How to make a shooting plate rack

Written by gerry arlen good
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How to make a shooting plate rack
Competitive cowboy shooters use plate racks for fast-draw shooting. (gun and holster 1 image by Jim Parkin from

A shooting plate rack is used by fast shooters, providing a series of six, round metal plates that can easily be reset by pulling a rope to lift a reset bar behind the array of targets. When hit by a bullet, the plate target falls backward against the metal reset bar, giving a visual and auditory signal that it was hit. By pulling a rope to reset the targets, there is no need to walk over to the targets. Six metal plates are the traditional number of targets, to match the American western six-shooter pistol, but a rack can contain more targets if desired.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 5/16-inch flat steel stock
  • 6-foot length of angle iron with 2-inch flats
  • 12-foot length of ½-inch iron rod
  • 3-foot length of 9/16-inch iron pipe
  • Cutting torch
  • Welder

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  1. 1

    Cut six 8-inch-diameter plate targets from the 5/16-inch flat steel stock. Cut each plate so that on one side of each plate extends a 3-inch square of metal stock. Each target will look something like a ping-pong paddle with a short, fat handle. This metal square will serve to hold the plate above the support iron.

  2. 2

    Cut six, 10-inch rod lengths from the ½-inch iron rod. Weld one 10-inch rod to each plate target, attaching the rod centred on the outside edge of the 3-inch square that extends from the plate target. The rod will serve as part of a hinge, allowing the target to swing up and down when it is hit and then reset.

  3. 3

    Set the angle iron down so that a flat edge faces the shooter and the other flat edge of the L-shape extends away from the shooter -- behind the exposed face -- and forms the base of the support. Cut 14 2-inch sections of 9/16-inch iron pipe and weld one for each plate target, spaced as you desire the targets to be positioned and placed 3/4 inch behind the forward-facing edge of the flat iron. Try to get the plate target to lean slightly forward and rest on the top edge of the flat iron when the ½-inch bar is placed into the pipe.

  4. 4

    Place the ½-inch rod attached to each plate target into the 9/16-inch pipe welded to the angle iron, then insert the second 2-inch iron pipe segment onto the iron rod so that the plate target and iron pipe sections form a hinge, allowing the target to swing up or down. Weld the second pipe section in place on the angle iron, allowing enough room for the target to swing freely. Each target will not be held in place on a hinge, allowing it to move freely.

  5. 5

    Cut a 7½-foot section of the ½ inch iron rod and bend each end to form a 9-inch L-shape. Keep the 9-inch extension at each end parallel with each other. This bar will be used to raise the metal plate targets when they are knocked down by the shooter. Weld a 3-inch section of 9/16-inch pipe to each side of the angle iron immediately behind the upraised face. This section of pipe is between the backside of the front face and the pipe section holding the end plate target.

  6. 6

    Bend the 3 inches of the ½-inch rod section at each end inward, parallel with the 6-foot length. This is the last 3 inches of the 9-inch section that was previously bent. Place the 3-inch section into one of the pipe sections just welded onto the back side of the angle iron.

  7. 7

    Place the 3-inch bent section on the other end of the ½-inch rod into the 9/16-inch pipe section so that the rod will now raise and lower behind the plate target array. The rod should move like a hinge behind the plate targets so that when each target is knocked down, it falls against the 6-foot, rod section. Attach a rope to one side of the rod section, allowing the shooter to pull the targets back up into place after they have been shot down.

Tips and warnings

  • Large plate racks, usually 8 inches in diameter, are used for centre-fire pistol calibres while 3-inch diameter plates are used for rimfire rifles.
  • Do not use jacketed or magnum rounds when shooting metal plates as they may ricochet and cause serious injury to the shooter.

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