If you're reading this review, you already know that shooting is fun and most likely know that competing against someone else can amplify the excitement. If you have ever shot steel plates and/or reactive targets, that can be extremely fun as well. When you merge shooting, steel targets, reactive targets and competition all in a single target, you have the makings of a great time. That is exactly what you get from a dueling tree target. You get the opportunity to compete real time, one-on-one, against another shooter in a time/accuracy event and the best man (or woman) wins.
For years I've said I'm going to pick up a dueling tree and this was finally the year. I have gongs and other reactive targets, but I wanted to really bring out the competitive nature of shooting that you get from the quick and easy setup of the target configuration provided by a dueling tree. A dueling tree is simple. Two shooters stand side by side start with three shooting plates on each side of the tree. At the "go", each shooter simultaneously shoots the plates flipping them to the other side until they have no more plates on their side of the tree or until they are out of ammo. The first shooter that has no plates on their side or has the least plates when they are out of ammo is the winner. You can add more challenges by allowing magazine swaps, limiting the type of firearms and sights, increasing shooting distance or whatever else you can dream up (just be safe).
When I went on my search for a dueling tree, I first had to decide what my caliber criteria was. Since I have five shooters in my family, I decided to consider the ammunition costs associated with feeding the fun generated by this style target and a .22LR target would probably be best for my needs (and wallet). Next I started looking at target costs and quickly found that there was a significant price difference between a dueling tree rated for .22LR versus one rated for centerfire firearms. So based on the cost of the ammo and the cost of the target I decided that for now I'm going to stick with a .22LR target.
The next question was which company's dueling tree to get? As I did my research on the internet, I seemed to keep coming back to the Action Target Rimfire Sort Dueling Tree. The features that sold me on the Action Target Dueling Tree were first that it states in their advertising that the target paddles are made from AR500 steel and the second was an MSRP of $119 along with 15% discount code ("nutnfancy"). This gave me a target price of $101.15. Now I will be honest that I nearly choked when I saw that S&H and tax was going to cost me another $63.33, but after going back and doing another round of internet searching for a comparable product at a cheaper price, I couldn't find anything that I thought was a better value. In the end, I paid $164.48 to Action Target for the Rimfire Sport Dueling Tree and it arrived at my door four days later.
During my reviews I like to compare my results to the manufacturer's claims where possible so the following text in colored italics was taken directly from the Action Target website on 3/7/12 and gives an Overview, Key Features, and Specifications for the Rimfire Sport Dueling Tree. The , and are my way to keep up with details that I have covered in this review with either photos, commentary or both. I may also add commentary after these marks as necessary to explain some items if needed.
As I said above, four days after ordering, the dueling tree arrived as shown below. Obviously someone had ripped off the end of the box while trying to handle it during shipping. I wasn't too worried about them bending any of the 1/4" steel parts, but lost parts would be the worst thing that could happen.
After unboxing the parts I was able to verify nothing was lost. The photo below shows all the parts in the box which were:
With these next photos I have tried to give you a good idea on the basic shapes of each of the parts. All parts are made from 1/4" steel with the shooting plates being the only ones advertised to be made from AR500 steel. Since all the other parts have been bent in some way to their final shape, the bending process means they are some type of mild steel. Each of the parts was painted with a black paint.
Since the instructions are not clear on which is the right and which is the left foot, I selected right and left as if you were standing at the target facing the shooter.
As stated, the shooting plates are made from 1/4" thick AR500 steel and the circular portion measures 4" in diameter. Basically AR500 steel is a type of armor plate steel that is used for most quality steel targets today. The 1/4" plate thickness is tailored more towards the .22LR rimfire market with most centerfire plates being 3/8" thick.
I'm not sure if the instruction manual refers to top/bottom in relationship to the stand vertically or to the two brackets being stacked on each other on the mounting bolt. From the vertical perspective, I don't think it matters. From the installation on the bolt perspective, this wider base bracket must go over (on top) the narrow bracket so the brackets will nest inside the angle portion of the stand. Also notice that you will see cracks in the corners of the brackets where the parts were bent during manufacturing. Even though there are cracks, the amount of steel remaining should be more than enough to react the loads of the plate flipping back and forth.
This bottom bracket (I think) is similar to the top but has a narrower base. Again, I'm not worried about the cracks in the corners because the strength required for rimfire ammunition should never be an issue. Also these brackets are a pivot point for the plate flipping and should never see the forces of a direct bullet impact.
The contents of the three bags of hardware are shown below. The hardware consists of 10 carriage bolts plus washers and nuts. The important thing to note about these bolts is that the 6 bolts that are used to attach the shooting plate brackets to the stand are Grade 5 bolts which are much harder and stronger than normal low carbon steel bolts like the other four. Use of these Grade 5 bolts is evidence of attention to detail and quality of materials.
The photo below shows the head of one of the six Grade 5 bolts. A Grade 5 bolt is identified by the three lines spaced at 120 degree on the head of the bolt. If you don't see these three lines on the bolt, you most likely don't have a higher strength Grade 5 bolt. For this dueling tree, you should have very few shots near the heads of these bolts because they are not part of the actual target area. If you do, you shouldn't have to worry about damage.
The assembly instructions state that a 9/16" wrench (not included) is all that is needed to assemble the target. I will agree, but go ahead and get a socket and ratchet for assembly. It will make assembly go faster.
Figure17 - Not Included with the Target.
Gather Parts and Tools.
Put a long (1 1/2") carriage bolt (Grade 5) through hole as shown below.
Place bottom bracket over the bolt as shown below. I don't think it matters which way the bracket is flipped.
Place top bracket over the bolt and on top of the bottom bracket as shown below.
Install a split washer and nut loosely on the bolt.
As long as the nut is not too tight, you can work the shooting plate into the brackets as shown below. Once in the brackets, push the brackets firmly together ensuring that they don't prevent the plate from rotating and then tighten the nut. Pay close attention that you keep the brackets at a 90 degree angle to the stand. This way there should be the same amount of resistance as the plate flips from one side to the other.
Repeat the steps above to install the other 5 bracket sets and shooting plates.
In this step you are going to assemble the base. The instructions say "make sure you complete this step on a flat surface". I agree that a flat surface makes it easier to assemble and align each part, but I think that before you tighten the two bolts, you should push the end of the front leg down so that all the slop in the joint makes the front leg point down at a slight angle. Doing this creates a slight stool effect (three points touching the ground) and should will help when on uneven bulging ground.
Initially I tightened the two 1 1/4" bolts and nuts tight as the directions indicated, but later I found I had to loosen these to get enough freeplay to install the bolts in the stand. My recommendation is tighten them later at the end.
Based on the instructions, when I tightened the two bolts in the base, the below photos shows the only way I was able to install the stand on the base. Although I think it will work this way, the instruction manual photo shows the stand installed on the back side of the base.
When I loosened the two bolts in the base, I was able to get enough freeplay in the base legs to allow me to install the two bolts in the stand as shown below. This is what the assembly looks like in the instruction manual.
These next four photos show the assembled Action Target Sport Dueling Tree. This dueling tree measured 40" in height and weighed in at about 33.5 pounds. As you can see, the tree tilts forward to aid in deflecting fragments to the ground and is needed for the gravity assist feature. What I mean by gravity assist is that all your shot needs to do is knock the plate past the center point on the stand and gravity will pull it the rest of the way down on the other side.
When I purchased this dueling tree, it was advertised as being for rimfire firearms, hence the name Rimfire Dueling Tree. I was surprised to discover that the assembly instructions had the statement below about centerfire handguns.
The Sport Dueling Tree is rated for use with .22 rimfire and standard centerfire handgun rounds up to .44 caliber. Rounds larger than .22 rimfire may cause the paddles to bounce back to their original position. Do not use more powerful rounds. Do not use armor piercing rounds. Do not use any rifle rounds other than standard .22 rimfire.
I'm not suggesting you use anything other than rimfire firearms, but I found this interesting. Normally steel targets rated for centerfire ammunition are made from 3/8" thick AR500 steel. This target being 1/4" thick AR500 steel would probably have a much reduced life shooting centerfire handgun rounds. Action Target does sell a dueling tree specifically for centerfire ammunition called their AT Dueling Tree AR500 which has a MSRP of $399 and is available in a AR550 steel version for an additional $100.
I also want to point out Action Targets safety rules for this target.
Steel Target Safety Rules
After shooting about 700 rounds at the dueling tree, I can already see that I should have purchased one of these sooner. Everyone had a great time at our first outing and the competition factor was a big hit. One thing I quickly noticed is that I need to plan on having more ammunition on hand, especially since I have some hard core plinkers in the family. In the video below, you can see several different duels and then at the end a single shooter with a Black Dog 50-round Drum Magazine on a M&P15-22 Rifle. The shooter was relatively close (about 15 yards) and you can see that there was a little "bounce back" on some of the paddles. We also shot .22LR pistols and had a great time. Shooting the pistols was clearly more challenging than the rifles and I can see that having the option for swapping out magazines during a pistol duel would make for added challenge and fun.
These next photos show the condition of the target after shooting. Other than a little lead splatter, the shooting paddles were in great shape and should last many years as long as you stick with rimfire ammunition.
In the photo below you can see the lead splatter line under the target base.
A word of warning to anyone handling the target after shooting, the target gets covered with lead splatter/dust and if you get any on your hands, make sure you wash your hands off soon to reduce the chance of getting further contamination.
A rimfire dueling tree is one of those products that when you finally use one and realize how great it is, you will wonder what was stopping you from getting one in the first place. The Action Target Rimfire Dueling Tree seems to be a well made product and should last many years as long as you stick with rimfire ammunition. If you are interested in purchasing one, I recommend trying to find one in a local store so you don't have to pay the full shipping costs. Even if you cannot find one locally, go ahead and pay for shipping and make the investment. I don't think you will be dissatisfied.