An archery backstop is crucial for safety reasons, but is also a very convenient solution for stopping arrows from going to far. We built one in our backyard, so we can practice archery anytime.
To make an archery backstop you will need to find a suitable location and decide what material you want it made out of. The backstop is meant to stop arrows that miss the target, from going much further past the target. This helps you retrieve the arrows faster, but also prevents an arrow from flying somewhere it wasn’t meant to.
There are a few different ways you can build your backstop. You should consider each option and how it may work best for you before starting to build. Once you build your own backstop, you won’t have to be gathering arrows from all over the yard anymore.
When building your own backstop you have the luxury of using materials that match the type of shooting you do. It’s important that you build your backstop so that arrows will not pass through it. After all, the whole point is to protect what is behind your target from your arrows.
If you’re going to be only shooting target arrows for target practice in your backyard or something, any of the backstop examples below will work for you. It’s when you will be shooting field point arrows at higher draw weights that you need to be concerned with your backstop material.
The most common materials to make a backstop out of are hay bales, plywood, archery netting, and rubber mats. Of course the frame of the backstop could be made out of 2×4’s, PVC pipe, or metal pipe depending on what you choose to go with below. Here’s a chart to give you an idea of what you’ll need for your shooting style:
|Suggested Backstop Material
|Less than 40 lbs
Thick Hay Bales
|Above 40 lbs
|Thick Plywood With Rubber Mats
Thick Hay Bales
I don’t recommend target shooting with judo point or fish point arrow heads so I didn’t include them in the list. Those arrow types tend to break when practicing target shooting with them.
For the higher draw weights with field point arrows I suggest a couple layers deep of hay bales or thick plywood with rubber mats. The plywood can be about 1/2″ think and the rubber mats 1/2″ thick or more. Go to your local home repair or do it yourself store and look for commercial rubber roofing material. That stuff is about 1/2″ thick of durable rubber material.
Adhere that to your plywood and it should stop your arrows. The goal isn’t that your arrows will be hitting this all the time, but if they do, they must be stopped. Some archers will also use a horse stall mat some other thick material that will stop an arrow.
Hay Bale Backstop
The hay bale backstop is one of the most common and cheapest backstops you can make yourself. Funny enough, you can buy hay bales online, but I suggest you look to some local places that sell them. Hay bales are usually pretty cheap, and you’ll end up paying more for shipping if you order online in most cases.
Stack the hay bales behind the target you will be shooting at. We try to stack them a few feet past the sides of the target and a few feet higher than the target. Do whatever you’re comfortable with here, but make sure the hay bales will catch any flyers there might be. For field point arrows at higher draw weights consider stacking the hay bales a couple bales deep in case an arrow can pierce the first hay bale.
To keep the hay bales tidy you can surround them with posts you dig into the ground. And wrap them with twine or 550 cord or some type. This isn’t really necessary, but if you’re going for looks, this is an option. Also, doing something to keep the hay bales secure will prevent a big mess in your yard on windy days.
The only problem I have with hay bales is that they break down over time. With just normal weather conditions the hay will fall apart, rot away, and attract bugs. If you don’t mind replenishing the hay bales every year or so this is a good option. But personally, I like to use a more permanent backstop setup.
Also, we’ve had neighbor complaints before about stacks of hay bales visible in our yard. If you have kids, they will no doubt enjoy climbing on and playing with the hay bales, but that ends up creating an unsightly mess for you to deal with.
Foam Block Backstop
Foam blocks will typically last longer than hay bales, but can be just as unsightly and will need to be secured as they blow around easily. You can find foam blocks online or sometimes at local craft stores if you know where to look. You would stack and secure the foam blocks the same way you would do with hay bales.
The freestanding backstop is a popular option because you can build them to be portable. If you’re using an archery netting backstop, you could build a frame to hold the netting out of PVC pipe for example. The frame would be light weight enough that you could have it stored in a shed or garage and only pull it out when it’s time to practice archery.
If you’re using a plywood back stop, the frame would most likely be made out of 2×4’s and would be heavier, but can still be moved around if needed. If you have a space you can dedicate to an archery range in your yard, consider making a permanent freestanding backstop. Instead of creating a portable frame, you would dig and bury posts to hold the plywood or netting of your choice.
PVC Freestanding Backstop
This is a good option to hang an archer netting for a backstop, and the PVC makes this backstop super light and easily portable. All of the materials can be found at your local hardware store, and PVC tends to be pretty easy to work with. You can make the back stop any size you like, but at closer ranges, 5′ by 5′ should be big enough.
Start by laying out your design on paper and getting all the materials required, PVC pipe, PVC connectors, and PVC glue. Keep in mind that your backstop will need to stand on it’s own, so factor in putting some legs on the frame. Also, find a netting that has grommets for you to secure it to the frame. Here’s a review of my favorite Archery Netting to show you what you’re looking for. Secure the netting with zip ties or rope of your choosing.
You could also make this with metal pipe, like gas line pipe, for a more durable frame. Just keep in mind it will be heavier if you do it that way and therefore less easily portable. The gas line is nice because all the fittings just screw together, and for these purposes it doesn’t need to be super tight or sealed in any way.
Wooden Frame Freestanding Backstop
If you are planning on building your backstop out of plywood, this method or the fence post method below are ideal. When starting with your design and material list, keep in mind that you will need a frame with sturdy legs perpendicular to the backstop frame. The length of your legs should be determined by the draw weight of your bow and the height of your backstop.
Stronger bows will release an arrow with more force, you just want to make sure you won’t be knocking your backstop over since it will be a freestanding setup. 2×4’s typically work best for these type of backstop frames, between 5′ and 10′ foot in width and at least 6 feet in height. Of course, make the dimensions to fit your needs, but you want at least a few feet on either side of the target and a few feet above.
Use a piece of 1/2″ plywood for most arrows points and bows. If you want to double up on the plywood or add a rubber mat keep that in mind while gathering your materials. The frame is a pretty straight forward construction.
For example lay 4 pieces of 6 foot 2x4s to create a square and screw them together. Add an additional 6 foot piece down the center for support. Add a couple 3′ or 4′ pieces of 2×4 to the bottom of the frame to act as balancing legs. If you’re concerned about the structure of the frame legs, add a couple pieces of 2×4 cut at an angle to brace the frame against the leg pieces.
Now simply screw your piece of plywood and rubber mat to the frame. Here is an example 6′ by 6′ wooden frame backstop materials list:
- 5 six foot pieces of 2×4
- 2 three foot pieces of 2×4
- 6′ by 6′ piece of 1/2″ plywood
- 2 two foot pieces of angle cut 2×4 (optional)
- 6′ by 6′ rubber mat (optional)
Here’s a quick video of someone who made a similar freestanding wooden backstop with a rubber mat.
Fence Post Freestanding Backstop
This is a great option for a more permanent freestanding backstop. Simply dig a hole and bury a couple fence posts 5-10 feet apart. I suggest the fence post be sticking above ground at least 6 feet to catch any flyer arrows. Then you can hang an archer netting backstop with a rope tied between the two fence posts.
Most netting will have grommets or holes you can run a wire or rope through. Here’s an example Archery Netting on Amazon to show you what you’re looking for.
This approach also works for plywood backstops, although I would use wooden fence posts in this case. When you have the fence posts in place, you can use them to secure the plywood to. If you plan on having rubber mat adhered to the plywood, I would build a simple frame on the fence posts before mounting the plywood.
This approach is often more sturdy and doesn’t require your frame have legs to stand on it’s own, but it’s not portable. If you have a fence in your yard already, consider using that to build your back stop on rather than a freestanding method.
The hanging backstop will really only work for some people. You have to use what you have in your yard to your advantage. For example, if you have a couple trees that you could tie a rope in between and hang an archers netting as a backstop. I recommend a strong netting that has grommets to make this easier, here’s a review of my favorite Archery Netting to show you what you’re looking for.
Think about what you have available and where a good place to put your archery target would be. I’ve seen people use an existing clothes line or a dog run as a place to hang a backstop netting before with success. The greatest thing about this type of setup is how easy it is to take down and put back up. You could get clips for each grommet in the netting for quick install on a wire or rope anytime you want to train archery.
The only downside is for people with strong bows, above 40 lbs draw weight, who want to shoot with field point arrows. The netting isn’t strong enough to stop an arrow like that, and you will possibly have arrows make it through your backstop, which can be very dangerous.
This is my preferred method for anyone that has a fence in their yard already. Just build your backstop up against an existing section of fence. Some people use the fence as is. But we tried doing that, and we ended up causing damage to our fence. Some arrows even made it through the fence, making their way in between the slats.
What worked best was screwing a piece of plywood to the fence. You could try netting in this case. It will stop arrows from getting through the slats, but will still chip and ding the fence. Measure the fence height and width, and cut a piece of plywood to fit perfectly where you need.
Avoid screwing the plywood into the slats. Instead, try to mount the plywood to the fence posts. If the posts are pretty far apart, you may want to create some type of frame out of 2×4’s to mount to the fence posts. Then you will be able to cut the plywood to any length you need that will fit onto the frame.
Sound Proofing A Backstop
Sound proofing your backstop only really applies to the plywood type backstops we talked about earlier. The arrow doesn’t make much sound when caught in a netting, but when hitting plywood, there is a large thud that worries some archers. The worry is that the arrows are getting damaged by hitting a solid object with such force.
Protect your backstop and your arrows, as well as reduce the noise it makes by sound proofing your back stop with some foam mat pieces. Foam mats are usually found as a gym floor or a kids play room floor. They are these small square foam pads that can be interlocked together to make large sections.
The foam pads will not do much to stopping an arrow, especially not a field point arrow. But they will reduce the noise your arrows make when hitting the plywood backstop. They will also help protect your arrows from getting damaged and help prevent your backstop from wearing out.
Another idea is to use a yoga mat. That’s what we did, I found a cheap yoga mat and stapled it to the plywood. Any type of foam or rubber matting will work. See what you have laying around that you can use. I got a cheap foam yoga mat for around 8 dollars, well worth the cost it will save me in arrows.
Other Backstop Ideas
I have not done any of these myself, but I have either heard of them working or know someone that has done it. One great idea will follow the hay bale backstop method of stacking bales up to catch fly arrows. But instead of hay bales, you make your own catching material. Here are some examples:
- Fill Cardboard Boxes With Newspaper
- Stuff Potato Sacks With Shrink Wrap
- Fill Cardboard Boxes With Plastic Bags
- Fill Trash Bags With Rags
Any one of these ideas will work, but use what you have to make your own arrow catching backstop. Another idea I’ve heard of, is using carpet. Hang a few pieces of carpet to stop arrows. You can hang them from a rope or over a fence.
I would be careful with this method if you use field point arrows. It’s just my guess that a nice field point with some speed behind it will go right through a piece of carpet. But this would probably work great for target practice arrows.