A few years ago I received this Floating Target Shooting Gallery as a gift. The concept is pretty cool, shoot the floating balls as they bounce around on a column of air. The problem is, the dart gun is so inaccurate that if you hit the target it is only by pure luck. So I decided to build an upgraded floating target system for use with a more accurate airsoft gun. Most of the target system is made of PVC parts available at your local home improvement store.
- (5) 1" x 1/2" bushing
- (5) 1/2" pipe, 3" long
- (5) 1/2" ball valve
- (5) 1/2" pipe, 1 1/2" long
- (5) 1" x 1/2" tee
- (4) 1" pipe, 3" long
- (1) 1" pipe plugPVC cement
- (2) 1 1/4" pipe clip
- Vacuum adapter
- Wood board
- (4) screws
- Stirring straws
- Shop vac
- Foam golf balls
- Saw to cut pipe and wood
- Knife or scissors to cut straws
Step 1: Targets
We need something to shoot at. Obviously the targets need to be light so they float on the stream of air. Ping pong balls will work but they occasionally dent or crack when shot. Also, they tend to bounce around a lot because they are a little too light. Plastic golf balls work a little better. They don't crack but they do dent. The best targets I found were Callaway Soft Flight golf balls. They are made of foam, float nicely on the air column, and are not damaged when shot.
Step 2: Cut and Assemble
The 1" x 1/2" bushing serves as a cup to hold the balls. The ball valve controls the amount of air flowing through the pipe and thus, the height of the ball. You could possibly get away with one ball valve for the entire system. But I wanted to be able to vary the height of each target. I opted for five targets, but you could make as many as you want so long as you have enough air to supply all of the lines. The vacuum adapter will differ based on your air source.
Cut out all of the PVC pipe as directed in the Materials section. Assemble as in the picture above. When you are happy with the fit of everything, glue the pieces together with PVC cement.
Secure the assembly to a board using the pipe clips and screws. I used a piece of 3/4" pine measuring 4 x 20 inches. You can use anything, we just want to give it a base to keep it upright.
To smooth out the air flow, cut the stirring straws about 2 1/2 inches long and pack them into the top of each tube as shown. I used 17 in each tube. They should stay in place with friction alone. I tried it without the straws but the air flow is too erratic and the balls dance around until they fall.
Step 3: Power
We need a strong source of air. Eventually I would like to use a built-in air source to make the unit self-contained. But for now, I'm just using the exhaust from my shop vac. I used a narrow adapter that fit into the tee to get the vacuum hose to attach to the manifold. I added some duct tape around the adapter for a snug fit.
Step 4: Shoot!
With everything together, it is time to test it out. Close all of the ball valves and fire up the shop vac. Open each ball valve just a little until the ball is floating. With my 6 HP Craftsman shop vac blowing around 170 mph, I was able to get each ball floating comfortably about 4 inches above the cups. You can adjust the valves so each ball is at a slightly different height.
I shoot mine with a WE Hi-Capa 5.1 R. A good shot will knock the balls off the air column. The air holds them steady enough that a glancing shot is not enough to knock them off. It takes a good square hit.