Paper Targets Can Kill You

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Paper Targets Can Kill You

March 17th, 2024

4 minute read

I’ve only had to draw down on a living armed assailant once. Thank the Good Lord the tactical situation evolved and I didn’t have to kill anybody. I was a soldier at the time and a compulsive, high-volume shooter. What was most stark to me about that exchange, however, was that it was absolutely nothing like my training.

There were actually two armed bad guys, so I had to split my attention between them both. Everything kept moving, and the angles were forever changing. Cover became critically important on a subconscious level. The best shot I could secure was actually from the side, and these guys had biceps the size of tree trunks. In short, the paper targets on which I constantly trained had done a pretty crummy job of preparing me for that moment. Enter Rubber Dummies.

Paper targets can be a great means of judging accuracy on the range, but can be a poor substitute for representing a three-dimensional threat.

Ultimate Shooting Buddies

Yep, they’re called Rubber Dummies. The website claims they are made from recycled rubber. As near as I can tell there’s a little Adamantium or Kryptonite sprinkled in for flavor. These guys are seriously tough.

The target bit is a three-dimensional molding of a human torso, sans arms. The replaceable torsos weigh about 30 pounds and, according to the company, should be good for 4,000 to 5,000 pistol or rifle rounds. The target gives a little jump when you hit it but closes up around the hole afterwards so you can shoot it again and again. A little spray paint restores the surface if desired. But understand, they do not stop the bullet. You still need a solid, safe backstop.

Rubber Dummies are heavy longsuffering fellows made from recycled tires that can withstand thousands of rounds. My bride says he’s creepy.

The Rubber Dummy comes with a welded steel stand that weighs about 20 pounds. The pipe it sits on can be replaced at your local home supply store, and the structural components are formed from AR-500 steel. The stand will last forever. The whole rig is about 50 pounds and is quite substantial.

The manufacturer recommends avoiding wadcutter or hollowpoint bullets, as they tend to core a hole through the material. Anything else from .22 to 12-gauge to .50 BMG is fair game. Care must be taken with shotguns to remain about thirty feet away as wads can head back toward the shooter.

When viewed from an angle the Rubber Dummy still looks like a dude. This means more realistic three-dimensional training.

Practical Tactical

Once you manhandle this guy in place he stays put. My Rubber Dummy performs exactly as advertised. The target jumps a bit when struck, offering a much more realistic training experience over plain, unadorned paper. It is also a treat to be able to start at a distance and fire on the advance without worrying about splashing myself with bullet fragments. All that is just gravy, however. The real meat for me was managing angles.

A two-dimensional piece of paper disappears when approached from the side. By contrast, my Rubber Dummy still looks like a guy when I move at him from an angle. By intellectually superimposing the anatomy over the dummy I can better assess the effectiveness of my rounds and enhance my training. The effect really is quite thought-provoking. Additionally, you can stab, kick and generally beat on this thing as well. Good luck doing that with paper.

Advancing on my Dummy with my Springfield SAINT AR-15 and then transitioning to my XD-M .45 is the best real-world training I can devise. This exercise lets me practice accuracy, refine my technique, enhance my speed and build those reflex movements so critical to performance under stress. It’s also just great fun.

As there is no possibility of ricochets, you can engage the Rubber Dummy with a rifle or handgun at all but contact range.


As a physician I have seen a lot of people shot. Many of them had gunshot wounds received from the front delivered center of mass. However, more than a few were hit from odd angles. The inevitable urge to take cover or squirm away when somebody is shooting at you makes the geometry convoluted. Bullets can also follow some of the most labyrinthine paths once they encounter something pliable.

All this is admittedly pretty dark. Nobody ever actually wants to use his or her defensive guns for real. Had I taken that final squeeze back so many years ago my life would have inevitably taken a much harder path. However, I can attest that when you are actually stacked behind that front sight for real it is shocking, terrifying, and typically unexpected.

You don’t have time to consciously think or reason. How you respond depends upon muscle memory, repetition and training. The more realistic and challenging your training the more efficiently you respond. With Rubber Dummies your training just got way more high speed.

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Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles and videos are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

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Will Dabbs, MD

Will Dabbs, MD

Will was raised in the Mississippi Delta and has a degree in Mechanical Engineering. After eight years flying Army helicopters, he left the military as a Major to attend medical school. Will operates an Urgent Care clinic in his small Southern town and works as the plant physician for the local Winchester ammunition plant. He is married to his high school sweetheart, has three adult children, and has written for the gun press for a quarter century.

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