Gear review: Jumping Targets "Rockin' Gopher" reactive steel target

I love shooting steel targets, but finding one that works for .22s, handguns and hunting rifle cartridges is a challenge, if not impossible. This one comes pretty close on initial review.

Here's why: A .22 hit gives it some motion and a nice, audible ping that you can easily hear while wearing ear protection. It's big enough – about 8 inches tall and 4 inches at its widest point – that you can hit it while shooting off-hand out to about 50 yards with a .22 and probably farther if you're a good shot.

It's recommended for a minimum of 25 yards with a .22 (more on that later), and it's big enough for most shooters to hit it at that range, even beginners.

But here's where it gets fun. Move it out to 100 yards and beyond and it's an ideal target for a .223. It's small enough to be challenging, and big enough that you can shoot it from sitting, prone or kneeling positions, which makes it great practice for hunting. It's rated for up to a 30-06 rifle.

Its rocking chair design means it really rocks with a hit, and you can hear it as well. But what makes this target unique is there are four 2.5-inch diameter targets on the sides that are perpendicular to the gopher target.

Why? Because free-standing targets move, and if you hit the edge it often pivots 90 degrees and you can no longer see the target. If that happens with this one, you have two, 2.5-inch targets facing you to hit and spin it back in the right direction. It's challenging and fun, but better yet, you don't have to walk down range to reset the target (providing you can hit the smaller targets).

Jumping Targets recommends the following calibers and ranges: 17 HMR, .22 and 9mm minimum 25 yards, and .223 and 30-06 minimum 50 yards.

Here's my real-world take on that. I think the company is being conservative about minimum ranges to avoid any possibility of a ricochet coming back toward the shooter. I've seen lots of steel targets shot at closer ranges without problems. As a general guideline, the more a target moves when hit, the more it's likely to deflect bullets downrange in a safe direction. This one has plenty of "give" and I think a ricochet toward the shooter is unlikely, but you have to make your own judgment there.

I bring that up because it would be a tough target to hit with a 9 mm at 25 yards. I would be comfortable shooting this with a 9 mm at about 15 yards, but probably not any closer. I'm also not concerned about damaging the target at that range because a 115-grain 9mm bullet has about one-third of the energy of a .223 bullet at 100 yards.

I do have some concerns about the durability of this target. It's made from AR500 steel, which is extremely hard. But after a day of shooting with .223 full-metal jacket rounds, it showed numerous shallow pock marks. I probably won't be shooting this target at 100 yards with .308 FMJ rounds, but I probably will with lead-nose bullets. I might use it sparingly with my .270 and 30-06, and probably at longer ranges than 100 yards. Maybe I am being overly cautious there.

I also have several steel targets that have taken hundreds of rounds and are similarly pocked and still intact, so it may not be an issue.

This target is pretty reasonably priced at $55 at The Sportsman's Warehouse. That's pretty inexpensive for an AR500 steel target.

Overall, if you're looking for a fun target, it's definitely worth checking out. It hits the sweet spot in size, reaction, and clever design. And did you notice the cool shades on that gopher?

See more about it here.