Introduction: Hanging Target Stand

This Instructable will show you how to build an inexpensive, sturdy, highly tip-resistant, portable wooden stand for hanging metal targets like gongs, silhouettes, etc. It disassembles and reassembles in seconds, without tools, and the pieces will fit in the trunk or back seat of most vehicles, making it easy to transport to and from the range. Given that it's a simple design and the materials are cheap, replacing a broken or damaged part won't cost an arm and a leg, or take much time.

The stand in the picture is holding an 8" metal gong, hanging about a foot below the crossbar. For reference, the space between the screw eyes, and distance from the bottom of the crossbar to the ground are both about 36". There's no reason the stand couldn't accommodate a gong up to, for example, 16" in diameter, or something like a 2/3 IPSC silhouette.

The tools required are pretty straightforward:

  • a compound miter saw
  • a circular saw
  • one small and two large trigger clamps, or equivalent
  • a measuring tape
  • a combination square
  • a utility knife, or equivalent
  • a drill/driver and/or an impact driver
  • a drive bit for the screws you're using
  • a 1/4" drill bit for the screw eyes
  • a large-ish drill bit (I used a 3/8" bit) for drilling the holes when you notch the gussets
  • a 7/16" wrench or a crescent wrench for tightening the nuts on the wire rope clamps
  • a cable cutter, angle grinder, cold chisel, or other tool for cutting the wire rope
  • a multi-tool (a.k.a. an oscillating tool) with a wood cutting blade, or scroll saw, or hand saw

The last tool is for cutting out the notches in the plywood gussets. If you use a hand saw you'll need something like a wide (3/4"-1") chisel to clean up the edges and bottom of the notches.


This is the bill of material to make three stands. Scale it up or down for your own needs.

For the screws, I highly recommend using self-drilling, self-countersinking screws like the ones I linked to above. If you don't, you'll need to drill pilot holes for all of the screws, which will be tedious and time consuming.

For the wire rope and clamps, this kit will save you money over buying the rope by the foot, and purchasing all of the clamps separately.

The total cost of materials for one stand is about $25.

Step 1: Prep the 2x4s

Cut all of the 2x4s in half, giving you twelve 5' pieces, and four 4' pieces. The 5' pieces will be the legs, and three of the 4' pieces will be the crossbars. The remaining 4' pieces will be used for other parts.

Step 2: Cut the Fillers

  1. Turn the saw blade 30 degrees to the right.
  2. Cut the end of the 4' 2x4.
  3. Flip the 2x4 over and with the tape measure and utility knife measure and mark a point 1-9/16" along the short side from the end you just cut.
  4. Use the utility knife and combination square to extend the mark across the adjacent edge.
  5. Clamp the offcut from step 2 to the right side of the saw's fence such that the right edge of the saw blade just cuts through the cut line. (picture 1)
  6. Cut the 2x4 to make the first filler.
  7. Flip the 2x4 over, butt it against the stop block, and cut the second filler.
  8. Repeat step seven until you have six fillers.

Step 3: Cut the Legs

  1. Tilt the head of your miter saw to cut a 25 degree bevel.
  2. Turn the blade of the saw 30 degrees to the right.
  3. Cut the ends of half of the legs with this setup. (picture 1)
  4. Turn the blade of the saw 30 degrees to the left, leaving the bevel the same.
  5. Cut the remainder of the legs with this setup. (picture 2)
  6. Use a small clamp to clamp the combination square to a filler block. (picture 3)
  7. Measure and mark a point 54" along the longest edge of a leg.
  8. Use the combination square and utility knife to extend the mark onto the face of the leg.
  9. Holding the filler block and combination square against the side of the leg, line up the blade of the square with the mark you just made at the corner of the leg, and strike a line across the face of the leg with a pencil. (pictures 4 and 5)
  10. Use a circular saw to cut off the top of the leg at the pencil line. (picture 6)
  11. Repeat steps 7 through 10 for the remaining eleven legs.
  12. Tilt the head of the saw back to vertical.

Your legs should end up looking like the ones in picture 7.

Step 4: Cut the Crossbar Blocks

  1. Take one of the large offcuts from step 3, and and mark a point 4-7/8" from the straight end.
  2. Clamp a piece of scrap as a stop to the right side of the fence, such that the piece will be cut at that 4-7/8" mark. (picture 1)
  3. Cut the first piece, then use the stop block to cut eleven more identical pieces from the remaining offcuts.
  4. Take one of the blocks you cut and draw lines between each of the opposite corners to find the approximate center of the block. (picture 2)
  5. Turn the saw blade 25 degrees to the right.
  6. Clamp a piece of scrap to the right side of the fence so that the blade will cut through the center of the block you marked. (picture 3)
  7. Put the freshly cut end of the block against the stop, cut the block, and label the piece on the right (between the blade and the stop block) with an "O". Label the piece to the left of the blade with an "I". (picture 3)
  8. Using the stop block, cut and label the remaining eleven blocks.

Why are we marking the blocks with "O"s and "I"s? Well, the reason is pretty simple. We don't really care if all of the blanks we cut the crossbar blocks from are exactly the same length, or whether we're cutting the blanks through their exact center. All that matters is that the crossbar blocks we install on the ends of crossbars are identical, and those are the blocks cut between the blade and the stop; i.e. the "O" or outside blocks. Whatever variance there is in the "I" or inside blocks won't matter, because all we care about with those is that they are the same distance from the outside blocks, which we will ensure using a spacer to locate them. You'll see what I mean when we assemble the crossbars in step 8.

Step 5: Cut the Gussets

  1. Rip the quarter sheet of plywood into three 7.5" wide strips with the circular saw.
  2. Turn the saw blade 30 degrees to the right.
  3. Cut the end of one of the strips of plywood.
  4. Flip the strip over, and measure and mark a point 3-7/8" along the short edge from the cut end.
  5. Cut the strip at that mark, creating your first gusset.
  6. Flip the strip over, and using the first gusset as a guide for where to cut, cut your second gusset.
  7. Repeat the above steps until you have twelve gussets. You can get five gussets out of each strip, so you'll have some left over plywood for replacement gussets in the future.

Step 6: Put Together the Leg Assemblies

  1. Clamp a leg to your work surface.
  2. Align a second leg and a filler block as in pictures 1 and 2 above, and clamp down the second leg.
  3. Double check to make sure the ends of both legs are beveled in the same direction. In other words, make sure you're joining a "right" leg to a "left" leg.
  4. Put a gusset on top of the clamped legs, with its sides flush with the outside edges of the legs, as in picture 3.
  5. Screw the gusset onto the legs and filler with 1-1/2" screws. (picture 4)
  6. Flip the assembly over and attach a gusset on the other side.
  7. Repeat steps 1 through 6 to create a total of six leg assemblies.
  8. Use a circular saw (or hand saw, or whatever) to cut off the tips of the legs protruding past the gussets. (picture 5)

Step 7: Notch the Gussets

  1. Loosen the rule on your combination square push it into the pocket at the top of a leg assembly to locate the bottom corners of the pocket. (picture 1)
  2. Tighten the rule to lock in the measurement, then lay the combination square on top of the gusset and mark the outline of the pocket with a pencil. (picture 2)
  3. Use a 3/8" (or so) drill bit to drill holes through the plywood a little in from the bottom corners. These holes will make it easier to remove the waste when you cut the notches. (picture 2)
  4. Flip the leg assembly over, and repeat steps 1-3 on the second gusset.
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 for each of the six leg assemblies.
  6. Clamp a leg assembly to your work surface, and use the tool of your choice to cut out the notch in the gusset. By far the easiest tool to do this with is a multi-tool with a wide, straight wood cutting blade.
  7. Flip the leg assembly over, clamp it, and cut out the notch on the other side. (picture 3)
  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 for all six leg assemblies.

Step 8: Assemble the Crossbars

  1. Clamp a crossbar to your work surface.
  2. Lay an "O" crossbar block flush with the sides and end of the crossbar, clamp it down, and shoot a couple of 2-1/2" screws into it.
  3. Assemble and clamp together a spacer made up of a scrap of 2x4, two scraps of plywood, and a couple of cardboard shims to add some clearance. (picture 1)
  4. Butt the spacer against the "O" block, and butt an "I" block against the other side of it.
  5. Making sure the sides of the "I" block are flush with the sides of the crossbar, gently clamp the "I" block to the "O" block and screw it down. (picture 1)
  6. Remove the clamp, and pull out the spacer sandwich. (picture 2)
  7. Repeat steps 2 through 6 at the other end of the crossbar.
  8. Flip the crossbar over and repeat steps 2 through 7.
  9. Repeat all of the above on the remaining two crossbars.
  • Be very careful when you're assembling the crossbars that you orient the blocks in the right directions.
  • When you clamp the "I" block, don't clamp too hard, or the block will slip.

Step 9: Install the Screw Eyes

  1. Clamp a crossbar to your work surface, bottom up.
  2. Use a 1/4" drill bit to drill a 3" hole centered in the width of the crossbar, and centered between the ends of the inside blocks. (picture 1)
  3. Repeat step 2 at the other end of the crossbar.
  4. Screw screw eyes into the holes you just drilled. Get them started by hand, then finish the job with a screwdriver. (picture 2)
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 with the other two crossbars.

Step 10: Hang the Targets

    Before we start, a note about cutting the wire rope. If you're thinking you're going to cut it with a pair of side cutting pliers, like linesman's pliers, think again. Metal snips? No. A hacksaw? Nope. Bolt cutters? Maybe, but probably not. Really, there are only a few good options for cutting this stuff. The best, and most expensive, is a cable cutter. If you have one, great, but I wouldn't go out and buy one unless you anticipate having to cut cable regularly in the future. Another good option, and cheap if you already own the tool, is an angle grinder with a metal cut off wheel. If you don't own an angle grinder, a Dremel with a cut off wheel will work fine too, albeit slower. The third option, and the one I chose, is to use a cold chisel and a hammer to make your cuts. I have an angle grinder, but didn't want to be bothered with clamping the workpiece every time in order to make the cuts safely, or having to worry about accidentally cutting into something I didn't want to cut. I have a dremel too, but making the cuts with that would be tedious. So in the end I chose a cold chisel, and picked a 3/4" one up from Home Depot for $6. Besides the chisel, you'll need a ball peen hammer to hit it with (I won't tell if you just use a claw hammer you already have), and a surface on which to do the cutting. As far as a surface, an ideal spot is the flat on the back of most vises (picture 1). Put the cable on the back of the vise, put the chisel where you want to make the cut, and then whack it with a hammer until you cut through, which for me was eight or nine good whacks (picture 2). Fast, simple, low risk, and you'll get nice clean cuts. If you don't have a vise, hell, you could make the cuts on the back of one of your targets. I mean really, you're going to be shooting bullets at it, so what's the big deal? In any event, on to the instructions...

    1. Cut two 2.5' lengths of wire rope. I wanted to hang my 8" gongs centered, and about a foot below the crossbar. Unless your targets are significantly smaller, and/or you want to hang them lower, you shouldn't need more than 2.5'. I wouldn't go much shorter though, or may have a hard time attaching the last two clamps.
    2. Loop a piece of wire rope through each of the hanging holes on the gong and clamp them in place with cable clamps. (picture 3)
    3. Loop the other ends of the wire rope pieces through the screw eyes and temporarily clamp them in place with trigger clamps. (picture 4)
    4. Adjust the lengths of the cables as necessary, until you have the gong positioned where you want it.
    5. Once you have the gong positioned where you want it, loosely attach a cable clamp near a trigger clamp (picture 5), then slide it up to the screw eye and tighten it (picture 6).
    6. Take off the trigger clamp, and repeat step 5 on the other side.
    7. Take the crossbar off of the legs, carry it over to your vise, and cut off the excess cable by the screw eyes.
    8. Repeat steps 1 through 7 for the other two target stands.

    You, my friend, have just finished your target stands!