Shooting a Steel Plate


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dovedescending
March 19, 2010, 01:06 PM
I spent most of my young life under the impression that shooting plate steel would invariably cause a lethal ricochet...

What would be a good source for plate steel for the shooting purposes?

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ArmedBear
March 19, 2010, 01:11 PM
I traded a couple of shotshell reloaders to a guy with a machine and fabrication shop. He made me a really neat one.

It has a takedown stand, with tubes on each end bent into an inverted V, and another tube as a crossbar on top. This has holes where I put S-hooks, and the target itself is a buffalo-shaped steel plate that hangs from two short lengths of chain welded to the top of it.

Due to Newton's laws of gravity, it hangs vertical from the chains, even on rough ground. When a bullet hits it, it swings back slightly, so it's always angled slightly downward and deflects bullets down. It works great, and the whole thing breaks down so it fits in back of a car, on in a Jeep under the guns and shooting gear.

So that's one option: a hanging plate that doesn't spin. Ricochets can be a problem if the plate swings back and points upward, or spins. But a hanging plate isn't a problem.

Also, bullet selection matters.

CelticArmory
March 19, 2010, 01:54 PM
Well, that would depend on the type of material, how thick it was, how far it was from you, the target's angle and what type of ammo/caliber you're using. There is a video of a guy shooting heavy steel at 100 yards with a .50BMG FMJ. The ricochet comes back, skips off the ground about 10 yards in front of him and takes his ear muffs off his head. Four inches to the right and it would have taken his head off.

Sam1911
March 19, 2010, 02:02 PM
AB's got it right. You don't build a rigid steel wall to shoot at. A steel plate target needs to either be affixed on a hinge or chain so that it gives way and deflects the bullet in a safe direction (usually straight down) or, the few that are rigidly mounted tend to be angled sharply downward for the same effect.

You do need to consider what you'll be shooting at it with, at what distance, and how long you want it to last.

I've made a few swinger targets and a dueling tree out of mild steel plate between 3/8" and 1" thick. The 3/8" won't stop most centerfire rifle bullets, so the holes start to outnumber the square inches of steel left pretty fast! 1/2" and up has stopped everything I've shot at it at distances over 100 yds., but they get chewed up.

If you want it to really last, you've got to look at a hardened plate steel (AR 500 is a common one). Those will hold up to heavy rifle rounds a lot longer, but they're expensive.

As far as handgun rounds go, a lot of action shooting disciplines shoot steel poppers, plates, and various silhouettes all the time -- usually at distances no closer than about 11 yds. Lead bullets are probably safest as they will splatter rather than hang together into riccocheting mini projectiles, but various jacketed rounds aren't a problem, actually.

I believe the Cowboy Action shooters (SASS) will shoot steel in a bit closer yet. (Maybe 7 yds?) but they restrict ammo to light all-lead bullets.

Of course, ALWAYS wear you eye protection. Bad things do still happen and catching fragments is just part of shooting steel, sometimes.

ArmedBear
March 19, 2010, 02:07 PM
WRT pistol/revolver shooting, I've seen a separated copper jacket bounce off a steel plate and embed itself in an RSO's leg. Wear eye protection, and if you're shooting at closer ranges, avoid jacketed bullets of any kind.:)

Sam1911
March 19, 2010, 02:09 PM
I've seen a separated copper jacket bounce off a steel plate and embed itself in an RSO's leg.I've been that SO... some days it pays to wear jeans. :D

Warhawk83
March 19, 2010, 02:18 PM
There is a video of a guy shooting heavy steel at 100 yards with a .50BMG FMJ. The ricochet comes back, skips off the ground about 10 yards in front of him and takes his ear muffs off his head. Four inches to the right and it would have taken his head off.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mn0MFqP1js0

Always makes me nervous shooting at steel targets.

Justin
March 19, 2010, 02:20 PM
Wear eye protection definitely. For shooting at the target with pistol rounds or bird shot, 10 yards is a good rule of thumb for a minimum safe distance.

For shotgun slugs, 50 yards would be a minimum, but you'd probably be better putting them further out at 75-100 yards.

For rifle, minimum distance should be around 150 yards, though if your steel isn't AR500, or you intend to minimize wear and tear on the metal, 200 yards is better.

Justin
March 19, 2010, 02:22 PM
Always makes me nervous shooting at steel targets.

I've fired literally thousands of rounds of pistol and rifle ammo at steel targets and have yet to receive an injury any worse than a piece of a bullet jacket bouncing back and causing a minor cut.

Thousands of IPSC, IDPA, 3Gun, and Steel Challenge competitors fire at these sorts of targets at many matches with no ill effect. If you exercise a reasonable amount of caution in your setup, wear proper safety gear, and replace the steel targets once they begin to show signs of extreme wear (lots of pockmarks, and the steel plate begins to kind of bow forward) it's not an issue.

Shooting at a steel target with a .50 BMG at 100 yards is a tremendously bad idea. That'd be a bit like shooting a steel target at three yards with a handgun, of course you're going to get something coming back at you. I had the opportunity to put a few rounds through a Barret last weekend, and we shot a steel target at 425 yards with no ill effect. I have no idea what the minimum safe distance for a .50 BMG would be, but at a guess, I'd assume it to be around 300 yards.

Hangingrock
March 19, 2010, 03:41 PM
http://www.policeone.com/police-products/training/products/articles/67903/

Steel reactive targets: Safety and use
From The FBI Training Bulletin
There are presently a variety of steel targets on the market allowing a wide range of firearms training techniques. However, many of these targets do not provide adequate protection from bullet splatter (the bullet fragments that are reflected when a target is hit), so accidents can occur. It is important, therefore, that the user know what factors make training on steel targets as safe and effective as possible.
When shooting steel targets, a "splatter zone" appears. This zone is the area in which the great majority of bullet fragments eventually wind up. The total amount of splatter in this zone is primarily dependent on the following four key issues: 1) Angle of deflection, 2) Target hardness, 3) Bullet design and 4) Target placement.
Angle of Deflection
The type and design of a steel target determines the angle of deflection. Testing for angle of deflection is done by shooting a steel plate target surrounded by a plywood box. After shooting numerous rounds, the path of the bullet fragments is assessed by examining the marks left on the plywood. As the bullet shatters on impact, the majority of the fragments spread out at 20-degree angles from the plate surface. This area, which forms thin triangular shapes to the left and right of the target, is referred to as the "splatter zone." It is not a safe place to be as a full 95% of all bullet fragments can end up here. The remaining area, including the shooter, is referred to as the "safety zone," and receives only a small portion of bullet fragments. Although the safety zone is not absolutely safe, with proper protection, normal training can be carried on without undue risk.
Target Hardness
The hardness, or tensile strength, of a target measures the amount of force that can be applied to the steel before deformation or damage occurs. Hardness is most commonly measured by a Brinell number ranging from 150 on the soft side, up to 700 on the hard extreme. While the average target is made of the cheaper steel with a Brinell number of 265, some targets have a Brinell number over 500 and can withstand repeated .308 rounds without deformation or damage. Intuitively, it is apparent that a harder steel target will last longer. More importantly, a harder steel target is actually safer. In repeated testing, hard targets produced very consistent splatter patterns and returned little or no bullet material back to the shooter. Softer targets deformed sooner and often resulted in extremely unpredictable splatter patterns. Specifically, many fragments were larger and traveled in virtually every direction, effectively rendering the safety zone non-existent. It is recommended, therefore, that steel targets be made of the harder steel. Initially they will be more expensive, but, based on longevity and safety, they will be more cost effective in the end.
Bullet Design
A high quality, higher power factored ammunition is essential to reduce splatter. Simply stated, to minimize the size and pattern of splatter, drive the projectile harder. Consequently, a lead bullet with a low velocity is the worst option for steel target training. For safe training, it is recommended that only higher power factored bullets be used. A desirable round to produce consistent splatter is a jacketed hollow-point with a velocity of 1225 fps. Another issue is the "correlation factor." This generally refers to how well a bullet holds together to give controlled expansion and penetration. In the case of steel target training, the best bullet is a frangible style round. The high velocity, frangible design of such bullets creates a predictable shattering effect on impact.
Target Placement

Even with the best targets and bullets, training can be dangerous if targets are placed incorrectly. Metal targets should not be placed parallel to each other with out a barrier between them. Splatter from one target could ricochet off another target (secondary splatter), and return to the shooter. Metal targets that are used in a grouping pattern should be staggered so as not to be in the 20 degree angle of deflection splatter zone of another target. Placing plywood to the sides of each target easily solves both of these problems. Because the wood is soft, it will absorb the splatter and not cause dangerous secondary splatter. The wood will, however, need to be replaced frequently to be an effective barrier. Another cause of secondary splatter can be large rocks or concrete. The best surfaces are made of sand or fine gravel. If concrete is used, it should be covered by wood or pea gravel.
Other Safety Issues
Since splatter can only be minimized and never totally eliminated, proper eye protection must be mandatory on all firing ranges. Eye protection should be OSHA tested and have side protection built in. Long sleeves and hats are optional but recommended. Instructors and observers should stand behind the shooter and obey all safety precautions as well. In short, training on steel targets can be safe if done properly. Buy your targets from a reputable manufacturer, use high velocity, frangible ammunition, place targets correctly, and take proper safety precautions.
Glossary Of Steel Making Terms
Alloying Element
Any metallic element added during the making of steel for the purpose of increasing corrosion resistance, hardness, or strength.
Alloy Steel
An iron-based mixture is considered to be an alloy steel when manganese is greater than 1.65%, silicon over 0.5%, copper above 0.6%, or other minimum quantities of alloying elements such as chromium, nickel, molybdenum, or tungsten are present. An enormous variety of distinct properties can be created for the steel by substituting these elements in the recipe.
Carbon Steel
Steel that has properties made up mostly of the element carbon and which relies on the carbon content for structure. Most of the steel produced in the world is carbon steel.
Gauge
The thickness of sheet steel. Better-quality steel has a consistent gauge to prevent weak spots or deformation.
Hardening
WHAT: Process that increases the hardness of steel, i.e., the degree to which steel will resist cutting, abrasion, penetration, bending, and stretching.
WHY: The increased endurance provided by hardening makes steel suitable for additional applications.
Heat Treatment
WHAT: Altering the properties of steel by subjecting it to a series of temperature changes.
WHY: To increase the hardness, strength, or ductility of steel so that it is suitable for additional applications.
High-Carbon Steel
Steel with more than 0.3% carbon. The more carbon that is dissolved in the iron, the less formable and the tougher the steel becomes. High-carbon steel''s hardness makes it suitable for plow blades, shovels, bedsprings, cutting edges, or other high-wear applications.
Low-Carbon Steel
Steel with less than 0.005% carbon is more ductile (malleable): It is capable of being drawn out or rolled thin for use in automotive body applications. Carbon is removed from the steel bath through vacuum degassing.
Plate
Sheet steel with a width of more than eight inches, with a thickness ranging from one quarter of an inch to more than one foot.

Officers'Wife
March 19, 2010, 04:07 PM
Always makes me nervous shooting at steel targets.

Dad would never allow steel targets at any less than 500 yards. My brother is a bit less cautious and has a set of spinners @ 300 yards. Neither could consider a non absorbing target for the 50 cal BMG cartridge.

EddieNFL
March 19, 2010, 04:50 PM
Had a piece of lead dug out of my back, once. We had an RO catch a .38 Super round under his right eye; required surgery.

KAK
March 19, 2010, 04:56 PM
Shouldnt a BMG blow strait through a steel plate? I shoot the knock over ones at 15-25 yards with a 9mm.

wishin
March 19, 2010, 04:59 PM
If you spot weld some eye brackets about a third of the way down the back of the steel plate, it will hang at an angle that effectively deflects the bullet downward.

rcmodel
March 19, 2010, 05:03 PM
Shouldnt a BMG blow strait through a steel plate?No, there is lots of things a .50 won't blow through.
Including armor plate, hardened steel targets made of armor plate, and thick steel it simply can't "blow strait through".

In the event it or any other bullet doesn't make it through, it will bounce straight back at the shooter.
It may shoot your eye out.

I had an old high-school friend lose an eye to jacket fragments off of a close range steel target & .243 WInchester. And another put a hole through the rear fender of his 1950 Ford with a 30-06 AP core bounce back.
Missed his head by only an inche or so.

rc

ArmedBear
March 19, 2010, 06:07 PM
If you spot weld some eye brackets about a third of the way down the back of the steel plate, it will hang at an angle that effectively deflects the bullet downward.


What if you hit the top of the plate?

Caliper_RWVA
March 19, 2010, 09:07 PM
I've got one of those .22 steel targets that is just a few hanging plates. At 50yd the .22 just explodes against the target, no ricochet.

Zak Smith
March 19, 2010, 11:34 PM
There are lots of misconceptions in this thread, along with some good information. The two most key factors for safety are: using steel that will not incur damage from bullet impacts (for rifles this usually means AR500); and making sure the bullet impact is normal ("square") to the target surface. If this is the case, the bullet will disintegrate upon impact and its remnants will become splatter in the same plane as the target face.

shooting at a steel target with a .50 BMG at 100 yards is a tremendously bad idea
Is the above criteria are met, I would consider this safe for lead-core bullets.

M2 Carbine
March 20, 2010, 12:43 AM
What would be a good source for plate steel for the shooting purposes?
That depends on what you want to shoot it with.

My backyard range is steel plate. Some of this steel has been shot 30 years and more. This is just the 1/4 and 3/8 inch plate you would find in a lot of construction projects. Most of this came from the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
Since it isn't hardened steel I limit it to 22LR, 9mm, 38 and 45ACP.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v135/Bell406_206B/Backyardrange-1.jpg

Even a .223 from a 9 inch barrel Kel Tec PLR will drill a sizable hole through this steel plate but a 9mm will just scratch the paint.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v135/Bell406_206B/KT223onsteelfront.jpg

jonmerritt
March 20, 2010, 08:34 AM
My target range has steel plates (angled). I found that my .270 puts holes in them at 200 meters.

wishin
March 20, 2010, 10:44 PM
What if you hit the top of the plate?
I don't understand your question. The entire plate hangs at a tilt angle.

1911Tuner
March 21, 2010, 02:54 PM
Speaking of riccochets and steel plates...

A few months back, I was firing a .41 Magnum Blackhawk at a 50-yard plate at my local range. I was using my own cast bullets...a little softer than commercial cast bullets normally run. The plate had obviously taken many hits, and was heavily cratered. On the last shot in the cylinder, I was braced against one of the 6X6 studs that supported the roof...and the 210-grain bullet somehow made its way straight back to me. It struck my left wrist, on the outboard bone protrusion.

It felt like I'd been hit with a hammer. The impact literally knocked my support hand off the grip, and it tore out a sizeable chunk of skin. Later that evening, the area turned purple...and I don't bruise readily...and the spot was sore for two weeks.

The only thing that I can figure is that it caught a crater on one edge...followed the curve...and got spat back out in the direction from whence it came. If that bullet had struck just a few inches higher, it would have hit me in the face...and possibly an eye. Given the impact and the damage to my wrist, I don't think my glasses would have stopped it.

So, check the steel plate before you shoot it. If it's cratered...find another target.

M2 Carbine
March 21, 2010, 05:01 PM
It felt like I'd been hit with a hammer. The impact literally knocked my support hand off the grip, and it tore out a sizeable chunk of skin. Later that evening, the area turned purple...and I don't bruise readily...and the spot was sore for two weeks.

WOW! Glad you are OK.

jmorris
March 21, 2010, 05:14 PM
Jerry at http://handgunsports.com/ sells ar400 and ar500 for good prices.

3/8 ar500 is fine for non ap ammo. I have used up to 300 win mag but you don't want to shoot closer than 100yds.

Mild steel will crater with just about any rifle ammo and can send stuff back at you. Here are some photos of 1" thick plate steel shot at 250 yards with my 50 bmg. Makes cool paper weights.


http://www.thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=83785&d=1219933866

http://www.thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=83786&d=1219933968

nearlynormalmike
March 21, 2010, 05:54 PM
I use I beams 10 to 12" wide. & 1/4' thick. available as scrap from building construction. Holes cut in each side flange and suspended with chain. The off center holes make it hang at an angle.
They work pretty well but will bend after a large number of hits. I mainly shoot .45 ACP.
I get hit with the occasional fragment but nothing of consequence. ALWAYS wear eye protection.

Officers'Wife
March 21, 2010, 07:28 PM
Hi M2,

Interesting photo, have you considered instead of mounting with chain or clevis bolting the chain to the backside of the plate putting the plate at a more bullet deflecting angle?

Zak Smith
March 21, 2010, 10:55 PM
+1 Never shoot cratered steel. It's very dangerous.

M2 Carbine
March 21, 2010, 11:23 PM
Hi M2,
Interesting photo, have you considered instead of mounting with chain or clevis bolting the chain to the backside of the plate putting the plate at a more bullet deflecting angle?
Good idea.
I haven't had any problem with the targets hanging straight but having them hanging at an angle is a better idea.

This is a quick easy way to hang steel plate. This was a temporary set up that's been there 15+ years.:)http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v135/Bell406_206B/Steelbulletstop2.jpg

wilkersk
March 22, 2010, 12:42 AM
Lots of steel shooting at USPSA matches. Minmimum safe distance for engaging steel targets is 23 feet for handguns per USPSA rule 10.5.17.

I've had bullet fragments fly over the berm and hit me from adjacent shooting bays on more than one occasion. Though, they usually have very little energy, they're a distraction, and could potentially cause an eye inury.

One RO told me that he will not go to a pistol range without a good hat with a brim and shooting glasses.


Steel plate rack:

http://www.mgmtargets.com/images/products/plate_rack_econo.gif

Texas Star:

http://www.anythingmetal.com/projects/images/guntarget1.jpg

Steel Poppers:

http://www.anythingmetal.com/projects/images/popperssmall.jpg

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