“Can I shoot that rifle?” my unsuspecting client asked.
“You bet,” I replied, doing my best to choke back a smile.
At that, he flopped down and slid in behind my super-accurate GA Precision sniper rifle.
“Engage the head on that steel popper,” I commanded. A second later, the sound of 168 grains of copper-jacketed lead smacking steel left no doubt that he’d done his job well.
My client continued to smack down one target after another, and then he started in on clay pigeons and, finally, pieces of clays. He was starting to get cocky, which is exactly what I was hoping for. He was running out of challenging targets, so I directed him to a plastic jar on the right side of the range with an orange sticker on it.
“Smack the center of the sticker,” I said. A second later, he did just that, and the tremendous boom, blooming dust cloud, and flying rocks that followed made him drop flat and cover his head like he’d just been shot. The sound of our raucous laughter behind him let him know he’d just been had.
The boom that made my client jump out of his skin was the result of him sending that 168-grain MatchKing through a plastic bottle filled with Tannerite (www.tannerite.com), a binary exploding compound that raises the fun level of every training session. It sounds dangerous and maybe even illegal, but Tannerite is a safe, legal explosive used to make it easier to determine if long-range shots hit their mark and for shooting demonstrations. If you’ve watched Top Shot on the History Channel, odds are you saw Tannerite in action in some of the rifle events.
Being a binary compound, Tannerite consists of two compounds that must be mixed together to make the explosive. Tannerite’s compounds are a white powder that comes in half-pound or 1-pound jars and another jar with a black powder that you mix into it. You only need to mix a small scoop of the black powder in each half-pound of the white stuff to get the desired result.
As dangerous as it sounds, Tannerite is actually quite safe and stable. It will not detonate if dropped, banged, or even shot with a .22 LR or a centerfire pistol. It is not flammable and cannot be set off by electricity or fire. The only thing that will set off Tannerite is a direct hit with a high-powered rifle cartridge. When the bullet strikes the mixed compound, it produces a large explosion and a huge cloud of water vapor. Because it is so stable, Tannerite is legal to own and use without a license, though you should use some common sense and be considerate of where you choose to use it.
The Tannerite Company recommends using half-pound charges. That quantity yields some impressive explosions, but boys will be boys, and I must confess that I have experimented with charges of up to 2 pounds on the ranch. The big charges are lots of fun, but I can get away with it because we’re in the middle of nowhere. If you have neighbors or there are shooters around who aren’t cool with you setting off explosions, you can still have a blast with smaller charges. In fact, Tannerite suggests using empty snuff cans or similar-sized containers to get a nice, noticeable explosion that will help you see your long-range hits without making the whole county think they’ve just been the victims of an al Qaeda attack.
Used correctly, Tannerite is one heck of a training tool. Small quantities behind the bullseye leave no doubt that your shot was true, and kids get a real kick out of setting off those explosions. In fact, my daughter recently got back into shooting because of Tannerite. She decided last year to retire from hunting and shooting at the tender age of 12, but watching her brother and me set off those big explosions was too much for her to bear, so she dusted off her trusty .22-250. Now she giggles with glee every time she sets off one of those big charges.
MGM Steel Targets
Tannerite is loads of fun, but it’s just not practical to set off an explosion with every shot. For most of my training, I like steel targets because they last forever and offer instant feedback. That’s critical for shooting beyond 300 yards where I train, because mirage is almost always so severe it’s impossible to find .30-caliber holes in paper with a spotting scope. With steel targets I know right away if I’m on target, and I can still see my group size if I spray the steel with a quick coat of paint before I start shooting.
Another reason I like steel, especially for young or inexperienced shooters, is that it keeps them from getting focused on the 10-ring. New shooters often get frustrated when they hit the six- or seven-ring on a traditional target. But with a vital-zone-sized steel target, an edge hit counts as much as a bull, which helps build their confidence quickly.
I started using MGM’s steel targets (www.mgmtargets.com) several years ago. I started with a single Auto Popper, which I shot, literally, to death. I fired thousands of rounds of .223, .308, and .338 Lapua at that target over the years. Thanks to its 500 Brinell steel construction, it seemed like it would last forever. At least it did until a client with a magazine full of armor-piercing 5.56 ammo got a hold of it. He didn’t realize the ammunition was armor-piercing and was kind enough to replace the target for me, but not before he turned my favorite training tool into Swiss cheese.
, I got a new deer lease with a perfect range setup. I do a ton of shooting there, so I decided to set it up with a full complement of MGM targets. I got a couple more of my favorite poppers, but I also added a few of the newer targets to up the fun factor.
For the kids, I ordered a pair of MGM’s squirrel-shaped, rimfire Auto Poppers. I mounted them on a homemade frame that holds both squirrels. When my kids shoot them with their .22s, they make a nice audible smack. They also fall backwards and then pop back up into position with the aid of a little spring tension, so the kids can shoot all day without having to reset targets. When I want to measure accuracy, I simply hit it with a quick coat of spray paint and start shooting; each impact shows up as plain as day.
I also ordered MGM’s Double Swinger and Flash Targets for long-range precision work, as well as the new BC C-Zone target, which has a steel plate the size and shape of an IPSC target without the D-zone. The target hangs from the frame with the bottom of the steel angled away from the shooter, which allows you to engage the target from as close as 10 yards without getting hit with splatter or ricocheting jackets. It is my go-to target for carbine and rapid-fire pistol training.
The most entertaining target I’ve ever owned is MGM’s Whirly-Gig, which is an improved version of the Texas Star. The five-pointed star holds five round plates. When you shoot a plate, it falls off the mechanism, which causes the entire thing to spin around like an off-kilter windmill. As each plate falls, it gets more out of balance, which makes it move faster and more erratic. The Whirly-Gig is an absolute blast, and it’s an excellent training tool—if your trigger control isn’t perfect, you will learn quickly why we call it “The Humiliator.”
Anything that makes practice fun for you is a great training tool. Whether it’s punching dime-sized groups in paper, blowing up water jugs, setting off a booming charge of Tannerite, or smacking one of MGM’s unique steel targets, shooting more and having fun doing it can only make you better. Find the target or targets that turn your crank and I promise you’ll have a blast on your way to becoming a better shooter.