Buying or making steel targets? Safety?


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jawman
May 5, 2012, 07:17 PM
I want my own steel targets to use at the property when me and the guys go shoot, and I've watched a few YouTube videos and have read online on how to build your own. I could try to find a local steel shop and see if they can give me some scrap, but I found a website that sells targets pretty cheap: http://www.shootsteel.com/pages.php?pageid=8 is the website and here's a video that shows them in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIQpzXRa2xk

What do you recommend? Buy online, or can I get them cheaper and just as good quality if I get scrap from a local steel shop?

If I buy online and mount them with a chain as the video and website shows, can it cause dangerous ricochets if a bullet hits the chain?

Another youtube video has just a 4x4 post in a bucket of concrete with a 12x12 steel plate bolted to the 4x4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSBeYi9bNes

I'm wondering if shooting at a stationary and flat target would cause dangerous ricochets and if it would be safer to angle the target down a bit so that ricochets deflect to the ground? Also is it unsafe having that bolt in the front?

And another video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmPWe4uquN4 has the steel plates with a hole on the top hanging by a shepherd's pole.

I'm trying to decide what would be the cheapest option, buying online or making myself. I don't really have access to major tools so if I were to make it myself via getting scrap steel from a shop, I'd have to ask them if they would cut a hole in it for me.

Lastly, I obviously want something that's safe. Don't worry, I always wear protective eye glasses when I shoot, but that doesn't mean I can sacrifice safety. All of the different set ups I've seen on the youtube videos seem like they would be safe but anyone can upload a video to youtube and who knows if it's really safe or not.

So many questions! :P

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GoWolfpack
May 5, 2012, 07:53 PM
Cutting armor plate steel takes a plasma cutter and time. The time required to cut smaller holes runs the price way up.

Buying online is a much faster and easier. I bought 12x12 inch plates from a machine shop near me and welded chain links to the backs for total cost of about $20 each. I could only do that because I had a welder and a spare chain. From Wideners (http://wideners.com/itemview.cfm?dir=1020) they cost a little more but they're shipped straight to your door ready to use.


Shooting hardened steel straight on is perfectly safe. The bullet is pulverized on impact and sprays outward. Shooting cold rolled steel with any bullet strong enough to dimple it is not safe at all.

hso
May 5, 2012, 07:53 PM
You will have a lot of trouble finding AR500 scrap at a local steel shop so that's probably not a practical consideration.

I would never hard mount a steel target. I want them to move to absorb some of the energy.

Look at Widners as well. They have a 1/2-in thick 16-in silhouette for $75 that will last forever.

jawman
May 5, 2012, 10:48 PM
Thanks for the info. Looks like the Wideners targets are slightly more expensive, even with shipping costs accounted for. And Wideners doesn't say what process they use to cut the steel, whereas shootsteel.com uses CNC laser cutting which is one of the best and safest. According to their own website (http://www.shootsteel.com/cutting-ar500-steel-plate/), using plasma is dangerous as it heats the metal up which causes the edges to become more soft which in turn get deformed when shot, and shooting deformed steel can be unsafe.

Mr.454
May 6, 2012, 12:40 PM
Yes plasma cutting does make the edges brittle. But I don't believe that it would cause you any issues. It's more of a problem in professional welding, like when you are prepping a plate for a bend test you don't cut it with a plasma torch. Now with a bit of practice you can cut anything you need as far as plate steel with an oxyacetylene torch. You can even make small holes in the steel anywhere you need them, and a torch kit is a heck of a lot cheaper than a plasma cutter.

GoWolfpack
May 6, 2012, 06:32 PM
Now with a bit of practice you can cut anything you need as far as plate steel with an oxyacetylene torch. You can even make small holes in the steel anywhere you need them, and a torch kit is a heck of a lot cheaper than a plasma cutter.


I can assure you, oxy-acetylene will not cut AR500/hardened steel. At least not without serious heat damage to the rest of the plate. Plasma cutting causes the edges of hardened steel to become brittle because it heats the steel nearest the cut edge without a gradual cool down (annealing, or what is done to harden the steel in the first place). If you could cut AR500 steel with an oxy-acetylene torch, it would require heating (and ruining) a wider strip around the edge, making it impractical.

A machine shop near me had scrap AR500 steel, but their labor was $60/hr. Having them cut anything but simple squares was going to rapidly run over the cost of buying online. They also quoted a whole sheet price for 1/2" AR plate: $500.


Just buy it online.

Mr.454
May 6, 2012, 08:51 PM
I could cut up 1/2 inch plate rather quickly with a torch without heating the main portion of the steel too much, and so could you with a bit of training. Just wave the torch across the steel to get rid of any moisture. Then go to your edge you want to cut and put your preheat flames on it till it heats up then hit your oxygen and go. If you have large enough mixing chambers you can cut anything. When the railroad runs new tracks they use an oxy torch so it has nothing to do with the thickness of the steel. Plasma allows an unskilled person to cut all metals FAST, and with practice they can do artsy designs and such. So if I was going to do it at home I would use a torch to cut it. Then I would attach chains using a 1/8 inch 6010 electrode running DC+ at about 85-90 amps to get good penetration.

AK47TIM
May 6, 2012, 09:16 PM
I could cut up 1/2 inch plate rather quickly with a torch without heating the main portion of the steel too much, and so could you with a bit of training. Just wave the torch across the steel to get rid of any moisture. Then go to your edge you want to cut and put your preheat flames on it till it heats up then hit your oxygen and go. If you have large enough mixing chambers you can cut anything. When the railroad runs new tracks they use an oxy torch so it has nothing to do with the thickness of the steel. Plasma allows an unskilled person to cut all metals FAST, and with practice they can do artsy designs and such. So if I was going to do it at home I would use a torch to cut it. Then I would attach chains using a 1/8 inch 6010 electrode running DC+ at about 85-90 amps to get good penetration.

I don't think it has to do with thickness as much as it does with the alloy being cut. There are certain alloys you can not be cut with a torch. Also I think you might have a hard time welding it with 6010.

Sent from my MB870 using Tapatalk 2

Mr.454
May 6, 2012, 10:33 PM
You can use 6010 or 7018 electrodes for ar500. 7018 would be better in my opinion (low hydogen) but not many average joes have an oven to keep their rods in.

jawman
May 6, 2012, 10:45 PM
I'll just buy it online.

AK47TIM
May 6, 2012, 10:56 PM
You can use 6010 or 7018 electrodes for ar500. 7018 would be better in my opinion (low hydogen) but not many average joes have an oven to keep their rods in.

What about 2222?

Sent from my MB870 using Tapatalk 2

BCRider
May 6, 2012, 11:00 PM
Jawman, you didn't mention what sort of guns you would want to shoot at your targets.

If you're only shooting non magnum type handguns you can get away with simple mild steel. 3/8 thick mild will easily stand up to handgun calibers from handguns or handgun caliber carbines for years of use.

But if you want to shoot magnums or higher velocity rifles at these then AR500 becomes pretty important.....

loneviking
May 7, 2012, 02:25 PM
I'm having a friend weld up a simple tripod frame with a hook to hang a gong on. The gongs I buy are a500 and I buy them off Ebay. The ammo is what seems important for safety---lead only! The project should be done next week and I'll post pics.

Ankeny
May 7, 2012, 07:44 PM
I'll just buy it online. Probably a good idea. FWIW, I have cut and welded on many tons of AR 400-500 steel plate. The issues with heat affected areas (when making target faces) just aren't worth the hassle for most DIY folks puttering around in their garage.

jawman
May 8, 2012, 12:00 AM
Probably a good idea. FWIW, I have cut and welded on many tons of AR 400-500 steel plate. The issues with heat affected areas (when making target faces) just aren't worth the hassle for most DIY folks puttering around in their garage.

Yup. That's the way I see it.

The ammo is what seems important for safety---lead only!

When you say lead only, do you just mean anything that isn't steel ammo or isn't steel core? In other words, FMJ is safe, right? I mean, I figure that since FMJ is plated with a soft metal (copper) and an even softer lead core that it would be fine to shoot at AR500.

loneviking
May 8, 2012, 02:20 AM
I don't know if FMJ and plated bullets are safe or not on the A500 steel. The big risk would be richochets. I'm still looking for that answer, if anyone else on the forum knows..

GoWolfpack
May 8, 2012, 06:49 AM
I shoot FMJ at steel all the time. The most important part is that the steel is perfectly flat.

bergmen
May 8, 2012, 10:09 AM
Steel targets will eventually get pock-marked if you hit it with high powered rifle rounds long enough (not sure of the alloy). Once pock-marked, they can become ricochet hazards.

I was shooting my Marlin 1894 in .45 Colt (heavy loads with 250 grain Hornady XTP bullets) at a steel target at 100 yards. My wife was in our pickup reading (she gets bored when I shoot rifles) parked about 20 yards behind the firing line. I'm the only one shooting when she hears a "tinkle" on the pavement and looked down to see this:

http://inlinethumb14.webshots.com/48141/2222750000053667879S600x600Q85.jpg

An XTP turned inside-out.

Dan

jon_in_wv
May 8, 2012, 10:31 AM
Not if you get the right steel. Go online and buy the AR500 steel plates. Its a small investment and thy will last a lifetime. I shoot mine with 7.62x39, 7.7x55, 308, 7.62x54r, 8x56r, etc........... You won't put a dent in AR500. The guy who showd me his ar500 plates said it could take a 50 cal hit and I called BS. He was probably right though. (even though his was only 3/8" not 1/2 inch like the video)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJdz8iVUtiw

Buy the 3/8 " AR500, like our friend above said softer steel will get pock marked and the bullets and jackets will start going in dangerous directions.

bergmen
May 8, 2012, 10:56 AM
Not if you get the right steel. Go online and buy the AR500 steel plates. Its a small investment and thy will last a lifetime. I shoot mine with 7.62x39, 7.7x55, 308, 7.62x54r, 8x56r, etc........... You won't put a dent in AR500. The guy who showd me his ar500 plates said it could take a 50 cal hit and I called BS. He was probably right though. (even though his was only 3/8" not 1/2 inch like the video)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJdz8iVUtiw

Buy the 3/8 " AR500, like our friend above said softer steel will get pock marked and the bullets and jackets will start going in dangerous directions.

Good point. These steel targets are at our local gun club, who knows what they are made of. Certainly NOT AR500 since they look like moonscapes (all of them).

Thanks, if I get to advise the club I will strongly recommend AR500 for target replacements.

Dan

longdayjake
May 8, 2012, 11:02 AM
I sell steel knockdown targets for a little less than the website you mentioned but I don't have any stationary or hanging ones. I have set one up against a tree stump to be stationary and I use it for testing out new loads. I have found that plated and jacketed bullets are okay to use with them. Most of the time they completely splatter and only small fragments can be found. Occasionaly you will find a chunk of lead with a little bit of jacket stuck to it but it is flattened out to almost paper thin. From time to time I get little chucks of bullet come back and hit me but it has never hurt. Eyewear is a MUST. It seems like most of the time I get hit it is usually in the face somewhere.

The targets I sell are 3/8" and the one I have been shooting has taken somewhere near 1500 9mm hits, 1000 40 hits, 400 45 hits, 50 10mm hits, 200 .357 hits, 50 .30 carbine hits, and it looks like its brand new. My guess is it will go many many more. It hasn't even begun to warp yet.

loneviking
May 8, 2012, 01:03 PM
How about hard cast lead?

Also, I've heard some target makers say to angle the bottom of a target away from you and that directs most fragments into the ground.

Hammerdown77
May 8, 2012, 01:17 PM
I have AR500 plates from Arntzen, 3/8" thick, and a 5.56 round will put a decent divot in them shot inside 100 yards. Looks like someone went at them with a tiny drill bit. Of course they tell you not to shoot them that close....

I've shot 454 Casull both jacketed and hard cast lead at these same targets though, and it just shrugs those off. It will eat up jacketed handgun rounds all day long.

I wouldn't shoot a rifle at them under 75 yards, though.

jon_in_wv
May 8, 2012, 02:14 PM
You aren't shooting AR500 or somehow the heat treating has been damaged. 5.56 won't hurt AR500 at any distance. One of the guys at my range has shot his many hundreds of times without a scratch on it.

Hammerdown77
May 8, 2012, 04:58 PM
The plates are listed as AR500. They were divoted by 5.56 at 50 yards (yes, we had the plates angled down). I don't know, maybe there was an issue with heat treating like you said, but all three plates we shot exhibited the same indentations when shot with 5.56.

We used the 1/2 size IPSC plate here:
http://www.arntzentargets.com/products.htm

This is from Arntzen's website:

T520 or AR500 or Armor plate is a heat treated alloy with hardness about 470-521 Brinell. This is the best steel for targets that I know of. This will handle .308 ball ammo at 150 yards or .223 at 200 yards with minimal damage. (Steel Jacketed, Steel Core or Armor Piercing Ammo may damage the steel. Copper Jacketed Lead bullets are recommended for rifle use.) For more detail on recommended shooting distances, click here: SHOOTING DISTANCE.pdf

All Steel will warp when you shoot it. The softer A36 steel will cave in or become concave. The harder steels will become convex because you are stretching the surface when you hit it. It is important to use both sides of the target so it will move back and forth and stay relatively flat. Because of this stretching, if you weld on the back of a target it will always crack off eventually. We never weld on the target plates themselves. All of our targets bolt on so you may turn them around and use both sides. The bolts we use are grade 5 heat treated carriage bolts. These have rounded low profile heads to minimize any chance of lead spatter coming off of the bolt head.

brnmuenchow
May 8, 2012, 05:05 PM
LaRue Tactical:

$295.00
SKU: TG-FAST1
Free-standing Action Steel Target TG-FAST

The LaRue FAST is a lightweight and portable reactionary target that can be setup in minutes. The FAST uses 4 x 4 posts available at most lumber dealers. Precisely manufactured from high quality materials and is designed to survive the toughest environments and the roughest treatment. Excellent for shotgun and handgun training too!

Some of the main advantages are:

■Free-Standing Non Powered. Easy to setup and position, needs no batteries or power.
■Man Portable. 39 lbs total weight. Minor assembly required.

■Battle Tough. 3/8" thick 500 Brinell target. Withstands .223s and .308s. Targets are weather-proof, leave it out year round.

jon_in_wv
May 8, 2012, 09:45 PM
Wow what a rip off! I bought two AR500 steel plates plus the steel to put together the hanger for about 50 bucks.

Hammerdown, I suspect the plate you bought was compromised somehow. My 3/8 plates seem like they are indestructible and I only shoot it at 100 yards. The others guy at the range shot his at least 100 times at 100 yards when I was there and I shot it a bunch with my 7.62x54r, my K31 Swiss, and my 8x56r all at 100 yards. There wasn't so much as a pimple on the plate when we were done. You can believe your plate is the same thing as the plates we were using but I don't.

atomd
May 8, 2012, 09:52 PM
ar500 will get tiny little marks with .223 shot at close distance. It's nothing remotely deep and could probably take many many hits to the same exact spot before it becomes a ricochet hazard....but the steel doesn't stay completely smooth like it does from pistol round impacts.

Freedom_fighter_in_IL
May 8, 2012, 11:38 PM
I have 6 AR-500 rated plates that I have had for going on 8 years now. Countless rounds have been put into them from everything from .220swift to .300winmag. At ranges from 100 to 1500 yards. As Hammerdown stated, it is best to rotate them. All mine are bolted as well. Theres barely a mark on any of them save one. That one was shot at 1000 yards 10 times with a .50 cal M107 Barrett for some "giggle time". It has 10 little dimples in the face and I only use it on the one side for handguns now. Invest in the ready made ones. You will save money in the long run anyway.

Rapidrob
May 9, 2012, 12:22 PM
We use a lot of AR-500 for our targets from 15 yards out to 600 meters. They hold up very well.
Many of the sellers use chains to hold up the target. I no longer allow chains to be used for two reasons.
1. Pistol bullets can be deflected off of the links back at the shooter.
2. rifle bullets will cut the chain in two leaving an unsafe target swinging in the breeze.
I only allow "road alligators" to be used .( tire tread found on all interstates).
The treads let the bullets go right through. They last forever and are free for the picking. If you soak them in soapy water for 24 hours they are very easy to cut with a hack saw or saber saw.

jon_in_wv
May 9, 2012, 06:03 PM
Well I love it when I am so adamant about something then I have to admit I was wrong. I took my plates out for some shooting this morning. I fired about 80 7.62x39, about 20 22lr, and another guy on the range hit it 10 times or so with a .223. I inspected my plates after we were done an low and behold ONE tiny divot! One of the rounds struck close to the edge on the bottom of the target. I guess I did say that .223 wouldn't hurt AR500 "unless the heat treating was compromised" so I could still be technically correct if the heat treating of the edges was weakened when they cut it. I suspect this is the case as there wasn't a scratch anywhere else on the plate. I could also claim that it could have some from my 7.62 but I think I'll just conclude that normal rifle fire SHOULDN'T hurt it and if it was me I would call the company that I bought it from and complain if it did as the heat treating may be bad and they might be willing to exchange it. Any company can have a bad batch once in a while.

Ankeny
May 9, 2012, 08:07 PM
T520 or AR500 or Armor plate is a heat treated alloy with hardness about 470-521 Brinell. There is the problem. AR steel is rated across a range of hardness. I have several sheets of AR450 that tests a shade over 470 and that's a good thing. But...if you get AR500 that tests in the lower range, add a heat affected area, and there you go...craters.

jawman
May 11, 2012, 12:27 AM
Some info on good vs. bad heat treating, and explains why some have gotten divots when shooting the edge of the plate: http://www.shootsteel.com/cutting-ar500-steel-plate/

I checked with Wideners, and they use a plasma cutter, so I will be avoiding them and will probably be buying from shootsteel.com who uses CNC laser. And they have great prices on their steel too - the best I've found so far on the net.

As for positioning of the target, I've always figured (and research I've done online confirms my hypothesis) that it would be best to position the target facing slightly downward, with the top edge more towards you and the bottom edge slightly away from you, so when the steel hits it, it ricochets downward to the ground safely. For example, if the slash is the steel plate and the arrows are the direction the bullet is traveling, and the 8 is the shooter:

/ <-- <-- <-- 8

So you are essentially creating a ramp that forces the bullet to ricochet down to the ground safely and not up, to the side, or back at the shooter. If you want the steel to be flat, it may be a good idea to have it slightly loose via a hook or chain that allows it to move backwards when shot, absorbing the impact and forcing/guiding the round to ricochet down into the ground. Westerntargets.com has a great .pdf file explaining this: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/42597154/WesternTargets%20Data/pdfs/steeltargets.pdf jump to page 3 if you don't want to read it all, but I encourage everyone to read the whole thing or at least glance through each page, especially the diagrams. There is some very useful information.
As one poster said, using chains can be dangerous for handguns so I plan on using a shepherds hook, which may also be just as dangerous, but I am not sure. Unless someone has a better method of mounting or hanging the steel. If you do, I'm all ears.

When positioning the steel like this, the main point is that this is safe as long as the steel remains flat with no cracks, divots, bumps, etc. If the steel does get damaged and starts to display these poor traits, positioning the steel facing slightly downward will not help, and it will become hazardous and dangerous ricochets will be common. I think getting quality cut AR500 steel is keen to this point. And depending on what type of rounds you are shooting at the steel, the thickness comes into play as well.

jojo200517
May 11, 2012, 12:45 AM
If your gonna make them yourself and your worried about the torch,plasma cutter, or laser heating up the edge and messing with heat treat then find someone to cut your plates to shape with a water jet cutter. Keep in mind not to shoot it too close or with AP or enhanced penetration rounds rotate it over after a while and toss it if it gets damaged.

Hanging them on the piece of tire is a good idea also, but wear some gloves when you go out to handle the target in case you have pieces of stuff sticking out of the tire, the steel belted cables in them may get frayed out the back side if you shoot thru it.

GoWolfpack
May 11, 2012, 06:56 AM
So you are essentially creating a ramp that forces the bullet to ricochet down to the ground safely and not up, to the side, or back at the shooter.


The bullet doesn't ricochet off steel. If the steel is as hard as it should be the bullet splatters like this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bSoRIG4PnM).

lmccrock
May 11, 2012, 08:55 AM
I just bought some 3/8" Wideners plates, and they will be shot this weekend. They say do not shoot with M855 (5.56 penetrator) ammo, and recommend free hanging targets, so the energy is dissipated.

I shoot matches near LaRue's facility, and we have LOTS of LaRue steel. It is pretty tough, but even the LaRue rep said shooting them with M193 (55gr 5.56 FMJ) up close is the hardest wear - small bullet, high energy, more wear than 308 at the same distance.

As for LaRue being expensive, yes, but the LaRue steel shows less wear (pockmocks, etc.) than some "generic" AR500 plates we have as well. The FAST targets do not show wear after multiple hits with steel-jacketed M2 ball (30-06) at 100 yards; edge hits are no problem. That said, if you are banging away with non-magnum handguns, you will never see the difference between this and cheaper products.

Hammerdown77
May 11, 2012, 08:55 AM
The most damage I have seen from the .223/5.56 rounds was at the edges. A couple of hits looked like they almost bored completely through the steel. Guess that's a heat treating issue like you guys point out. They are tiny divots everywhere else, though.

jawman
May 12, 2012, 02:20 AM
The bullet doesn't ricochet off steel. If the steel is as hard as it should be the bullet splatters like this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bSoRIG4PnM).
Yeah, I understand that the bullet splatters, but the shrapnel from the bullet mostly goes down to the ground when positioned/hung correctly.

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