Being already familiar with Challenge Targets, I can clearly see (or hear in this case) that they have another hit product on their hands with their “harmonic” steel handgun target. The company claims to be the first to develop and market a target that gives different auditory feedback for the “A” versus “B” zones as defined on a typical IPSC target, with the “C” zone removed entirely, presumably for portability. I don’t doubt this claim as I cannot think of another product marketed as such off the top of my head.
This steel target can be purchased with a stand or in-ground stake for support. I chose the stake option for this test and at $289.99, it’s $35 less than the stand model. In addition to the lower price, the stake appeals to me because it’s proven itself sturdy in nasty winds, an important criterion for the local climate and uninterrupted flow of classes and personal training.
The stake and target slide onto a 2×4, just like the company’s head silhouette target, which is reviewed here.
The target face measures 11.81″x23.62. It’s cut from 3.8-inch thick steel and is rated for any non-magnum handgun from a minimum distance of seven yards (though as mentioned in the previous review, I stay at least 12 yards away). Unlike the head silhouette, this target is big enough that most beginners, with a little instruction, can stand at that distance (and greater) and still make hits.
The unit weighs 37 pounds and given its shape, that is close to the limit of what I can comfortably carry downrange along with the setup tools: a sledgehammer, a 2×4–mine happens to be about five feet long, making the final setup person-height–and the stake. Despite the target’s heft, the stake supports it surprisingly well and maintains a slight downward angle from the up-range perspective, which enhances safe deflection of jacket material. The stake, incidentally, is the same as the one on my other Challenge Targets product, making them conveniently interchangeable.
On the range
While I had visions of ringing out the Happy Birthday song to friends and students, it’s not that harmonic. We Will Rock You would make a better choice. The center plate rings a rewarding, reverberating tone, due, I must assume, to part of the plate being cut just like a tuning fork. The B zone, outside of direct center mass and effective headshot area, doesn’t ring but makes a steely thud.
Auditory feedback is clear and instantaneous, even with rapid, multiple shots. This is a great improvement over center-zone “flap” targets, for which the shooter must wait for the center flap to return to the resting position. It’s absolutely possible that this feature can ingrain the dangerous habit of pausing when shooting is the correct course of action in a defensive situation, so it is nice to see that remedied.
The center plate is bolted securely to the outer one by the purchaser, using supplied carriage bolts, nuts and springs. The setup is sturdy and didn’t loosen at all after an hour of constant use.
Like any stationary steel target, this one’s extraordinarily useful and fun for distance shooting, since you know when shots hit center. On a windy day, the B-zone thud might be hard to detect with ear protection on, but as mentioned above, we did not find auditory feedback to be a problem.
Pros… and only pros
While regular users of sizable steel targets may not find this surprising, I found that the relatively long target, along with the auditory feedback, enables me to do something I’ve been struggling with as a developing shooter. Visually following the rise of the front sight in recoil, without “losing” it in my field of vision, seems to come easily with this target at distances up to around 20 yards. I anticipate that this target will help me develop confidence in shooting multiples more quickly, while maintaining accuracy.
Another fine surprise was the cost of shipping this target. When the $20 charge for shipping the heavy box over 1,000 miles from the Kentucky-based company to my home in New Mexico showed up in my e-mail, I phoned the company owner, Brad Brune, to ask what the non-media shipping rate would be. He chuckled and explained that the company ships in sufficient bulk to earn substantially discounted rates. Wow—that one comment defeated the most common reason people have for not investing in more steel targets.
Maybe they do a lot of shipping, but Mr. Brune clearly is paying attention to customer service and innovation as well. The Challenge Targets website offers a weekly mailing list option, and sales are common. They also offer price breaks for LE/Military and NRA instructors.