DIY Project – Silhouette Targets

Last week I was standing in the isle of my local sporting store looking to get a pack of targets.  I was looking for a silhouette type target to do some rifle and handgun training with.  Standing there with a three pack of cardboard targets I had an epiphany.  Why am I going to spend $4.99 on this package filled with cardboard?  I have always been a fan of DIY shooting projects, even going to far as to design and print my own sight-in targets.  I always figure the more I save on everything else, the more shooting I can do.

In my day job, I work in retail sales.  We take in large boxes daily, generally in the 72inX36inX10in size and made of good sturdy cardboard.  So I grabbed a few of the 72inX36in side panels and brought them home, much to my wife’s dismay.

Wanting a self/home defense target that was more along the lines of a “real” persons size.  I began by looking at the IPSC/IDPA targets that they use for competition.  I didn’t want something that busy, or difficult to produce.  I was also looking for something visible, unlike the small score marks they use.  So I took some loose measurements from my own torso and coupled them with some of the IDPA measurements to come up with something simple, realistic and easy to produce on a fairly large scale.  I chose to included the pelvic girdle as well in my targets, but they can be left out if you choose not to train with them.

I started out with a total of three targets as prototypes.  I needed a basic shape for a template, then needed to make the zones.  After taking measurements and drawing them up, I was able to cut the zones out of two of them, giving me a basic outline for the two color masks.


The spray paint I am using is cheap (like $0.97 a can cheap) and from my local hardware store.  I was able to fill in 15 targets with one can of white paint.  I chose white, but you really can use any color you want.  I was looking for a color that would stand out against the brown of the cardboard, but also allow my center zone to pop on the target and be visible.  Also when choosing colors, generally the really cheap paint only comes in a few colors like white, black, red and green.  So if you are looking at doing something more unique, you might have to spend more for paint.



I ended up using orange paint for the center zone, but really any color would do, as long as it contrasts with your base color.  I did spend the extra $2 for the hi-viz marking paint to make the small vitals pop a little against the white paint.  One can of orange should last me well over 100 of these targets, it covers well and really there is only two small areas.


I was able to figure out the cost of each target, which was ~$0.12/ea, which factors in paint and utility blades.  It takes me about one hour to cut and paint 15 targets and another hour for them to dry fully.  I personally figured that my time was well worth more then the $25 or so that it would cost to buy 15 similar targets locally. .  I am sure some people might see it differently, but I would rather spend $25 on ammo then targets.  I can spare two hours a month to make targets to use, but some maybe don’t have time.

Sure, they are not perfect, the paint lines might blur a little or the diagonal cuts might be a little off, but they work for what I need.  I designed them to fit my needs, and the beauty of designing them yourself is that you can design them for your needs.

If you are looking to do something like these, find a local store that gets boxes in a lot.  Check with appliance stores, box stores or even bike shops in the area.  Most of them get large boxes with flat panels perfect for cutting multiple targets from. Most stores are more then happy to have someone take boxes away, just build a relationship with them over time and you will have all the boxes you could ever need.

One last note: If you shoot outdoors, away from established ranges and take targets you make in, please pack them back out when you are done.  Not doing so is the leading to the loss of a lot of popular outdoor shooting areas across the country.  I strive, every trip out to the woods to shoot to leave it cleaner then I found it, but many unfortunately do not.

Would you like to see more DIY shooting projects? Let me know!


  • David

    Why so fancy? All that is needed is a piece of paper or cardboard. No paint needed.

    • Eric

      This actually got me thinking a little… I saw a little portable projector over the weekend for about $70. What if instead of painting your targets you just buy cardboard in bulk and project your target on them? That would be much easier than painting your own and over time it would pay for itself. Just a thought.

      • David

        good idea, but the sun would wash out the projection. Range lights probably would too. Thats why most presentations are done in dark rooms

        • Eric

          That’s true. I suppose you could use a laser pointer to project a spot that you want to hit with the gun.

  • SimonSays

    I like it, simple and effective. Also you could use the templates to spray steel plates or other objects.

  • Madcap_Magician

    You could probably skip the painting process. I understand it gives you a point of aim, but real people don’t have that.

    Voila! Your cost per target is now more like $0.04.

    • Dan-O

      Gangstas and hood-rats come in all sorts of (if not obnoxiously bright) colors, why all the hate?

  • The Hun

    Good idea and $ saving- although DHS still prefers their “pregnant women, children and the elderly” targets

  • Cuban Pete

    There is also a ton of free targets in the WEB that can be downloaded and printed in your home printer.

    • Yes there are. They are great for shooting. I use them all the time. But I wanted full sized torso targets, printing them really isn’t practical without a large plotter.

      But I am all about free targets… More money for ammo to shoot at the range.

  • SafeArmsReview

    Good stuff – instead of buying a huge pack of the same targets get creative. That is what I did a while ago in the following videos…

    How to make paper targets for 20 cents!

    DIY Easy Custom Tactical Targets!

    Its also a great way to get the family involved – kids like helping make targets and being with Dad.

    Good stuff indeed.

  • ProdigalSon

    I’ve found that cardboard boxes also make great target stands. Put some rocks in the bottom, tape on your target, and boom, done. (Just don’t miss low or you’ll make gravel) They’re also a handy way to pack out some trash when you leave; just fill the box and head back to the truck.

    • Or if you hit the rock with a bigger bullet, it will spall and shred the box to bits… But if you were out to make confetti, then that’s the way to do it.

  • bull

    hmm… masking tape? there is wite and blue i think? that could be used. then youll get sharper edges and you could reåair the target 🙂

    • I designed them with speed in mind… I have actually refined my processing to 20/hr now… Masking them would just take too long. I don’t really care too much about really sharp edges, things in life generally aren’t sharp anyway…

  • Geodkyt

    Even at his price, still more expensive the price I paid for IDPA practice targets printed on heavy paper. Sure, teh cheap black ink comes off on your hands, but so what?

    Once I found those, I stopped making my own targets from boxes and spray paint.

    • True, but I was looking for a good target that is a little more standalone… Paper needs a backer or it just kinda flops around. Sure, I could save $0.05/target…but really I could go shoot at rocks for free… For what I am getting, I am more then happy to pay what I do for them.

      I was looking to make a high quality training target to train with that I could litterally staple to a stick in the ground if need be. That way they are rigid and will hold there.

      • Geodkyt

        I get that — I just reuse the same cardboard target backers until they literally won’t hold a target, “laminating” the carboard by applying a fresh paper target right on top the old one (unless I’m saving it for some reason).

        But then, I shoot on my own land, and have a range set up, with stands, cardboard, targets, range supplies, first aid kit, spare eyes & ears, etc., all in a locked outdoor storage box.

        Another cool source of cheap target material is corregated plastic signage. Especially after failed political campaigns, you can often get them free.

  • chindog

    Bringing home spare cardboard from work to make targets is good. But, not everyone has access to a resource like that. I’d hate to think what the guys at the wastewater treatment plant make targets out of.

    • Actually everyone can have access… Go find a business, ask them for cardboard… Unless they get paid by the pound of get credit back for the boxes, I can’t think of a business out there that you cannot build a relationship with and get as much cardboard as you want. To most businesses it’s a waste product…

  • Steven

    Love the idea, I’d certainly like to see more DIY in this vein. People forget how much all the extras wind up costing you. They’re too focused on what they’re shooting instead of what they’re shooting at.

  • William Johnson

    Unfolded pizza boxes work well too.

  • toolshed

    its about time somebody had an epihany about this!! About a year ago i had the same idea, except since im handy with a plasma cutter i cut the silhouette out of 16ga galavanized sheet metal. no i simply lay it on an old piece of card board, wood, or sheetrock, and spray the edges with spray paint. Certainly saves me tons of money on targets.

  • 101nomad

    I save ‘pristine’ cardboard. I do a bit of DIY with wood, save the 1Xs and 2Xs. Make really good torso/head silhouette target frame ups. Check pistol point of aim first. The shotgun sort of destroys them. I do not do much range work. Having my own targets and a safe area for shooting is gravy. The ‘life size’ cardboard on the 1xs and 2xs staked into the ground at various distances also keeps my brother in law from having to hold up the cardboard.

  • Bull

    Balloons are grea reactive targets 🙂