Metal plate shooting, good idea or not?


August 17, 2008, 06:18 PM
I can find hardly any information on shooting metal plate with high powered rifles. Basically I've managed to obtain a slab of 1/2 inch thick metal plate and liked the idea of shooting a target that you know you've hit when it "tings" rather than having to buy special targets + spotting scope or running back and forth to see if you've even hit the target.

I own a full length dragunov tigr that slings 7.62x54r. The 180 - 203gr variety of ammo I'm using would probably have a muzzle velocity of approx 2,400-2500 fps. I would be using the plate at approximately 250 yards. Yes I've seen the youtube video of the guy getting hit by a .50 cal ricochet but figure he must have been shooting at far longer range than I plan to.

I realize that obviously the type of ammo is important and soft point hunting ammo is going to largely splat against the plate and, I'm guessing, unlikely to cause ricochet problems. However I've got a whole box of FMJ ammo that may like to ricochet. What I'd like to know is would an FMJ round still be going fast enough at 250 yards to disintegrate or burry itself in the plate rather than causing a ricochet?

I thought about putting the metal plate on an angle like " \ " so richottes would basically ping off the plate and into the ground. Unless the upper edge is likely to cause problems it seems like a good idea for further distance shooting also?

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August 17, 2008, 06:24 PM
I shot a 3/4 inch steel plate with a dragunov at about 50 yards with soft point hunting ammo, and hit my dad in the cheek with a ricocheted piece of the jacket. It also punched about 3/4 of the way through the plate. Given thats a lot closer than 250 yards though.

August 17, 2008, 06:27 PM
As long as you do it at long range, it is safe.

I had a friend in high school lose an eye shooting a bridge rail with a .243 at about 20 yards.

Another friend put a 30-06 AP core through his cars rear fender shooting a chunk of railroad rail at about 30 yards.


August 17, 2008, 06:51 PM
Regarding that .50 cal ricochet, I managed to source it back to its origin - and found that the distance fired was only 100 yards and the round should have penetrated the metal. Seems like that round may have been faulty as it appears very underpowered for whatever reason.

"6-27-07: BOOM HEADSHOT! This is amazing. Willie, the father of Tina, who made the sandbag rests fires a .50BMG, an Armalite AR-50 and it ricochets off of a steel plate that it should have easily penetrated. The bullet comes straight back and hits him in the head. You can see it hit the dirt about 15 feet in front on him before it clobbers him. Luckily he was uninjured. He's a bit sore today, but otherwise fine. Lucky lucky bastard. He has been advised to buy lottery tickets while he still has so much luck. I don't know about the timing, but you can hear the hit on the steel plate. Time that till the impact on Willie's head... how fast is that 750 grain slug traveling? The range is 100 yards. Amazing."

August 17, 2008, 07:05 PM
I made a steel target once out of 3/4 plate. I cut it round, about 2.5 feet diameter and weled a chain to it and hung it in an old oak tree.

Used to shoot at it from about 85-100 yards with everything from 22lr to 8mm mauser FMJ, to 30-06 armor piercing.

Never had a riccochet come back to me from it.

I did once have a piece of a 30-06 armor piercing round come back and hit me in the belly...shot at a 2" thick piece of steel plate from about 45 yards.

August 17, 2008, 07:09 PM
if mild steels under 3/4" are used such as a588 and a572 you will shoot right through it with a high powered rifle shooting SP ammo at ranges inside 200m even thicker plate up to 3/4" will crater very badly. I made a 11x11" swinger target from 3/4" A588 and it held up sorta OK as long as I really watched what I shot it with and at what ranges. What I noticed is that impact velocity had much more of an effect on the target than bullet type.

I just recently upgraded my target to utilize a AR500 steel plate from a target manufacturer, I have yet to shoot it though.

I also believe that it's a MUST to build in some kind of motion into the target ti help absorb and not deflect bullets back at the shooter. Keeping all surfaces on the target perpendicular or angled away from the shooter is also very important, including craters

August 17, 2008, 07:10 PM
Just my opinion, but mounting the plate to the ground kinda defeats the purpose, in mymind. It's more fun to hang it and try to make it "gong".

August 17, 2008, 07:10 PM
I had a friend in high school lose an eye shooting a bridge rail with a .243 at about 20 yards.I got lucky, but I did something similarly stupid when I was young. The sound of a 30-30 slug whistling by your head will make you sit up and take notice. I never thought I would hit what I aimed at. My mistake. I just threw it up and shot. I had to hit it just right, and I did. :o

Jeff F
August 17, 2008, 07:18 PM
Shooting steel is a long range proposition, especially when using jacketed bullets. The hand gunners that shoot the poppers and falling plates are shooting lead, the bullets flatten or splatter on impact for the most part but I have seen bullets, parts of bullets and splatter come back at the shooter. Ware your shooting glasses.

August 17, 2008, 07:18 PM
Plates staked to the groundor on posts stil gong. Also, mount them facing at a downward angle so that the ricochette is deflected down. Also unless the plast is Ar500 or better, don't be surprised when it get's beat all to hell at 100 yards with 7.62x54.

August 17, 2008, 07:19 PM
Steel plates you shoot at need to be purpose built from armor plate, so only the bullet splatters. Otherwise the plates pockmark (crater) and send splatter back towards the firing line which can be dangerous indeed.

I shoot mostly steel plates, but they have to be rated for the caliber you use. For my rifles I use plates rated up to .30-'06 at 75-100 yards. Mostly I shoot .22lr, .223, and 7.62x39 at them. They've held up very well. Actually I prefer making water filled 2-liter plastic pop bottles or gallon milk jugs explode, but after these are gone, the metal plates work until I'm out of ammo.


August 17, 2008, 07:32 PM

August 17, 2008, 08:17 PM
I shoot 10 inch 3/4 thick mild steel from 300-600 yards. If you angle it up or down you should be safe a little closer. Never under 100 yards though. My 168SMK's splatter at 500. We even set up cardboard around it and at 10 yards from the plate there was no frag penetration. However a 2 litre coke bottle full of water that was on the ground below the gong was looking like it was hit with a .410 and all the water leaked out by the time we drove back to change targets.

August 17, 2008, 09:58 PM
Jacketed bullets and steel plates don't mix particularly well, especially at "short" range. I've seen a 50BMG fired at a 100yd steel plate strip the copper jacket and deposit it in a truck parked behind the firing line. This happened even though the core went straight through the plate...

OTOH you can shoot .22LR at 1/4" steel all day long and only mess up your grass with the splattered fragments.

Zak Smith
August 17, 2008, 10:37 PM
I agree with the comments so far-- to a point. If you are within the distance a ricochet or backsplatter might travel, it is imperative that the steel is proper AR500 armor steel set up at an angle which causes the bullet to splatter on impact and put the fragments in safe directions. In matches we shoot armor steel as close as 75 yards, and other times we've done it as close as 30-50 yards.

August 17, 2008, 10:47 PM
Good info here. I measured the steel plate and it turns out to be about 1/3" thick and it comes off some old farm equipment. I have 2 of them. What I plan to do is use wire to hold it against a farm fence. I would be firing down onto it from an elevated position anyhow so if there did happen to be any deflection it would be downward and not straight back. From what I've read I won't be expecting it to last long it's probably going mangle into a mess no matter what bullets I use on it. [edit] As you can see this is no where near armour quality plate and has holes in it. Is this asking for trouble or will bullets bash through it?

August 17, 2008, 11:03 PM
I just came back from a steel plate shoot. 8"dia/3/4" A36 mild steel on a 3"X3" base, 200yds. Mil-surp rifles firing 223, 30-06, 303 Brit, 308, 7.62X54, 7.62X39. Most dent them, a few go through. Haven't had any problems with return fire yet.

Livin in Texas

August 18, 2008, 01:15 AM
We have shot a BUNCH of steel plates at 300-600 yards.

They are all hung up and allowed to swing. The bullets disenergrate upon impact, 308 and 223 FMJs.

The shards do find themselves mostly in the ground, but quite a bit in the wooden fence posts used to make the frame that they hang from.

With them being able to swing, they are more apt to deflect downward. Also, the steel swings some, thus "giving" to the bullet, this results in less damage to the steel. Set up like you have it, there is no give and you will find more penetration.

Our steel is a large mix of 3/8" and 1/2" soft metal

Art Eatman
August 18, 2008, 10:22 AM
I have several steel plates as targets. What I've found is that if you set up the frame or the hanging chain so the plate is angled some five or ten degrees, away from you at the bottom, splatter and ricochets hit the ground below the plate. Bounce-back won't come straight at your precious bod.

August 18, 2008, 10:58 AM
As discussed above, mild steel is a very bad idea. Best case, it's gets shot up and becomes worthless relatively quickly. Worst case, a partial penetration traps bullet material in the crater and it gets "squirted" back at the firing line. Harder metals (steel) have a certain elasticity that will work against you and high pressure deformation often stores kinetic energy. Hit a hammer face against a hammer face and see what I mean (use your eye protection).

I was present at the incident mentioned by boatbod occurred, when a LARGE piece of .50BMG jacket, if not the whole jacket, came back. This happened when a piece of railroad "tie plate" was shot with a .50 at relatively close range. The core penetrated the moderately hard plate, leaving a 3/8" hole, and the jacket was squeezed off and rebounded to the firing line. Railroad tie plate is tougher than cold rolled or hot rolled steel, but, is still too soft to shoot and expect good results.

Like almost every commercial target manufacturer these days, I use AR-500. Mine is 3/8" thick and we'd shoot it with rifles up to the .338 Lapua and typically get 100% fragmentation. Many handgunners shoot jacketed bullets at HARD steel plate, and get full fragmentation as well - they don't have to be pure lead bullets at all. I would even prefer 1/2" AR-500 over my 3/8", but my larger target already weighs 85# . . .

The KEY is having steel hard enough to resist deformation, and thus allowing the bullet to splash in a radial pattern at 90o to bullet travel. It MUST NOT crater, and every instance of serious rebound has been with makeshift plates. AR-500 steel is MININUM and as long as no steel jacketed or steel core ammo is used, one will normally get a puff of dust on target.

Even at 50 yards, even a .300 WinMag will completely disintegrate on AR-500 and the marks left on the plate are readily covered with spray paint. About the only way to really damage AR-500 without using bullets with steel components is to use a hyper velocity round at closer ranges, since bullets much over 3,000 fps begin to exhibit exaggerated penetration abilities.

Using standard lead core, cupro-jacketed rifle bullets at average velocities, the biggest frags we've found to date have been small round disks of bullet jacket material from the base of a flat-based bullet.

That said, protective eyewear is a must when engaging in the shooting sports, and is especially important when shooting steel. It is not unheard of for fragments to return to the line when shooting steel with handguns at close ranges.

If one does feel compelled to go against what has become a well known and relatively safe practice of shooting AR500 steel plate, and insists on shooting mild steel targets, this should be done at longer ranges to reduce the damage *when* (not "if") a bullet comes back. Likewise, the idiotic practice of shooting steel with steel should never be engaged in without expecting to eventually be injured or injuring some one else, possibly severely.

August 18, 2008, 04:03 PM Academy Sports and Outdoors have plates advertises this last weekend.

August 18, 2008, 04:30 PM
or the hanging chain so the plate is angled some five or ten degrees away from you at the bottomI had one I used at the range. It would splatter everything down. I forgot it one Thursday. I went back Friday, and someone had gotten it. :(

August 18, 2008, 05:15 PM
The system i use is about the most efficient, portable, and cheap as any i've ever seen so far. Call the local brickyard and see if they have any scrap cinder block molds. This stuff is some kinda super-hard steel that's not brittle, and will not crater like other steels i've attempted to use. Most of the time they'll give it to you--0.5X9.25X19", and some smaller end pieces. You'll have to burn holes in it for suspending, since u can't drill it. Next go out to the local scrapyard and get 3 pieces of rebar. Go to the hardware store and get 2 copper or galvanized plumbing T's. Get some of the S-hooks u see on the end of rubber bungee cords (found free on the road oftentimes) or at a canvas company for suspending the steel. Now pound 2 of the rebar into the ground, set the T's on top, raise slightly to slide the 3rd thru parallel to the ground to suspend the steel on. Works great as long as i don't shoot at it closer than 100 yds. or so.

August 19, 2008, 03:57 AM
A lot of good input, good stuff.

Okay basically if I'm going to have some decent long term fun with metal plate I'm going to have to get some good tough steel. I have a friend who works in a digger bucket factory who can source some .63" (16mm) Bisalloy which is used in such things as bulldozer blades and digger bucket teeth because of its tough anti abrasive properties. I've had a couple of fellow NZ shooters recommend this stuff also. AR500, which has been recommended, would be the ideal choice, but the bisalloy is right on hand and is said to be also well suited for the job.

I’ve got a target like this in mind although I would use wire rather than welded chains to attach it to the frame.

August 19, 2008, 04:20 AM
Be careful not to shoot the chain or wire suspending the gong.

I've found that rope doesn't work well because the edges of the metal cut the rope each time you shoot the gong, and ultimately cut the rope. That was a frustrating day at the range - continually going out and retying the rope! :banghead:

Zak Smith
August 19, 2008, 12:13 PM
Use conveyor belt material, it's almost impossible to destroy.

August 19, 2008, 12:33 PM
My son and I go to a site where we have a 3/4 steel plate hanging at the end of the range... 120 yards and up hill. I can attest to the fact that on impact there is some back scatter, but the bullet penetrates leaving a half inch hole. I use those Shoot'n'see targets, and when pasted to the steel plate you see a hole the size of a 50 cent piece, so the hot spew that reflects is coming out in all directions but I doubt its going more than 10 or 20 yards....


August 19, 2008, 12:47 PM
I'm a believer that the farther away you are the less chance you're hit, but I'm not betting that it can never come back the same distance it went in. I've not shot at a steel plate, but used to shoot 22's at targets hung between steel t-posts...until a 22 shard from a Ruger mark III came back 15 yards and cut my forehead. I now hang targets from wooden posts to eliminate the chance it'll bounce.

September 3, 2008, 12:48 AM
I decided to heed advice and get some decent steel. I've rigged up my own metal plate target, .63"(16mm) Bisalloy 400 steel 9.8"x9.8" (250mmx250mm). Wooden frame was easy to knock up out of some scrap wood and folds flat if I want to chuck it in the car although I need to be careful not to shoot it to shreds. The wire is good as the plate can be adjusted for height or detached for transport fairly quickly. All I have to do now is shoot it!

September 3, 2008, 01:11 AM
Doesn't anyone shoot at paper anymore?:)


September 3, 2008, 02:24 AM
Paper is fine and dandy but I hate going down and seeing if I hit it.
With metal ya know when it is a hit. Big plus when all you use is iron sights.
Especially at ranges over 100 yds.

My 1st attempt at a frame. While it worked well it didn't hold up well against inexperienced shooters.

This frame solved that problem, only downside is it doesn't fit in the trunk of my car. But it does make a handy container for other peoples trash that I always seem to clean up.

September 9, 2008, 09:11 PM
That is some supremely busted up steel plate powermad! I thought I'd give my bisalloy plate a work over to test its durability. I can always flip it around for a fresh face.

203gr 7.62x54r Barnaul SP @ 100meters and 200 meters. It's not to hard to figure out which indents are from the 100 meters range. 100 meters is very close and really only an experiment. [edit] the smaller, non indent, splash marks are from a .22

Navy joe
September 9, 2008, 09:32 PM
The last two posts show dangerous steel, crap is going to come back, every pock is like a little satellite dish reflector. The through holes can send jacket back too as the bullet penetrates. I've shot AR-500 poppers at 25 yards with an AR, others there had .308 that didn't touch them either. The bisalloy is doing okay but is still pocking, probably last forever with a handgun.

September 9, 2008, 10:09 PM
I'd never shoot closer than 100 meters with the 7.62x54r and most commonly at 200 meters and further. Fragmentation will come back a bit if it hits one of the indentations but I'll be well away.

The splashes without indent are from a .22. The plate itself was cheap, only about $24 USD which I got at cost. The digger bucket factory I sourced the plate from also have Bisalloy 500 which is apparently so hard they cannot drill it. The plate I've got is bisalloy 400.

September 9, 2008, 10:29 PM
Ahhh, this whole 7.62x54r/steel plate discussion brings back a not so fond memory.

Once upon a time, shortly after I purchased my first mil-surp (91-30 ex-sniper) I was shooting a suspended steel plate that came from a pile of railroad ties. Then after about 20 uneventful rounds, I shoot and hear 'zing' over my head and feel something zip through my hair. I reached up and discovered that a patch of my hair had been clipped by a bullet that seemingly defied the laws of physics. Pretty scary stuff!

I still shoot steel, but it's all heavy duty stuff made out of brushog blades. Even 30-06 FMJ doesn't make a scratch. I think the problem I encountered before was due to the aforementioned 'cratering.' Don's shoot soft steel!


September 9, 2008, 10:31 PM
Incidentally, the railroad steel I was shooting looks almost identical to Powermad's steel plate..........

September 9, 2008, 10:32 PM
Depends on the grade of steel.

Sir Aardvark
September 9, 2008, 11:20 PM
I'd feel most comfortable shooting Hardened steel plate that is angled about 10-15 degrees towards the ground.

Also, distance is your friend.

I have seen jackets pop right off of the bullets and come straight back at people who were shooting handguns at non-angled plates - makes me kinda nervous!

September 10, 2008, 12:32 AM
Box of truth site did some deflection testing with wood dowels.

.223 deflected quite a bit, 12ga slug and 500gr 45-70 GC lead not so much.

September 10, 2008, 12:49 AM
I haven't read what's been said, but I will give the only info I need to know and provide: Shooting steel plate at close range with rifles is BAD NEWS.

Details of my incident:

270 Win, 150gr SP, 50 yards standing, 5/8" steel plate target. Around 5th shot I get whacked in the side, hard. I thought that I was hit through thick clothing only and just felt the shock of the hit. I was wrong when I saw the hole in my coat, sweatshirt, T-shirt underneath, and a hole through the thick Carhardt overalls I was wearing. The fully mushroomed bullet hit me sideways, penetrated all those layers, and then penetrated me about 1" in. Right below the ribs on the left. You could see the shape of the hole through the clothing, completely mushroomed and sideways impact. Nylon from the coat was silkscreened onto my shirt underneath. The bullet had to be about 400 degrees when it hit me from hitting the plate. It came out and burned me everywhere inside my shirt bouncing around after it penetrated and popped back out. It was numb and stinging at the same time, and I had no idea I was being burned like crazy as it was occurring. I had a huge bruise about 6" diameter.

Had that struck my head, I do not know what the outcome would have been.

September 10, 2008, 07:50 AM
grantman, unless the wire is very, very tough, it will probably break quite soon. if you want to use something other than chain, stainless steel cable (multi stranded) would be a better choice. or reinforced rubber (like as used in grocery store conveyor belts) belting would also be a good choice. if possible, i would run a cable to the bottom of the target so you can keep a 15 degree or so angle on the plate so the bullets ricochet DOWNWARD. have fun, be safe!

September 10, 2008, 05:29 PM
good idea about the steel cable moose.

I would definitely have angled the plate but I was shooting from quite an elevated position which created somewhat of an angle. I've got the bottom of the plate drilled especially to pass a cable or wire through to create the angle in future and definitely for FMJ!

September 10, 2008, 05:39 PM
It is fine if you have 2 things in order.
First, the steel needs to be at least A400 or harder so it does not pocket. Pocketed steel is more dangerous than a flat surface. Don't bother shooting rifles at mild steel... it will cut through like nothing.
Second, I follow these range minimums: 25 yards for pistols, and 50 yards for rifles (100 yards is even better). For a 54r, I might go 200 yards.
Been shooting steel for a few years at these specs with no issues.
Remember to hit the steel at as close to a 90 degree angle as possible. Also, polycarbonate eye wear is a must... no plain old sunglasses.

September 10, 2008, 08:15 PM
Here are my steel plates. Steel is AR500.

September 11, 2008, 03:40 AM
I knew a guy who caught a piece of 5.56 in his chest after shooting a steel plate at about 50 yards. It didn't penetrate deep but it looked painful. I would just say no all together, but putting it out at 400 yards sounds reasonably safe as far as shooting guns goes.

September 11, 2008, 04:51 AM
Those are nice targets aubie. I really like the basic steel frame and latch method of attaching the plate.

A great site on steel plate and other reactive targets was recommended to me below. Very interesting.

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