I love steel targets. If you have read our blog or reviews for any amount of time, this should be apparent. When shooting steel close up with a handgun or carbine you get instant, gratifying feedback of the shot. There is no need to paste any shot holes between shooters and you don’t even have to paint them if you don’t want to. Long range rifle shooters benefit in a visual cue when the bullet splashes on the target face. This can be seen a much greater distances than a small shot hole in cardboard. If the shooter is unable to spot the impact of the bullet, they can generally hear the ring of the plate roll back from downrange.
This week we look at the Stake-N-Shoot 8″ Popper target from Challenge Targets. I came across the Stake-N-Shoot targets while browsing the MidwayUSA website. I contacted Challenge Targets and they were happy to send over one of their 8″ Stake-N-Shoot Poppers for us to review. The Stake-N-Shoot Popper is similar to other poppers on the market in that they are 3/8″ AR500 steel. The Challenge Targets are laser cut and have very clean edges. The 8″ Stake-N-Shoot popper is 20″ tall and 8″ wide. This size makes it a very versatile precision rifle target for 100-800 yard use.
There are two features that make the Challenge Targets Stake-N-Shoot stand out from the crowd. The first is the spring mechanism in the base of the target. The strike plate is attached to the base of the target by two heavy carriage bolts. The bolts go through the plate then through two heavy duty coil springs. They then pass through the base and are secured by two 3/4″ lock nuts. When struck the target face is driven back by the force of the bullet, then springs back to its resting position. This is a very simple and low maintenance design. The Carriage bolts are very low on the strike plate and should be at a very low risk for a direct hit. In the event that they are hit, they are cheap to replace and available at any local hardware store.
The second feature of the Stake-N-Shoot targets that really caught my eye is the “stake” base. The entire base of the target is made to be driven into the ground. This makes the Stake-N-Shoot target line an excellent option for field shooting. You can stake these in on the side of a hill, down in a valley, on flat ground or wherever you see fit. Hard concrete or pavement is about the only surface you will have some trouble with.
The Challenge Targets website states that you can just “stomp them into the ground”. This may be true on a well manicured lawn or a swampy field, but we found that we needed to “coax” the target in a little with our trusty sledge. The stake on the base is rather large and on any hard packed ground, it is going to take some effort to get it in.
When staking in the Challenge Targets Stake-N-Shoot targets, it is important to get them deep into the ground. Not only does this minimize the risk of knocking the target over while shooting, it also protects the non-armored portions. When we staked in our 8″ Popper, we hammered it in until there was less that 1/4″ clearance between the bottom of the strike plate and the ground. This leaves a minimum of gap for a low round to sneak through and damage the target. This also places the carriage bolts as low as possible.
Challenge Targets lists their Stake-N-Shoot Poppers as “rifle rated” for bullets under 3100 fps. They even provide a handy chart on the side of the box outlining the minimum engagement distances for specific calibers. Minimum engagement distance for any high power rifle is 100 yards. Of course for our testing we completely disregarded that and set our target at approximately 50 yards. We loaded up some 175gr Southwest SW118LR ammunition in our 16″ Mega Arms MATEN and set out to hammer on the target.
We put rounds into the Stake-N-Shoot 8″ Popper at a fairly brisk pace. I made sure we got some decent hits close to the edge and tried to “double tap” the popper to catch it on it’s way up. I did everything short of shooting the bolts out of it, with no discernible damage. Of course we could have broken out the .243 and put some craters in the plate at 50 yards. That really wouldn’t have told us anything. I know that a high velocity rifle round at close range will dimple AR500 and AR550. What I wanted to see is if hammering on the plate with a common gas gun was going to break anything in the base. I am happy to report that was not the case.
Challenge Targets offers a one year limited warranty on their products. That should be more than enough time to break something that had a factory defect. I have shot steel long enough to know that over time any steel target system can break. We hammer on them constantly. The lovely part about the Stake-N-Shoot design is that if you start to bend the plates, you can reverse them. If you manage to crack or put a bullet through the base, you can weld it up. There aren’t any complex hinges or mounts to worry about. With a reasonable amount of care these targets should last a very long time.
The Stake-N-Shoot 8″ Popper weighs in at 13 lbs. They pack fairly flat compared to some other reactive targets and are a snap to setup. They make transporting and setting up steel a much easier task. That leaves more time and energy for shooting!
The Challenge Targets Stake-N-Shoot 8″ Popper lists for $139.99. They also offer a 6″ Popper for $129.00 and a 6″ Colt Speed Plate for $98.00. Challenge Targets has a wide variety of pistol and rifle steel targets in their other product lines.
Challenge Targets will also be giving away ONE FREE 8″ Stake-N-Shoot Popper. Register at the link below. The drawing will be on 3/31/2014.