There seems to be an ongoing industry-wide debate about which targets are best—paper or steel. While neither one will ever be crowned the ultimate victor, Action Target’s Steel Target Resource Guide gives meaningful insight to outline the strengths and weaknesses of each target type.
Shooting on paper is a great way to sight-in rifles and score trainings, and is great for qualifications held by law enforcement agencies. Paper allows a shooter to see where shots land, illustrating how tight groups are. The NRA and other leading organizations use a lot of paper targets precisely for this reason. Another benefit of paper targets is that they provide a bigger variety of shapes, sizes, pictures, and scenarios (there are even a lot of zombie targets out now to add an extra element of fun to training). Each organization has its own types of score zones, stages, and qualification targets, so the wide variety of paper targets allows for greater flexibility between events. Many competitions use paper targets because of this flexibility.
One of the greatest benefits of using steel targets is the instant feedback they provide. Shooters can usually see and hear when they’ve hit a steel target and this is something that cannot be done when using a paper target. Whether the range is training civilians or law enforcement officials, steel targets help shooters know whether their intended target was hit or not. Hearing and reacting to the sound of a shot hitting a target helps program muscle memory, which reinforces positive behavior. Just like in all athletic training, the body subconsciously remembers how to repeat or orchestrate all the different variables required for a successful movement, or in this case, shot. The ability that steel targets offer in regards to instantaneous feedback can actually enhance training, speed, and accuracy. This is especially important for tactical shooting scenarios with movement, such as moving plates and targets. Having multiple senses invoked during this training process conditions the shooter to become a more powerful and effective shooter.
Another benefit of reactive steel targets is the pure entertainment factor. It may seem frivolous at first, but it can provide an enormous benefit to a training program. The fall, spin, bounce, and dodge of a target all lead to a fun and enjoyable experience for shooters of all skill levels. This will eventually lead to an increase in range use and therefore, an increase in profitability for the range.
So, should you shoot on paper or steel targets? In short, it depends on the purpose of the shooting exercise. As already discussed, if the purpose is for scoring, a paper target is best. However, if the shooter wants immediate feedback and would like to train on a more tactical level, steel targets are recommended. For more information on making the best decision, download Action Target’s Steel Resource Guide.
5 thoughts on “Should I Shoot On Paper or Steel Targets?”
Why not use a combination of the two. Set up a round steel target behind a paper target and the shooter will know when a center mass shot or high score shot is made. Of course you would have to sit it up so the splatter will not tear the paper target, but it does work.
Keith, we actually make a target that does just that. Sometimes you really do need paper in training, so we decided to combine the best of both worlds. You can find the target by using this link: https://f3e21fcc14.nxcli.net/store/reactive-steel/at-dropper.html.
Reactive targets are the best way to go. There is nothing like the ring of steel letting you know you’re on target.
I don’t mind using paper targets if I have to since they are cheap and convenient because of their low weight, but to me nothing can beat the advantages of steel. Like you mentioned, I like the instant feedback they provide. Also the sound they make can be rewarding and help tune muscle memory in tactical shooting scenarios. I want to give hanging steel targets a try since it has more movement than the average stationary steel target and can be a lot more fun, especially in an outing with family and friends.
It does seem like a steel target would help out because the bullets leave a heavy imprint on it. This is something that my brother and I have been using. Well, at first, we started to use paper, but later realized that could hardly see where we were shooting at.