Introduction: DIY Archery Target - Puzzle Mats

Picture of DIY Archery Target - Puzzle Mats

i'm new to archery and i just got my own bow. i'd like to shoot at home but unfortunately the straw targets offered from the range won't fit in a car or cab, so i have to DIY.

i built this thing for about 2 days. 1 day is enough, but i ran out of materials and the store's closed.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

forgive me... i have a bad habit of crafting things without planning. this instructable would just serve as an idea for you in case you wanna make one. you can make use of your own specifications if you wish.

[1.] 1" x 1" x 10" wood (i used about 4 pieces of these)
[2.] 1" nails
[3.] 2" nails
[4.] wood glue
[5.] wood putty
[6.] sand paper or electric sander
[7.] 3" x 3" x 10" wood (i used about 2 pieces)
[8.] 4 pieces of casters/wheels
[9.] plastic mesh or chicken wire
[10.] puzzle mats
[11.] metal angle braces
[12.] carpet (1m x 1m) - the ones used for car trunks
[13.] varnish or wood paint (optional)

Step 2: Preparing Puzzle Mats

Picture of Preparing Puzzle Mats

puzzle mats comes in a pack of 10s with 1ft x 1ft dimension. i laid down and connected 9 pieces all together to create a wall of 3ft x 3ft in dimension. stacked them together until they're about 1 foot thick.

i was hoping to have plain puzzle mats but the store have mixed some with alphabets and animal designs. i just placed them in the center of the pile so pieces won't scatter.

Step 3: Creating the Box

Picture of Creating the Box

the box is where the puzzle mats would be kept all together. using the 1" x 1" woods, i came up to this design. i used some scrap plywood from the backyard to make the walls and flooring. the size of the box is an inch bigger than 3ft x 3ft x 1ft. i've made the allowance so that i could slip more sheets from above in case i need to.

the angle braces serves as reinforcement so the whole thing won't wobble. i'm not a good carpenter, so i need this.

for the back side, i placed the plastic mesh intended to stop the arrows in case they punched all the way through, which i doubt because of the puzzle mats' thickness. metal chicken wire can be used but i don't wanna scratch my arrows. i made a separate square at the same measurement of my box, then nailed the mesh onto it, spreading it evenly. then i nailed them to the back side of the box to make it even tighter.

Step 4: Adding the Feet and Stacking Up Puzzle Mats

Picture of Adding the Feet and Stacking Up Puzzle Mats

i used the 3" x 3" wood to make the feet. it's heavy, yes... but it makes the whole thing stable. i used the 3" nails to keep the heavy wood together.

i placed the casters/wheels underneath for mobility in case i wanna shoot at some place else.

cracks and spaces (because i'm not a good carpenter) are treated with wood putty. i used an electric sander to smoothen the whole thing after the putty had hardened overnight. sandpaper is used best with a lot of patience, which i dont have...i mean patience.

then i placed the puzzle mats neatly inside the box (wires are just temporary).

Step 5: Carpet Face

Picture of Carpet Face

to make it neat-looking in front, i nailed/stapled the carpet on a square i made out of 1" x 1" wood. then nailed it to the box's front to make it tighter. i trimmed the excess carpet from the sides.

i added up more sheets of puzzle mats from above to compress it more until there's a slight bulge at the carpet.

(removed the wire of course, and the apple target.)

you may use varnish or wood paint to make it pretty. haven't done mine yet.

Step 6: All Done! Now It's Time to Shoot...

Picture of All Done! Now It's Time to Shoot...

target faces are usually made of paper. these can be posted on the carpet by 1" nails (push pins are not a good idea, they would only be sent flying because of the impact).

i have issues of melted foam on my arrows. but i learned from an archery forum site, running soap onto it would do the trick. dry of course.

with it's thickness, arrows don't... well seldom punch through the back side. as a remedy, i slipped some corrugated cardboards in between some puzzle mats.

the whole thing is not perfect, but as i've said... just to give you an idea. this thing works for me... for now, until the next instructable.

comments are welcome, thanks!


mfem (author)2016-07-05

I have a similar setup in my backyard, been working great this whole summer. My mats are 2 ft by 2ft so I dont have to puzzle

LoloyM (author)2015-08-08

Hi do you.think can rubber mat, suffice? Even tho no carpet on the face? Thanks

tukmol (author)LoloyM2015-08-17

yes, the carpet as the face is just optional, just to make things neat.

viper2260 (author)2015-07-02

Awesome idea great configuration! Built 10 and love them. I will say they had to be tripled to use the Bowtech RPM 3360 but catches everything else fine. Oh it does catch broad heads fine. Do not shoot them with Head Hunters for turkey. And DO NOT USE BARNETT's Ghost 410 cross bow on them they pass through like they have hit nothing. Anyway outstanding!! Super big thumbs up!! Heck of allot better than spending 199.00 for a closed foam. Thank you for posting.

tukmol (author)viper22602015-07-02

thank you, Viper2260!

Ghost 410.... wow. (me drooling)

viper2260 (author)2015-07-02

Oh yea harbor freight is the place to snatch these up for next to nothing. Or Craigslist I was able to get 70 4x4 pads for 10 bucks

alex2019 (author)2015-06-11

Will this stop a broadhead or not?
Great idea have all rhe stuff at home but want to use my broad head for practice Too

tukmol (author)alex20192015-06-11

oh, no... i believe it can't. sorry.

zacker (author)2015-04-24

very cool idea... another thing that makes a good target is a huge cardboard box filled with news paper... when I was little my older brother bought an old crossbow and he took a big box, stacked news papers inside it unlit the box would hardly close, then he flipped the box onto its side so when he shot it, the arrows were going into the bottom of the box because the news papers were stacked flat the arrow couldn't penetrate them. if he had shot the side of the box, the arrow may have been able to sort of wedge itself between the pages and penetrate the target. It worked rather well.

tukmol (author)zacker2015-04-26

yup, i believe it should, that's a good idea too. and very economical. thanks for the input.

i used to collect all the used A4 paper from the office, before they shred them. stacked and taped them all up really tight. it stopped the arrows with a really heavy thud. a little hard to pull them out though.

zacker (author)tukmol2015-04-27

didn't think of using the "waste" office paper...good idea! I heard some people say that some of the gun smiths will use layered Phone books as a back stop for testing guns. A 4 or 5 phone book thick back stop would probably stop a 55MM mortar

tukmol (author)zacker2015-04-27


did the phone book target too... epic! :D

zacker (author)tukmol2015-04-28

cool.... Looks like it worked great. now if you flipped it over so you were shooting at the top of it, you could use a gun and as long as you hit the target, those bullets aren't going anywhere. lol

ggriffith1 (author)2015-03-02

I use a wall section from an old coolroom (from the tip) I removed one of the metal sides leaving 6 inches of polystyrene foam and a metal back. Some of my shots penetrated the metal back. Adding a layer of old carpet or two prevents this. I needed a large target because there's no safe backstop in my backyard. With a coolroom wall of about 4 by 7 feet I can keep even the really bad shots in the yard from my longest range of 35 yards.

A layer or two of old carpet will capture the arrow, and a couple of loosely hung layers of shade cloth a few inches behind the carpet will stop full penetration.

I use a 50lb recurve bow, but this works with a 65lb compound as well.

tukmol (author)ggriffith12015-03-02

hi, thanks for your input. good work on that ggriffith1. i think i'll consider modifying my backstop when i get home.

pavulurirao (author)2015-02-10

I know this is a DIY site. However, I tried many things including using 2'X2' tiles. But finally ended up buying the target from Lancaster Archery in PA. The 2' diameter targets are less than 100 + shipping (Shipping is a lot). The 4' diameter targets are about $300. If you really want to use the targets properly, I would suggest to use those targets. I ended up paying a lot more and these did not lot long. My son shredded the targets within a week. The other targets are going about 1.5 years so far. The center cores of the bigger targets can be replaced with smaller target...The other problem is the arrows may pass through depending on your weight of the bow. Nice try through...

tukmol (author)pavulurirao2015-02-11

hi pavulurirao. thank you for the suggestion. i live in the Philippines where archery is really not that mainstream, therefore not much local dealers for proper targets and stuffs. i do have one range that i shoot at, but of course given the situation, targets are expensive, or had to be ordered form the US, etc. which would cost more.

pavulurirao (author)tukmol2015-02-12

Got it. One other suggestion is to get a very dense self healing foam similar to the one you got and may be denser, and stack them up on top of the other and use the SIDE of the stack as your target. Not the face. You will get much better longevity for the target. .

Other best and cheapest is to get the hay block that is tightly packed and use it as non movable target. I know it is heavy and all. But the hay stack might last much longer. Just IMHO. Good luck with your shooting.

ShallNOTBeI (author)2014-12-23

Great idea, Tukmol! One suggestion, though; If you happen to hit one of the puzzle seams your may get a pass-through.

The fix is to offset every two or three layers. Just slice a row of the puzzle pieces in half and assemble like a brick wall. I encountered this particular problem while sighting in a crossbow.

These are great because when the target starts to wear out you can restack and move around the beat up pieces a few times before needing to replace any. This also works well on a smaller scale as a bb and pellet trap. They always seem to penetrate to the same depth so mining the trap for lead pellets to recast is a snap!

tukmol (author)ShallNOTBeI2015-01-08

hey, great idea. thanks!

awaite (author)2014-04-16

Fuuuuuuu I just threw out a whole heap of these last week, why didn't I see this earlier.

megabeastmode555 (author)2013-12-25

What model Who makes them ?

tukmol (author)megabeastmode5552013-12-25

it's from Mathews. Model is a Conquest 4.

megabeastmode555 (author)2013-12-24

What type of bow is it?

tukmol (author)megabeastmode5552013-12-24

it's a compound bow.

TruFord (author)2013-10-21

First off this is an amazing idea. I started looking to buy the supplies to make this and I stumbled upon these and wanted your opinion. 

Do you think these would make a better center/core? This way you could the replace the core once its worn down. Thought id kick the idea around a bit before I try it.

tukmol (author)TruFord2013-10-21

hi! sorry for the late reply. that actually is a good idea...though, are there any "cores only" being sold? Or you still have to buy the whole square as replacement?

either a visual aid, it would also be beneficial to improve groupings!

TruFord (author)tukmol2013-10-21

To my knowledge they don't sell the circles separately but you could easily stuff the score with another material (cardboard, another type of foam, ect) It would just need to be cut or rolled into the same size circle. This way you can easily replace the major wear area on your target.

tukmol (author)TruFord2013-10-21

i'm thinking of a rolled up rubber mat / sheet as a replacement. there you would have a spiral center that would stop arrows.

TruFord (author)tukmol2013-10-22

I think that would make a pretty awesome core/replacement. Perhaps something like a yoga mat (or two/three) rolled tightly together to fill the space. Its a pretty good idea.

tukmol (author)TruFord2013-10-22

yeah... a cheap yoga mat would do just fine, i believe!

john3 (author)2012-11-27

great project this one is a must try for me, thnx

tukmol (author)john32012-11-27

hey, thanks john!

john3 (author)2012-11-27

great project this one is a must try for me, thnx

joebro1995 (author)2012-10-09

Hey! This DIY target sounds fascinating however I don't know if it's suitable for me. I have just started archery a few months ago and I'm still shooting with my 22 pound PSE snake bow. Will my target arrows even penetrate compacted and layered puzzle mats?

tukmol (author)joebro19952012-10-09

thank you! yes... it will penetrate. puzzle mats are soft but will stop even a 90 pounder when stacked.

TheNecromancer13 (author)2012-01-16

I used this idea with a slight mod: use 4 colors of mat for the target cut circles out of them and glue them together for a nice target

tukmol (author)TheNecromancer132012-01-16

hey, that's great. a good idea indeed.

TheNecromancer13 (author)tukmol2012-01-17

thanks, it works really well, attach 2 fence posts to the back and prop it up with a third one and it will stand with the front facing slightly upwards. I am in the process of making an instructable

tukmol (author)TheNecromancer132012-01-17

and i'm waiting to see that. :)

it_dont_work (author)tukmol2012-05-19

a good target face is spray painting a stencile on shade cloth, i've got a couple of bucks like this with a red bull.

tukmol (author)it_dont_work2012-05-19

sounds like a good deal, thanks for this idea!

broken board (author)2012-02-21

G'Day Mate

Great idea

You may have said but I can’t seem to find it.

What poundage are you shooting at this target and how close were you when you fired.

I’m shooting 62poinds, well I use to, and my arrows are mighty thin.
I’d hate to see them go shooting out the other side and pin a little lam to the tree stump.

Although I am mighty hungry atm.


tukmol (author)broken board2012-02-21

good day!

was shooting at 60 pounds from 10 meters.

neroweed (author)2011-09-12

awesome idea i'll surely use it with your kind permission!!
to avoid arrows passing trough target , maybe u should think about creating shock dissipation zones alterning your foam mats with : corrugated cardboard box (adequate size ) stuffed loosely with surmentioned heavy duty wrapping film , old t shirts blankets or any (gonna trash it ) fabric , plastic bags bubble wraps and anything (clean) plastic hanging round the trashbin (recycle!!) . excellent alternative to cardboard box is woven plastic sacks ( the kind used for animal dry foods or army sandbags , woven plastic let the arrow penetrate with minimal to no ripping using field points not broad heads :) and is tough enough to endure a lot of target practice!!) , on the fita training field we also used them filled with nylon foil ( kinda cheap tarp material) folded several times to a half inch tick plate , hanged loose on the back of half rotten straw targets they saved my (70 lbs propelled , point blank range) precious arrows!!

tukmol (author)neroweed2011-09-12

sure, no problem go ahed. ;)

yes, good i dea. i agree with you. i think i'll do with the corrugated cardboard boxes. precious arrows indeed. thank you!

mntbkrguy (author)2011-06-20

Great build! I have been planning to make a target for a while now. I was curious how it is holding up? I also wanted to ask if you thought of cutting them in half and stacking them so the arrows could slide between the layers making it last longer before replacing the mats.

tukmol (author)mntbkrguy2011-06-20

hey, thanks!

well, it's holding up quite well. though i have to shoot at different areas (relocate targets) so that i won't destroy a certain area immediately. otherwise, i have to disassemble and rearrange the mats to distribute the worn out pieces among the good ones. yet it will still take some time before i buy new puzzle mats to replace the whole thing. sometimes when I get lazy, i slide in corrugated cardboards in between the puzzle mats to make it stronger (adds a good sound too, rather than the usual "thud").

yes, you got a point there, thank you! i'll try layering them next time.

BuffaloNickel (author)2011-06-17

excellent grouping in step 6 :P

tukmol (author)BuffaloNickel2011-06-17

thank you very much! :)

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