Defensive shooters and competitors don’t just shoot targets.  They shoot them accurately and to mimic the real world or raise difficulty, must differentiate between shoot and no shoot targets.  We use a variety of approaches, colors, purpose designed targets and markers.  Patriot Stencils offers some of the most inventive, durable and practical approaches I’ve seen.

Targets are integral to all shooting and fundamental to assessing one’s shooting.  For the plinker or the casual shooter targets are often an afterthought but to serious shooters and instructors, targets are central to training.  You can’t assess training without assessing effects on target.  For defensive and competitive shooters another wrinkle is added, create conditions for the shooter to discern between targets that are supposed to be shot and targets that aren’t.

Note how painting over the target’s left forearm enhances the pistol. Photo by author.

I was given several Patriot Stencils to test and evaluate and I did so over two months at a variety of ranges and training events.  Patriot stencils offers a variety of stencils the shooter/instructor can use to quickly set up different and stimulating target arrays.  The mylar stencils I used consisted of an open hand, pointing hand, gun in hand, knife in hand, badge, zombie head and bullseye target.  Mylar is a great material to use for stencils as it’s durable and easy to clean.

One can use any color spray paint but consider your contrast against the larger target’s background.  The stencils are large enough to be able to hold on to while applying spray paint and not get paint on your hands.  An added capability to using stencils is by flipping them over, you create a mirror image. This way one can appropriately paint left handed threats on the left side of a target and vice versa.

Note proper placement of the stencil and covering up parts of the target enhance the overall presentation. Very fast and easy. Photo by author.

Another capability stencils give you over printed targets is a lot of flexibility on where you paint whatever image you select.  Painting stencils on the target is obvious but one can also use the corners to ease identification issues for less skilled shooters or introducing the concept of shoot/no shoot targets.  I found the badge to be the most versatile because besides placing it in the most obvious areas like the left chest or corners of a target, one could also place it on the beltline or over the clavicle simulating a badge worn on a chain.

Badge Stencil. Patriot Stencil Photo

On its face, setting up shoot/no shoot targets isn’t a very difficult task but if one wants to create true uncertainty which is especially important for the defensive shooter it’s not so easy.  After the first-time targets are exposed one knows what targets are “no shoot”.  Changing targets between runs can be time consuming and expensive.  Using stencils wasn’t.  I could easily go downrange between runs or have a shooter turn around and change the target array with a couple of stencils and a spray can.

Patriot Stencils also allow one to create complicated problems for the shooter to respond to on the fly.  The open hand stencil typically associated with a no shoot target becomes a shoot target when you add the gun stencil. It becomes a no shoot again when you add the badge stencil.

Patriot Stencils Shoot/No-Shoot Target Stencils

Some things one might want to use to use the stencils more effectively is a plastic clamp to further one’s hand from errant paint spray. Surgical gloves would also work but it might be a pain to take them on and off.  Patriot Stencils may consider adding a tab to the corner(s) of the targets but as I said earlier this isn’t a huge problem unless one is rushed and trying to service multiple targets.  Tip; never leave a can of spray paint downrange if steel targets are included in your string.  Bullet jackets, spall and maybe even paint ships may perforate the can causing a mess.

Patriot Stencils just released an extra wide stencil featuring two open hands so one doesn’t have to flip the open hand stencil.  I didn’t get to use it but I can see its utility.  A female face, a hand with a cell phone taking pictures or various numbered shapes would all be welcome to their existing stable of stencils.

Double Hand Stencil. Patriot Stencil Photo

Some may consider the price of the stencils a negative.  It isn’t once you consider how well they are made and the fact that the mylar is near indestructible ensuring a long life while also being relatively easy to clean.  I also found the stencils added training value to blank cardboard targets as well as those featuring more details.  You also save on not having to buy “armed” or police targets.

Various available stencils from Patriot Stencils. Photo by Author.

I’ve seen and used colored index cards, drawn hands/guns on targets (or blank piece of paper) and purpose made shoot/no shoot targets.  Patriot Stencils performs almost as well as the tailor-made targets without the additional monetary cost or space requirements.  Patriot Stencils are more versatile and are a must for a serious shooter and especially for instructors.

Material Disclosure

I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer via Spotter Up so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.

*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site

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About The Author

Will Rodriguez is a 20+ year former Infantry officer with experience in both light and mechanized units as well as armor. His last assignment was serving in the Infantry school's battle lab doing DOTMLPF (doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities) assessment on weapon systems, equipment) assessment on weapons systems, equipment and technology to equip the Infantry for the next 10-20 years. Will also is the senior editor for GruntsandCo.com a website dedicated to issues of interest to the Infantrymen and those that support them. Will is a frequent contributor to Spotter up as well as an assistant editor. His work has also been published in SpecialOperations.com, SOFREP.com, the Loadout Room and Infantry Magazine. He is also a firearms instructor and holds a masters in Counseling and Leader Development.

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