My obsession had resulted in a collection of holes punched into various parts of our home. The need to bend the limbs back was constant. My bride and I were dirt poor and fresh-out-of-college newlyweds. I worked as a teacher and my wife as a part-time LPN at our small-town hospital. I couldn’t afford a bag or foam target, so I took an empty cereal box, duct tape, old sheets, and a few pillows and crafted one. Did I mention the holes in the wall?
Twenty-plus years later, my love affair with my stick-and-string has only grown. And while my bank account still teeters toward the red from time to time, I’ve found multiple ways to build a basement archery range. Basement/garage ranges are great for many reasons: the biggest is year-round form and let-the-release-fire-the-bow practice. My current range is 20 yards, which means I can shoot 5-Spot rounds, and because I do my own bow work, that lets me tune and tinker before heading to my outside range.
Building your indoor archery range isn’t difficult, but it needs to be done carefully to ensure the safety of everyone in the home. Safety was my wife’s biggest concern. With young kids running around, she was worried one might inadvertently come around a basement corner without me seeing them. Our laundry room is also downstairs, and she was concerned that on a day when the stresses of life seem to be too much, and she’s doing her 96th load of laundry, she might walk into the line of fire. Here’s how to keep it safe.
Keeping Your Indoor Archery Range Safe
Before you head down the stairs to start slinging carbon, find every member of your family and let them know that you’re going to be shooting and that they shouldn’t come downstairs until you come back up and let them know the range is clear.
Many basements have a door one must open and close to access the stairs, or the door may be at the bottom of the stairs. If your basement requires one- or two-door access, post “Stop! I’m Shooting” signs on each door, and be sure each is closed. If they lock, all the better. This must become routine, and when you’re done shooting, you must remember to remove the signs.
If you don’t have a basement door, go to Walmart and purchase a couple of tall kitchen trash cans. Use a magic marker and put the words “Stop! I’m Shooting” on them. Place one trashcan at the top of the stairs and one at the bottom. I have a door to my basement, but I still use the trash cans. I also recommend not shooting when you have guests over, especially when the kids have friends at the house. Safety is first.
Combine Bag and Foam Targets
Even though you’re shooting in the basement, you don’t want to start putting holes in the wall. One of the easiest ways to build a downstairs range with a proper backstop is with standard foam and bag targets.
I’m not a bag-target lover, so I purchase the cheapest I can find. You can go with a pair of bags, but I prefer four. My bag of choice is the Hurricane $39.99 from FeraDyne, which means my total bag-target investment for my basement range was $160.
I set two of the bags next to each other and placed the other two on top of them. Then, I used a pair of ratchet straps to bind the four targets together. This created my backwall.
Then you’ll need four (you can get away with two) foam targets to actually shoot at — don’t skimp on quality. I prefer FeraDyne’s BLOCK Infinity Target, which go for $199.99 each. If you’re on a budget and want to use four targets, you can do just fine with the GenZ, which go for $49.99 each.
My total indoor range target setup cost $960. You can, of course, do it for half that price if you go with two targets or the GenZ option. If you use two GenZ targets in front of four bags, you’re only looking at a $260 investment.
With two foam targets placed next to each other, two stacked on top, and four bag targets behind, you’ll have a real range.
After four years of shooting at this target setup, it’s on its last leg. And I shoot a lot.
To give the targets a bit more longevity, don’t get caught up in shooting groups or at single spots — you’ll get bad wear spots in a hurry. Continuously shoot different targets and different spots, and avoid shooting groups. When shooting a 5 Spot or another paper target round, be sure to rotate the block targets you’re using.
The Big BLOCK Option
Several bowhunting buddies took the indoor plunge and decided to plunk down the cash for a BLOCK Archery Range Target. If you can save your pennies — the price tag is north of $1,000 — this 48” x 48 “x 18” deep target is a win. Most top-end pro shops use multiple BLOCK Archery Range Targets in their shooting ranges simply because they last so long. I do own one, but I found it worked better on my outdoor range for shooting distance.
If you get a BLOCK Archery Range Target, the same advice applies: Be sure not to pound dots and spots over and over again. One of my friends kept putting his 5-Spot paper in the same place, and his arrows were going clean through and putting holes in his wall after less than four months. It’s also a good idea, every few months, to turn the target 180-degrees and shoot the other side.
If you check with area pro shops, you can catch a good deal on these large BLOCK targets. Popular shops with indoor leagues and the like go through lots of targets, and you can typically purchase a used target for a reasonable price that will last a good while. Just be sure the target isn’t nearing the end of its lifespan. I also recommend hanging a heavy canvas tarp behind the target but not up against the wall. Use eyelet hooks and place the tarp three feet off the back wall of your indoor archery range.
There you have it: the 411 on building your very own indoor archery range. If you have the space and want to shoot year-round, this is the way to do it. Having an indoor range has helped me work on every part of my shot process, from how I get into my grip, address the target, crawl into anchor, and let the release fire the bow.