Do It Yourself Steel Challenge Target Stands
I've been working on a design for some Steel Challenge portable target stands for some time. I have now finally put all the ideas together and built the stands. The design requirements were
- Easy to build using common hand tools
- Readily available materials
- Light weight
- Easy to move and store
- No welding
- Able to handle Steel Challenge Plates
- Able to handle cardboard for paper targets
- Reasonable price
- Good durability
I think I came up with a design that meets those requirements fairly well.
The target stands have two main parts, the base, and the post, or upright. The post is 1/2" black iron pipe, available at most hardware stores. This type of pipe is often used for gas lines.
1/2" black iron pipe has an inside diameter of approximately 5/8". I ran a 5/8" drill bit into the end of each upright so a piece of 5/8" rod would just slide into the end. I cut off some 5/8" rod about 3" long to fit inside of the pipe so the nuts on the threaded end of the hanger hook wouldn't collapse the pipe and get loose in use. The hanger hook is made by sawing off one half of the eye of a 3/8" eyebolt.
Since these hangar hooks go through the steel plates they will eventually need to be replaced as they get shot up. I made up a few spare hanger hooks while I was at it for future replacement use.
3/8" eyebolts are often 3/8" diameter at the threaded end, but the ring, or eye end if often slightly smaller. I used a drill bit just below 3/8" to drill the plates. That way the plates don't wobble quite so much.
To keep the posts from turning when a target is hit near the edges I put a 5/16" notch on each side of the bottom end of the post. Don't forget to make the notches on the bottom align with the 3/8" hole on the top where the target hanger bolt goes or you will end up with targets at odd angles!
I Also chamfered the bottom end so it would easily slide into the socket in the base. It's not a bad idea to make up a few extra posts of various lengths so you can get creative with your target placements. For official Steel Challenge stages you need five five footers and two six footers, measured to the top of the plate, so the posts should be an inch or so shorter than that.
For centerfire shooting I think I would take a 3' or 4" piece of 1/4" 1 by 1 angle iron and put it over the post to protect it from getting damaged. If you slide the angle iron up so the top part of it is behind the plate you can probably hold it in place with a hose clamp. (If the bases start getting shot up you need to work on accuracy --- A lot!)
A quick wipe down of the posts with lacquer thinner to remove any oil, followed by a quick coat of spray paint, and the posts were ready to go.
The base is made from four pieces of 2x4, each 24" long. The end spacer blocks are placed so the rectangular holes on each end will just fit to a 1x2 for a wooden upright. The main assembly of the 2x4's is done with square head drive deck screws. I used 4" screws for the ends and 3" screws for the side spacer blocks. If the end pieces start working loose some steel angle brackets can be screwed on to the top and bottom of the base.
The center piece with the post socket took a little more work. I cut off some 4" long pieces of 3/4" black pipe. Then I ran a large drill bit through each one so the uprights would fit without too much play. I think it was a 13/16 bit, but variation in pipe may dictate a slightly different size. Once drilled out, I drilled a 1/4" hole through the bottom end up the pipe just up from the end for the cross bolt.
I drilled a hole through the center socket block so the 3/4" pipe would almost fit, but not quite. A large hammer and a block of wood made it fit! You want it to fit tightly enough that it won't be loose, but not so tight that it splits the wooden block when you drive it in. Watch to be sure the cross bolt hole stays at right angles to the face of the 2x4. (You could also not drill the cross bolt hole until the pipe is in the block.) Once you have the socket pipe driven into the 2x4, drill a 1/4" hole through the 2x4 to align with the 1/4" hole in the socket pipe.
Final assembly entailed deck screwing the end pieces onto the cross pieces, then screwing the end blocks in place, leaving just enough room for the 1x2 uprights on each end. Finally, locate the socket block and drill 3 1/4" holes through the cross pieces for the bolts. Align one of the 1/4" holes with the cross bolt hole at the bottom of the socket pipe.
All that remains is to tighten down the bolts. Be sure to use fairly large flat washers under the bolt heads and nuts.
To help the 1x2 wooden uprights from falling through the base I ran a single sheet rock screw through the bottom of its hole.
I rummaged around through the miscellaneous cans of paint I had kicking around and came up with a part can of gray deck stain. I slathered on a couple of coats to give the bases some weather protection.
Finally, a note about steel plates and plate steel. Since I am going to use these stands and plates primarily with rimfire guns, I can get by with lighter plate than I would otherwise be using. Minimum plate thickness for rimfire is 1/4", but 5/16" or even 3/8" is even better. Repeated rimfire shooting at 1/4" plates WILL start to dent them. This is assuming that you are using mild steel.
Centerfire plates need to be even heavier. For centerfire I would recommend a bare minimum of 5/16" or much better 3/8" ARMOR PLATE. If you are going to shoot at the plates a lot (like at a regular club range) I would highly recommend armor plate with a 3/8" minimum.
There are three ways to cut out your plates. High pressure water cutting is best as it does not affect any heat treating of the steel and it leaves an amazingly clean cut with no slag or burrs. Plasma cutting can make very nice cuts that require almost no clean up, but it does affect heat treating. The good old cutting torch will do the job, and a good torch, properly adjusted, and run by a skilled operator can produce a really nice cut with very little slag to clean up. It also will affect heat treating of the steel. Since mild steel is not heat treatable, that's not a consideration.
I hope this has been of some help for those of you considering the construction of a set of target stands!