Sunday, February 16, 2014

Floating Airsoft Targets

A few years ago I received this Floating Target Shooting Gallery as a gift. The concept is pretty cool, shoot the floating balls as they bounce around on a column of air. The problem is, the dart gun is so inaccurate that if you hit the target it is only by pure luck. So I decided to build an upgraded floating target system for use with a more accurate airsoft gun.

floating target toy

Obviously the targets need to be light, so I chose ping pong balls. I also picked up some plastic practice golf balls. They are about the same size but a little heavier. With ping pong ball in hand, I took a trip to the hardware store to select the parts. Check the picture below for the parts. The 1" x 1/2" bushing serves as a cup to hold the balls. The ball valve controls the amount of air flowing through the pipe and thus, the height of the ball. I opted for five targets, but you could make as many as you want so long as you have enough air to supply all of the lines. The vacuum adapter will differ based on your air source.

parts diagram

Eventually I would like to use a built-in air source to make the unit self-contained. But for now, I'm just using the exhaust from my shop vac. I used a narrow adapter that fit into the tee to get the vacuum hose to attach to the manifold. I added some duct tape around the adapter for a snug fit. The unit was glued together with PVC cement and mounted to a board with pipe clips.

completed assembly

With everything together, it was time to test it out. I closed all of the ball valves and fired up the shop vac. Then I opened each ball valve just a little until the ball was floating. I adjusted the valves until each ball was floating stably. With my 6 HP Craftsman shop vac blowing around 170 mph, I was able to get each ball floating comfortably about 4 inches above the cups. You could adjust the valves so each ball is at a slightly different height.

floating targets

Now let's see how it works as a target system. I loaded up my WE Hi-Capa 5.1 R and took aim. With each good shot the balls popped off the air column. The air holds them steady enough that a glancing shot is not enough to knock them off. It takes a good square hit.

cracked and dented balls

The ping pong balls hold up OK to the airsoft shots. Once in a while they crack. I tried the plastic golf balls. They dent but don't crack. The golf balls also seem to be a little more stable. I'll keep searching for a better target that can withstand multiple shots. The air flow is just a little erratic. Sometimes the balls pop off the air column on their own. I'll work on making the air column more stable. But for now, it's ready for some range time! Update: I have made some improvements. Click for details!