The Best Archery Target: Our Reviews
There are a surprising number of archery targets out there, and there are some fantastic companies that specialize in making them. That's right—these companies focus solely on archery targets, and nothing else.
It makes sense, actually—archery targets take a beating, and there's a lot of science behind sturdy targets that can "take a lickin' and keep on tickin'." Companies need to specialize on targets because they're so difficult to make properly.
So, below, I review different types of archery targets, and discuss what I see as the best archery target. Then after that, I talk about different types of targets, and offer a few buying tips on what to look for.
Hopefully it'll help you get a sense of what kind of target you're looking for.
Different Types of Archery Targets
If you're new to archery, you might be amazed at the range of targets available. Here's a quick rundown of each, along with some pros and cons. We'll start with the most identifiable target:
Traditional Bulls-Eye Style Targets. These are, perhaps, the most identifiable symbol of archery: the circular rings of a competition target: first white, then black, then blue, then red, then yellow at the center (yes, yellow—if you ask a lot of people, they'll tell you it's red at the center. It's not. That's a common mistake).
You've seen these everywhere: at the range, at camp, probably even in your friend's yard. They're synonymous with target shooting, and there's a reason why: they're a FANTASTIC way to measure accuracy. If your ultimate target is the "X" in the middle of the target, an arrow in each ring outside of that center point tells exactly how far away you are from your target. The rings provide a great way to score archery competitions, and they're great for newbies.
Plus, from a practical standpoint, the bulls eye is your ultimate goal. Each ring is basically "a degree of miss," and that's why bulls eye targets are so fantastic to use when learning archery: you can see your progress in very concrete terms. When your arrows are spread all over the target, you need to some practice; when they're clustered in the red and yellow, you know you're improving. Studying your own progress can be a little difficult on other types of targets.
That said, they're not fantastic for hunters. I'm a strong believer in 3D targets for hunters, because it's true what they say: "Practice makes perfect." If you want to humanely shoot game, you need to practice on a 3D target. You can definitely use a bull’s eye target, but you need to follow it up with some time specifically shooting at whatever 3D target you want to eventually hit (a deer, a turkey, etc.).
3D Targets. Might as well discuss these now! These can get a little pricey, but they're worth it: they train hunters to hone in, with laser-like accuracy, on the vital organs of a game target. If you look a 3D target, the good ones will have an outline of the heart and lungs, and hunters need to practice their skills to make absolutely sure they can accurately and reliably hit those organs. That's a big part of preparing for a hunt.
I truly believe that practicing on a 3D target makes a huge difference, and I truly believe—call me a quack, but I believe it's true—that practicing on a 3D target preps your brain for a hunt. Shooting on a traditional target doesn't do the same thing. I also believe that it is very rare that you'll develop the accuracy needed to be a good hunter if you're using a traditional bulls eye target, no matter how many bull’s eyes you hit.
I'm sure there are people who would disagree with that idea, but that's fine—there's a lot of disagreement in archery! But I stick by what I said: if you are going to be shooting game, you should practice on a 3D target. Period. it's inhumane to the game you're shooting at if you don't put in proper practice time on a 3D target.
Bags. These are a fantastic option, and one of their main features is that they're transportable. You can keep them in the garage, throw them in the pickup, drag them around the yard (if, of course, your local laws allow you to have a target in your yard—check and be sure!). They're durable, usually weather-proof, and they're a great substitute for traditional bull’s eye targets, which often require a stand.
They're usually a little smaller than traditional targets, and that's the down side—if you're new to archery, or if you're still having a tough time grouping arrows, the surface area on a bag will be a little bit smaller, so you may have a couple of misses for every end you shoot. And, even if you're on your way to great accuracy, they're a little tougher to use for long-distance shooting. If you're going to do longer-distance shooting, or even just shoot slightly past your usual range, a smaller target will post some problems.
But, most of the time, that's fine. Bag targets are REALLY popular, and they've come a long, long way over the last decade or two, and for many archers, they're the best archery target available. There are some fantastic models on the market, and I'll discuss some of the reasons why they're so fantastic in the next section.
Cubes. These are usually dice-shaped targets, and in some cases (like the Rinehart 18-to-1 target, mentioned above), they're further shaped so that instead of having six sides (like dice), they have 18 sides. The main advantage of targets like these is that they don't move very much (whereas other targets, like bags, may move a little bit), but the REAL advantage of these is that you can shoot them from different angles—which is great practice for hunters, who may let off shots from tree stands or weird angles. That's a real advantage to the Rinehart model—because it has so many sides, you can rotate around it and have plenty of flat surfaces to practice on.
In a perfect world, hunters would practice on both 3D targets and cubes. The 3D targets allow them to hone their skills on a target that looks like actual game, and a cube allows them shoot from various positions around the cube. Plus, a cube can allow you to use broadheads, so you can tune your broadhead arrows and make your practice even more closely like a hunting scenario.
These are usually a little bit lighter and easier to lug around, and made of foam. Because they veer to the lighter side, they may shuffle around a little bit as you shoot arrows into them—it's not uncommon to see them shift position a little bit. That may be a little odd to imagine, but say you shoot a number of arrows into the left side of the cube, that left side of the cube may move back an inch or two or three. It's not a big deal—I think it's actually a good thing, because it introduces a "dynamic" aspect to the target—but it's something to keep in mind.
What to Look for in a Target
OK! So, now you know the various types of targets. Here are some the "buying factors" you should consider when you're looking to purchase one.
Self-Healing. I grew up reading Marvel comics, and Wolverine was always one of my favorites. As many of you comic fans will know, Wolverine was a member of the X-Men, a group of people who all had special powers. Some could read minds (Professor X), others could teleport great distances (Nightcrawler), and some could even control the weather (Storm). Wolverine had a not-so-flashy power, but one that made him almost invincible: he could heal from any wound.
It's a fantastic superhero ability, and it's also a great archery target feature. If you've ever use sharp-tipped arrows, you know that arrows mess things up. After all—they're weapons! With the nonstop barrage of puncture wounds that targets get, it's amazing they last a single day.
That's why the whole "self-healing" aspect of archery targets is so fascinating. A self-healing target is made from foam or rubber or foam rubber and its main purpose is to collapse in on itself after you pull an arrow out of it, so that it looks like you never shot an arrow into it in the first place. Some of the targets above are self-healing, and that feature is nothing short of amazing. It has to do with the chemical composition of the target, and the truth is—I don't quite understand it! All I know is that it works, and it makes your targets last for a LONG time, and certainly much longer than old-school targets lasted.
General Sturdiness. I'll keep this one short—the tougher, the better. Especially if you're going to be leaving it outside (which I don't necessarily suggest you do, but it's something that a lot of people do). A wimpy target is going to get beat up quick, so if you can, make sure it's a tough piece of equipment, or you'll be replacing it often!
Arrow Retrieval. This gets kind of tricky: you want your arrows to penetrate the target, but you don't want them to penetrate too deeply, because you'll ruin your fletchings—and when they do, you want to be able to pull them out of the target. It's very frustrating to spend half your practice session wrestling with an arrow that buried itself deep inside a target and refused to come out. Removal is important.
Arrow Security. This is one that's easy to overlook—you don't want your target to destroy your arrows! That can happen in one of two ways:
1) The material of the target is harmful to your arrows—it damages the arrow heads, the shaft, or the fletchings, or
2) The target itself is too small and the groupings you're getting are damaging your arrows, because your arrows are colliding into each other as they land.
Here's an "insider tip" that'll help you maintain your arrows—especially as you gain prowess and ability: if you're going to use a bull’s eye target, skip the large bulls eye target, and choose one with multiple smaller bull’s eye targets, and then shoot only one or two arrows into each target. I usually shoot ends of six, so if I'm shooting at a bag that has five bulls eye targets—usually one in the middle and four around it—I'll shoot two arrows in the central target, and then one in each of the smaller targets. It's a thrilling thing when you see that you're grouping your arrows—but it's a HUGE bummer when you realize that grouping arrows is the best way to ruin your fletchings and dent your shafts!
Size. As a general rule of thumb, recurve users should go for a bigger target, because recurve bows are more difficult (generally) to shoot accurately. That's doubly true for traditional archers who shoot instinctively—if you're not using any sort of sight or scope, you're going to want the largest target you can find! The bigger, the better.
Grommets. Yes, grommets. A grommet is a little hole at the top of a target (or any item, really) that you pull a rope or cable through, in order to hang it from something. If you're buying a bag, it is infinitely easier to hang it if it's got grommets. Most bags have grommets incorporated into them, but it's definitely something you should make sure of.
Purpose. This is related to the "Types of Targets" section, above. Be sure you're buy the right type of target for the kind of archery you want to practice.
I think that's it, as far as features go. Now that you've got an idea of what you're looking for, let's jump into the reviews.
Bags aren't the type of archery target you stereotypically think of when you think archery target (those are traditional targets, and I discuss them below), but they're increasingly popular, and for good reason: they're lightweight, they're durable, and they're great for outdoor use. Here are the ones I like:
Yellow Jacket Supreme
The Yellow Jacket Supreme 3 is one of the most recognizable bags you'll find, and it's very popular. Here are some of the pros of the product:
- It has an internal frame that makes it sturdy from side-to-side, so if you end up hitting the corners of the bag, it'll still stop your arrows effectively;
- It's got grommets, so you can hang it from a stand and shoot higher-aim shots;
- It's a fairly decent size, at 23 inches width x 25 inches height x 12 inches depth; and
- People use it for both bows and crossbows.
It's got a handle so you can lug it around, and at about 30 pounds, it's not tooooooo heavy—some targets can weigh 50 pounds or more, and that can be a pain if you like to move your target around a lot (which I do). The only thing I'm not crazy about is that it only has five target points—the next option I discuss has nine—but that's not a huge deal, really. It's a great option that's weatherproof and long-lasting.
The Morrell Super Duper
The Morrell Super Duper Bag Target isn't as snazzy as the last option—it's a muted gold instead of that bright yellow—but it's got more targets points on the face, and that's a big plus. It's got a semi-traditional target on the front that features a bull’s eye and eight separate target points, and to my mind, that's a FANTASTIC feature, because it allows you to spread your arrows out on the target, instead of grouping them together—and running the risk of damaging your fletchings and spines.
It's got grommets so you can hoist it up on a stand or tree, and it's weatherproof, so you can leave it be for a while and it won't fall apart (although it'll obviously last longer if it you store it inside). It features an image of a deer and its vitals on the back, and that's OK. If you're a hunter, you should probably practice with a 3D target (which I talk about a little bit later on).
The best part about it, in my mind, is that it's usable for bows and crossbows up to 350 FPS (feet per second). This one gets my vote for best target for crossbows, and most versatile target.
Last but not least for the bag targets:
The Morrell Yellow Jacket
The Morrell Yellow Jacket Crossbow Discharge Field Point Archery Bag Target is a smaller version of the Yellow Jacket Supreme, and the best part about it is its size. It has all the features of the larger model, but it's about 10 inches wide x 16 inches tall x 8 inches deep, and it's much lighter than both of the previous options, which makes it great for tossing in the back of the truck and driving off to a campsite. If you're looking for a portable target, this is a fantastic option.
One thing to keep in mind—because it's on the smaller side, you may not want to use it for a recurve bow, as those are a little harder to aim and shoot accurately. Of course, if you're a pro, don't let that stop you! 🙂
Before I get done with the bags, there's one other appliance I should mention, that might make your life a little easier:
The Pine Ridge Stand
The Pine Ridge Target Stand can be a great time saver if you need to prop your bag up. Just make sure that the stand fits the bag you're interested in—you don't want to get a stand and find out it doesn't fit with your bag—that's a pain.
Next up—one of my favorites:
There are some fantastic cube targets available. They include:
The Block Classic Target
The Block Classic has everything you'd want in a cube: layered foam, to make it easy to remove broadheads; four distinct target points, with a fifth target point (the "Block Classic insignia, on the left-left-hand corner!); and a handle to lug it around the great outdoors.
Remember above, when I said that modern targets have a lot of science behind them? The Block Classic was one of the targets that changed the game, by using friction (as opposed to force) to slow and stop incoming arrows. I don't know who thought of that, but it's genius (just the compound bow is genius—even after all this time, I still can't believe how brilliant a design it is).
Anyway, the end result is that you can even use mechanical broadheads on this puppy, and that's pretty darn impressive. Mechanical broadheads are DESIGNED to destroy a target, and it's amazing that people were able to create a target that could withstand repeated penetration from broadheads, and hold up for continued use as a target. It kind of boggles the mind.
Equally impressive is the...
The Double Duty
The Morrell Double Duty is a favorite of many an archer and hunter. To my mind, the best feature is its four distinct shooting sides: a classic dartboard on one side, a rack of nine pool balls, a couple of small bull’s eyes, and the midsection of a deer with heart and lungs brightly colored. That image of a deer is kind of "meh," and I'm not sure why game images are featured on cubes and bags when an actual 3D target is so much better, but I *really* like the nine pool balls, because it enables you to safely shoot an end of nine arrows without feeling like your arrows are going to collide on the target and destroy each other.
This is a true cube, at 19 inches wide x 19 inches tall x 19 inches deep, and it's bright yellow, so you're not going to lose it. The best feature may be easy arrow removal: if you've ever spent 20 minutes trying to wrangle an arrow from target, you know what a bummer it can be; the Double Duty was created for ease of use, and it's not uncommon to be able to retrieve an arrow using only two fingers.
The Best Targets for Broadheads
This is technically a cube, but I think it's in a class of its own.
It's interesting: arrow manufacturers spend millions of dollars on research to make broadheads that terminate game quickly and compassionately. They design them to do quick and total and effective damage, and they make 'em sharp.
And that's a good thing—go on any hunting forum, and you'll see that the overwhelming majority of hunters are truly and deeply concerned about making a quick and humane kill. They buy and use arrows that are tremendously sharp to make sure.
The only negative side effect is—those arrows that are made to be super sharp will DESTROY a target! Think about it: these puppies are made for the sole purpose of effective penetration... so what target can you use for broadheads, when broadheads are designed to go through targets like butter?
The Rinehart 18-1 Broad Target is that target. It's an 18-sided cube that is remarkably tough. It's made from "self-healing" foam that retracts to its original shape after you pull an arrow from it, so you can use it with broadheads and even expandables. The arrows may be a little difficult to remove, but the material of the target won't be destroyed by the broadhead.
An added bonus is that because the cube has 18 sides, it's great for hunters who want to practice from elevated heights, like tree stands. I discuss this in a little more depth in the "Features" section below, but it's a really nice feature that makes the target a little more dynamic. If you circle around a regular cube, you'll have fewer surfaces to shoot on; when you circle around an 18-sided cube, you have a LOT of surfaces to shoot on.
The only down side to this model is that it's a little small—it's about 15 inches x 15 inches x 15 inches. But, in all other respects, a REALLY fantastic target.
These are a little more self-explanatory, but I can't overstate their importance to hunters. If you're going to go out and shoot game, you should practice on a 3D target. I feel pretty strongly about that, because 3D targets train you to accurately place your arrows in the vitals of your game, and help ensure that you'll humanely put down your game. That's important.
Here are my favorite 3D targets for the most common types of game hunted in North America:
The Field Logic Shooter
If you're going after bucks, the Field Logic Shooter Buck 3D Archery Target is a solid, mid-range option. The model features a removable insert that features the buck's vital organs, and the deer has a should height of about 31 inches. It can withstand broadheads and even mechanical broadheads, which is vitally important to prepping for a hunt—you need to practice EXACTLY for the situation you'll be in, and if you're hunting, you'll be using broadheads, so it's proper to practice with them.
If you're looking to kick it up a notch, the Field Logic Glendel Buck 3D Archery Target 71000 is a great option. It has the same basic features—removeable vitals insert, removable legs, and lifelike features—but it's just a liiiiiiittle nicer: the vitals are drawn in better detail, and the models stands a little taller (the shoulder height of the deer is 34 inches vs. a shoulder height of 31 inches on the previous model).
If you're going after turkeys, the Rinehart Tom Turkey Target can be a good option. I professed my love for the Rinehard 18-to-1 cube earlier in the article, and I'll profess more love for them here: the turkey target stands a little over two feet tall, and looks REALLY lifelike—much moreso than any deer or buck 3D target I've seen. The only negative about it—there's always a negative!—is that it doesn't have a "vitals" area outlined, so you're on your own when it comes to practicing—you'll need to do some research on where to place your arrows. Rinehart actually makes a whole range of 3D targets, from boards to wolverines to coyotes.
I talk a little more about 3D targets below, so check that out if you'd like to read further.
Traditional Bull's Eyes
First up: the classic!
The Bear Archery Foam
The classic! The Bear Archery Foam Target is the international symbol of target archery. You see it at the range, you see it in the Olympics, you see it on every single archery website in existence. It's *the* target for a lot of archers.
This is a great option for camps, ranges, and anybody who wants to get involved in competitive archery. It's not the sturdiest model—if you're shooting high-poundage compound bows, this might not be for you—but it's capable of handling most recurve bows and most traditional bows. It's waterproof (although I wouldn't leave it outside if I were you), manufactured from self-healing foam (that's important), and usually available in a smaller and a larger size (36 inches and 48 inches). Quick tip: if you're dealing with younger archers or less-skilled archers, a bigger target is always a good idea.
One other tip: if you're going to buy a traditional white-black-blue-red-yellow target, you may want to consider getting a target stand. There's the traditional tripod-style stand like the Hawkeye Monster Stand, and that's the kind of stand you'll find at sleepaway camps and archery ranges pretty much everywhere, or you can get a "rollie"-style stand, like the Archery Target Stand from Jaypro Sports. Those can be a little more sturdy, but the tripod stand has an enduring appeal. I have very fond memories of those from my childhood.
Also—something I should mention: sometimes people buy a stand, thinking that it comes with a target. That's usually not the case, and either way, you have to make sure that you know what you're buying. If the stand doesn't say anything about a target, it probably doesn't come with a target. Something to keep in mind!
The Best of Both Worlds: A Bag with a Bull's Eye
You may be saying, "Hold on a second, Complete Guide to Archery. Slow your roll. I want it all—a bag target that has a traditional bulls eye target on the front and four smaller targets on the back."
Well, friend, you're in luck. The Morrell Supreme Range Bag Target has all of those features.
OK, I'm getting a little silly, but I actually really like this target. It has all the best features of a bag—portability, grommets for hanging, weather-proofing for extended use—but it features a traditional bulls-eye target on the front, with four smaller bulls eye targets on the back. It's a little heavy (it's 50 pounds), but for people who don't want a traditional target setup but want the traditional target, it's a great compromise.
OK—I think that wraps up the reviews! Now that we've gone through all the best archery targets, let's take a look at the various styles of archery target, and the features you want to keep an eye on if you're think about getting one.
Wrapping Up and Final Thoughts
It's funny: when people think archery, they think bows and arrows—but they don't think "targets." But you can't have one without the other. Targets are incredibly important, and they're a big part of the equation. Hopefully the post above sheds some light on the topic, but if you have any questions, leave 'em below and I'll see what I can do. Be well, be safe, and happy shooting!
Image Credit: Awaisee50