Many people ask us why steel targets are used. Aren’t they sort of expensive? Is it safe? These are common questions.
Here’s why you should shoot steel:
- Shooting steel is just plain fun.
- The immediate feedback of whether you hit the target or not is invaluable to training. A shooter doesn’t have to wait to see if they hit the target.
- Less time is used while shooting putting up new paper targets. This leads to more time spent shooting.
- When used over time, steel targets are the economical choice over buying paper targets.
When AR500 steel targets are used properly, they will give the user many, many years of enjoyable, fun shooting
Yeah, but is it safe?
I think some people have the image from the cartoons that the bullet is going to hit steel and then ricochet uncontrollably. When done properly, shooting steel targets is very safe. The reason is the physics involved. When a bullet hits a hard, flat surface it will deform and flatten.
This deformation converts the kinetic energy (speed) of the bullet and slows it down. The bullet will splatter much like a raindrop hitting a hard surface and predictably goes out at about 20 degrees from the plane of the target. The problem comes when steel becomes dimpled or deformed. This is where steel type comes into play.
Not All Steel is Equal
A flat surface is critical to steel target safety. If a soft, mild steel is used dimpling or cratering can occur. Then, when the target is hit the resulting bullet splatter is no longer predictable. It can often send lead fragments back at the shooting line. This is why it is critical to shoot steel which has been hardened.
Example of mild steel shot with 5.56 at 10 yards. It stood no chance.
Material hardness can be measured in many ways. The most common method is in Brinell Hardness. Steel which has a Brinell Hardness of 400 or higher will have excellent bullet resistant properties, as long as the bullet is traveling at less than 3000 feet per second when it hits the target. Rivers Targets are made of AR500 steel. AR stands for abrasion resistant, and 500 is the Brinell hardness.
When AR500 steel targets are used properly, they will give the user many, many years of enjoyable, fun shooting.
How to Shoot Steel Safely
Follow these guidelines for shooting steel targets:
- Shoot targets straight on. Shooting targets at a large angle may result in ricochet.
- Always wear safety glasses in case of bullet splatter coming back at you.
- Use appropriate distances. 10 yards for handguns and 100 yards for rifles is a good rule of thumb. 100 yards for shotgun slugs as well. Always check for pitting to make sure the distance is OK for the ammunition you are shooting.
- Only use lead core bullets. Using steel core and armor piercing ammunition may result in dimpling or unpredictable bullet splatter.
Follow this advice and you’re sure to have a ton of fun and be safe too.