Every target shooter will eventually experience frustration trying to select the perfect target. If you think about it, practicing with the right targets is as important as tuning your rifle, because a poor target can cause as at least as many deviations in shot groupings as not bedding and floating a barrel can. Every practice tool is critical to the process of tuning the weapon and honing the skill of the shooter. Proper target selection will improve consistency, confidence and save money too.
The most important point to remember when selecting a target is how it will look in your scope crosshairs.

There are so many target selections out there that you could spend a hundred bucks just finding a decent one. The perfect target is printable and presents the best possible sight picture for your type shooting. There are several points to consider when selecting the right target for you, some of which are not all that obvious.

1.Is your printer capable of printing targets with high quality and contrast?

2.What sighting configuration will you use most? (Magnification etc.)

3.Visibility can be drastically different from one day to the next

4.Will you want group measurement from the bench?
5.What range(s) will you be shooting at?

Visibility and Sight Picture

A good target should possess the clearest, visible and smallest point of aim possible. As usual, there are a couple of problems with these variables. First, the point of aim should not be blocked by the crosshairs, so shape and size are important at different ranges and magnifications. Secondly, light conditions can often cause blurring of some colors and shapes as in hazy conditions and etc.

High visibility varmint targets are a good choice, but the orange bulls-eye will appear blurry in some light conditions. I like to stay with black personally, and Scopes with German 3 bar reticles seem to do well with diamond configurations in either high visibility or black. Diamond patterns provide an absolute point of aim in any crosshair configuration. Targets using squares would be my second choice, while circles should only be used as a matter of choice or at extreme range.

Targets with grids are best for evaluating groupings from the bench, and this can save valuable practice time. Aiming at the intersections of these small grid squares will produce even smaller groups because smaller targets produce smaller groups. You will be amazed how focused you will be on the larger diamonds after working on this sighting method. Grid targets can get a little fuzzy in poor light conditions, but a combination of a grid with high visibility triangles makes a versatile target for most situations.

Short to Medium Range Targets

Shooting at ranges outside 250 yards presents its own set of special problems for target shooters. Diamonds and squares on grids are excellent at 100 – 200 yards with the right magnification and lighting variables. Targeting at beyond 250 yards presents a different sight picture even at very high magnification. Edges tend to blur and any geometric figure just begins to look round. The best choice for these ranges is the round target

configuration. In order to keep some of the bulls-eye in view, I like to use open circle targets out to about 400 yards. The method for sighting on these circles is different from 100-yard triangle shooting. You should find a set of circles that you can easily quadrisect or trisect with your crosshairs in what I call proportional sighting. With this method, the shooter weighs the values of 3 or 4 pie slices of the target circle. In effect, this is the same principle behind drum sights on assault weapons, and though it does not psychologically fit in with exact point of aim, it is as exacting at long ranges.

Long Range Targets

Very long distance shooting at ranges out to 1000 yards has always been the ultimate test for the rifle marksman. Essentially, the same principles apply here as at other ranges. However, range amplifies shooter error drastically. A 1” MOA group fired at 100 yards won’t even hit the dirt near the 1000 yard target. Every increase in distance represents greater difficulty in target visibility, bullet trajectory, wind deflection and other key shooting variables. Targets can only eliminate the visibility problem, so sight picture should still be the shooters primary concern in target selection. A very precise and specific type of target is necessary in order to be able to tell any detail at the very long range. To be honest, if you can hit an 8-inch plate on a piece of plywood at 1000 yards with no wind, then you are a true marksman. The target for this range of shooting has to be the one the shooter can see well!

Round targets with very dark black edges (some shooters prefer unequal rectangles) should be used here. Concentric circles are my favorite choice, as they double the “eye balancing” effect mentioned for medium ranges. The human eye tends to divide these circles into quadrants with the crosshair, and two well-defined circles make this effect more precise. The main concern here is visibility, as you have to be able to see the point of aim to hit it. The rectangles other shooters use are personal preference and many use them, I simply cannot wrap my mind around them and they often appear fuzzy to me at 800 or 1000 yards.

Other Considerations

The last important consideration in selecting a printable target is paper quality. You should not use flimsy or cheap paper to make these targets! You will save money by printing them yourself anyway, so there is no use trying to cut corners. You will note that quality targets bought at sporting shops are on card stock primarily. You don’t have to go to that extent, but a good, thick, printable bond in soft white will do nicely.

Author's Bio: 

I am Douglas Brooks. I am a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Writing is my passion and i love to travel also.