I read a meme recently that said something like, “Teach your kids to shoot and they won’t have money for drugs.”

We can all laugh at that because there’s a bit of truth to it. Guns are expensive. Ammo’s expensive. And let’s not forget about everything else we’re spending money on. But we can get creative and save some money.


LaserLyte’s cartridge and reactive laser targets add a new dimension to dry-fire practice.
Dry fire is one of the best means of practice available—and it’s free—but sometimes I get a little bored with it. I found a solution with LaserLyte cartridges.

I opted for the .45 ACP version. The cartridge lacks a rim, which would be grabbed by an extractor. Just drop the cartridge in the chamber and (for my 1911) let the slide go forward into battery. When the firing pin strikes the rear of the cartridge, a red laser comes out of the barrel. Simply recock the hammer or reset the striker for another shot.

This adds a whole new dimension to my dry fire and, when coupled with a LaserLyte reactive target, it’s a great way to supplement my live fire. I paid about $50 for the cartridge and $80 for two targets, which are battery powered and show where I hit on the bullseye target printed on the face.

The laser shows up well on doorknobs, light switches, paper targets, or small pieces of reflective material. Like shooting steel, I get instant feedback from my “shot” but without the expense.


Using .22s has been a great tool since the cartridge was invented. A small-bore rifle or handgun is a great way to practice fundamentals. Having a 25-yard range and some scaled-down targets allows me to simulate varying distances while working on seated, prone, and kneeling positions. I can also practice trigger control, managing breathing, and other marksmanship fundamentals.

Is it worth it to buy an AR chambered in .22 that you outfit with the same lights, optics, slings, and whatever else you put on your rifle? That’s up to you.

I’m old school and take my Ruger 10/22 out and do some work. Even though the controls are different and the rifles are as different as they can be, I can still make several passes through a drill or stage with it and then absolutely dominate the drill or stage when I go through it with my AR.


Mannequin heads from a cosmetology school provide cheap and realistic targets.
I see a lot of Instagram and Facebook posts showing people shooting rubber dummies, but have you ever priced them? They are the best target on the market because they are so lifelike and durable, not to mention versatile, but if you have a limited budget, there’s a cheaper alternative.

Several years ago, a friend of mine was attending cosmetology school and I saw her doing her “homework” practicing on a mannequin head.

I asked her how many times she would be able to use it, and she replied not many. When asked what she was going to do with it when she was finished, she gave me an odd look. She asked what I was going to do with it and, when I said I was going to shoot it, she couldn’t help but laugh. She ended up collecting all of her classmates’ used mannequin heads.

Let me tell you, those things are tough!

They soak up rounds like a ShamWow going after a spilled soda! You’ll be shocked at how many times you can shoot them, and their versatility as hostage targets is amazing. They even have a hole at the bottom so you can insert a wooden rod. Just don’t shoot them with a 12-gauge loaded with birdshot, as the birdshot completely destroys them.


Template made from plywood or similar materials can help you make cheap cardboard targets from discarded boxes.
Have you priced cardboard USPSA or IDPA targets? They’re not cheap. Fortunately, a friend of mine traced a USPSA target and transferred the shape to a thin piece of laminate.

I can go to the local Walmart, appliance store, or other stores that have big boxes and take the used cardboard for free. They’re happy to get rid of it and I can use the laminate to trace new targets on the used cardboard.

Sometimes you get a big “LG” logo on your target, but if all you’re doing is practicing, it doesn’t matter.

If you want to add some realism, you can print out pictures of faces, pistols, cell phones, and hands from the Internet. Tape the pictures on and you have created free shoot/no shoot targets.

If you know anyone in the construction trades, ask them for some scrap plywood and lumber. Use 2x4s to create an H-shaped base and cut the plywood into strips that you can insert into the base and staple the cardboard to.

You can buy a pack of 500 paper plates for about $2. I love to use these in a transition drill. Using a bit of scrap wood, I made a base so I can tack the edge of a plate to a vertical post and then have to transition to a larger target farther away.


Author’s Kimber Warrior and KWA Airsoft pistol are the same dimensions and allow use of the same holster.
You have to be able to afford to shoot. My family has a long history of working at Olin making Winchester ammunition, but I can’t always afford to use their ammo. Most people I know who shoot a lot buy ammunition in bulk.

I attended a gun show a few months ago and found a table selling reloaded ammunition. The quality was top notch. I bought 500 rounds of 9mm and I’m nothing but impressed. If you can buy a large quantity of quality reloads as practice rounds and save some money, you can buy even more ammo for practice!

Steel targets available for Airsoft include Pepper Poppers and Texas Stars. You can practice with them in your garage or back yard.
Over the last few years, I’ve been using Airsoft pistols to practice in the winter months. They can be a great tool to practice things like target transitions and flashlight techniques. I can work on them in my garage or back yard. The 6mm BBs will set you back about $5 for 5,000. A word of warning: Many Airsoft pistols and magazines can be far from reliable, so like the rest of your gear, do some research and buy quality.


Finally, you can sink a lot of money into fancy targets. I may have solved some of that. The local high school industrial arts classes are constantly looking for projects. After I met with the teacher, the class is going to make a bobbing target, a spinning target, and a moving target for me that I’ll use on the police department range. The cost? Outside of paying for materials, they’re free, but I’m helping the industrial arts program and it’s still cheaper than buying them.

Shooting is expensive, but some of the cost can be mitigated. You’re limited by your creativity and resourcefulness, so get out there and shoot!

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