Tired of the same old drills or unorganized plinking? Whether you’re shooting steel or just hitting paper targets, any day at the range can be fun. But did you know there are plenty of range games you can have a blast with while still working on your marksmanship?
It seems so obvious once it’s pointed out, but many popular games that you probably already know how to play make a great transition to the shooting range. All it takes is a little out-of-the-box thinking and you can find new and exciting ways to have fun with your gun. (And really, isn’t that the best of both worlds?)
Here are some creative range games that you can have fun with while you improve your skills. They work for rifles or pistols.
Battleship: Just like the popular board game, your mission is to sink your opponent’s fleet of battleships before she sinks yours. Believe it or not, this competitive strategic game can be played at the range. If you’re artsy you can make your own battleship targets with some graph paper and then run off several copies for future use. Or, you can find them already printed online.
With your targets downrange, you and opponent take turns trying to sink each other’s battleships by shooting the required number of holes through each ship. The ship is considered sunk when you’ve hit it the target predetermined number of times (depending on how large the ship is), exactly like the board game.
Tic-Tac-Toe: Tic-tac-toe is likely one of the first games you learned as a child. It’s easy, strategic and a fun way to kill time. In the range version of tic-tac-toe, the grid is drawn in the standard hashtag pattern, but each box is cut in half either horizontally or diagonally, with an X or O placed in each section. Your job is to hit your character without accidentally scoring for your opponent. If both shooters miss hitting the square, closest to the letter wins it. It’s harder than it looks.
Targets for tic-tac-toe are easy to make on the fly, and are readily available online. It’s also fun to play if you and your opponent are shooting with different calibers. This makes it easy to see whose shot went where without physically going downrange and marking the shots after each round. Download a free printable target here.
Pool: You don’t have to have a pool table to play 8-Ball. Making your own targets for this one is simple. Trace 15 circles onto a sheet of paper and label them with numbers; some should be solid colors and some should be striped, like a set of billiard balls. How you arrange the numbers can be up to you; they can be in order or mixed up. If you’d prefer pre-made targets, they’re available for free download online from several different websites and in several different designs.
Take turns shooting at the ball targets in numerical order, making sure you don’t accidentally hit one of your opponent’s. If you hit your ball of choice, shoot again. Miss and it’s your opponent’s turn to clear the table.
A great perk of this game is that it makes you think about what and where to shoot, especially if the balls aren’t in numerical order. Mix them up and you’ll see not only improvement in your marksmanship, but also your focus. It’s fun, and a great training tool.
Darts/Cricket: Who needs to accidentally put tiny holes in the wall of your home playing darts when you could put some bigger holes in some targets at the range? Dartboard targets are easily available online, and most can be printed for free. Just like in darts, each player gets 3 shots, representing 3 darts. The same rules apply that would if you were playing a regular “cricket”-style game of darts—each shot either opens numbers, closes numbers or scores points. (You can find the exact rules for cricket online; since this is also a target game, there’s no adjustment in scoring needed.)
This game really takes focus. Depending on your shooting skills, you can adjust how far out you hang your targets. Challenge yourself, but don’t make it so hard it becomes frustrating. The goal is to have fun, and this game really brings out the friendly competition.
If you’re crafty, you can have fun prepping for these games by making your own targets at home with your own artistic flair. It’s also a great way to get your kids involved while they’re indoors this winter. If you’re like me, however, a little time spent Googling can lead to a bunch of free websites that offer downloadable targets in PDF form. One such website I found was www.targetz.com. Several websites also sell fancier targets; what you choose is up to you.
Whichever game you decide to try out, bring along some extra targets. Take a few rounds to get used to how the game works, then hang a new target to start the game. It may take some time, but soon you’ll be having fun doing something different at the range.
I love to play these types of range games. It takes a great deal of thought, strategy and hand-eye coordination to make the shot you need without scoring points for your opponent. Because of their competitive nature, these games can raise your stress levels in a friendly way, and getting used to that feeling can benefit any shooter.
While I’ve described some popular range games, there are others out there. Friends have told me that playing “pistol poker” is a great way to spend the afternoon, but I haven’t yet tried it. Whatever your preference, head to the range and get your range game on.
Annette Doerr is a freelance outdoor writer and business services consultant living in suburban New York. This married mother of two is an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor and Range Safety Officer. Annette is not only passionate about the sport of shooting, she also loves helping new shooters get involved, especially women and teens. An active equestrian, she enjoys riding her American Quarter horse, Cody. She volunteers in greyhound rescue and adoption, and shares her home with Casper, a rescued racing greyhound, along with her her cat, Tony, and her husband, Bob. Visit Annette at WeShoot2.com, her personal blog. View all posts by Annette Doerr