More on Atlatl Targets

Previously, Cory showed off an atlatl target he set up in a driveway in Washington, DC.

Since then, readers have been asking where we get our target backings, etc … and I thought it would be good to do a little atlatl target brain dump:

Ray’s Atlatl Targets

I make my atlatl targets out of ISO board (“closed-cell synthetic rubber foam”) — preferably the black, squishy (but rigid) kind.  It’s about 3 3/4 inches thick.  I get mine at a place called Knapps Pools and Spas in Michigan but you can probably find it at a roofing store or straight from the manufacturer.  If you, humble reader, know where I can this substance delivered straight from the manufacturer (for cheap), please let me know!

I hold this foam up with a simple plywood structure but a few stakes would probably suffice.

For practice at home, we don’t put a face on these targets.  But taping a simple target up is a good idea as it’s much easier to focus on and hit a target than a blank spot.

“Official” Atlatl Targets

FITA Archery Target from Wikimedia Commons

For the Ohio Atlatl Accuracy Contest and the International Atlatl Society Accuracy Contest we use a standard 120 cm FITA archery target (with 2 white, 2 black, 2 blue,  2 red, and 2 yellow cirlces).  120 cm needs a cardboard backing of 50 inches by 50 inches. Use 3M spray adhesive to glue the target face to the cardboard. Get the cardboard from furniture stores that import from overseas.

You can get these 120 cm target faces for $6 to $10 each through Lancaster Archery ( or any other large archery store with a web page.  They print them on regular paper, paper with nylon webbing reinforcement, and also on thick poster board stock which accounts for the price difference. I find the cheaper paper target faces last as well as the nylon web and poster board so why pay more?

International Standard Accuracy Competition target faces (white and black circles only) can be purchased through the World Atlatl Association web page. Last time I checked, WAA referred everyone to Jack Rowe for target sales.

The Alternatives to the Foam Rubber Atlatl Target Backings

A lot of people don’t have the time to drive to the middle of Hell, Michigan, to buy black foam from gypsies…

1. Bales of hay (straw, actually)

Consider the target, whether its the 5 color 120 cm standard FITA archery target (50 inches by 50 inches) used for Ohio Standard Accuracy Competitions or the WAA’s black and white ISAC target (48 inches by 48 inches), you will need 6 to 8 bales of hay (straw actually) depending on the size of the bales available at your local feed and grain or landscaping store.
Remember, the bullseye of the target must be waist high off the ground, so the stack of hey bales must be such as to allow for that.

Hey, bales are for horses … not to mention bulky and difficult to transport without a pick-up truck. You will need rope to tie them all together and stakes to anchor them to the ground so they don’t fall over.  The upside of using bales of hay is that if your atlatl site is permanent, you can cover the hey with a tarp when not in use as a target backing and the bales will last a whole season.

2. Cardboard boxes

Go to the import furniture store.  The furniture they get comes with assembly required so often you can find boxes that are 50 inches wide by 6 to 8 feet long by 6 to 8 inches thick.  Stuff the card board box with more cardboard. Use 6 foot long stakes to anchor the thing to the ground.  Such a target backing will last a day or so and then the center will be shot out but that can be fixed by replacing the shot up cardboard inside with more cardboard.

3. Old carpets

I have been to atlatl events (Indiana comes to mind) where the target face is glued to a single sheet of cardboard which is then tacked to two vertical stakes. Behind this, about 6 inches away from the cardboard, a tarp or old carpet is loosely hung. The dart passes through the cardboard but does not go through the tarp or old carpet because the hanging tarp or old carpet provides no resistance.  The tarp or old carpet lasts a lot longer than the target face on the single sheet of cardboard.

MORE Atlatl target ideas…

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations.  Here are some more links … Read all that and you’ll be the world expert on Atlatl targets.  You know, back in the day they just aimed at the mammoth.  Oh, how things have changed.

Atlatl Targeting in the Urban Environment

Hi — Cory writing today …

My dad (Ray) gave me a big foam target back in November and I finally found some time to set it up and throw here in DC.  Posting some pictures that I took with my friend Mark over at his house in Anacostia, across the river from Capitol Hill.

The Urban Atlatl Range

Unlike Mark and I, my dad lives in a semi-rural location where it isn’t too difficult to find a good, safe 100-foot diameter area to throw a dart with an atlatl.  Here in “The Nation’s Capitol,” it’s quite a bit more difficult to get away from the dense, yardless row house scene … and I reckon it’s probably not quite legal!

As you can see in the image below, Mark’s range is a driveway about 70 feet long.  We were very careful not to hit the cars about 30 feet up above.

About the Atlatl Target

I’m pretty sure the target I’m showing here is the kind folks are using regularly in tournaments.  (Correct me in the comments, if not.)  It’s made of a plasticky, black foam at about 50 inches wide by 55 inches tall and 5 inches thick.  It takes a hit really well, is lightweight and bends easily for transport in the back of my Subaru station wagon.

What I don’t like about it is that it’s clearly not environmentally friendly, will need replacing, and requires a little bit of fuss to set up.  It’s better than nothing but my overall sense is that it will probably end up either in a landfill or my back patio with half a dozen others by the end of my atlatl career.  So, if you have other material suggestions, let me know.  I like hay bails too but maybe they’re not as easy to work with, I don’t know.

Setting up the Atlatl Target

Setup requires a frame that my dad built out of 2″X2″ posts and a bit of plywood.  It’s just two independent legs that we balanced with cinder blocks and some sticks nailed through the feet.

Next we poked twine through the target and tied it off.


Hitting the Target

My dad’s a lot better at explaining how to hit a target with an atlatl … but I’ll tell you, a large, legitimate target is much easier and much, much more rewarding to hit than a bunch of crappy cardboard boxes.


PS: We did get a couple bullseyes.  Next time I’ll remember to photograph that part.