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Old 05-18-2017, 11:34 AM
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Steel targets . Again



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We frequently have discussion here about the pro's and con's of various types of steel targets, with everyone seeming to have their own opinion of the subject. (imagine that!)

I do not purport to be an expert on the subject, but I DO have about 40 years experience in shooting and building steel targets for Metallic Silhouette shooting. I came across this article on Wiki and found it to be right to the point, so maybe others will find it interesting and informative. I also posted it up in the ammo forum where there is a discussion going on right now :



Steel targets are targets for firearms made out of hardened (martensitic) steel, and are used in sports such as cowboy action shooting, practical/dynamic shooting and for long range shooting, as well as recreational plinking. They are popular in both training and competitions because the shooter gets instant feedback on a hit in the form of sound, and one can also often see the bullet getting pulverized and the target moving. Hanging or self-reseting targets also have the advantage that the shooter doesn't have to go forward to tape the targets, making it a good option for shooting ranges that otherwise have electronic targets. Steel targets also are weather proof, contrary to paper targets that may not hold up when wet.



Precautions regarding ricochets

If correct precautions are taken, the chance of ricochets when shooting at steel targets are minimal. The materials of which both the target and bullets are constructed of should make the bullet pulverize on impact, and therefore hardened steel targets and regular lead core bullets should be used. Regular steel should be avoided for targets, and ammunition with armour piercing properties (i.e. steel or copper core) should also be avoided.

Furthermore it's important to shoot relatively perpendicular to the target - some even angle the target slightly downwards so that any ricochet will hit the ground.

Target material





Steel target made out of ordinary soft steel are quickly worn and can be dangerous to use.
As a safety precaution steel targets must be made out of hardened steel, which is more resistant to plastic deformation than regular, soft steel. For steel targets, the steel should have a Brinell value of 500 or more. One American producer of steel targets claims to only use steel with a hardness greater than 500, most often between 515-540. They also claim that the steel gets too brittle if higher Brinell values are used.[1] Hardened steel are available in different Brinell values or thicknesses, and stainless variants are also available. A common trademark in USA for hardened steel is AR500.

Regular steel is too soft, resulting in bullets either punching through the target or making a crater whereupon the bullet bounces back, often with great force. Even thick plates quickly get holes and craters if they are made of regular steel (i.e. 10 mm or 3/8").

Processing of the steel target

Many workshops have the tools to manufacture steel targets out of hardened steel, but it is important that it is done correctly. For instance plasma cutters can be used, but angle grinders or normal welding damages the hardening. Hard drill bits are also needed to cut holes.

Thickness and distance to the target

The required thickness of the target depends on the distance of which you're shooting from, steel quality, caliber, bullet type and bullet speed. It is often said that high velocity rounds more easily penetrates steel targets, meaning that faster bullets even of relatively small calibers or diameter are more likely to punch through a target.

Some manufacturers recommends at least 1/4" thichness (6.35 mm) with 500 Brinell value for pistol shooting with common calibres such as 9 mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP, with a safety distance of 10 yards (approx. 10 m). For rifle shooting, some[who?] recommend at least 3/8" (9.525 mm) 500 Brinell steel, and different distances according to what caliber is used. For calibers like .223 and .308 at least 75 yards (approx. 70 m) has been suggested, and for larger and faster calibers such as 22-250, 30-06, 300 Win Mag or .338 Lapua 120-150 yards (approx. 110140 m) has been suggested. Nevertheless the targets have been shot at from much closer without any problems.[
]

Normal bullets with lead core must be used since they are pulverized upon hit, and the dust will then be spread out to the sides of the target. However, bullets with hard cores (like steel, copper or "bi-metal") are not pulverized and can either penetrate or ricochet, causing them to be potentially dangerous. Since lead isn't magnetic, competition organizers may use a magnet to check for the presence of a ferromagnetic core.



Chains and shackles makes most sound and is the most popular method for fixing hanging targets. Ropes are quickly torn, but another alternative that lasts quite long are inner tubes of tires.[2]










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Old 05-18-2017, 11:55 AM
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Good write up and spot on with the information provided. I have been shooting competition for many, many years and I've seen several accidents resulting from using the wrong steel, wrong bullets, and lack of safety equipment. I have seen this at some very, very large shoots around the country. I, myself was struck by a bee sized piece of bullet fragment at a major national shoot being held in Florida several years ago. It was so large a piece that I actually saw it coming and tried to dodge it. The shooter was twenty yards away from me and I was behind the firing line. His bullet hit the target, splashed back, and hit me in the chest causing a fairly large laceration. His target was pocked and cratered and was a bit concave. Another time I saw a match director in Mass. checking targets the evening before the shoot and he shot a falling plate target with a 38Super at twenty-five yards. It was a 4"x4" plate and as the plate fell the bullet came back and hit him in the face. It completely penetrated his sinus cavity by entering next to his nose. He went to the ER and they X-rayd his face and saw the entire bullet in his sinuses. He returned to the match with the bullet still in there and a large bandage on his face. He said he had a match to run and he'd get it surgically removed on Monday. He was one tough guy. Cause here? Shooting the wrong ammo and a cupped plate. Anyone who says they use mild steel targets and have no problems because they angle them, etc, is just an accident waiting to happen.
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Old 05-18-2017, 12:06 PM
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My first experience with this sort of thing was in Sacramento, CA, about 1976 or so, Folsom Gun Club was just getting started in the new sport of handgun metallic silhouette. A shooter fired on a 40 meter chicken that was badly pock marked, copper jacket from his .44 Mag bullet came straight back and took out his right eye. At that time, most ranges did not require eye protection, they do now.
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Old 05-18-2017, 01:18 PM
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Good info. I use rounded head (carriage head) bolts, but without welding wouldn't know how to mount the plate without the protruding bolt head.

On the other end of the spectrum, I mostly shoot .223 at 400 and 500 yards, when not shooting rimfire. Unless you are the only one on the range, it is impossible to hear 500 yard hits on 1/2" AR500 gongs. My question is, how will 1/4" AR500 hold up to .223 (e.g. 50gr VMAX or 75gr Sierra) at 500 yards?

At 300 & 400 yards I prefer hard mounted steel for .223, as it is easy to see the bullet splatter. At 500 yards they seem to have lost too much energy to splatter, and we have actually found smushed .223 projectiles not far behind the target.


Having tried the rubber straps from scorpius tactical ($10 each) and shootingtargets7 ($5 each), the scorpius ones hold up at least 3x as well, based on short term experience with the ST7 straps. I mounted a 6" gong, using one of each straps. I tend to miss more left based on past damage, so I put the thicker scorpius strap on the left. I'll post how it holds up.
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Old 05-19-2017, 12:37 AM
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I caught a ricochet at the Rio Salado range in East Mesa, twice! They were using angle iron target sleds for the pistol shooters. I heard the bullet whistle off the sled the first time and a piece of the copper jacket peeled off and came back into the firing line where I was walking. It hit me in the cheek below my glasses and drew a trickle of blood. The second time was similar but the shrapnel hit me in the chest. Luckily neither was serious but I sent them an e-mail about it and they said they would look into it. I went back one time after that and they still had the same target sleds. I didn't pay to stay and never went back again. They don't have to be dented or pockmarked, just rigid and close.
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Old 05-20-2017, 09:48 PM
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This is the experiment on straps I am doing. On the left is the Scorpius Tactical strap ($10 each). On the right is the strap from Shootingtargets.com ($5 each). Which ever fails first will be replaced with the firehose strap I made.



My prediction is the ST7 strap will fail, then the Scorpius. The firehose seems really tough. I cut one leaving only 1/4" or so left. I was unable to break it, even standing on one end and using my leg muscles. To be fair I probably couldn't break either of the other straps.


EDIT:
It was shot at well over 1,000 times just today, almost all .22lr and 9mm. It was shot at from a high angle, but a .22 projectile is stuck inside the conveyor belt from scorpius. The ST7 strap is losing pieces already.




A tree fell and damaged, but mostly missed the stand we built last year at 500 yards.

Last edited by 98_1LE; 05-21-2017 at 08:33 PM.
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Old 05-23-2017, 09:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 98_1LE View Post

On the other end of the spectrum, I mostly shoot .223 at 400 and 500 yards, when not shooting rimfire. Unless you are the only one on the range, it is impossible to hear 500 yard hits on 1/2" AR500 gongs. My question is, how will 1/4" AR500 hold up to .223 (e.g. 50gr VMAX or 75gr Sierra) at 500 yards?

At 300 & 400 yards I prefer hard mounted steel for .223, as it is easy to see the bullet splatter. At 500 yards they seem to have lost too much energy to splatter, and we have actually found smushed .223 projectiles not far behind the target.
Hang Fast Targets has the most reactive and simple mounting system I have seen. It uses a T post with their hanger and a single mounting point. This system is very reactive and audible.

They did a video on 1/4" AR500 plates with various rifle calibers here: VIDEO

Here is a video of how reactive and audible the system is: VIDEO

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Old 05-26-2017, 03:46 PM
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Thank you. I have seen their website but it is good to get a positive review. I'll give them a try.

I got a little nerdy with spray paint...

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Old 05-26-2017, 04:43 PM
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It cannot be easier.....

The Hang Fast System can hang a 2 hole plate with chains ON ANY HILLSIDE. No more futzing with different length saw horse legs and balancing acts. Just grab 2 t posts the hanger and target and GO! It cannot be knocked over and takes only seconds to set up on ANY terrain.

STUPID SIMPLE !


Can't pound a post?..... Use the ALL TERRAIN T Post stand. This is the only stand designed to accept a T Post and it's the ONLY stand with enough adjustment to use on TERRAIN. We shoot the IPSC swinger with BUCKSHOT rapid fire and the target is stable. https://youtu.be/M33ZpPuK7qw


Last edited by vinconco; 05-26-2017 at 04:45 PM.
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Old 05-30-2017, 09:17 PM
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I got a little nerdy decorating this one. OK, a lot.



That replaced a slightly larger 1/2" thick silhouette we had at 500 yards, and being 3/8" rings better.

I'm planning the smaller 1/4" thick square from Hang Fast to put at 350 yards at our range. Several of us are bored shooting .22lr at 200 yards, so it is time to make it hard.

EDIT:





Last edited by 98_1LE; 06-06-2017 at 01:35 PM.
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Old 06-06-2017, 02:51 PM
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Sweetness. My local range doesn't even have steel targest. It looks really unkept, but I kinda like "hole in the wall" places (as long as they don't look shady).
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Old 06-12-2017, 11:44 AM
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Where I shoot isn't a normal gun range. Rather a "shooting lease", basically just pay for access to the land. Several of us took the initiative to set up steel for the community.

I left the test steel with my buddy, who to quote him said "A bunch of bad shooters worked on it for hours. The 2x4 got the worst of it." Still neither strap has failed, although we both still feel the conveyor strap is better.




Not at all a direct comparison, but this fire hose was holding up the closest permanent steel where I shoot for weeks. I took it down before it failed, and this is what it looks like.


I was raining .22lr on it, trying to get 3 or 4 rounds in the air before the sound from the first makes it back, and who knows what others did to it. It is tough stuff.

Last edited by 98_1LE; 06-12-2017 at 11:59 AM.
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