reactive targets and go with the one that best works for you and your situation.  I guarantee you will have more fun at the range and you skills will improve at the same time.

Don’t just survive, thrive!


Carrying a firearm for personal protection brings with it an awesome responsibility. You have the power to change a person’s world forever, and even the power to take their life. It is you duty as a responsible gun owner to always obey the cardinal rules of firearms safety and to understand the laws where you live and travel with your gun. Do your due diligence become educated on the use of force continuum and become proficient with your firearm before you leave home.

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