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Horse Stall Mat Backstop with Roof
If you are needing an idea for a DIY Archery Backstop you’ve come to the right place. A permanent target with backstop can help hone skills by making shooting convenient and hassle free. After receiving several complements from friends and contractors admiring my set up from last year I decided the internet needed to see it as well.
The Need for a DIY Archery Backstop:
Last season after a few years of limited effort, I was looking to hone my archery skills. In the past I have restricted my practice to stay within my comfortable range. While pushing my limits I’ve broken and lost several arrows in my day making me averse to taking harder shots in practice. This time I wanted to push my limits by learning to take longer shots while remaining risk averse. I scoured the internet looking for ways to build confidence while preventing equipment loss and damage. What I needed was a permanent DIY archery backstop.
My first DIY archery backstop idea was a large compressed cardboard target like our local Park Board Range. It uses approximately 12”d x 4′ w sheets of fiber or cardboard compressed between two boards with all thread providing the pressure. This range is great if you have the time to go visit frequently. The downside is that the cardboard gets shot out over time. As a result arrows pass through the target damaging vanes. On the other hand if you shoot a ‘tight’ area the arrow is near impossible to extract and cardboard becomes a permanent accessory on your arrows.
Other options consisted of a similar build using foam insulation or playmats, or even a bag filled with old clothes. Foam seemed messy and expensive while the bag of clothes sounded wasteful, smelly, and not very practical. An alternative was a hanging bag (mine is old, not the one pictured) target with a roof overhead and skids on the bottom to move it. This one caught my attention but I still needed a backstop to feel comfortable with longer shots and smaller BLOCK Large Vault Target – Targets at Academy Sports” Block or 3D targets.
Researching DIY archery backstop options led me to a couple of manufactured products like archery netting or ‘The Ultimate Archery Backstop’. The former of which sounded perfect but came at a hefty price point just to save from searching for an arrow or two. Competition Archery netting sounded perfect but additional research led me to realize that I would need 2 layers of it to stop an arrow from my BowTech Assassin. 2 Layers would match the price of the Shield Archery Backstop and exceed my budget. Returning to the drawing board for DIY versions I came across several people who utilized a horse stall mat hung horizontally inside of a wooden frame. Since my garage gym was in storage at the time I decided to grab one of my flooring mats and give it a try, with my own twist.
Creating a Plan:
Looking at online images I found characteristics of several different DIY archery backstop set ups that I liked and tried to incorporate them into my own design. I decided to use a stall mat on end hung vertically. By doing it this way I could hang a bag at chest height with my Glendale Buck 3D target below it. A Vertical backstop was a perfect option for me because I am effectively accurate on my X axis but my Y axis is what gets me into trouble. Next I wanted a small slanted roof to help protect my targets from the elements a little. And third, I realized that a stall mat backstop would eliminate portability so I needed to just make this a stationary target with posts in the ground and bracing to hold up the stall mat backstop.
Build your DIY Archery Backstop:
Gather Materials and Tools:
If you have spare materials sitting around I encourage tweaking the design to make the best use of them. My garage wasn’t in construction at the time I built mine so I made a trip to the local home improvement store.
What I already Had:
- 1 – 4′ x 6′ Stall Mat (3/4″) (go to a farm store, generally <$50 in our area)
- 3″ Wood Screws
- Self Tapping Metal screws
- Old Roofing Tin
- Morrell Yellow Jacket Field Point Bag Target (This is not the one pictured mine is OLD)
What I Bought:
- 2 – 8′ Treated 4″ x 4″ Posts
- 4 – 8′ Treated 2″x 4″ Boards
- 5 – 1/2″ x 3″L Wood Lag Screws
- 1 – Bag of Concrete Mix
- 4′ yellow plastic chain (includes 2 S hooks)
- 2 S- hooks
- 2 Screw In Hooks (make sure they fit through the chain
- Posthole digger
- Rockbar (depending on area)
- Bucket (for concrete and water)
- Tape Measure
- Drill Bits
- 1/2″ Socket (match wood lag screws)
- Tin Snips
Going into this DIY Archery Backstop project I had a general idea of what I intended to do but no precise measurements or plans. Knowing my stall mat is 48″ wide I dug my holes to set my posts with the inside faces just beyond that width. Our ground is extremely rocky so precision is nearly impossible. The stall mat is 6′ tall so I made sure the posts were set around 18″ deep before concreting them in place. Before leaving them for the night I used a level to verify the posts are perfectly vertical.
While the concrete for the posts set up I went ahead and made a box that would later become the roof. I cut the horizontal boards to 48″. Cut the roof length boards to whatever you have the lumber and roofing materials for. I cut my roofing into 3 equal pieces and made the roof length to match.
The following day I trimmed the posts level to the height of the shorter one. Next I attached the roof framing to the outside face of each post using 1 screw each. The roof frame was set out of center to allow the backstop to be closer to the posts for weight bearing purposes. With a single screw holding it in place I adjusted the slope of the roof to ensure that the back edge would be 6’1″ off the ground to the top edge. After that I secured the roof framing with 3 more screws in each post. Subsequently, I added a spreader board between the posts in the roof to prevent them from pulling together. Finally I installed a short diagonal brace to help distribute the weight of the stall mat into the post and off the roof edge.
Installing the Stall Mat:
With posts and roof framing set I began to prepare for hanging the stall mat. I cut another board to the length of the horizontal framing and pre-drilled holes for the lag screws that will pinch the stall mat between the two boards. Next, I backed my truck loaded with the stall mat up to the structure. I raised one end of the stall mat into place and used screws to temporarily hold it while I installed the lag screws that will ultimately be responsible for holding the entire weight of the stall mat without ripping through the edge.
Hanging a Target:
Now that the structure itself was completed I moved on to hanging my bag target. I used the S hooks to go through the eyelets and attached each of my 2′ chains to the hooks to get an idea of where my screw in hooks need to be installed to center the bag. After that I pre-drilled a hole in each post. I cranked the hooks into place using the ratchet handle for leverage and hung the bag to finish.
Testing my DIY Archery Backstop:
My first shots of the season were from close range. At 20 yards I’m not very likely to miss and use the backstop but I wanted to see how much the bag would swing. It seems that shots in the middle of the bag and above produce very little movement. Shots on the lower 2 targets tend to produce a few inches of swinging action but it dissipates by the time I get my next arrow ready. Wind also has very little impact on this target set up. Moving on back to 30 and 40 yards I maintained my comfort level aiming at the center of the target. Luckily my hanging bag target is still easy to flip to keep its shape after repeatedly shooting the same area.
With my improved confidence I wanted to challenge myself. So I decided to push my range farther. The 50 yard shot was new territory for me and I didn’t have a pin set. But, with the backstop in place I decided to let one fly and see where it landed. I aimed high on the first shot and hit the bag. I adjusted my pin to where I suspected I needed to be. As a result, the second shot flew low and struck the backstop. The arrow was stopped with 12-15″ of penetration (from a 333 fps rated BowTech Assassin) saving me from a lost arrow or damaged fletchings.
I will say the arrow was rather difficult to remove from the backstop. But placing my leg near the arrow to hold the stall mat stationary I was able to extract it. I would advise making sure you have an arrow puller of some sort.
1 Year Later- What I would Change:
Recently, I decided I needed to remount my bag target in order to make room for the 3D target in front of the backstop. I raised the bag and set stakes under it for the 3D Glendale Buck. While re-hanging the bag I took a closer look at my construction and noted a few minor improvements.
– Longer Braces– Roof Braces prevented the roof from moving. However, that brace board was only around 20” in length. This placed all of the pressure in the top ⅓ of the posts. So, over time the posts began to bow backwards in the middle. A longer brace would have placed the lateral pressure closer to the ground and better distributed the load
– Longer Chain and Higher mounting point – When I first mounted my bag it was the only target I owned. Consequently, I went with short chains and a lower hook placement. After adding a 3D target my bag was in the way and my hooks were too low to raise it.
– Smaller Hooks – My first bag mount hooks I bought were too large to fit through the plastic chain links. I didn’t realize this until after I had drilled holes and installed the hooks. I had to get a different hook and add a smaller pre-drilled hole.
– Distance Markers– I have a rangefinder I use for hunting but I don’t carry it for target practice. I intend to bury pavers or bricks to use as distance markers for zeroing bows or guests.
– Bow Holder – A place to set the bow while resting, making adjustments, or retrieving arrows would add convenience. A hook on the backstop or a mobile stand from the shooting point could solve this problem.
- Pick a location.
- Put a design on paper to help visualize your plan.
- Make a material list and visit the hardware or farm store.
- Dig Holes and Set posts in concrete, wait 24 Hours.
- Frame Roof
- Set roof with 1 screw in each post and adjust roof slope so that stall mat hangs comfortable just above ground level. Place 3 more screws in each post
- Install spreader board between posts to prevent them from leaning in under weight, and diagonal braces to hold up the back end of the roof where the stall mat will hang.
- Pre-drill holes for 1/2″ Lags that will pinch stall mat hanging from roof
- Use Screws to temporarily hold the stall mat in place, install Lag Screws
- Pre-drill and install hooks to hang bag target.
- Use Plastic Chain and S-hooks to adjust bag target elevation and allow for easy target rotation.