Friendly and Certified Firearms Training for Women Since 2011

Shooting Steel: Safety Guidelines

Shooting steel is fun! You hear the “ping!” when you hit the target, and can often save you time and money from shοoting paper targets. However, shοoting steel can be dangerous if you use the wrong caliber or shοot at the wrong distance.

Follow these six guidelines to stay safe:

1. Grade: Steel targets should have a Brinell hardness number (BHN) of at least AR500 or AR550.

2. Quality/Age: Do not use a steel target with any cratering, pitting, cracking, or an uneven surface because it can cause dangerous ricochets.

3. Distance: Shοoters should maintain a 15-yard minimum distance from steel with handguns, and a 100-yard minimum with rifles. Always check manufacturer’s guidelines.

4. Design:
Quality steel targets are designed for predictable splatter. There are never any exposed bolts, clamps, or brackets on the shooting surface, and the target leans forward slightly to dissipate some of the bullet’s energy.

5. Caliber: Check manufacturer’s guidelines for approved uses. Some targets may be rated for rimfire or standard pistol calibers only. Others may be rated for specific rifle calibers.

6. Ammo: Never shοot green-tiρ or bi-metal bullets at steel.

When it comes to your safety, don’t settle for the advice of your local welder or do-it-yourselfer, who thinks he can fabricate a steel target for you. Shooting on poorly designed targets made of inferior steel can cause severe bodily harm.

Remember, at the range we are all Range Safety Officers. If you see something iffy or unsafe, speak up!

Steel targets are so much fun fun — and one of the greatest tools for firearms training and competition — if they are manufactured correctly. For more info, check out our AG & AG target sponsors: Red Stitch Targets, Gunfighter Targets, and Action Targets.

4 Responses

  1. I realize it would be a very small demographic (maybe only me), but when shooting steel, deaf shooters do not hear the ping. I am legally deaf with minimal hearing when wearing aids which I don’t wear when shooting. I cannot hear the ping. Therefore, I either need a helper who is hearing to tell me if the sound is there or hopefully some visual hint. Just curious what information is out there to educate deaf shooters. Also, we cannot hear the instructions on the range so some level of hand signal/ASL would be helpful from the range safety officer.

    1. In competition the RO will usually call hits on steel that is at a long distance. For shorter distances, you can see if the steel moves, the impact point on the steel, or — in the case of a miss — you can usually see the dirt kick up on the backstop or berm. There are a lot of cues for deaf and HOH shooters. I’ll put together an article for you.

  2. I too am deaf and would appreciate some assistance.
    I also shoot Steel Challenge and GSSF. In Steel Challenge the RO can call hits in a Level 1 match and that is what is done for me. I believe it is not allowed in a Level 2 or up match ~ please correct me if I’m in error. I have no idea what is allowed in a GSSF match as I’ve never been given any assistance.

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