Ultra-Durable Foam Archery Target




About: Look at your man, now look at me, now back to your man, now back to me. Sadly, he isn't me, but he could be like me if he followed my instructables.

Hi, in this instructable I will be showing you how to make a large, extremely durable archery target which can be reshuffled multiple times once the center gets shot out (which, as you can see, would otherwise be a huge problem for me, being a good shot, it happens rather too quickly on store bought foam targets to justify the $150 or so I'd spend on them; and if you're not a good shot, you would have to buy 4 of them to make a big enough target for yourself). This target solves both of these issues. At 2'x3', it is large enough for a beginner to hit, and because you can take it apart and rearrange the foam, it will last at least 10X longer than any store bought target. In addition, it won't rot and fall apart if it gets wet (like straw bales), and it is able to stop arrows from even extremely powerful bows. So, let's get started!

Step 1: Parts List

Here's what you'll need:

  • 24" square foam floor mats (the kind that look like giant puzzle pieces), the more the better, although you should have at least a 16" stack, which will make a 2'x2' target, if you want 2'x3', you need about a 20" stack. Check craigslist to find them cheap, if you buy this many new, you'll spend hundreds of dollars, but people sell them all the time there for like $25.
  • 6 - 3' lengths of 2x4
  • 2 - 1' lengths of 2x4
  • 3" Exterior wood screws (I prefer star heads, and self-drilling tips for their tendency to not strip, and for the time you save by not having to drill pilot holes)
  • Box cutter
  • Circular saw (or hand saw)
  • Power drill (preferably corded, you need one with a fair amount of power)
  • 1/2" drill bit (I used an auger bit)
  • Grinder with cutoff disc (or hacksaw)
  • 8 - 3/8" nuts (coarse thread)
  • 8 - 3/8" washers
  • 8 - 1/2" washers
  • 4 - 4' lengths of 3/8" coarse threaded rod (you may have to buy them in 6' lengths)
  • 3/8" spanner wrench (or adjustable spanner)
  • Locking pliers (they don't have to be locking, but it makes things easier)
  • T-square
  • Sharpie

Step 2: Prepare the Foam

First, you need to measure and cut the foam pieces into a suitable size for a target. About now you may be thinking "Why don't I just duct tape my foam together and set it on the ground?" You could if you want, but then you wouldn't be able to shuffle the pieces around when the center gets shot out. If you decide to do that, that's fine, but don't say I didn't warn you. Anyways, here's what you need to do:

Take your T-square and measure 12" from the edge of each piece, and make a little mark there. Make sure to restack them all facing the same way after you make the mark. Now, rotate the stack 90 degrees and use the T-square to draw a line through the mark you made before. After you've done that, use the box cutter to cut all the foam pieces in half along the line. Make sure to take the time to make the cuts as straight as possible, or you won't have a smooth surface to shoot at. When you've cut all of them, set them aside for now.

Step 3: Build the Base

Now it's time to build something for your target to sit on.

If you haven't already cut your 2x4s into the required lengths, do that now (you'll need 6 - 3' lengths and 2 - 1' lengths). Take 4 of the 3' lengths, and use the screws to make the shape you see in the first picture. There is 12" of board sticking out past the horizontal boards in the middle on each side. After you've made the base, measure 4 1/2" from the end of each of the center boards and put dots in the middle. Now, use your 1/2" drill bit to bore a hole through the boards where you put the dots.

Step 4: Build the Top

Now we need to build the top of the target, which will compress the foam pieces into a solid target so we can shoot at them edge-on (if that doesn't make sense, look at the picture of the finished target and take note of the orientation of the foam pieces).

Take the remaining 2x4s (you should have 2 pieces 3' long and 2 pieces 1' long), and use some more screws to build the shape you see in the first picture. There is 8" of board sticking out on either side. After you make the shape, use the base as a guide to drill 4 more 1/2" holes in the top piece. It is important that the holes line up.

Step 5: Add the Threaded Rods

Now to put the threaded rods into the base.

Lean the base on it's side and put the threaded rods in the holes. Then, on the underside of the base, put first a 1/2" washer, then a 3/8" washer, then a 3/8" nut onto the end of each rod. Screw in the nut until there is about an inch of threaded rod sticking out past each nut.

Step 6: Add the Foam

Stack your foam pieces like you see in the picture. Make sure that they are all lined up so that the surface of the target is relatively smooth. When you're done with that, slide the top piece down over the threaded rods.

Step 7: Compress the Foam

We're almost done, but this step is rather tedious and time-consuming, so be prepared.

Now you have to screw the nuts onto the threaded rods. I do not recommend cutting the extra few feet of the threaded rods off to make it easier, because it can really screw things up. It is very hard to get a clean enough cut through threaded rod that it doesn't mess up the threads and make it impossible to get the nut to go on, especially using a grinder. If you use a hacksaw, it will take you longer to make the cuts than it would have to just screw the nuts all the way down. Once you've screwed the nuts all the way down (pull up on them once you think you're done just to be sure, they might lift up another inch or two), use a sharpie to make a mark to show how far down the nuts are on the threaded rods. Now, take the locking pliers and lock them on to the threaded rod to prevent it from spinning, as seen in the third image. Use your spanner wrench to tighten down the nuts on each rod, doing a little bit on each rod, then moving to the next one, until you have compressed the foam down several inches, which you can see by looking at the marks on the threaded rods. You want to compress it enough to prevent it from moving at all, but not enough that it's hard to remove your arrows. You may have to shoot a few arrows into it and adjust the nuts accordingly.

Step 8: Cut Off the Extra Threaded Rod

This next step is pretty straightforward:

Take your grinder or hacksaw, and cut the threaded rods off a few inches above the marks you made before you compressed the foam.

Step 9: Finished!

Now slap a target on there and get shooting!

If arrows begin to sink into the center of the target to the point where they stick out the back, simply loosen the nuts on the threaded rods, pull out the foam, rearrange it so that the foam pieces on the top and bottom are moved to the center, and tighten the nuts back down. The target will be as good as new for at least the first half dozen times you do this, and will outlast any other target.

Have fun!

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42 Discussions


1 year ago

nice, i used donnacona insulation board, its self healing, (well kinda). i havent had to replace mine yet, been two years now


2 years ago

nice idea, what range did you fire the shots from?


3 years ago

Great Idea. I have done this with cardboard for years. and just replaced the shot out areas with new card board. But this is much better. I am going to start looking for the foam tomorrow. I already have the frame.

Nice Group too. You and I shoot very similar groups. I would love to shoot with you some time. I started shooting with my dad when I was about 10. State Champ in high school. I still love to shoot a nice tight group that I can wrap my forefinger and thumb around and overlap my finger a little at 58 years old.


3 years ago

you need to start using the 5 point targets instead.


3 years ago on Introduction

Currently building this. Base and top has been done just waiting for the foam to arrive. Thank you for this. :)

If you make it any thinner than about 12", when you compress it, the foam will fold sideways and pop out the front and back of the target and go everywhere.

spark master

3 years ago on Introduction

to make threaded rod or bolts have a nice cut on them, figure out where you want to cut them, add half an inch screw on 3 nuts to below the point then cut off the extra, back the nuts off after cutting and you should have very nice edges, but, if you have an angle grinder this is easier , just slice it on a slight angle , round the edge a bit. Now to use , put the nut on it and turn backwards, just 1 turn with light pressure you will feel a click, now it is seated now go clockwise .It will go right on.

I have done a thousand or so of 1/4 inch toggle bolts plus hundreds of pieces of threaded rod, once you get the feel you never forget how. The cut off wheel is nice as you can bevel the ends. like on a factory end.

The turn in reverse first technique isperfect anytime you have a nut/bolt or threaded fixture flange etc and a lock nut or coupling and it is hard to get on.

just a thought

4 replies

hey, have you tried this for air rifle back stopping? But perhaps groups being much much smaller would kill this fast...stiff in a pinch..could put a piece of 1/2 inch ply infront of it, (which a good air rifle could pierce)...gotta think on this

I haven't tried it for air rifles, but perhaps you could put the targets slightly off-center since it's harder to miss with an air rifle. Then you could move the target around a bit before you shuffle the target. I'll try to borrow my friend's air rifle and give it a try.

Glad you like , I EARNED my Carpal Syndrome, one freaking toggle bolt, hand cut with Klein's lineman's pliers at a time. hundreds and hundreds of boxes/light fixtures and pull boxes. All things we put in had to be mechanically secure.


4 years ago on Introduction

Whats your draw str? I only have a 40 lb right now, but im curious how much faster a stronger draw would wear it out

5 replies

I'd be curious on a larger bow as well. I'm at 70lbs with 31" arrows and they are passing through with 4-5" out the backside, effectively pinning The Block archery target to the hay bales behind it....


3 years ago on Introduction

If you're making groups like that, you're standing too close! I made a few targets like these out of old carpet scraps and cardboard. The cardboard was easier on the arrows than the carpet scraps. If you have to wrench too hard on the arrows to get them out, well that's a PITA. Some of my friends put some PTFE on their arrows to make them easy to remove.