Best Pistol Targets To Sharpen Your Handgun Skills (2020)

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If you plan to get the most out of your handgun, you need to think about what pistol targets will up your game. Here’s what you need to know and the ones to look at.

What Are The Types Of Pistol Targets Available:

  • Accuracy style targets meant to refine your sight picture and other fundamentals.
  • Skill evaluation targets give you an idea of the areas you need to work on in your skillset.
  • Dynamic shooting targets aid in adding movement into your training regime.

On the surface, shooting targets seems little more than, well … shooting targets. As long as you have something to set your sights on and are able to hit it, what more do you need, right?

To a certain extent, this is true, particularly when you’re talking about pleasure shooting. However, if you’re aiming to up your marksmanship skills, putting a bit more thought into the terminal destination of your bullets is warranted.

This is especially true when it comes to handguns. With the rise of concealed carry popularity in recent decades, pistol targets have become legion, available in every shape, size and configuration. Truly, there are some wild and weird examples. But, if more accurate, quick and competent shooting is your goal, you needn’t get crazy with your pistol targets.

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A number of old standbys – and some with new twists – still prove excellent options in advancing your handgun skills. So, before you run out to buy that crazy, and most likely expensive, 3D bleeding zombie to bang away at, let’s consider what will actually make you a more proficient pistol shooter.


By and large, the majority of handguns fill one particular role – self-defense. In turn, when training, most shooters consider center mass on a silhouette “accurate enough.” The notion isn’t entirely wrong, but isn’t entirely right, either.

Certainly, a defensive situation – adrenaline pumping – isn’t exactly conducive to hair-splitting accuracy. However, that’s no excuse to turn a blind eye on slow-fire precision shooting – even with your 3.5-inch barrel sub-compact pistol. This is particularly true for new shooters.

Good old-fashioned bullseye targets and the like are perfect for the job. All but those bordering on outrageous provide a fine aiming point and are easy to evaluate.

For new shooters, these classic pistol targets are ideal for refining a sight picture and learning where to hold. Furthermore, they’re excellent for honing the mechanics of pistol shooting, such as stance, breath control, trigger control and grip.

Even for more seasoned handgunners, keeping a stack of bullseyes at hand is a good idea. You never know when you might need to brush up on your fundamentals.

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Skill Evaluation

There are some guns meant for pleasure, and there are others that serve a specific purpose. Of the latter, you certainly should aim at a pistol target that forces you to use your handgun in practice as you would in real life. This means that, if you’re a handgun hunter, you’ll need something much different than somebody whose main concern is becoming proficient with a concealed carry gun. Given that these are two of the more popular uses of handguns, we’ll zero in on them in particular.

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In the case of a hunting pistol or revolver, photorealistic game targets with the vitals mapped out might prove a wise investment. Generally speaking, the guns used in this pursuit are or teeter on hand-cannon status, thus require a good deal of practice to get and keep on target. You owe it to the game to know you can put them down quickly and ethically.

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As far as self-defense, there are few pistol targets better than a silhouette. Simple and familiar, they provide the perfect training and evaluation tool to ensure you’re ready to defend your life. While plain old IPSC targets will do, you might consider the varieties that provide instant visual or auditory feedback. Reactive chip targets or steel silhouettes more than fit the bill by letting you know if you’re hitting, even in rapid fire.

Dynamic Shooting

It doesn’t make much sense plugging away at a bullseye with a shotgun. Conversely, it isn’t logical to confine your handgun shooting to static pistol targets alone. Next to good ol’ smoothbores, practical handgun shooting probably involves the most movement. After all, it’s a compact and mobile firearm that’s main asset is its nimbleness. To master this aspect of its purpose, you’d better practice both shooting on the move and engaging multiple targets.

Short of setting up a practical pistol stage, steel targets excel in this role for a number of reasons:

  • They’re easy to configure and reconfigure to create a course of fire tailored to the skills you’re honing that day.
  • Especially as a pistol target, good AR500 steel will last you nearly a lifetime – biding you take care of it.
  • They offer instant feedback – that sweet ping – of how you’re shooting.
  • There are many reactive models that either don’t require you to set them back up or sharpen precision shooting skills.

A couple of steel gongs, silhouettes, dueling trees and hostage targets are superlative pistol targets to become proficient at dynamic shooting.

So, we’ve covered the basics of what you’re looking for in your pistol target. Now on to some top-notch options.

Best Handgun Targets

These are a number of old standbys – some with new twists – that still prove excellent options in advancing your handgun skills. So before you run out to buy that crazy, and most likely expensive, 3D bleeding zombie to bang away at, consider if one of these 5 classic pistol targets might serve you better. After all, most have been around for years and for good reason – they’ll make you a better handgun shooter.

USPSA/IPSC Practice Target (Paper)
Practical Pistol

USPA/IPSC paper targets are tough to beat when it comes to an affordable option for self-defense training. A stack of 100 of these familiar pistol targets run you about the same as a box of defensive ammunition. Depending on how much you shoot that should cover you for the better part of a year.

Solid head and torso geography are perfect for defensive training, and scoring boxes help you evaluate your shot placement. Additionally, these are truly dual-purpose shooting targets, not only sharpening self-defense marksmanship, but also competitive – if practical pistol is your thing.

Birchwood Casey Dirty Bird Silhouette

Birchwood Casey Dirty Bird Sil Shooting Target

As pointed out above, Birchwood Casey has greatly improved sighting in with their easy-to-see Shoot-N-C line of shooting targets. Rifle marksmen, however, aren’t the only ones who benefit from the company’s splatter targets.

Bringing Birchwood Casey’s high-visibility technology to self-defense training, Dirty Bird Silhouettes are a downright amazing when working with your carry gun.

Logically, you might ask, “Why would you’d need a splatter target if you’re shooting between, say, 7 and 20 yards?” The same question has rattled through nearly every shooter’s mind before hanging one up and cutting one lose. After a few rounds, it makes sense – big time.

With instant feedback of where you’re hitting, the Dirty Bird Silhouette is invaluable, particularly during rapid-fire segments. It’s a real gem on the Mozambique drill. Furthermore, the silhouette is gangbusters at close- to medium-range training with a carbine.

Shoot Steel AR400 Silhouette
Shoot Steel

If you have the space or live near public lands, a steel silhouette target is an ideal choice – especially if you’re a high-volume shooter. And few companies make them better than Shoot Steel.

Made from high-quality 1/4-inch AR400 steel plate, the pistol targets take a licking and last for years. Their longevity is great enough that, if properly cared for, they can prove as economical as paper targets.

Moreover, given the sweet ‘Ping’ they make each time they’re struck, steel silhouettes are an incredible training tool, giving instant feedback. Buy a thick enough one, they’re also top-notch rifle targets.

NRA 25 Yard Slow Fire Pistol Targets
NRA 25

You needn’t be a competitor to reap the benefits from these little gems. NRA 25-yard slow fire pistol targets are frustratingly simple, but when used along the lines of how they’re in a match, foster the utmost accuracy.

Learn to hold and hit a bullseye a little over 1-inch in diameter and you’ll go a long way in mastering your handgun. To boot, these pistol targets are as economical as they come – 100 of them cost less than a box of 9mm FMJ.

Challenge Targets Popper

A simple, satisfying and practical way to sharpen your handgun skills, poppers are must-haves for serious shooters. Among the more affordable options is Challenge Targets’.

The USA made AR500 steel pistol target stands 28-inches tall and is engineered for portability and durability. Easily set up in minutes, the target provides an ample, yet challenging 8-inch wide paddle.

Best of all, the popper doubles as both a static and reactive target. This is thanks to a removable lock pin. Leave it in and you’ll never have to rest the target. Take it out and it topples over when hit. In either case the target provides both visual and auditory feedback, there’s perhaps no better or enjoyable target to send rounds at.

EZ2C Dot Torture

More than simple accuracy, wielding a handgun is a holistic discipline involving multiple facets. Draw, presentation, sight acquisition, trigger pull and follow through, among other things, require honing. Few single targets do it better than Dot Torture.

Many company have riffs on this classic target, but generally all do the same thing—take you through a progression of David Blinder’s original drill. EZ2C is our choice, given their targets are generally pretty affordable. Nice aspect to the target, it does equally well for target transition drills.

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