buying cheap steel targets...questions?


March 12, 2003, 01:31 PM
I'm going to call up a metal shop and ask if they can make me some simple steel targets. Probably just some simple circles I can hang and shoot.

I just need to know how thick I'll need to ask for and what material. I'd like to shoot them with both handguns and rifles...anywhere from 22lr up to 308. I'm thinking half inch thick 3xx stainless. Would this be tough enough to stand up to repetitive hits? Would carbon steel be better? (The thought of rust is discouraging though)

Would I be able to shoot steel with fmj and jhp at 25 yards? (9mm on up)

Any advice would be appreciated.


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March 12, 2003, 02:32 PM
We have a job where we cut out rings from 3/8" plate. They
leave a nice 12" circle of scrap. So far I have only shot them
with 9mm. It just barely marks the plate. I dont know what
a .308 would do to it.


Carlos Cabeza
March 12, 2003, 02:42 PM
That is definitely the way to go. I have done the same thing and made my own from some 1/2" Scrap plate. I have only shot pistol up to .45 cal at them though. Makes a nice "clang" sound. .45 acp doesn't faze them at all. ( and .44 mag)

March 12, 2003, 02:52 PM
.308 will punch holes in 3/8". Don't know about 1/2", but I suspect it won't take very many hits. As for the SS, I think once you see the price, you'll aquire a fondness for a nice patina of rust. :D But it's really not bad. Let it rust a bit, then spray it with some PAM. Yeah, the cooking stuff. You'll get a seasoned finish somewhat like a frying pan.

As for hazards, yeah, they are real. Some folks hang a sheet of thick rubber a few inches in front of the plate. You still get the nice CLANG, but the backsplash is greatly reduced.

AJ Dual
March 12, 2003, 03:11 PM
You could hang the plate, but facing downward at a 45° angle so any backsplatter is also deflected safely down into the ground. I suppose you could get it cut in an elongated oval or rectangle shape to compensate for foreshortening, so it still looks like a circle or square when facing it from the firing line...

There are also innumerable reports of even rifle fire failing to defeat car windshield glass because the angle of deflection is too great, and I'd have to at least suppose that 3/8" or 1/2" steel would also survive a lot longer, if not indefinitely.

Hopefully everybody can view my quick-n-dirty .BMP bitmap I sketched in MS-paint and converted to .JPG...

Carlos Cabeza
March 12, 2003, 03:58 PM
Yes, needs to have an angle towards the ground. Not real smart but the first one I made I kept hearing this whizzing sound after each shot................

March 12, 2003, 04:22 PM
Good advice and a good diagram, Oh Person With The Long Username!


March 12, 2003, 05:04 PM
I have some of those spinning targets you can buy in some gun shops and catalogs. For 22 rimfire I guess they are about 1/4 inch thick and for 44mag they are around a .5 inch or so. They rust and if I ever get them to bend I will turn them around. They came with orange stickers on them and I either paint the centers or add some sort of sticker so I have something to aim at besides the entire circle.

I stuck them across a pond, kind of fun to watch the stuff still bounce back.

These are to be used with lead only though so any of the jacketed stuff might do more damage.

The instructions said to stick them pretty far away, I forget the number but lets just say I really have to work hard to hit them if I have a handgun out that is not working with a fine sight system.

I wound up sticking them across the pond and mostly shoot them with my 22 rifles and 44 lever action.

March 12, 2003, 05:44 PM
I was playing with some 3/4" x 10" x 10" the other day. 308 will leave a nice divot at 325 yds. but just a nice grey circle at 450 yds. I was using match hollow points. 223 just left grey marks on the target even at 325 yds. again using match hp. 45 ACP FMJ did no damage at 50 ft.

I did notice that the bullet splatter had cut a very distinctive groove in the ground just below the targets and to either side for 3 feet, even at 650 yds.

The plates were not swingers, they were welded to two scrap 5/8" round bar. The plates were drops picked up at a fabrication shop.

March 12, 2003, 05:46 PM
Swinging metal targets with lead bullets only are much safer.

Jim Watson
March 12, 2003, 05:51 PM
A centerfire rifle bullet will crater even thick mild steel. I doubt stainless will hold up much better. The craters will then tend to spit bullet fragments back at the firing line; they carry a good ways. A steel plate target should be smooth, it will then fragment or flatten any bullet not moving too fast for its hardness rating. A 45 deg slant is not required, a 15 deg lean will deflect fragments into the ground over about a 6" swath several yards wide. If you want to shoot a .308 at it, buy the 520 Brinell targets that will stand up to it. Don't shoot closer than 100 yards even at them.

I ordered some 3/8" armor steel targets for my club. At 100 yards .223 or .308 SP or JHP only knocked off some paint. Military ball would just mark the steel. A .22-250 would ding it a bit from sheer velocity. The big plate at 50 yards and under on the pistol range was not even marked by magnums.

Then the destructive element arrived. (Our range issues keys to club members and local PD for use 6 1/2 days a week if there is not a scheduled match. Honor system... or not.) We got some half-inch holes in the 100 yard gongs. There are about half a dozen .50 BMGs in town, and we have requested their owners not to fire them on our small range. But they do. Then we started getting .30" or less holes in our pistol gong; had to be a 7mm or .300 Magnum rifle being fired at 50 yards or less.

So don't use cheap mild steel or scrap iron for rifle targets unless they are at considerable range and you don't care how beat up they get. In that case I would use something thin enough to penetrate on purpose, holes cause less spatter than dents and craters.

Larry Ashcraft
March 12, 2003, 06:46 PM
I have a practice chicken from my IHMSA days that is made out of 1" armor plate. My "hot" load in 7mm IHMSA and 154 gr. bullets will leave a small dent at 50 meters. Pistol loads, even FMJ .44 Mag won't mark it.

We had a guy with a .50 BMG at our "Battle of the Bulge" match a few weeks ago. He had built 2 swinger targets out of 4"x1/2" stainless steel, and shot them at 200 yards. We had to dig them out of the berm 10 feet behind where he hit them. Each one had a neat little 1/2" hole in it. :D

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