Using Paper Shooting Targets to Become a Firearms Proficiency Expert

Paper target for shooting proficiency.
An extensive look into how paper targets can improve your shooting proficiency.


As a seasoned shooter and firearms instructor, I can’t stress enough the importance of firearms proficiency. It’s not just about being able to hit a target; it’s about understanding the mechanics of your weapon, knowing how to handle it safely, and being able to use it effectively under various conditions. The mastery of these skills can make the difference between success and failure, whether you’re a competitive shooter, a law enforcement officer, or a responsible citizen exercising your right to self-defense.

A group of colorful signs featuring paper shooting targets hanging in a room.

One of the very effective tools for improving shooting skills is the humble paper shooting target. While it may seem old-fashioned in an era of digital technology and high-tech training methods, paper targets offer a level of flexibility, ease of use, and feedback that is hard to beat. They allow you to easily track your progress, identify areas for improvement, and work on specific shooting skills. Plus, they’re inexpensive and easy to use, making them accessible to shooters of all levels.

In this article, I’ll be sharing my insights and experiences to help you get the most out of your target practice. I’ll start by discussing the different types of paper shooting targets and their uses. Then, I’ll provide some tips on how to use them effectively to improve your shooting skills. I’ll also compare paper targets with other types of targets, highlighting their pros and cons. Finally, I’ll wrap up with some recommendations for shooters looking to take their skills to the next level. So, let’s get started!

Shooter practicing a two-handed hold at a shooting range
Shooter practicing a two-handed hold at a shooting range

Benefits of Using Paper Shooting Targets

As a shooter, I’ve experienced firsthand the numerous benefits of using paper shooting targets. Let’s delve into some of these advantages.

Enhances Accuracy and Precision

First and foremost, paper shooting targets are instrumental in enhancing accuracy and precision. They provide a clear point of aim, allowing you to focus on hitting the bullseye or specific areas on the target. Over time, this practice can significantly improve your shot placement, making you a more accurate and precise shooter.

Helps in Developing Proper Shooting Techniques

Another benefit of paper shooting targets is that they aid in developing proper shooting techniques. They allow you to practice various shooting fundamentals such as stance, grip, sight alignment, and trigger control. By repeatedly practicing these techniques on paper targets, you can engrain them into your muscle memory, leading to more consistent and accurate shots.

Provides Instant Feedback on Shot Placement

One of the things I appreciate most about paper shooting targets is the instant feedback they provide. When you fire a shot, you can immediately see where it landed on the target. This instant feedback is invaluable as it allows you to adjust your aim and technique on the spot, leading to continuous improvement.

T1 Paper Target Vehicles Course 600x600 (2)

Allows for Realistic Training Scenarios to an extent

Paper shooting targets also allow for realistic training scenarios. With a variety of target designs available, including silhouettes and images of potential threats, you can simulate real-world situations. This type of training is particularly beneficial for law enforcement and military personnel, but it can also be useful for civilian shooters preparing for self-defense scenarios. I would call this the crawl or base phase. There are certainly other training methods that allow for better realistic training scenarios (Like our Force on Force training), however proper paper targets, setup, and scenarios can allow for a great base to start exploring this type of training.

Promotes Focus and Concentration

Finally, using paper shooting targets promotes focus and concentration. Aiming at a specific point on the target requires a high level of mental focus, helping to improve your concentration skills. This can be particularly beneficial in high-pressure situations where maintaining focus is critical.

Types of Paper Shooting Targets

As a shooter, I’ve had the opportunity to use a variety of paper shooting targets. Each type has its unique features and benefits, making them suitable for different training objectives. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common types.

Bullseye Targets

Bullseye targets are perhaps the most traditional and widely used type of shooting target. They feature a series of concentric circles with a ‘bullseye’ at the center. The goal is to hit as close to the center as possible, making these targets excellent for practicing accuracy and precision. They’re commonly used in both casual target practice and competitive shooting.

Silhouette or Threat Targets

Silhouette targets are designed to represent the shape of a potential threat (like our very popular T1 Target), such as a human or animal. They’re often used in law enforcement and military training to simulate real-world scenarios. However, they’re also popular among civilian shooters for self-defense practice. Silhouette targets can help you develop a better understanding of shot placement in a defensive situation. I should note here that although they often depict a threat they can also depict a non threat. MWP is currently in process of releasing a line that include both to allow better scenario style training (shoot/no shoot) via paper targets.

Reactive Targets

Reactive targets are a type of paper target that provides instant visual feedback when hit. They’re designed with a special coating that changes color upon impact, making it easy to see your shot placement from a distance. This immediate feedback can be beneficial for improving your shooting skills, as it allows you to adjust your aim and technique on the spot. These are a bit newer on the market and can be fun to use at the range. They are also referred to as Spatter Targets due to the Splatter like appearance the bullet strike leaves.

Multiple Target or Command Target Designs

Command target designs feature several smaller targets on a single sheet of paper. These targets are great for practicing rapid target acquisition and transitioning between multiple targets. They can also be used to add an element of challenge to your training, as you can create various shooting drills using the different targets. These are some of our favorite training aids as they offer so much value. Traditionally there have been a few issues with the existing ones on the market, however we corrected all of those challenges with our T2 Command Target.

Modern Warrior Project T1-On-the-Range

Choosing the Right Paper Shooting Target

Choosing the right paper shooting target can make a significant difference in your training. Here are some factors I consider when selecting a target.

Consider Skill Level and Training Goals

Your skill level and training goals should be the primary factors in choosing a target. If you’re a beginner, a simple bullseye or other style Zero target can help you focus on basic shooting fundamentals. On the other hand, if you’re an experienced shooter aiming to improve your tactical skills, a Threat or Command Target design might be more appropriate.

Assess Target Size and Distance

The size of the target and the distance at which you’ll be shooting are also important considerations. Larger targets or those with larger scoring zones can be more suitable for long-distance shooting or for beginners who are still working on their accuracy. Smaller targets can provide a greater challenge for experienced shooters or for those practicing at closer distances. That said, I only give this a little consideration. The fact that I’m using a large target doesn’t mean that I can’t aim small. Choose a point and shoot for it. On both our T1 and T2 there are numerous options for this….as there are on most targets.

Evaluate Target Material and Durability

The material and durability of the target can also impact your training. While all paper targets will eventually wear out with use, some are made from thicker, more durable paper that can withstand more shots. Regardless of the target paper though I highly recommend utilizing a cardboard backer with your target. Additionally, reactive targets offer the added benefit of visual feedback, which can be particularly useful for long-distance shooting if you’re not using a steel target. Steel targets are often used for this purpose due to the instant sound feedback.

Take into Account Target Design and Features

The design and features of the target should also align with your training goals. For instance, if you’re practicing for a shooting competition, you might want a target that mimics the ones used in the competition. If you’re training for self-defense, a silhouette target like our T1 may be more of use. In the case of our T1 it is to scale the size of the average American threat allowing you a realistic training aid for self defense drills.

T1 Paper Target 600x600 Featured Image
T2 Target Product Featured Image

Reasons to Consider the Modern Warrior Project T1 and T2 Targets

If you’re looking for high-quality paper shooting targets, I highly recommend the Modern Warrior Project T1 and T2 Targets. These targets are designed with the shooter in mind, offering a variety of features to enhance your training. We designed them after years of both shooting and instructing experience to specifically address some of the short falls we encountered with existing targets on the market. You can learn more about the T1 Target Here and the T2 Target Here

Tips for Effective Target Practice

Effective target practice is about more than just hitting the target. It’s about improving your skills, refining your technique, and becoming a more proficient shooter. Here are some tips I’ve found helpful in my own training and with clients.

Set Specific Goals and Objectives

Setting specific goals and objectives can give your training direction and purpose. Whether it’s improving your accuracy, increasing your shooting speed, or mastering a new shooting technique, having a clear goal in mind can keep you motivated and focused during your practice sessions rather than simply going to the range and shooting off a bunch of rounds…while that is fun, it’s not the most productive approach.

Practice Proper Shooting Stance and Grip

Proper shooting stance and grip are fundamental to accurate and consistent shooting. I recommend spending time at each practice session working on these basics. Remember, the goal is not just to hit the target, but to do so with proper form and technique.

Utilize Different Shooting Drills and Exercises

Variety is the spice of life, and the same is true for target practice. Incorporating different shooting drills and exercises into your training can challenge you in new ways and help you develop a broader range of skills. For example, you might practice shooting from different positions, work on rapid target acquisition, or try shooting with your non-dominant hand. The reality is that you never know the situation you may have to employ your firearm so it’s best to get comfortable and accurate across a broad spectrum.

Analyze Shot Groupings and Adjust Accordingly

One of the benefits of paper shooting targets is that they allow you to analyze your shot groupings. By examining where your shots are landing, you can gain insights into your shooting technique and make necessary adjustments. For instance, if your shots are consistently landing to the left of the target, you might be pulling the trigger too hard or not aligning your sights correctly. The bottom line is that your goal should be to identify areas of weakness, the cause, and resolve those with corrections.

Maintain Consistency and Regular Practice Routine

Finally, consistency is key when it comes to improving your shooting skills. Regular practice is essential for developing muscle memory and ingraining good shooting habits. I recommend setting a regular practice schedule and sticking to it as much as possible. Remember, it’s not about how much you practice in one session, but about the consistency and quality of your practice over time.

Using Mobile Smartphone App
Tracking Progress via Shooting APP

Tracking Progress and Improvement

Tracking your progress and improvement is an essential part of any training regimen, and shooting is no exception. Here are some strategies I use to monitor my progress and identify areas for improvement.

Recording and Analyzing Shooting Sessions

One of the most effective ways to track your progress is by recording and analyzing your shooting sessions. This can be as simple as keeping a shooting journal where you note down details like the date, location, weather conditions, type of target used, and your performance. Over time, this record can provide valuable insights into your progress and help you identify patterns or trends that need to be a focus of your training effort.

Tracking Accuracy and Precision Over Time

Another important aspect to track is your accuracy and precision. This can be done by measuring your shot groupings and noting down your scores if you’re shooting at scored targets. By tracking these metrics over time, you can get a clear picture of how your shooting skills are improving.

Identifying Areas for Improvement

As you analyze your shooting sessions and track your accuracy, you’ll likely identify areas where you need to improve. This could be anything from your shooting stance and grip to your trigger control and sight alignment. Once you’ve identified these areas, you can focus on them in your future practice sessions.

Happy male hunter with two rifles in gun store

Celebrating Milestones and Achievements

Finally, don’t forget to celebrate your milestones and achievements. Whether it’s hitting the bullseye for the first time, achieving a personal best score, or mastering a new shooting technique, these moments of success are worth celebrating. They not only boost your morale but also serve as a reminder of how far you’ve come in your shooting journey. How do you celebrate? One way would be to share it with us on one of our Social Media platforms, we’d love to celebrate with you. The other (and you can do both) would be with tangible rewards…such as when I accomplish X I’m going to go and purchase Y that I’ve been wanting for awhile.

Safety Precautions and Best Practices

As a shooter, safety should always be your top priority. Here are some safety precautions and best practices that I always adhere to during my shooting sessions.

Always Follow Firearm Safety Rules

The cardinal rule in shooting is to always follow firearm safety rules. This includes treating every firearm as if it’s loaded, never pointing a firearm at anything you don’t intend to shoot, keeping your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot, and always being sure of your target and what’s beyond it. These rules are fundamental to ensuring safety at the shooting range.

Use a Safe and Appropriate Shooting Environment

It’s crucial to use a safe and appropriate shooting environment. This means shooting at a designated shooting range or a safe, remote location where shooting is legally permitted. Always ensure that there’s a safe backstop to stop your bullets and prevent any potential ricochets.

Wear Proper Protective Gear

Wearing proper protective gear is another essential safety measure. This includes eye protection to shield your eyes from potential debris and ear protection to protect your hearing from the loud noise of gunfire. I also recommend wearing appropriate clothing and footwear for added safety and comfort.

Be Mindful of Target Placement and Surroundings

When setting up your paper shooting targets, be mindful of their placement and your surroundings. Ensure that the targets are at a safe distance and that there are no people, animals, or valuable property in the line of fire. Also, consider the potential for ricochets and ensure that there’s a safe backstop behind the targets.

T1 Paper Target Vehicles Course 600x600

Seek Professional Training and Guidance

Finally, if you’re new to shooting or want to improve your skills, I highly recommend seeking professional training and guidance. A qualified instructor can provide valuable insights, correct any bad habits, and ensure that you’re practicing in a safe and effective manner. Obviously, we’d love to be that choice for you, but there are plenty of great schools and instructors out there. Just make sure and do your research on them before you attend.


As we’ve discussed, paper shooting targets offer numerous benefits for shooters of all skill levels. They enhance accuracy and precision, aid in developing proper shooting techniques, provide instant feedback, allow for realistic training scenarios, and promote focus and concentration. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced shooter, incorporating target practice into your training regimen can significantly improve your firearms proficiency.

But remember, becoming a proficient shooter is not a one-time event; it’s a continuous process of learning, practicing, and improving. It’s about setting goals, tracking your progress, identifying areas for improvement, and celebrating your achievements. It’s about maintaining a regular practice routine and always striving to be better.

So, I encourage you to embrace the journey, enjoy the process, and never stop learning. Because in shooting, as in life, the pursuit of excellence is a journey, not a destination. Happy shooting!



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