The dramatic change in gun-owner demographics has ushered in a trend ideally suited for old-school plinking, informal competition and the celebration of those traditions. The change began a decade ago, according to comments made by Erin Mihalik, CEO of Throom Targets, during an interview with American Rifleman. Her company specializes in self-healing reactive targets and launched in 1995.
“At the time, we were the first to introduce polymer reactive targets, and the industry wasn’t ready for it,” Mihalik said. “Then all of a sudden in 2013, it started to change a little bit.” Feeback from the firm’s customers indicates there were two catalysts. Younger shooters finally had money to spend and understood the safety of the targets. Comments also indicated older shooters were tired of hauling heavy steel plates around.
The targets reduce the risk of splashback and ricochet, but they have other virtues. Laurie Kokoruda, Champion Targets senior product manager said the self-healing DuraSeal line-up her company introduced in 2008 continues to be popular because, “ … you can reuse these targets as many times as you like and in a variety of manners, which also really adds something unique to your range day.”
Mihalik’s father and uncle established Throom Targets, bringing with them a wealth of knowledge from the successful engineering, design and manufacturing company they built from the ground up in another industry. That expertise paid dividends for the avid shooters. You can’t exactly order self-healing reactive targets kits, and customizing large equipment gets expensive fast. “We even build the machinery, molds and tools to make the targets,” Mihalik said of the family-owned firm that makes 100 percent of its products in Middlesex, N.J.
The trend is significant, but a quick look at the number of products out there proves steel targets are not going away anytime soon—likely never when it comes to long distance. In fact, metal likely reclaimed ground during COVID-19. “During and post-pandemic, steel targets have been increasingly used by consumers who are building backyard ranges or bringing their personal targets to local ranges,” said Matt Rice, senior manager for media relations and consumer marketing at Vista Outdoor, parent company of Champion Targets. “Our Champion steel can also be used for those shooting airsoft, which also saw an increase in participation following the pandemic.”
There is no doubt, however, self-healing is gaining traction. Perhaps Mihalik explained the trend best when she summarized, “To be able to provide a target in which the family can enjoy—and parents and grandparents can get the entire to use safely—is an honor.”