To the serious archer, few things are as enticing as building your own shooting range where you can conduct your archery training on your own time and without paying range fees or dues. If you have the space, building your own private, protected shooting range will give you a sense of pride as well as a place where you can relax, shoot arrows, and even drink a beer if you so desire! Here are some of the most important considerations when designing you archer range.
The biggest requirement for an archery range is space. At a minimum, you will need a shooting lane that is at least 25 yards long and 30 inches across. An outdoor range is usually the most efficient use of space, however a long hallway or driveway can suffice as long as precautions are taken to build an adequate backstop and protect the firing lane from passers-by, pets, and obstacles. If building your range outdoors, you will need a sufficient backstop for overshot arrows, or at least another 25 yards of visibility behind the target.
According to the NFAA requirements to certify an archery range, a backstop can be anything that will stop arrows that are over-shot or pass through the target without damaging the arrow. By far the most commonly used backstop in indoor competitions is plywood. Some larger competitions also use a heavy mesh curtain that is very effective in stopping arrows while providing enough give so as not to damage them.
Your backstop can be anything you can find that is relatively inexpensive. Wood pallets are easy to find for free, and when reassembled can make a very effective backstop. If you have the ability to shoot downhill on your property, an earth berm backstop will also provide minimal damage to arrows, and can be made for the sole cost of moving the dirt. Finally, if all else fails, a large open field that provides you with plenty of visibility behind the target is perfect, as long as you do not mind chasing down your over shot arrows.
The Target Butt
While it has got a funny name, the target butt has a very important job of stopping your arrows. Target butts can be made or purchased in an incredibly variety of materials, ranging from cardboard and hay bales on the low side, to recycled forest product or plastic, and bundled rags on the high side. Most targets purchased at your local store are simply styrofoam encased in a plastic or burlap bag, however these have a tendency to leave pieces of styrofoam on the arrows.
The best target butts have three main qualities: they stop the arrow, they allow for easy retrieval of arrows, and they do not ‘goop up’ the shaft of the arrow. Keep in mind that if you use hay bale or cardboard as your target butt you will need to protect it from the sun and moisture if it will be left outdoors. Often a simple roof over an integrated backstop and target stand will help prolong the life of your target for months or even years.
Last but not least, you have the target itself. Many store-bought target butts already have a target painted, glued, or otherwise emblazoned on them, but if you made your own you will be required to paint one on yourself, or better yet use paper targets. A paper target can be as rudimentary as a paper plate with concentric rings drawn on it, to something fancy such as store-bought animal, burglar, or even zombie paper targets that change color when you hit them. Keep in mind paper targets will need to be taken down or brought indoors between uses.
With these considerations in mind, you are guaranteed to build the perfect shooting range to accommodate your training. Whether you prefer to the tranquility of shooting by yourself early in the morning, or hanging out with your best friends while training, having your own range makes practicing an easy and convenient part of your day.