A backstop catches the arrow once the latter gets shot at the archery target. It’s beneficial because you don’t have to spend more time retrieving arrows than actually shooting them.
You may land most of your arrows on the target, but you will somehow miss. Therefore, build a backstop to keep them from flying off-course or getting lost.
It is a spongy material that absorbs the pressure of the shot arrow, which slows down when it hits the backstop.
Here are the most cost-effective things you can use to serve as a backstop:
A bale of hay is a solid option for a backstop. It can also serve as a frame of the archery target. Cover the hay bales with a plastic cover to preserve these from falling and animals. The plastic cover keeps it compact.
Hay is edible to critters, so you have to store it in a dry and secure place. Moist is its enemy because it will rot once it gets wet or soggy.
You can use a cardboard box to serve as the frame of the target and backstop. Stuff the insides of it with more cardboard to make it thicker.
When you use a larger width, you will use lots of cardboard. Therefore, aim in getting a slimmer backstop that can endure arrows without toppling after each hit.
Its low price also means low quality compared to other materials. But if you’re on a budget, use cardboard, which usually lasts 1-2 weeks of constant use.
If you have old carpets in your storage room or garage, compress them as thick as you can. Some archers recommend putting around 50 strips of carpet or depending on the quantity.
You can use a 70-pound bow to shoot an arrow, and you can retrieve it from the carpet backstop with ease.
Carpets will wear and tear at some point, but the good thing is you can replace worn-out parts with a dozen layers. You have to recompress the replacements, and you have a new target.
Foam, such as Styrofoam, is another option to use a backstop. Scroll to the succeeding lines, which discuss more on this type of material.
Other materials you can use as a backstop
- Puzzle mats – Not just for playrooms and nurseries, they are good backstops too. Though it’s not the most durable kind, you can replace them with ease after they wear down. They are also suitable for broadhead arrows.
- Compressed straw – Unlike a hay bale, a stack of straw isn’t home to critters. Its benefit is its durability because straw bands are thick, and it even serves as an archery target. The only downside is its heaviness because you may need a buddy to carry it if you’re moving into another area.
- Rubber stall or horse mats – Mount it on a wooden frame
- Other recyclable materials – any unused burlaps or heavy blankets can come in handy too. Other essential stuff is rubber mats or tires – stack them on both sides of your target and put a couple of boards to get a strong base.
Why is an archery backstop important?
Archery considers safety a top priority, and archers have the responsibility to keep themselves and others safe. One of the safety precautions in the sport is getting a backstop.
You have to build a backstop behind the archery target because it prevents stray arrows from hitting unintended targets, damaging property, and injuring others, including people and pets.
It’s as essential as securing yourself with protective gear, like arm guards and chest guards. Ensure that your backstop is part of the setup to bring out the fun during your practice sessions.
Even if you’re in your backyard or the woods, a backstop has to be solid enough to endure arrows. A backstop needs to absorb these if they don’t stick to the target.
Even the best archers eventually miss or send arrows exiting the targets, but they know how essential backstops are.
You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars for a backstop because you can recycle stuff you have or from somewhere else.
Although it’s normal to walk and retrieve your arrows back, having a backstop saves you time retrieving those. You also can’t afford to lose many because those got broken or lost.
Will Styrofoam stop an arrow?
Styrofoam works better as an archery backstop than a target itself. But it will also degrade very quickly, depending on its quality, density, and frequency of use.
Cheap foam can stop a lighter arrow more than a heavier one, like a broadhead. Try a couple of hits to see how durable it is.
You can also try a pinch test to determine if it’s a worthy backstop. Pinch any corner and if it crumbles, give it a pass. If it has a rubbery texture, it can work well.
Polyethylene foams are heavy too, and it allows arrows to penetrate the foam. High-density foams are a good choice for backstops from bows that have 40-45 lbs draw weight.
Stack and compress it until it’s about a foot thick to make a quick and excellent backstop.
Use foams from floating docks
Archery enthusiasts suggest using foam used on floating docks. Its compact nature is tough enough to withstand arrows flying at over 300 frames per second.
Archery forums discussed that it’s not ideal to use it as a full-time target because arrows are hard to pull out. Instead, it can be a go-to backstop material.
Although it’s pricy if bought online or in a store, you can find it in old docks by the lake or coast. Some archers even find these foams in old ports.
It comes in different densities from numbers 6-12, but don’t use over nine because it’s hard to pull arrows out of it.
You don’t have to worry about its portability because it’s lightweight if you have to move it.
Does Archery netting work?
Netting is a tough, woven mesh in green or white colors. You can find it sports equipment stores and pro shops.
Although netting hangs loosely, it can serve its purpose as a backstop for lighter bows. But it’s not a guarantee to stop high-powered bows and small-diameter carbon arrows.
Archery clubs often use it, but you can have one in your backyard too. To serve as a safety measure, double the netting to avoid arrows exiting through it. The more material you use, the more it slows them down.
Don’t worry if it’s touching the floor as long as it’s hung correctly and in good condition.
Avoid stretching the net out and cover a larger area because doing that doesn’t increase safety. Hang it like a curtain, which is free-flowing. Get a net length that’s 20% longer than the area that you’re going to cover.
Keep in mind that its purpose is to slow down or absorb the arrows. They help aid the archers in collecting them during competitions and practice sessions.
Preserve the life span of the net by putting it and its parts in a bag to store it properly after use
Netting serves as a cushion
It acts as a cushion to prevent arrows from impacting the wall behind. Make sure there’s no person or other activities behind the netting.
Create a DIY archery backstop
A hassle-free backstop is something you can have, and making one doesn’t have to stress you out. Make a backstop that’s sturdy enough to take in the intensity of the arrow.
Use a hay bale or whatever materials you have (you can check our list above for easier reference). You can also use puzzle mats – the ones you see in kindergarten classrooms and playrooms – or you can use other floor mats as those will work too.
Your backstop has to be larger than your target, enough to collect failed arrows.
A good thing about building your backstop is that you can control its dimensions. You can design or customize it, like adding more wood or PVC pipes. You can even add a wooden plank on the top part of the stand to act as a roof or ceiling.
Check for these three methods and choose any of them that’s suitable for you.
- Framing method – construct a wooden frame to create sturdy support. Also, make sure that the base can stand on itself.
- Stopping method – use multiple layers of carpet, foam, or puzzle mates. They serve as a stoppage and collector of the arrows. Use a hay bale or compressed straw too.
- Hanging method – hang layered materials like blankets or netting to absorb as much energy from the arrow as possible. Put a little space in each layer to maximize it. By the time it reaches the last layer, it won’t pierce all the way.
Some backyards already have private wooden fences that serve as a backstop, but wood can damage the arrows. So choose a softer material for it.
Backstops and safety
Your backyard can be the most convenient archery range to get your shots up, and safety is as important as the setup.
Before you shoot your arrows, include your targets and backstops in your standard equipment check-up. If it’s too worn down, replace it right away because you can’t risk defective backstops.
The building or remaking your backstop is way less hassle than hurting a neighbor or damaging property.
- Check your jurisdiction (state, county, or town) and its laws related to archery in your home or neighborhood. Consult the sheriff’s department, search for ordinances online, or visit your go-to archery shop to know if backyard archery is legal.
- Create a backstop that’s larger than the target to catch the arrows. Leave a safe area, about 20-25 yards, behind the backstop and the target.
- Avoid using a backstop that makes pulling arrows hard to do. Chances are they become blunt. Plus, it’s time-consuming to retrieve arrows that are hard to pull out.
- Make sure your backstop doesn’t have people, property, or activities behind it. It poses a great danger to them, so make sure the range is clear for target shooting.
If you are searching for arrows behind the backstop, inform other archers that you’re doing so. Do this so that others can keep everybody from shooting until you recover them.
If you want a permanent backyard range, secure a bigger space and a reliable backstop to ensure safety.
Avoid making wood backstops, like hardwood, because they will slowly damage your arrows. It’s also hard to retrieve arrows as they’re harder to pull.
Another thing to look out for is the angle you shoot. Even if you have a backstop, a miscalculation can make your arrow fly high up.
Carpentry precautions matter in building your backstop
When constructing the backstop or frame, carpentry safety precautions have to be in place.
- Woodwork needs you to wear safety equipment. Wear ear muffs for loud power tools, like a saw. Also, use safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying particles or dusty materials. Use gloves to avoid splinters when handling wood too.
- Avoid wearing baggy or loose clothes. Remove your dangly jewelry, like bracelets or chains, before you work. You never want these to get caught from your saw or hammer.
- Minimize distractions to ensure a clean finish. Never build your backstop if you’re under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
- Before you cut or saw wood, take time to check the stock for existing screws, nails, or metal lodged into it.
Avoid using saws and blades that are blunt to cut wood or other materials. Be sure they are clean, sharp, and well-kept.
Also, never use unfamiliar tools, so seek help from a more experienced person on building stuff. You don’t want to risk injuring yourself.