How to Build and Construct Reactive Field Targets for Air Rifles

Updated April 17, 2017

Beginner shooters can benefit from the use of an air rifle. Experienced shooters also enjoy plinking their weapons as practice for game hunting. Targets are typically the size of small game animals that are positioned on a plank. The target falls over when the shooter strikes the kill zone on the target. The kill zone is usually highlighted by bright paint and a panel is triggered to drop the target when it is shot.

Stencil the shape of a game animal that you might be hunting, such as a rabbit, bird, turkey or deer. Six to 10 inches wide and 6 to 10 inches tall is the general size to aim for with field targets.

Trace your stencil on a 3/4-inch plywood piece. Cut the shape out with a jigsaw.

Put a large industrial washer on your target. This will identify the kill zone. Use a 1.5- to 2-inch diameter as your kill zone.

Trace out the centre of your washer onto your plywood. Put it at a location that would be a typical kill zone for the animal. Around the heart, lungs, neck and head are the usual spots. Cut your kill zone out with a drill or rotary tool.

Cut your 2-by-6-inch board about 12 inches long with a saw. Sand any rough edges.

Put your 2-inch utility hinge on your 2-by-6, about 2 inches from the end. Screw your 2-inch hinge to the 2-by-6 piece until the hinge bends closer to the 2-by-6 piece, furthest from the hinge.

Screw your target onto your 2-inch utility hinge. Bend the target in various direction to see that it operates properly.

Position the target with the face vertical to where shots will be fired. Measure from the top of the kill zone to the 2-by-6. Cut a 3/4-inch piece of plywood to that length. Make it 1 inch wider than your kill zone diameter. This piece will be the paddle arm, which will sit behind the face of the target. Make sure the paddle arm is big enough to cover your kill zone.

Screw in your 2.5-inch tee-hinge into the 2-by-6. Screw your paddle arm into the tee-hinge. Make sure 1/2 inch of space is between your paddle arm and your target when it is positioned upright. Ensure the paddle arm is centred with your kill zone.

Cut out a piece of the 1/8-inch steel plate. Make sure it fits the top of your paddle arm. Cut out the metal at 1 inch higher and a half-inch wider than your kill zone. Drill pilot holes in the metal. Screw your metal on the surface of the paddle arm. Make sure it's centred on your paddle arm directly behind the kill zone.

Set your paddle arm and target face vertically. Put a pencil flat onto the top of your paddle arm. Make sure it's perpendicular to your paddle arm. Mark the location where your pencil touches the face of the target. Measure 1/16 inch down and mark it again. The hex bolt hole will be drilled here.

Drill your hex box hole at the back of your target face with your 3/16-inch bit. Tilt the drill up slightly, away from the paddle top. This will allow you to install the hex box at an upward angle. Don't drill through the target face completely.

Screw your hex bolt into the hole you just made and tighten it. Cut the head off to bolt with a hacksaw or rotary tool. Sand or file the paddle edge and your hex bolt where you cut off the bolt head.

Screw your sear adjustment screw on the paddle arm, about 1/2 inch under the paddle. Make sure it is off to one side. This screw will help regulate the distance the paddle can travel down your hex bolt and to the target face. Set your screw to ensure that the paddle is firmly seated on your hex bolt.

Drill an additional hole into the target face. This will be where you put the reset string. Drill another hole at the other end of your sear adjustment screw on your paddle arm. Make your hole at the halfway point of the paddle arm.

Hammer a screw or U-nail into a hook that is on the paddle arm, immediately behind the hole that was just made. You will attach the reset string to the paddle arm on the hook or U-nail.

Screw an eyelet screw in the target face, approximately 3/4 inch above its bottom and 3/4 inch on the side of your paddle arm. Attach your 1 7/8 inch, 0.32 spring to your eyelet screw. Attach your other eyelet screw to the open end of the spring.

Put the target face and paddle arm down onto the 2-by-6. Pull out the spring and your eyelet screw back into the rear of your 2-by-6. Mark the location where the eyelet touches the 2-by-6. Unhook your spring. Screw the second eyelet screw into your mark on your 2-by-6. Reattach your spring.

Drill enough holes in the 2-by-6 to stake it into the ground. Spikes that are approximately 12 inches are best for staking your target. Drill two holes at the base near the front and at the rear of your 2-by-6. Make them the diameter of your spikes.

Feed string into the target face. Attach it to your hook or U-nail. Paint your target if you want.


Paint your kill zone an obvious colour so you can see it better.


Don't point your air rifle at anything you don't want to shoot.

Things You'll Need

  • 3/4-inch plywood
  • 2-by-6-inch board
  • 1.5- to 2-inch centre diameter industrial washer
  • 2.5-inch utility hinge
  • 1/4-by-2-inch hex bolt
  • 2-inch tee hinge
  • Steel plate (1/8-inch thick)
  • Wood screws
  • Sheet metal screws
  • Jigsaw
  • Eyelet screws
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Hacksaw
  • Sandpaper or metal file
  • Tape measure
  • Rotary tool
  • 1 7/8 inch, 0.32 spring
  • Fishing line or nylon cord (2 feet long)
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About the Author

Phillip Woolgar has been a reporter since 2008 in communities throughout western Canada. His work has appeared in Canadian national publications such as the "Globe and Mail" and the "Vancouver Sun." In 2009, he received second-place recognition in the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association's Excellence in Arts and Culture writing category. Woolgar graduated from the Langara College Journalism Diploma program in 2008.