How to Make Metal Rifle Targets

For most shooters, there are generally some problems that arise with commercially available targets. Paper targets are time consuming, requiring you to walk the gun range to check them for feedback on how you are shooting. Commercially available metal targets are expensive. The remedy is to make your own metal rifle targets. Making your own metal targets is within reach for anyone with access to basic metal-working tools.

Decide on a size and shape for your metal rifle targets. Depending on the range, target size can be from a few square inches to several feet in diameter for 1,000-yard shooters. For competitive metal silhouette shooters, free patterns for the various approved target patterns can be located on the National Rifle Association (NRA) website. These include targets for high-powered center-fire rifles, pistols and small-bore rifles.

Locate the mild sheet steel to create your metal rifle targets. This may be new or scrap steel. You can purchase mild sheet steel at a hardware store, metal fabrication plant or online. It is important to use steel thick enough that your ammunition will not penetrate the metal. For example, a .308-caliber Winchester round can penetrate a half-inch sheet of mild steel at 200 meters if the steel is not able to move with the impact.

Create a pattern for your targets on the craft paper or cardboard. If you are interested solely in marksmanship training, you pattern can be any shape. A large circle may be the most convenient.

Use the welder's soapstone crayon to outline the paper or cardboard pattern onto the mild sheet steel. The soapstone marks will remain on the steel, despite the high temperatures created by cutting the steel with the oxyacetylene cutting torch.

Cut the target out of the sheet steel with the oxyacetylene torch. Wear the heavy-duty leather gloves and the safety glasses when you do this. The torch burns at a temperature of more than 3,000 degrees. Work outdoors or in a well-ventilated workshop to prevent asphyxiation from the oxyacetylene gas fumes. Cut close to the lines that you marked with the soapstone crayon.

Use the torch to cut a small hole near the top of the target. You will use the hole to connect a chain or rope to the target so you can suspend it from a brace or tree branch.


  • Don't shoot steel targets with a high-power rifle closer than 40 meters. "Splashback" can result in serious injury or death.
  • Wear proper safety equipment, including safety glasses and hearing protection when shooting firearms.
  • Seek competent, professional instruction before using a firearm.


  • Contact your local NRA representative for more information on metal silhouette shooting.
  • When cutting the sheet steel with the torch, make sure there is nothing flammable below the steel. Suitable surfaces may include a gravel driveway, or you can place the steel on sawhorses to raise it off the floor of your workshop or garage.


  • FM 3-22.9 Rifle Marksmanship; U.S. Army Infantry Center and School; 2003
  • Metalworking Tools and Techniques; Stan Bray; 2003
  • Sheet Metal Fabrication: Techniques and Tips for Beginners and Pros; Eddie Paul; 2008

About the Author

A classical Rennaissance man since serving in the U.S. Army's elite 75th Ranger Regiment, Ragnar Danneskjold has worked as a ranch cowboy, a Department of Defense contractor, a strength and conditioning coach, a martial arts instructor, a freelance writer and a horse trainer.