Most of us view a plate rack as “club-only” equipment. Typically, this quintessential but cumbersome target system is set up in one position and left there indefinitely. At my home club in the Pine Barrens of Long Island, NY, we have three plate racks that stay stationary in one pit. While we have a fourth one that we use in matches, it took the fabrication of an axle and a tow hitch to make it mobile, and even that requires the use of an ATV. Up until recently, the idea of a portable plate-rack system was not much more than a fantasy. CTS Targets set out to change that. The company's DIY Plate Rack now brings this classic horizontal target system to any backyard range.
The new system from the Minnesota-based target company comes in a three- or six-target version, with your choice of 8-inch or 10-inch plates. Either way you go, the plates will be 3/8-inch AR-500 and are rated for rifle use as well. The “DIY” (or do it yourself) in the name alludes to the fact that a little more than “some assembly required” will be needed to get it together. In your kit will be the leg brackets, the plate brackets and the required hardware. You are responsible for the 2x4 leg sections, as well as the 4x4 cross beam for your targets. These cuts of lumber are affordable and easy to find. By now, I’m used to 2x4 being used as target-base material, but the 4x4 threw me for a loop. It’s far less popular than its slimmer cousin and a little clumsier to maneuver. It did make the stand much sturdier however. It’s also worthy to note that you can get by with a 2x4 cross piece, just as long as you double up where the brackets sit.
I found the leg brackets to be pretty innovative, actually. They are designed to keep the 2x4 legs attached, yet fold for easy storage. To attach the brackets, I had to line them up with the integral notch system and drill two 3/8-inch holes for mounting. While I had no trouble with this, not all shooters are handy and may need some help with this. Again there’s no misnomer there with DIY. Attaching the plates to the brackets took little skill, however. The teardrop-shaped cuts allowed for simple, one-wrench installation. After attachment, they sit right on top of your 4x4 cross piece and are held in place with a thumb screw. The thumb screw sits up high, so we were happy to see that they could even be held in place if all you had was a 2x4 for a cross piece. All in all, I had the stand up in less than an hour and then broke it down in seconds and had it in the trunk of my ever-so-masculine white Hyundai Accent.
At the range, I wanted to do more than just your typical time trials with a plate rack. We all see plate racks as a way to build speed with transitions. While this is absolutely true, you can use the CTS DIY plate rack for so much more.
Drill #1: Call Outs
We should all be training with another human being whenever possible; books can and have been written on the advantages of this practice. A buddy can not only help you see your mistakes, they also help set up two-person drills like this one. Now that this is your plate rack, paint it however you want. Best case scenario is each plate has a different color. If you don’t have all that paint handy, just paint one target as the "threat." With pistol holstered, face plate rack with eyes closed or blocked. Your partner will go downrange and move the threat from one position to another. After the command, which can be issued verbally or by a shot timer, you are to open your eyes and engage the threat. Repeat to build efficiency.
Drill #2: Rifle Position Transitions
This is another buddy drill, except this one will help with your rifle positions. In the sports of service rifle and NRA High Power, valuable time is lost getting into position on the rapid-fire stages. From the standing position, have your buddy call out a shooting position and a target number. While this drill can be performed with just one or two plates, having a rack forces you build a new natural point of aim each and every time…FAST. The CTS DIY plate rack also doesn’t require any reset, so why not put it out at say 300 yards or so? Mix up the order and have your buddy repeat it, almost like Simon Says. Best time buys lunch.
Drill #3: Grandma’s Teeth
Yes that’s a bowling term. No, I don’t bowl (although it was my college gym course). Plate racks do build transition skills, however they only build perfect scenario transition skills. On a standard plate rack, the targets are all evenly spaced. When you come up against one in a match, that is what you also are tasked with engaging. However, in most matches, the steel is not placed perfectly in line, especially in the case of USPSA Steel Challenge. For the third drill, I recommend pulling one or even two random plates off of the rack. The setup makes it very easy to do, and you can create dozens of different scenarios.
After my day on the range, I packed up the system in less than 60 seconds and headed home. One element to note about this CTS plate rack is its affordability. Typically, plate racks cost upwards of $2,000. However for $399 and about $19 in lumber, you can have the six-plate system up and running anywhere it is safe to shoot. My feelings on the CTS DIY Plate Rack were very favorable and we will even use this in our courses at Renaissance Firearms Instruction.