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Steel plate target warning.

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by M2 Carbine, Nov 24, 2012.

  1. M2 Carbine

    M2 Carbine Well-Known Member

    I do a lot of handgun shooting at 1/4 inch and 3/8 inch steel plate (home ranges). Most every day and some evenings in low light/dark, I'll run a couple hundred rounds of laser/light shooting at the steel.

    Yesterday a friend gave me a couple 3/8 thick, 12 inch diameter steel plates for targets. A good size target for point shooting while moving.

    After drilling a couple holes in the plates I hung them up and began dumping magazines into them from about six yards to about twelve yards, while moving around.
    The gun was the Ruger SR22. (I have both shoulders injured so this has become my major practice gun)

    I was surprised that I was getting peppered with a LOT of fine splash back from the 22 bullets.
    Normally there is very little splash back from the 22 LR bullet. The bullet fragments almost to dust and slides across the face of the plate and exits at the top, bottom and sides, about 90 degrees from the shooter. Once in a while a little splash will come back to the shooter. I've been slightly scratched once in maybe 20 years.

    But yesterday I was getting peppered a lot, back to 10 plus yards.

    I knew the plates had been cut with a torch but I didn't think anything about it.
    Turns out the rough edge all around the plate was turning the bullet splash back at me..

    Ten minutes with a grinder on the plate edges stopped the splash back and I've got some nice COM size rapid fire targets.

    Most of us steel plate shooters know that any dings in the plate's surface could possible turn bullet fragments back at you but this edge surface roughness was something I hadn't paid attention to, up to now.

    So it's something to look for when you come by scrap steel for practice targets.
  2. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Well-Known Member


    Do not have the steel target face on to the shooter. Angle the plate down a little that will help with the splash back as well.

    Most of the steel plate target vendors recommend a minimum distance between the shooter and the target. Salute Targets recommends a minimum of 30 feet or so for handgun, more for rifle.

    Nice berm.
  3. 27hand

    27hand Well-Known Member


    I would not have thought the slag itself would cause that problem but I also don't shoot a lot of 22LR. Glad you figured it out.
    These were shot at a group shoot. We had to disallow a 9mm carbine that was cratering the 2" pipe supports for the spring based targets. I replaced all the pipe. the rectangular and square plates were mounted on a swing set to direct most of the lead spatter downward. The 2 Colt Speedplates are from MGM targets and are AR500 plate. They reset automatically when shot.

    Most target suppliers suggest minimum distances for liability reasons
  4. M2 Carbine

    M2 Carbine Well-Known Member


    And then there are the variables like bullet hardness, speed, caliber, how the steel is mounted, etc.

    I don't recommend anything, like minimum distance, but personally have been shooting steel for many years at about 5 yards and beyond.

    Thanks. That's the back yard.
    Like the one in the woods it's a constant work in progress.

    Today a friends young daughter and I were shooting at 50 yards at the black target on the left. It dings pretty good when hit.
    Out of about 30 rounds we each fired, we each missed about three times.
    I told her she was the winner, because even though my shoulders are buggered up she hadn't shot in about a year.:)
  5. Mosty importantly, eye protection. Secondly, groin protection. :D
  6. Lo8080

    Lo8080 Active Member

    Whats up with the pic M2 CARBINE? Looks like your aiming at young friends daughter.
  7. Drail

    Drail Well-Known Member

    Steel plates need to be reasonably smooth and free of defects. I have seen heavily cratered steel targets return bullets to their source if a bullet lands in the crater. You have to think about and control where any richochets are going to go. Be careful with swinging plates that can swing back towards the firing line. I have also seen a shooter hit in the face when they hit a swinger as it was swinging back towards them. Probably couldn't do that again if we tried.
  8. M2 Carbine

    M2 Carbine Well-Known Member

    My friend took the picture. I don't know why he held the camera so close to the back of her head.

    Same type picture of her taken about a year ago but I took it standing further back from the girl. She's shooting and hitting the white foot square plate.

    I invited the husband and two young sons of a therapist, that's been working on my shoulder, to come out to shoot today. They had a ball. For about 5 hours they shot at those steel targets, and paper ones.
    We kept the kids back beyound 10 yards though.

    I got some use out of those new targets this evening about dark. Ruger SR22 with a Crimson Trace laser. About 8-15 yards. Can't hardly miss.:)
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2012
  9. 27hand

    27hand Well-Known Member


    Quote. "Steel plates need to be reasonably smooth and free of defects. I have seen heavily cratered steel targets return bullets to their source if a bullet lands in the crater. You have to think about and control where any richochets are going to go. Be careful with swinging plates that can swing back towards the firing line. I have also seen a shooter hit in the face when they hit a swinger as it was swinging back towards them. Probably couldn't do that again if we tried." Quote

    Not like this then? This was an experimental plate to determine depth of penetration of various pistol and rifle rounds. This was performed from behind steel with a very marginal exposure. The 1/2" thick plate was also free standing. No frags came back and hit the metal plate.

    Test rounds. 9mm Kahr, .40 S&W Glock 23, .44mag Redhawk, .223 wolf thru Bushmaster, 170 gr 30-30 marlin 336, 30.06 150gr Nosler BT over 57.5 gr IMR4350, 7.62X39 (2) Chinese SKS Chinese AK, 7,62X51 (2) Spanish FR-8 & Ishapore 2A1, .300 Win Mag 165 gr Wolf


    I agree. Cratered mild steel can be very dangerous if a bullet partially enters a crater. It will come back at you.
  10. M2 Carbine

    M2 Carbine Well-Known Member

    Now that's some impressive craters.:D
  11. Sky

    Sky Well-Known Member

    Many years ago I was shooting a 45ACP at steel knock downs @ approx 25 yards. I hit a support beam next to one of the targets and the next thing I felt was a rather large sting in the gut. The spent round brought blood and a mild bruise....thank goodness it was not in the face, ear, or eye even with safety glasses....cheap good lesson on angles and dangles of shooting steel and the possibility of the impossible.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2012
  12. M2 Carbine

    M2 Carbine Well-Known Member

    Yeah, one thing I never do is say, "Oh that can't possibly happen".

    If a bullet just happens to hit "stuff" in just the right way it sure can come back your way.

    Anyone see that video clip where a 50 cal bullet comes zinging back at the shooter?
  13. wally

    wally Well-Known Member

    If you care at all about safety when shooting steel your targets should be AR500 rated armor plate at the minimum so the bullets disintegrate without denting the plates.

    IMHO .22lr is the worst for splatter as it doesn't move the plates much increasing the likelihood of splatter heading straight back, but the low energyand bullet mass of .22lr means its really not much to worry about as long as you and all bystanders are wearing good ANSI rated eye protection.

    10 yards is a good minimum distance for handgun rounds, and 75 yards is about as close as I want to be for centerfire rifles.

    I mostly shoot steel plates, 2-4K rounds per month, and the times spatter has broken the skin I can count on the fingers of one hand.
  14. BCRider

    BCRider Well-Known Member

    From what I've seen it's not the steel plates that are ever the problem. It's the type of ammo and supports around the plate. In M2Carbine's case the slag around the edges produced a reflective situation. In others the mounting chains, bolts or supporting brackets can do the same thing by reflecting the side spatter back to the shooting line. And then there's always the issues with cratering caused by inappropriate ammo for the target and the risks of "U" turning parts of the bullet on some subsequent shot.

    My cowboy action group used to use some smaller knockdown bonus targets that were shaped like an upside down "T". We had to stop using them because the forward facing base flange was reflecting the spatter back at the line. The steel itself was not the issue. Just poor design of the target.

    The spatter that comes off a steel plate is impressive. We only need to look at the groove cut in the ground by the end of an active day of steel shooting to see that. And at an IPSC meet I was at a target that was in plane with a steel popper but located 10 feet over to the side was cut to ribbons by the time a couple of groups had shot the stage. In that case it was too late to switch things around so they simply put up fresh targets when the side cutting was excessive. But it shows how much velocity and energy there is in the side spatter.

    So it's not surprising that if the spatter should hit a secondary reflective surface that it'll spatter out again. And if the surface happens to re-direct it at the firing line then there's going to be a lot of grimaces and wondrous expressions among the shooters. The first impulse seems to be to ban the use of steel targets. But it's generally not the steel itself. It's the stuff around it or the use of ammo which is too powerful for the type of steel. Not every steel target needs to use AR500. Non magnum handguns are a great example of options where mild steel or a slightly harder but still inexpensive alloy is just fine. Save the expense of the AR500 for the faster rifle rounds that need such steel.
  15. Cee Zee

    Cee Zee member

    I used to mount a Shoot N See target right next to my steel plate (swinging support) and it was amazing how often splatter would make a streak across the front of the Shoot N See. So even with .22's the vast majority of the bullet is going sideways.
  16. Specs

    Specs Well-Known Member

    I angle the heavy plate downward and add a thin (1/16) plate vertically and mount my target to it. The bullet will penetrate the light plate, strike the heavy plate and be deflected downward. If for some reason the bullet tries to come back it will hit the inside of the light plate and stop or perhaps penetrate with little energy. Anyway, so far, so good.

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