Metal Plates and Ricochets


Red State
June 20, 2006, 02:01 PM
Does anybody have any experience shooting metal plates that hang on a hinge (free swinging)?

I am building a target, but I am a little worried about ricochets and where the bullets go. I am also considering using steel angle to protect the frame of the target (it will deflect left-right, not up-down).

Rounds used will be .22, .357, .40SW, .45ACP, .223, 12ga slugs, 12ga 00. As far as bounce back or deflections, what is the required minimum distance to the target?

Any thoughts or firsthand experience would be appreciated. Thanks.

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June 20, 2006, 02:36 PM
When shooting at metal targets, the minimum distance from the target should be 25 yds using lead or hollow points. I would increase that distance when using hardball ammo. You targets should be a lot of fun. It's great hearing the ping of metal.

Red State
June 20, 2006, 03:07 PM
Thanks. Appreciate the tip.

June 20, 2006, 03:31 PM
What kind of steel? How thick? Those are important factors. 1/8 mild plate will deform with pistol, and 3/8 mild will get ventilated at 100 yards by .223.

June 20, 2006, 03:48 PM
I made up a 16" by 16" by 1/4" thick steel plate and hung it from chains 3' below the top bar of a target stand about 40 yards away from the firing line. The fact that it hangs free on long-ish chains is key. The bullets tend to deflect straight down when they hit the lower 2/3 of the plate; when they hit the top, they tend to fly about 20' to the sides, or pop straight up (not far). Using a hinge might make the top of the plate too resistant to delfection, and cause ricochets.

This has withstood all handgun calibers up to and including jacketed bullets from my S&W 500, as well as fast and light (>1500fps) loads from my 10mm. It gets dented plenty, and after a while you have to reverse it because it starts to cup, but there are no holes in it yet. The long chains allow it to move. Again the chains are important - many of these rounds would punch right through a fixed steel plate.

I tried angle iron to protect the target stand but removed it because people were shooting too far to the side, causing ricochets that endangered other shooters.

June 20, 2006, 04:00 PM
I am shooting about a dozen steel plate targets from 4" swingers up to a 24" x 33" with everything from a .223 and handgun rounds to .338 Lapua.

The key to target durability and safety is to NOT allow the use of ANY sort of steel jacket or steel core bullet - all bullets must be either pure lead, regular cupro-nickel jacketed bullets or all copper slugs. Barnes bullets and Nosler Ballistic tips fall into the "OK" catagory.

I allowed a guy with an 8mm to shoot his steel jacketed milsurp at a few of the plates at relatively, and while the bullets did frag safely, they also chipped small craters into the surface.

I use a pair of cheap sawhorse brackets to make a sawhorse from 2 x 4s. The crossbar length only has to allow you to spot misses on either side of the plate - maybe an extra foot or so on each side. The leg lengths are enough to get the plate up out of the grass. On a hill, I use longer legs in front, so they'll stand level. Flat ground, all legs can be the same.

I use screw-hooks and chains to suspend the targets and they swing freely. I can e-mail pics of my setups to anyone who wants to see them.

First, you need VERY hard steel. Hot-rolled, cold-rolled and any other form of "mild" steel is a waste of time and money, and a safety hazard.

I used 3/8" AR500 for my own targets. This is harder than T-1 and is the customary material used by the commercial target makers. If a lot of heavier rifle shooting is anticipated, like you shoot a .338 Lapua exclusively, then 1/2" AR500 would be about minimum. With the 3/8" AR500, even at 1,000 yards, we got enough of a temporary dent to flake paint off the back side of the target and leave a *very* small permanent dent. I hate to use anything heavier than necessary. The problem is one of compromise. First, steel is sold per pound, and 1/2" is 25% more costly than 3/8". It is also 25% heavier, and my 24" x 33" target weighs 85 pounds. That is a lot to carry 20 yards up the berm and toss in and out of the pickup truck.

The ONLY bullets I've ever found intact have been pure lead pistol bullets, fired from a .455 Webley at about 50 yards - they were laying at the bottom of the target, totally flat and looked just like nickels. The next biggest pieces I've recovered were a few intact jackets that had expanded to be completely flat, and they looked like star-shaped flowers. They too were laying at the bottom of the plate. I found a few bullets bases, from flat based .30 bullets, that stuck into into the inside surfaces of the sawhorse legs like 1/4" frisbees. Everything else, including the 250 & 300 grain Lapua bullets, goes to dust. You can see the puff when the plate is struck.

Regarding deflecting the bullets off your frames with angle, your .223 will cut right through cold-rolled steel angle, but everything else should roll off it.

I agree with hoghunting, stay back at least 25 yards. If you use good, hard steel plate and non-steel bullets, you should be fine. Weekend before last, we shot (actually machine-gunned) mine with 7.62x39s, 8mm, .223s & .308's at 45-50 yards with nary a return frag, even from the steel jackets 8mms.

Steve in PA
June 20, 2006, 04:16 PM
Steel plate matches are shot at alot closer distances than 25yds.

Next week I will be qualifying my dept and we have a six plate rack that we use. We start at 7 yds and move back from there. This is a factory plate rack, not a home made job so its engineered better.

June 20, 2006, 04:20 PM
25 yards seemed kinda far away--I can barely resolve something smaller than a torso at that range. However, I have to say that I strenuously oppose shooting steel targets at 5 yards. I got thumped in the chest by a spent .357 round because...well, bottom line because I was stupid and didn't pay attention to the fact that I was 15 feet away, and managed to bounce one of my own rounds back into me.

I would personally stay about 10 yards back, but that's only sort of my own rule of thumb. Don't know what, exactly, is safe (although I bet 25 yards is fine).

Jim Watson
June 20, 2006, 04:47 PM
IPSC minimum range to steel pistol targets is 7 meters, used to be 10, and at that range, you WILL get hit by spatter if the targets are at all rough and by chunks if they get cratered and dented. I have been hit a number of times, sometimes hard enough to draw blood; and took a sizeable piece from a low velocity Cowboy load that did not break the skin but left a large knot for weeks.

I would not shoot a rifle any closer than 50 yards on a smooth hard plate.

We had to take down the gongs on our club range because people were getting close enough with magnum rifles to crater and perforate them, even though they were of armor rated steel that would stand up indefinitely at 100 yards.

June 20, 2006, 07:37 PM
At one of JR's little quarry parties, one of the guys shot a steel plate at about 15 or so yards, and caught a piece of jacket in his elbow. Had to do an ER visit.

June 20, 2006, 08:45 PM
For handguns 25 yd minimum . For the 223 that's a very different thing .Are you including FMJ 223 ?? Why does it have to be swinging ? Mine is 3/8" steel at 45 degrees so the bullets deflect down . Works up to 44 mag. 223 I would use armor plate 1" minimum angled and at least 50 yds away.

June 20, 2006, 09:12 PM
The minimum distance allowed to steel targets in Australia is 15m for pistol and 50m for centrefire rifle. In my experience a plywood box over the targets will contain all ricochets.

IIRC steel challenge has targets as close as 10m. There is no mimimum powerfactor for steel challenge, so loads are light.

June 20, 2006, 09:15 PM
Another way is to have a fixed plate with an angled face, so the splatter is directed down. Just use a pot of paint when you can't see your bullet strikes anymore.

The benefit of these is you don't have to reset the target. They make a good IPSC training target, as no patches are required.

June 20, 2006, 09:17 PM
Have a look at this sight for some good ideas.

There are a number of discussion threads on steel target design at the IPSC Global vilalge website.

Double Naught Spy
June 20, 2006, 09:30 PM
I find I can shoot steel very close with FMJ. I have my targets canted right or left from where I am shooting such that all ricochets will not come back toward the shooter. Use your own judgment and be safe.

Oh, and when the target is canted, it presents a smaller target to the shooter, requiring a bit more skill to hit as it appears more skinny because of the canting.

June 20, 2006, 09:55 PM
Thanks for the links. Been to Mirkwood lately?:D

M2 Carbine
June 20, 2006, 11:32 PM
This has been my backyard setup for many years. This steel has been hit with many thousands of bullets.
I shoot from about 5 yard back to 40+. Mostly 15-20 yards.
I don't shoot my steel backstops with anything faster than 1.000 fps except 22LR and I'm careful with any slow bullets.

The fast bullets are no problem. The bullet blows up into very small pieces and dust that exits the edge of the steel. Some mid velocity bullets leave the base of the bullet laying around the backstop. Looks like dimes.

The problem is the low velocity bullets that don't "blow up" on the steel and sizable chunks will splash back. I've never been hit with a piece of bullet that had enough force to even sting.

June 21, 2006, 12:40 AM
I spent about two hundred, and this is what i got

1 8" Brinell 500 (aka AB 500) swinging circle plate $40
1 rebar stand, collapsible $60
1 target frame base, h-frame $40

shipping was a killer. i should have used Oni's shipping labels.

i put it out to 50 yards minimum. swinger is designed so that it ALWAYS angles downwards. Oni, Chuck (thr guys) and I (and the occasional guy next lane over who can't resist shooting someone else's target and thinks no one will know) have POURED the following into it:

.38 spc

with no ill effects. all rounds have been copper or steel jacketed. no hollow points, although I don't think that would be dangerous given target design and range. plate is dirty as heck, and one lucky steel round managed to shave a thin gouge off one of the edges, but otherwise just fine.

the frame, however...

rebar can actually believe it or not take a direct him from any of those rounds, but after a few times it will start to bend. still, the setup still stands.. and i'm sure it's good for much longer.

go to

June 21, 2006, 07:35 PM
I have posted this before and i will do it again now. I live in West Jordan, Utah. IF there is anybody around here that needs it I have a CNC plasma cutter that can cut up to 1" thick on a 4X8 table. IF anybody is interested in making targets I would be happy to do the cutting for free. All you have to do is make a line drawing in DXF format and email it to me. Then bring your steel over and we'll cut it.

I have playnty of scrap but it is all thin mostly 12 guage but some 10. Let me know if anyone is intersted.

June 22, 2006, 12:15 PM
What a great offer, too bad I'm not close by to Jordan Utah.

I think the key here is to be safe. Eyes and ears.

My brother an I built a bowling pin spinner and we occasionally get ricochet from FMJ coming back at us from 7yds. Don't ask me how it happens because I wouldn't believe it if I wasn't there.

Red State
July 7, 2006, 04:53 PM
Hi All,

Thanks so much for your responses. I learned a ton!

Wanted to report back that I went shooting this weekend with some scrap metal plates that I picked up. It was not high quality steel, but it was still fun.

I had two layers of 12ga plate bolted together and turned down at a slight 10 or 15 degree angle. Here are the results (I don't think that many of you will be suprised):

.22lr (75 yards):
no damage to the plate, slight lead marks at the impact points.

.40sw (25 yards):
slight indentations to the plate

.44mag (75 yards): very large (think golf ball) indentations to the plate. it looked as if the metal stretched and "caught" the bullet without being penetrated.

.223rem (75 yards): other than the hole, there was no deforming of the plate (think hot knife through butter).

Looking forward to destryoing some more steel sometime soon!


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