NERF Shooting Gallery




About: Coder by trade, tinkerer by hobby. Spends time working, running, family and computer games ...

I am building a number of side shows for my son's fund raising efforts. At a previous fund raising event, I noticed that the cross bow targets were doing really well. At about the same time, Amazon had their Lightning deals selling NERF guns really cheaply, so I thought I would make a NERF shooting range that we could take to the events.

Unlike my other projects, this one doesn't have any electronics! I am considering adding some automated scoring later on, as it feels wrong for me to not include electricity in a project!

There are a number of professional shooting galleries for sale on the internet, and I have borrowed from the following design, using it as inspiration, but utilising the available sizes of wood that I can get my hands on.

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Step 1: Basic Structure

The shooting gallery is basically a set of shelves with the two shelves which hold the targets only partially deep. This allows the NERFs to drop to the bottom (assuming they don't bounce back!) and be collected in the 'trough' at the bottom.

  1. Using the backboard to define the size of the shooting gallery (my back board is 1220mm x 610mm), cut the side wood accordingly. I made the sides very slightly longer (10mm) so allow the backboard to hide behind the frame. These measurements are only a guide.
    • Top and bottom piece length = backboard length + wood thickness + 10
    • Side pieces = backboard height + wood thickness + 10
  2. Mark with a pencil the width of the wood at the end of the side pieces. We will want to route this part for the rabbett.
  3. Clamp a piece of wood across as a guide for the router. Depending on the diameter of the router bed, depends on the distance of the guide.
  4. Route both side pieces of wood at the same time. This helps keep the sides the same length and helps make the frame square. Repeat on the other end of the sides
  5. Lay out the frame pieces to check the squareness of the frame. If it looks OK (and the backboard fits), connect the frame together using nails/glue/screws or a combination of these. I used glue and screws. Not sure why.
  6. Using rasp nails, affix the backboard to the frame. This helps keep the frame structurally stable.
  7. Cut the two 'shelves' (I used 44mm x 12mm) to the internal length of the frame.
  8. Cut the front board (I used 70mm x 12mm) to the internal length of the frame.
  9. Using nails, affix the front board to the base of the frame.
  10. Affix the two 'shelves' to the frame. I left a 200mm gap between the top of the frame and the first shelf, and another 200mm gap between the bottom of the first shelf and the top of the second shelf.

Step 2: Filling, Sanding and Painting

The wood that I was able to buy was terrible. Full of knots, warped and generally just rubbish. I therefore needed to do a fair bit of filling and sanding to cover all the holes.

After filling, leaving to dry and sanding I gave the frame a coat of primer.

Sadly I forgot to take pictures of the frame during or after the top coat of paint. I used a wood gloss paint. It required a couple of coats to cover up the primer. Due to the timelines I had, I only left it the minimum amount of time for the paint to dry before the second coat.

The weather in the UK was close to the hottest on record, and rather than drying the paint quickly it seemed to soften the paint so it took a few days for it to dry completely.

Step 3: Decals

While the paint was drying, cut out the decals to stick on the gallery.

I used whiteboard vinyl as it was white and thick enough to stop the colour underneath bleeding through.

  1. Using Word (on a Windows 10 machine), I printed out 'SHOOTING GALLERY' in Playbill font at size 300. I had to do this in a 'word box' as this allowed me to flip the text to be in reverse. I then cut around the word to close to size.
  2. Using a stick glue, stick the word to the back of the vinyl
  3. Then using a combination of scissors and a sharp knife (I used a Stanley knife, but I think a craft knife would be better) cut out the letters.

The white stripes at the back of the box are 150mm wide and the same height as the backboard. Due to the width of the backboard I needed to leave 75mm on one edge, then 4 white stripes with 150mm gaps between. I cut the stripes at the same time, but didn't fix them until the paint was dry.

Applying the decals is relatively easy. I used the bottom line of the frame as the 'line' to line everything up by and slowly applied the letters from the middle outwards to get the writing in the middle. The vinyl on gloss made it easy to realign the letters if applied slightly crooked.

Step 4: Legs

Due to the warping of the wood, the shooting gallery isn't as stable as I would like. Adding to the difficulty of standing the paper targets up, a slight amount of rocking doesn't help at all.

I have therefore built a pair of legs to improve the stability, but also give the ability to change the height of the shooting gallery. This allows the shooting gallery to stand on a table or stand on the floor.

  1. Cut the length of the leg. I used the following measurement:
    • Length = Shooting gallery height + thickness of wood + width of wood
  2. Cut the cross pieces. The length I used was 3 times the width of the wood
  3. Cut the inserts which are sandwiched by the cross pieces
  4. Drill and countersink holes for screwing, and screw the pieces together
  5. Shape the legs. I did this by simply sawing the appropriate angle
  6. Plane the base of the legs to make sure they are flat
  7. Router the edges to remove the sharp edges
  8. Align the legs in the 'short' configuration and drill 2 holes. I used a 7mm drill bit for the M6 inserts.
  9. Align the legs in the 'tall' configuration and drill 2 more holes
  10. Screw in the Inserts to the shooting gallery
  11. Prime and paint the legs

Step 5: ​Targets - Version 1

Version 1 of the targets were 150mm paper targets.

  • Make a picture or find a royalty free picture from Google and print them out.
  • Using a circle cutter, cut out the pictures of the targets.
  • Using a thick card, and the circle cutter set to the same diameter, cut out the card. My circle cutter couldn't cut through the entire thickness of the card, so I scored the circle as best I could, then cut it out with scissors. The scoring meant that I still had a really nice and sharp edge on the card
  • Using a stick glue, stick the target print outs to the backing.
  • I bought some rectangular card stands for board game to hold the targets up.

Step 6: Targets - Version 2

When setting up the version 1 targets, due to their light weight it can be problematic. A slight knock will knock over a few of them, making running the shooting gallery a tedious affair.

The version 1 targets were made for a couple of reasons, time and size. I always planned to make the targets out of plywood, but due to time limits (I thought about making the gallery only a week before it was required), I knew I wouldn't be able to source the appropriate disks in time. I also wasn't sure about the size of targets I would need, so wanted to make sure the gallery was built so I could best work out the size required.

The depth of the shooting gallery that I built was 144mm. With a 150mm disk, when it had been 'shot', the disk would still be approximately 75mm high when 'lying down'. This is due to the position on the shelf I would be required to place the disk. Therefore I have decided to go with 140mm disks. The 140mm plywood disks are not as easy to source as 150mm disks, so have a lead time of about 4 weeks.

  1. Attach a small hinge (18mm x 16mm) to the bottom of the disk. I used an epoxy glue
  2. This block is positioned to stop the disk falling forwards, but to allow the disk to rest in a forward position, stopping the disk falling backwards too easily.
  3. Attached the hinge to the 'shelf' so it allows the target to stand up easily, but to also stop the target falling backwards too easily. I used 3 playing cards as spacers between the front block (not attached) and the target. This allows the centre of gravity to be slightly forward making it more stable.
  4. Attach a print out of the target to the front of the disk (glued with the stick glue)
  5. Drill a small hole in the centre of the block and glue a small magnet in it. This allows the magnet to 'grab' the hinge attached to the target, making it slightly more stable
  6. Paint the blocks
  7. Using epoxy glue, glue the blocks to the 'shelf' in front of each target
  8. When the target is shot, it is forced backwards slightly and the centre of gravity is moved past the hinge meaning that the disk will fall backwards.

Target Righting Mechanism

After the first trip out with the previous v1 targets, it was found that setting up the targets each time was rather tedious. Therefore I have added a target righting mechanism to make things much quicker.

  1. Cut a number of metal wires (I had some 2.5 mm wire from a previous project). I used about 150 mm lengths
  2. Cut a length of dowelling (8 mm diameter) to the width of the shooting gallery
  3. Insert the metal wires behind where each target would be, bending them so that they will raise the targets without scratching the targets
  4. Using hot glue, glue the metal wires into place
  5. Cut a handle and glue into place
  6. Cut two supports one for each end and screw to the shooting gallery
  7. Screw the end blocks to the gallery, while holding the dowels

Step 7: Conclusion

The one recommendation I would make is go for the version 2 of the targets! It only takes 1 event to realise manually setting up the targets each time is less fun than it sounds! The reset mechanism and the hinged targets make everything much easier.

I would also make the depth of the shooting gallery deeper so that the targets can lie down completely. Although the shooting gallery is perfectly good as it is, there are always improvements that can be made.

I have cut a bit of scrap hardboard that I duct tape to the front for transportation. The targets are fairly fragile, so they require protection for transporting around.

Hope you enjoy it!

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    18 Discussions


    Tip 7 months ago on Step 1

    You can make it a little deeper and hang a net so the only thing to bounce off of is the shelves


    11 months ago on Introduction

    They say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, so I won’t get upset.
    But if you have trouble building the project, you can buy the original on Etsy at our shop: Nortexevent.
    I do still have kids to feed! :-)
    Happy building boys and girls!

    2 replies

    Reply 11 months ago

    I did look at several pictures on Google Image search for inspiration, and looking at your Etsy shop, I'm pretty sure yours was the main inspiration I used.

    I hope this Instructable will raise the profile of your shop for those who would like to buy rather than make.

    I apologise for any offence caused.


    Reply 11 months ago

    I’m not annoyed, really. I know a lot of people can’t afford a professionally built game for a backyard party.
    I support DIY makers. The only time I get upset, is if someone steals our designs and goes into direct competition selling knock off products.
    Great instructable!


    11 months ago

    I like it! Wish I had time to make one. I thought I'd have lots of free time after retiring, but have found that I can't get all the things done I'd like to do. This looks like it would take me several weeks to complete. I have the tools, but am not very experienced at using them and everything seems to take about 3 times as long as it should.

    1 reply

    Reply 11 months ago

    I borrowed some ideas from pictures I saw on the internet, but if you read AlexF270's comment below you can buy his. I believe his is the inspiration I used!


    11 months ago

    Really cool and well made. Good en very complete instructable and I just might make this for my kids. Thx for sharing!


    Question 11 months ago

    Would it work for a pellet gun? Would love to have it with ducks like at the old carnival gallery

    4 answers

    Answer 11 months ago

    We considered plywood targets with a layer of thick rubber to absorb BBs and prevent bounce back.
    We eventually gave up the idea over concerns of liability if people did get hit with BBs.


    Answer 11 months ago

    I think it would work. I agree with the author that you would want to be shooting something that can handle a heavier impact. You also have to keep in mind that BB's or Airsoft will bounce back. Adding angles that create downward "bounce" is a good way to not shoot yourself.


    Reply 11 months ago

    I think I could probably make the ducks out of thicker plywood for HDPE sheet and paint them yellow. Was thinking more dinky pellet/bb guns used, .177 at 600fps or so, I know it wont stand up to my .357 147 grain pellets at 950 fps lol


    Answer 11 months ago

    I'm not entirely sure what a pellet gun fires. I suspect these fire small metal pellets.

    The wood I have used is pine, so is very soft, and the targets are 3mm ply, so I suspect a pellet would shoot straight through those. If you added a backing on both of a thin steel plate It would work OK I believe.

    eBay has plywood ducks, so I was very close to using those instead of the targets, but the lead time of those was longer than my required end date!


    11 months ago

    Inspired - Great stuff! ...I think I know what to do with some of that spare wood lying around. Wonder if you could position the hinge point on the back of the target near the bottom? Find just that right spot where it would stand up AND fall back flat after contact. Thanks for sharing.

    1 reply

    Reply 11 months ago

    That would work.

    If you added a small weight to the bottom of the target, you can position the pivot point of the target at about halfway and the target could (in theory) spin. When looking around for the project I saw someone had used a straw, glued horizontally to the back of the target. You could have the doweling running across at a similar height instead of the 'shelves' that has the targets on. it would cut down the work significantly.

    When shot, the target could spin, and the weight would leave it back in the 'start' position.

    Let me know if you build it like this. I would be interested in seeing it!


    11 months ago

    Fun idea, finally something to shoot at with those nerf Guns!


    12 months ago

    My son is going to love this. What a great idea. Thanks for sharing the information.