Skip to main content

Gunsite Option Target

The Gunsite Option Target does many things well.

Gunsite Option Target
Circa 1976, Jeff Cooper compares a standard cardboard silhouette target next to his first camouflage option target in Arizona.

I can hear it now, “Another Gunsite article.” I’m sure Eric Poole will love the letters to the editor, but before you bang away on that keyboard, hear me out.

Gunsite Academy has trained tens of thousands of people over the last 43 years, and they know a thing or two about how to maximize square-­range training. But even Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper realized that this was limiting.

There are several shoot houses on the Gunsite property, and force-­on-­force and simulator work comprises a great deal of the higher-­level curriculum. That being said, there’s a huge square-­range component that can’t be ignored and must be conducted efficiently. Whether you’re a Gunsite instructor or a local trainer putting your first class through, 3-­D targets are great, as is putting t-­shirts on targets. But when you’ve got 25 students on the line, efficiency is vital to training.

Enter the Gunsite Option Target. Originally designed by Cooper from his earlier American Pistol Institute (API) target of the late 1970s, the current Gunsite Option Target is a square border humanoid measuring 18 inches by 30 inches, the same size as the official International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) cardboard target featuring both body and head zones, hence the name “Option.”


The humanoid target overlays three different shades of tan and brown in a camouflage pattern to subdue the borders and mute the scoring zones. Cooper’s original targets had a busier camo pattern and larger, circular target rings, but the target has since evolved. The current iteration, which was approved by Cooper before his passing in 2006, has a realistic 8-­inch by 8-­inch triangle in the upper chest area and a trapezoid in the head area. These scoring zones are lightly outlined on the target, making them difficult to see beyond a few yards. (I’ll explain why this is important later in the article.)


The last evolution of the Gunsite target includes the addition of a hand holding a clear, outlined revolver in the lower corner of the target. While some may scoff at this, I think that as armed good guys we should always be training to shoot at a defined threat, especially if we’re adding humanoid shapes to our training. Everybody talks tough about how they’d rather be “tried by 12 rather than carried by six,” but I’ve seen the stress of a federal trial break good men. No matter how right you may be, facing the possibility of losing everything is incredibly stressful. This was a wise addition by Gunsite.

Gunsite Option Target
Gunsite’s Option Target (right) improved on the API target (left).

Now that we have the basics of the target understood, let’s talk about the logic and experience that went into the design. Painting targets different shades of camouflage isn’t something that Cooper came up with one night at the Sconce. It’s a technique that’s been around for years and it works whether you’re shooting with optics or irons, or using a rifle, pistol or shotgun. The addition of a pattern on the target makes it difficult to find a precise aiming point and forces the shooter to focus on their sighting fundamentals throughout the process of taking a shot. It also demands that the shooter be aware of where the sights are on the target rather than just cutting a bullseye in half. It makes consistency on the sights challenging. If you’re the type of shooter who prides oneself on shooting tiny little groups, then these targets are sure to humble you.

As mentioned earlier, the actual scoring zones are shaped to approximate the areas on the target that have the best chance of stopping a determined attacker. The lines are faint, which, in conjunction with the irregular pattern on the target, makes looking at the target an exercise in futility. With iron sights, this forces the shooters focus back on to the front sight. With a red dot, it keeps the shooter looking at the entire zone rather than at a fixed point. (Think upper chest.) Both of those adaptations are advantageous to a shooter who wants to get good at defensive shooting.

Self-­defense training is more than focusing on bullseye-­centric marksmanship skills. I do not slight shooters who use bullseyes to hone their defensive skills. I’m simply acknowledging that there are good reasons to incorporate targets other than bullseyes into a rounded training regimen.




Like the Gunsite target, option targets also lend themselves well to being modified on the range. You can fold them into smaller, more challenging shoot zones, and layer them to create more challenging shoot-­ and no-­shoot targets. For those who are looking to be economical, this works on several levels because it also allows for the target to be re-­folded so that previously shot portions can be rotated with clean portions of the target.

Another option with targets that have a defined threat like a handgun printed on them is that you can fold that threat away making a series of shoot and no-­shoot targets. This will encourage students to use their decision-­making skills. It’s not a substitute for scenario-­based, force-­on-­force training, but it’s a great first step in introducing decision making to a square-­range environment.

A student of the serious use of firearms should make sure that they are seeking training outside of a square range. That being said, the square range is still an important component of any training program and remains one of the best options for developing and maintaining fundamental firearms skills. Making that training as efficient and challenging as possible is something that all shooters should strive for. I’ve found that the Gunsite Academy’s Option Target is one of the best targets available to that end. They’re available at gunsitestore.com for about $0.50 each. 


Current Magazine Cover

Enjoy articles like this?

Subscribe to the magazine.

Get access to everything Guns & Ammo has to offer.
Subscribe to the Magazine

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Trijicon

Trijicon's New Specialized Reflex Optics (SRO)

The Trijicon SRO is specifically designed for pistol use. The wide field of view and clean, crisp dot makes it easy for users to find and track the dot in both target and competitive shooting applications.

Cameras Don

Cameras Don't Lie: Subsonic 9mm vs. .300 Blackout

In this segment of "Cameras Don't Lie," a subsonic-ammo showdown, 9mm vs. .300 Blackout fired from AR rifles.

Pocket-Pistol Carry Tips and Tricks

Pocket-Pistol Carry Tips and Tricks

Pocket carry, as a method of concealed carry for a defensive firearm, can be a practical option when done right. This is especially true during the colder months when heavy outer garments can obstruct access to a traditional waistline holster. Former U.S. Navy SEAL Jeff Gonzales, president of Trident Concepts, joins G&A contributor Kimberly Heath-Chudwin to discuss guns, training and gear, including Blackhawk's TecGrip holster that can make pocket carry more successful.

Shooting 600 Yards with .300 Blackout

Shooting 600 Yards with .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout cartridge was developed to provide greater effectiveness than a 9mm at short and medium ranges when fired from a short-barreled suppressed firearm. Just because the cartridge wasn't designed to go long doesn't mean Rifles & Optics Editor Tom Beckstrand won't take it there, using a large-format pistol, no less. Armed with SIG Sauer's 9-inch-barreled MCX Virtus Pistol loaded with Black Hills' 125-grain TMK ammunition, Beckstrand attempts to ring steel at 600 yards with help from Hornady's 4DOF ballistic calculator in this segment of “Long Range Tech.”

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Don't mortgage the homestead to get into PRS, this is what's available from the likes of Mossberg, Tikka, Savage, Howa, Bergara, Weatherby and Remington.Starter Rifles for Under $1000 Rifles

Starter Rifles for Under $1000

Aaron Carter - May 09, 2019

Don't mortgage the homestead to get into PRS, this is what's available from the likes of...

Rugged and affordable, SIONYX color night vision cameras are a must-have for every hunter, shooter, and outdoor enthusiast. SIONYX Aurora Night Vision Cameras Review Optics

SIONYX Aurora Night Vision Cameras Review

Brad Fitzpatrick - December 23, 2020

Rugged and affordable, SIONYX color night vision cameras are a must-have for every hunter,...

Whether you're going hunting or to the range, hitting your target is more fun when you have a zeroed rifle scope. Here's how to sight in your rifle scope setup in five quick-and-easy steps.How to Sight In a Rifle Scope in 5 Steps How-To

How to Sight In a Rifle Scope in 5 Steps

Craig Boddington - June 04, 2018

Whether you're going hunting or to the range, hitting your target is more fun when you have a...

The Winchester .350 Legend straight-wall cartridge is ideally suited for hunting hogs and deer; here's everything you need to know to make it work for you..350 Legend Cartridge: Everything You Need to Know Rifle

.350 Legend Cartridge: Everything You Need to Know

Tom Beckstrand - April 02, 2019

The Winchester .350 Legend straight-wall cartridge is ideally suited for hunting hogs and...

See More Trending Articles

More Accessories

The new Wheeler FAT Stix Preset Torque Wrench Set includes all the most popular bit sizes in a convenient soft carry case.New for 2021: Wheeler FAT Stix Preset Torque Wrench Set SHOT Show

New for 2021: Wheeler FAT Stix Preset Torque Wrench Set

Guns & Ammo Staff - January 27, 2021

The new Wheeler FAT Stix Preset Torque Wrench Set includes all the most popular bit sizes in a...

The best gifts for this holiday season from Guns & Ammo.2020 Guns & Ammo Holiday Gift Guide Accessories

2020 Guns & Ammo Holiday Gift Guide

Guns & Ammo Staff - November 03, 2020

The best gifts for this holiday season from Guns & Ammo.

XS Sights high-visibility color front dot and Express-style V-shaped rear are an upgrade in quality and performance over the typical dot-and-notch setup.Testing XS Sights Accessories

Testing XS Sights

Jeremy Stafford - September 08, 2020

XS Sights high-visibility color front dot and Express-style V-shaped rear are an upgrade in...

Small, lightweight and purpose-built for sub-compact carry guns, Surefire's XSC pistol light takes on EDC illumination segment.Surefire XSC Micro-Compact Pistol Light: First Look Tactical

Surefire XSC Micro-Compact Pistol Light: First Look

Jeremy Stafford - September 10, 2020

Small, lightweight and purpose-built for sub-compact carry guns, Surefire's XSC pistol light...

See More Accessories

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Guns & Ammo App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now