Need thoughts on a steel rifle target


January 3, 2012, 12:39 PM
I do most of my shooting at a farm here in rural Central Kentucky. My friend (who owns it) and I are looking to come up with a "long distance" (remember this is hilly, ravine filled, full of "hollers" Central Kentucky) target that we can shoot at, know we hit, not have rounds come back at us, and not require us to troop back and forth relatively often.

Problem is we can only hit about 75-100 yards due to the geography.
...and we're on a budget. No several hundred dollar professional targets.

At the end of our safe shooting area is a mostly dry creek bed that's overgrown with trees and brush. My thought was hack our way back there and hang a square or circle or something of hardened plate steel from a decent sized chain.

My thoughts are the hardened steel wouldn't let FMJ rounds blow right through it, the chain makes it durable and weather proof, while also moving so hopefully the rounds aren't coming back at us...

...tell me if I'm wrong please.

Looking to shoot at this with 7.62x39mm AK and SKS rifles and 7.62x54R Mosin Nagants primarily, but also all kinds of other common centerfire military and hunting rifles including .303 British, .30-06, .223/5.56mm, .243, .308, etc etc etc. Heck, maybe even 12ga slugs if we're feeling froggy.

Any useful comments, suggestions, thoughts, whatever appreciated.

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January 3, 2012, 01:01 PM
You're right. AR (stands for abrasion resistance) 500 steel is what you want. Most come with holes in them to you can bolt some chain on the back.

3/8ths is more than adequate, although most guys also sell 1/2" if you feel the need.

I would NOT recommend using steel core or slugs. Even armor plate has it's limits.

I use Grade 8 bolts, and some decent chain and have had no problems. Hanging the target so it can swing helps absorb energy so the targets don't get as damaged also. Lots of guys recommend conveyor belt or pieces of old fire hose but I have no sources for materials like that so can't really comment on it.

Personally, I buy two long steel stakes at Lowes and just pound them in the ground and hang the target in the middle using some eye-bolts and carabiners. Portability is important to me because I usually shoot on someones property and need to put up/take down everything we bring. As far as the stand, your mind is the limit...from using rebar or pipe or t-posts, or whatever. If you're building it and leaving it set up, obviously I would suggest some metal structure, but it's up to you.

I have bought through Big Dog Steel (, Salute Products ( and member jcvibby ( on THR. All steel was as advertised and shoots great (no damage whatsoever from 223 at 25 yards to 338 LM at 1500 yards)

AR 500 is tough stuff, and when you heat it (as in cutting it) it becomes softer. Some of the steel I've bought was laser cut and is a bit soft on the edges while other water jet steel is hard from edge to edge.

Steel becomes dangerous at the closer ranges and especially when cratered. That crater acts as a "u-turn" and bullets and/or fragments can come back. As long as the steel is smooth or at a decent distance, you should have no problems.

Pics from Big Dog Steel.

T-post bracket

4x4 bracket

January 3, 2012, 01:21 PM
My steel target is a 15" square of standard mild plate, 7/16 thick. Welded on to lengths of chain with a ring on the end to suspend from a bar. Put that at 200 yards and when the round hits it gets deflected downward, cuz the plate will swing. Made the same thing for pistol targets with 8" plates, of course much closer like 20 yards. Never had trouble with any splatter/blowback, I shoot .38/.357, .45 at them.

January 3, 2012, 01:52 PM
Was thinking about hanging it/them from tree branches out in the scrub land back there. Not a lot alive back there but many are large trees. If not then we can certainly do posts of some sort.

Wondering about figuring out a way to rig the plate so the it hangs at an angle with the bottom to the rear. Would help deflect bullets down I think.

Glad to know I'm not entirely off in lala land on this.

January 3, 2012, 02:03 PM
To get some of the plates to hang at an angle, I used longer bolts and put a bunch of nuts between the plate and the washer/chain/washer/lock-nut on the end. It will force the plate to hang angled downward, and I haven't had a problem yet.

On some of the plates that are hard mounted, I fabricated swinging brackets out of scrap metal sheet and pipe. In these I made the bracket so the plates would be angled down, but if you don't have access to equipment, the above method has worked for me.

January 3, 2012, 02:03 PM
If you are going to be shooting Mosin Nagants, SKS and the like you are likely going to be shooting surplus ammo and that means steel core, and that means you are going to punch holes in just about any commercial target, not dent but punch holes. I bought at a garage sale (don't know where the guy got them) some very heavy, very thick steel that us used in holding rail road rails down to the ties. Not the spikes but there it a bit of metal that the rail actually sits on. This stuff has for me held up (so far) to 7.62x54R surplus steel core ammo. I would also start saving old tires to build a wall if you will around where you are going to hang your target to stop the splatter. I generally shoot mine at 50-75 yards and have not had anything come back at me. Everything that I have is put up for winter now, but I do have some of the raw steel still out....if you would like I can take some pics of the steel. My home range is currently under a major re-construction.

January 3, 2012, 02:06 PM
I have been known to use old, empty propane tanks.

January 3, 2012, 02:10 PM
fpgt72, I'd like to see those pictures when you can get to them.

I thought they were mild steel, as in soft as lead, cores? The AK ammo is all Wolf, Tula, Golden Tiger, whatever ammo. The Mosin ammo is surplus in the old potmetal cans.

January 3, 2012, 02:13 PM
Ar500 does well against SMKs... I shoot 300g smk (2800 fps) at ar500 steel as close as 300 yards, and it does not do any damage. Steel core ammo etc will be something different though...

January 3, 2012, 02:27 PM
You might look into action target. Nutnfancy has been shooting them for years now and has several reviews out. They have all kinds of shapes and sizes, are made in the U.S., and are not to bad as far as price.

They usually come with a stand, but if you wanted a permanent mound you might look into their range targets.

Shooting steel with a rifle, esp a major caliber like a 30-06, is generally considered unsafe within 100 yards unless you use frangible ammo. And if you don't already this is a great time to start wearing shooting glasses.

January 3, 2012, 08:56 PM
Wideners ( has a pretty good selection of plates. AR500, 3/8" or 1/2". They have holes pre-drilled, with long bolts they will hang so bullets deflect down some.

January 3, 2012, 09:02 PM
I used to cut my silhouette from 3/8 steel plate, welded to old truck springs, atttached by weld or bolted plate, to some chevy rims..Yeah, a little redneck, but lasted awhile without repair and you instantly see your hits.. FWIW 30.06 and .270 will penetrate easily at your distance.

January 3, 2012, 09:04 PM
Shooting steel with a rifle, esp a major caliber like a 30-06, is generally considered unsafe within 100 yards
I'd second that. Even with an angled target. Better to be safe than sorry.

January 3, 2012, 09:22 PM
FWIW 30.06 and .270 will penetrate easily at your distance.

Mild steel, sure. If you buy the proper hardness for shooting, you will have no problems.

January 4, 2012, 08:34 AM
My experience with hardened steel has been consistently poor. I tried using brake rotors, and they litterally explode into pieces at 200 yds.. On the other side of the spectrum, I've tried using 1/2" softer steel, the stuff used to cover trenches when city road crews don't want to block a street during construction, and my high pwered rifle rounds blow right through it at 200 yds.. I'm quite certain either type steel would work well for most handgun cartridges, but not safe or effective for high powered rifle rounds at that close of distance. My neighbor's brother was shooting his 30-06 at steel from around 100 yds., and although the rounds didn't go through, one did come straight back and killed him.

If you are planning on shooting at it with non jackted standard target rounds, you'll probably have no issues. I had a jacketed .357 magnum round nearly hit me after being shot at a steel target, and it didn't just drop at my feet, it was moving fast enough to produce that familar ricochet sound.

January 4, 2012, 10:36 AM
+1 for railroad plates. I work for a RR and that's what me and a buddy use. If you know anyone that works on a RR they could get you few. Pretty easy to come by.

January 4, 2012, 10:55 AM
Buy a square target from Big Dog...and if you get ricochets back towards you or manage to damage it from normal use, I'll buy it off you.* Seriously.

I shoot the crap out of about 5 different pieces from three different manufacturers and have no holes, no ricochets, hardly even a dimple, and I've shot mine a bunch with 338 LM at 200 yards. As long as the target can move/swing to absorb the energy, I promise you'll have no problems.

*Ricochets? No steel is safe under 10-15 yards with pistol and no less than 100 with rifle. If the steel becomes cratered, all bets are off as far as ricochets. Also, "normal use" means no AP/steel core or slugs. Normal FMJ should be no problem.

January 4, 2012, 12:17 PM
I will get the pics for you tonight when I get home and get them posted up for you. Perhaps LSMS can tell me what they are...I think the rails actually sit on them.

My setup (it is being rebuilt now) had several tires stacked on each side to catch splatter, the plate was hung with a chain between to posts in the is very heavy so the posts are pretty deep. The backstop is the back of my septic pond with a few loads of dirt to fill in in a little more. I generally shoot between 50-75 yards and have never gotten any splatter.

I can tell you that the surplus 7.62x54R stuff will punch holes in stuff that is rated for rifles.

January 4, 2012, 12:22 PM
7.62x54R on AR500 steel (

Edited to add another vid:

AR500 vs. mild steel (

January 4, 2012, 12:27 PM
Hrmmmm, about what I thought. Always told only the actual AP ammo had the hardened steel centers.

January 4, 2012, 12:36 PM
remember that mostly what kills steel is speed. a light 45g copper/lead varmint bullet from a 220 swift will wreck armor plate. keep the velocity below 3200 or better yet 3100 and don't use steel core and you should be fine.

January 4, 2012, 01:15 PM
Part...heck the big part of what makes these Mosins so attractive is the cost of that surplus ammo.....and that surplus ammo is steel core....and that stuff hits very hard. I think the OP is looking for something that will stop the factory (tula and such) ammo as well as the stuff that is in the spam cans. Suggesting something that is only going to stop a "factory" bullet is (I think) not what he is looking for.

Speed is a factor as is how the bullet is made and what it is made from. I have seen .17 pit steel. The problem with the surplus is not how fast it is moving but what it is made from.

Zak Smith
January 4, 2012, 04:49 PM
I run a lot of rifle matches and we use waterjet-cut AR500 plate. With muzzle velocities limited to 3200 fps, we basically never incur target damage.

January 4, 2012, 06:42 PM
Here are some quick and dirty pics of the steel that I use. This is the raw stuff not cleaned up yet....I wish I had some pictures of the stuff that I had been using...I will see if I can dig it out this weekend.

January 4, 2012, 07:01 PM
Here are some quick and dirty pics of the steel that I use. This is the raw stuff not cleaned up yet....I wish I had some pictures of the stuff that I had been using...I will see if I can dig it out this weekend.

Those are actually used on switches and harder to come by as when you pull maintenance on a switch they can be reused most of the time. They're called hook plates. These are the ones I use and very easy to come by if you know someone with access.

January 5, 2012, 07:01 AM
My job includes working with the railroad and we have an old line right next to us. I may have to look around out there.:cool:

February 23, 2012, 01:00 PM
Check out that group buy in the for sale section right now. We have some awesome prices that cant be beat!! And we donate our proceeds back to our youth ranch for at risk youth.

BTW, AR500 is the stuff to get for sure. It will last a lifetime!!


February 23, 2012, 06:37 PM
Or at least they were when my dad was foreman of Signal Gang 7 on the WP. We called them "Ties" because they tied the rail to that wooden cross member most folks called a tie, but were actually called "sleepers".
That was awhile back, like 60 yrs.

February 23, 2012, 08:00 PM
Something like this:|1022

I've got one, its held up well to .308 at ~85 yards.

February 23, 2012, 09:58 PM
Do you know anyone with an old iron weight barbel set? The heavier disks might hold up. We use a 4" diameter 1lb weight disk for 100 yard rimfire and it shows no wear. A heavier (thicker) disk might work out for you.

February 23, 2012, 10:14 PM
If you use AR500 steel and it is possible, shoot a different side each time you go out. Will help keep it straight.

February 23, 2012, 10:19 PM
So if I was wanting to bolt some AR500 plate to chain, any thoughts on the bolts? Cap head, regular hex head, Grade 8, etc etc etc.

dagger dog
February 23, 2012, 10:35 PM
Get a flywheel off a standard transmission junk engine, weld some chain hangers, your good to go.

March 7, 2012, 09:54 PM
Do you have any pictures of your flywheel target?

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