This is an interesting topic, but it doesn’t have a straightforward answer.
There isn’t a clear answer mainly because targets are all different, in material, sizes, shapes and density.
There are also other factors such as the weather and the conditions of storage. But don’t worry, I’ve done some research on the matter, and you will read here what I’ve found speaking to enthusiasts at my club, my own experience and what I’ve gathered from other blogs online.
I am also currently trying to make my own target to keep in my garden, so that information will also come handy!
Let’s head on to what I lived and what I found online.
What do they say about the target’s life?
Reviewing several blogs online; they all agree that it is almost impossible to have an accurate length of life for the target.
Nevertheless, one of them conducted a small test and found that an average target can last for 2000 hits.
Depending on the material or layers inside the target, it will have a longer or shorter life span. The density of the target is what stops the arrow and what prevents it from breaking.
Why do I say that?
Of course, you could place wood at the back of the target and of course it should stop the arrow, but it will damage the arrow and you would spend your whole life replacing your arrows! It’s not about shooting at something strong that stops the arrow, it’s about placing several layers of soft or elastic materials on top of each other that will stop the arrow as it passes through. This is the same concept as seat belts in cars, they have a little ‘give’ to slow you down which reduces the harm to you in a crash.
Now, as you shoot and hit the target, there will be pierced parts inside it. The target will therefore have less and less ability to stop arrows, and eventually, your shots will begin to go through the target. That’s why it is important to replace the inside and the front of the target as soon as you realize it is starting to fail.
I consider it to be almost impossible to keep the number of shots you have taken in the entire lifetime of the target.
I keep count of my shots per practice, but I can’t keep an overall count of shots. What you can do, is keep shooting until you realize your arrows are starting to get way too deep into the target.
When that happens, it means that the inside is starting to lose strength. That’s the moment to replace it. Some targets are not meant to be replaced, so when it’s no longer stopping your arrows, you have to replace the entire target. This is something that happens with small cheap targets since they are not easy to open without destroying the actual target.
On the other hand, handcrafted targets are normally built so the inside is simple to replace. You can even try to make your own target at home and choose the level of quality you want the target to have.
My experience with our own targets
At my archery club, we decided to use our own targets for our training and classes open to the general public.
We looked for blueprints online and made big size targets, middle and small ones for the classes.
With a craftsman, he made the wooden frame, the structure that holds the target. Then, two guys from the club learnt how to make the targets with different materials rolled over each other to stop the arrows.
The targets we use are generally square structures filled with recycled material like plastic bags with a cover to keep them in the same shape. When the target gets less consistent and it allows arrows to go through, that means we need to do some maintenance and change the inside recycled parts.
How do we keep our targets
The first enemy of targets is the weather.
Especially rain, humidity and excess sunlight.
In our case, we take the targets out of a storage warehouse every time we are going to practice, and then put them right back in the shelter afterwards. It is extremely important to keep them away from any chance of rain, since it will destroy the inside and slowly rot the wooden structure.
Second, remember to change the inside of the target every year if you are in a place with a lot of humidity. Like rain, it can expand and warp the wood frames and destroy the target structure. Take care of the structure since it is something you shouldn’t change regularly and is often the expensive section of the target.
Our club targets have been around for the last 3 years, just by changing the inside and being hit by several archers at the same time. With good maintenance, our targets have survived a lot longer than most resources I’ve seen online suggest. Just keeping them away from the rain and changing the inside.
Also, we take a lot of care when moving our targets. Some people just throw them away like they are airport bags!
Why use targets with recycle materials
You could buy a new target every once in a while. But that requires a whole different budget just for targets.
On the other hand, refilling your own target carefully will save you money, and also help reduce plastic pollution and waste.
Once you take all that plastic out of the target to replace it, it is completely destroyed, then you just place it in the recycling near your house and those plastic bags, which were already destroyed, you give them one last use before going to the trash. We save money, and feel good in the process knowing that we’ve slightly reduced our potential waste footprint.
Can I have a target in my home
If you have the space, you sure can!
It’s not uncommon among archery enthusiasts to have a small target in your backyard.
There are several small targets on Amazon and you can make your own with boxes, plastic and log magazines.
The point is, be sure to have enough density so that the arrow doesn’t pass to the other side. It’s horrible when an arrow hits a wall, especially when it’s your father’s house wall (I’ll hold my hand up as guilty here!)
The first target I made for my garden was with boxes and recycled materials, wasn’t strong enough so the arrow went straight through.
I was young, and scared as soon as I found the small hole in my wall. It took my father about a year to go to that corner and find out, but since then, I haven’t make any other holes!
I learnt the hard way, but try to make your target at least 20 cm deep to help stop your arrow sailing straight through. If you don’t have a box that kind of size, you can tie two boxes filled with plastic together to make sure you have enough depth, that was my second experiment, it worked for a month.
Then, my next targets lasted for at least 6 months. Considering they are free, it’s a great deal. So I try to keep every box when they buy a new electronic gadget. They are happy with a new TV, and I keep the box, small happiness comes from those little things.
Play it safe
Like I said, homemade targets often have short lifespans as it’s hard to compact the fill material and find something sturdy enough to resist the wear and tear of a proper shop bought target, but still you have to try to make them as consistent as possible to avoid damaging anything behind.
Homemade doesn’t mean careless with an empty box. Take into considerations the strength of your bow, and also be safe with the position of the target.
Try to place it in front of a wall. If something happens, it will slam the wall and you will be sad, but it would be worse to have an arrow enter your neighbours front door or backyard – that is extremely dangerous.
So play it safe, and be sure to place your target near walls. It doesn’t matter if an arrow or wall will get hurt, people are always more important.
How can I make it last
Try to keep your target in a dry place, with a roof over it. Away from places with a lot of humidity like kitchens or near your garden.
That’s why I strongly recommend having small targets for your home. Another trick I learnt to keep our targets in better conditions is to wrap them some sort of plastic bag or cover.
Just like some people cover their cars, only that, by doing it with plastic, you can keep your target protected from the rain. Remember that I told you my last homemade target lasted for half a year although it was made from boxes and plastic bags? Well, by keeping it well protected, it was destroyed by arrows and not by bad maintenance.
How can I make my own target
There are several ways you can make your own targets. Some are a little more difficult than others, but from my experience, this targets design, in good conditions, will last for 6 months of regular use.
I used the target every Saturday for six months. If you use it more often, you know it will last less time.
For this kind of target you will need skills in working with wood, or either pay a carpenter for their services.
Why? Because you need a small square structure, the frame and possibly a back for the target, all made with a removable top so you can change the inside. You can place Styrofoam planks in the inside next to some cotton and some paperboard. The inside can vary depending on what you have in hand. Once again, the hard part of these is the process of making the frame. Here is a link showing how to do it.
These are the kind of targets I’ve been making at my place.
It’s my favourite since it gives a second use to all those plastic bags, newspapers and old magazines most people have laying around – as well as a use for the boxes we had at home.
My parents bought a new TV and refrigerator, so I decided to keep those boxes and try to make my targets.
In my case, I just used a string to attach both boxes together. Then I filled both boxes with as many plastic bags, newspapers and magazines I could find. As well as some little boxes from other things my sister bought. I then placed the small boxes in the top middle part of the main box since it was most likely going to be the place where most of my arrows went. Then, I taped my target printed in a A4 paper in the stronger part of the box, the one that had boxes filled with newspapers.
My target looked pretty horrible, not like the one made by the YouTube tutorial, but it was good enough to last 6 months.
Once my target was completely destroyed, I just put it in the recycling can for the trash people to take away.
Some people like me decide to use boxes, some other people prefer to use big bags filled with plastic bags and some other choose different materials making different shapes.
There are several tutorials to use recycled materials for targets, and it is a great way to recycle and also practice your sport at home. Here is a tutorial on some of these methods.
Like I said, big targets made by companies can last something like 2000 hits, while targets made by carpenters and craftsman can last for several years when everyone take care of them.
There is no science behind it, you just need to keep an eye on how deep the arrow is penetrating the target. When the arrow is going way too deep in the target, get rid of it before the arrow goes through.
If the target is like the ones in my club, be prepared to open your target up so that you replace the inside to prevent the arrows from going through, it’s a good idea to keep spare materials on hand to save you having to buy lots of new target filling when you notice it needs replacing.
Then, talking about homemade targets, In my case I learned how to make them last for as far as 6 months.
My recommendation is to keep them simple and go for recycled/upcycled target parts. They will be great as long as you keep them consistent and strong on the inside. Just remember that good care can extend the life of your target by months or even years
Now go out there, shoot, and make sure your target stops the arrows.
Happy shooting everyone!