Ammo for steel target shooting


May 7, 2004, 10:49 AM
What type of ammo should you use for steel target shooting? We have been handgun shooting mostly paper and are thinking about shooting steel targets. Is it OK to shoot Win White Box(FMJ) or similar or should we shoot something else(lead)? Also, what range is too close for steel shooting? I'm thinking 25 yds would be fine but what about 7 to 10yds?
Targets would be poppers and resettables of some type.

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May 7, 2004, 10:53 AM
IIRC 25 yards is the minimal safe distance for shooting steel targets. Not sure about reactive targets though.

May 7, 2004, 10:55 AM
When I first started shooting in a steel plate league I assumed they would want us to shoot lead bullets. What we found with lead is they tend to throw more pieces back at the firing line. FMJ bullets tend to fracture down. Don't know why that is, but that is the case with our resetable plate rack.

May 7, 2004, 10:55 AM

In Cowboy action shooting the targets are considerably less than 25 yards away and they are steel.

Of course many CAS shooters use reduced loads though on many an occasion I've been hit by shotgun pellets ricocheting backwards.

Zak Smith
May 7, 2004, 11:41 AM
In USPSA/IPSC, the minimum distance to shoot steel is usually about 10 yards, using any handgun caliber (.38S, 9x23, .40, .45 are common), jacketed, plated, or lead. Wear safety glasses of course.


May 7, 2004, 11:48 AM
I shoot FMJ at about 10 yards all the time. The main factor in shooting steel safely is the steel. My targets are 1/2" thick AR500. The stands allow them to flex back and forth slightly to absorb some energy and they also are mounted at a slight downward angle to reduce the chance of back splatter.

May 7, 2004, 12:37 PM

Scroll down a bit past halfway and you'll see the FBI bulletin thing on steel targets.

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.

May 7, 2004, 12:52 PM
I heard the new USPSA rulebook will reduce the range to 7 yards. Aren't there targets as close as 7 or 8 yds at the Steel Challenge?

- Gabe

May 7, 2004, 01:00 PM
If you use frangible ammo, you can shoot steel safely at ranges of only a few inches. It's expensive though.

May 7, 2004, 04:00 PM
Cast bullets usually just flatten on steel. FMJ's could richochet all over creation. Mind you, at close range like 7 yards, you could get hit by a sliver of a cast bullet too. A buddy of mine took at slice of one in the forehead while practicing for Second Chance. Shooting steel plates shaped like pins. No serious damage to his noggin, but the slice stuck in just the same. The slice went through the brim of his baseball hat and just missed his glasses. The point hit his skull, bent around and grabbed some hide. He had to have it dug out. I wasn't there. I kind of doubt he would have let me dig it out though. Seems to me that was the year he beat Miculek(sp?) in a man on man shoot off.
Most plate matches won't let you use FMJ's or any jacketed bullet for steel plates. They're hard on the plates. Jacketed bullets can pock the plates causing the need to replace them. That gets expensive.
Only shot size 2 or bigger is allowed at any shotgun plate shooting I've done. And you still get some pellets bouncing around.

May 7, 2004, 05:05 PM
The important thing to consider when shooting at steel are the design of the targets. The targets should be angled to avoid splatter. If you are using too hard of a steel (AR500 isn't the best for pistol targets), then you tend to get splashback. Distances of 25 ft are fine.

May 8, 2004, 09:10 AM
I've been clipped by a piece of copper jacket once, just a small scratch, but don't forget those saftey glasses!

I've got a couple six inch swinging targets I whipped up. When blasting away with "reclassified" gold dots little bits of jacket go flying all over the place. Most noticable when the sun is just right. They generally seem to wind up within ~3 yds from the target. Typically I shoot them with hard cast lead, most often 357's, with the velocity varying from 900 to 1350 or so. Never had any trouble with any splashback.

There is a good chance to catch a piece of something flying back, so the biggest thing is to make sure you, and everyone else around has on those saftey glasses when shooting steel.

Also be warned that it can be very addicting ;)


May 8, 2004, 09:28 AM
I use Speer Lawman RHT , but it isn't readily available to everyone .

May 8, 2004, 09:41 AM
I have shot many steel matches and the targets start at 7 yards. The key is the target, it needs to absorb the impulse and induce "dwell time" to reduce spatter. I shoot Plated jacketed reloaded 45's & 9's and you can see the bullet splatter when it hits the steel. I have never had spatter come directly back from a target at high velocity. I keep the hair on top short (0"-1/16") so I ware a hat for other reasons than sun protection. I have been hit buy spatter that is falling from other bays. One range I shoot steel at has covered shelters w/ tin roofs and during a match it sounds like a sleet storm. I did take some shrapnel once but that was with a .308 and a junk pile at WAY to close range, but it was fun :p .

May 8, 2004, 09:57 AM
A club I belong to has a steel plate backstop for it's indoor range. They cover it with potatoe sack material, but if it hasn't been changed in a while the rounds tend to bounce back at you at some good speed. They have 7, 10, 15 and 25 feet markers on the floor and they do not specify any ammo restrictions.

I never get closer then 15 feet there anymore after a round came back at me while shooting at the 7 foot marker. I shot and almost immediately felt a sting in my leg. I look down and a piece of the round had imbedded itself into my jeans and some of the jagged piece had punctured through to skin.

Hummmm, I need more practice at greater distances any way.

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