Safety Issues with Steel Plates?


August 18, 2010, 09:40 PM
I am interested in buying a hanging steel plate (AR600 I think itís called) to take with me to the shooting range. I saw another shooter using one at the pistol range and it seemed fun, and sometimes paper targets get alittle old.

The rules of the shooting range allow them, but I was wondering if there were any safety issues such as ricochets or fragmenting. Some sellers were warning not to use the steel plates at ranges less than 100 yards. I would be shooting 7.62x39 FMJ, and 7.62x54 steel core rounds. My shooting range has 25, 100, and 300 yard ranges.

So are steel plates dangerous?

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August 18, 2010, 09:47 PM
ar500 is what youre likely talking about. i wouldnt shoot a steel target with a rifle atanything less than 100yds. If able, I'd hang it so it slight angles down towards the ground to hopefully send the bullet that way. out around 300yds+ I wouldnt think too much about it.

also I think most any manufacturer is not going to recommend steel core ammo.

hope that helps

Zak Smith
August 18, 2010, 10:32 PM
It is imperative to never shoot cratered steel. The surface needs to be regular and flat, and the bullets need to impact at a right angle to the surface.

August 18, 2010, 10:37 PM
You'll tear that target up pretty good with FMJ's. I hit a either 5/8 or 3/4 inch piece once with a few FMJ's from an AK. Cratered the front, bubbled the back. I would imagine the steel core to bust through it.

From what I've always been told, use lead bullets, or in your case perhaps at least lead soft points.

Zak Smith
August 18, 2010, 10:43 PM

If we are talking about AR500 (or AR400 plates), impact velocity is the primary thing that causes plate damage, followed a good ways by bullet material.

An AR500 plate can't tell the difference between a FMJ, OTM/HP, or lead bullet impacting at 2500 fps, if they are all made from lead and copper. The bullets will disintegrate upon impact and the remains will splatter in the plane of the plate's surface.

An AR500 plate can withstand hits from M193 from a 20" rifle at 25 or 50 yards, although it will cause very small pit marks in the surface (approx 1mm). I do not recommend shooting them closer than 100 yards. Eventually multiple hits in the exact same spot will cause work hardening and a "plug" will extrude to the rear of the plate and cause a "hole." But in my experience even this can only happen with very close-range hits.

At matches where we have AR400 plates mixed in with AR500, we limit muzzle velocity to 3200 fps and try to not use AR400 plates closer than 300 yards.

Your AK damaged the steel because it was not AR500 armor steel.

August 19, 2010, 12:53 AM
It is imperative to never shoot cratered steel. The surface needs to be regular and flat, and the bullets need to impact at a right angle to the surface.
Our local range has many steel targets that stay at the range. All of them are severely pitted. The closest is at 100 meters. It is probably 1 inch think and is buried in the ground with about 2 feet sticking up out of the ground.

I have shot everything from 22lr to steel core 7.62X54R at it and have never heard a single ricochet.

I would also like to believe that if there had ever been an incident the targets would have been removed or replaced.

I understand the concern but I think there is a safe range where even dimpled steel is not dangereous.


August 19, 2010, 12:56 AM
I've shot AR500 at 100 yards with 120 Matchkings out a 260 Rem. No damage.

I've shot AR500 at 100 yards with 250 Matchkings out of a 338 LM. No damage.

It's all about the quality of steel. Distance and a long target life go hand in hand.

I also shoot a lot of pistol at steel...10 to 50 yards. Always eye protection and it's imperative they're smooth and flat. I shoot mostly cast bullets (9, 40, 45) at t hem, and you still get hit occasionally.

If it's dimpled all to hell, 100 yards min, but I prefer 200+.

Zak Smith
August 19, 2010, 01:01 AM

I agree that with distances comes safety, to some extent. I have witnessed splashback at 100 yards from heavily cratered steel. If we are talking safety, cratered steel is bad news.

BTW, I am not talking about dimples as you might get in a car from hail damage. I am talking about craters in soft steel.

August 19, 2010, 01:25 AM
How thick are most of the AR500 plates you guys usually see?

Andrew Wyatt
August 19, 2010, 01:27 AM
the other thing that can happen with steel is the actual plate can stress relieve and bow towards you or away from you. away from you is okay, but if the plate bows toward you it becomes a parabolic lead projector.

most of the plates i have (old SOF gun plates) are 3/8" plates. I'll double check tomorrow, but i'm pretty sure that's the thickness.

Zak Smith
August 19, 2010, 01:30 AM

BTW, there was recently a thread either here or on TFL where I describe the most common target system we use for 3Gun and long-range, which we've evolved over about 8 years.

August 19, 2010, 01:31 AM
Well, he repeatedly used the term "steel plate" so no, in my experience it would tear up a regular steel plate, where most ask and request using lead, as it splatters easier and doesn't maintain bullet construction as well as a full jacketed bullet would.

The way it read to me was the OP was asking of steel plates in general.

If you're talking armor plating specifically, that is completely different.

Edit: Oh wait I see what I did. I referenced "that target" which implies the AR steel plate. My apologies. Sorry OP. I was literally thinking of a basic steel plate.

August 19, 2010, 06:03 AM
this one is from an ar50 to a steel plate at 100 yards or metres.
way to go

August 19, 2010, 08:17 AM
Most of the steel I shoot is 3/8ths. I have a bunch of their stuff....good quality, cut on a water jet, cheap.

August 19, 2010, 08:28 AM
here is where i got mine... guys to deal with...

August 19, 2010, 08:32 AM
Sorta off topic but I've witnessed spashback from a shotgun slug hit a competitor in the gut at less than 50 yards at Aurora Gun Club in a 3 gun match once a few years back. Knocked the wind out of him it did.

After that I stood back a ways further whilst spectating.

August 19, 2010, 09:18 AM
It seems range is the key. At a range local range they had a ricochet with a 5.45 round out of a 74 coming back and stricking a women in the stomich. Luckly she wasn't hurt to badly.

It happend because the numb nuts who had the steel plates set them up at like 20 yards. I have no idea why the range officer allowed this. 5.45 is a fast light round of course they were going to bounce around after hitting the steel.

August 19, 2010, 09:57 AM
Thanks for all the information, I just wanted to be sure its safe. I always wear eye protection at the range. I guess I shouldn't use the 7.62x54 steel core if I want the target to last awhile.

(noob question)
So there is a difference between steel plate and AR500? I thought they were the same.

Zak Smith
August 19, 2010, 11:58 AM
There are many types of steel, and plate just refers to the form the material is in, so steel plate could be just about anything.

AR500 is a specific type of steel.

Mr. Bojangles
August 20, 2010, 05:01 AM
The above are all good points.

One more consideration with steel plates is the use of steel-core ammunition. Steel-core ammunition can cause sparks when impacting a steel plate, causing a fire. On many ranges this is not a problem due to lack of ignitable derbis, such as tumble weeds. Just be careful where you set up your target so you don't catch something on fire.

August 20, 2010, 10:29 AM
I wouldn't shoot steel core bullets at a steel plate. Soft lead and copper jackets OK, but Steel on Steel, not a good combination IMO.

August 20, 2010, 11:01 AM
The idea is that if the plate stays flat the bullet disintegrates and splatters out to the sides of the impact. Once you crater steel it introduces many different angles to the target surface that can act as ramps to send the projectile into almost any direction.

If you have a few minutes here are some very high speed videos of bullets impacting both mild and hardened steel plates.

Also why I don’t like using plastic barrels as barricades in shooting sports. The bullet can enter the side of the barrel and spin around inside for unbelievable amount of time all it would take is a hole in the wrong place and it would be coming back at you at about the same speed you sent it away.

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