Making steel target, how thick?

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Apr 2, 2005
I was thinking of making some steel targets from some scrap at work. How thick will they need to be for surplus FMJ 8x57?
I know that a 30-06 will punch thru 1/2" diamond plate like butter at 100 yards. I don't know that you'll be able to make a steel target that will stand up to repeated shots from a major high velocity caliber. Maybe someone else has experience
I don't know nothin about metalurgy, but I do know that thick is not enough if you want steel for HP rifle. You need hard. I'd start by looking at what commercial steel target (including HP silhouette) makers say about the steels they use. If you just make it thick, it's gonna be a pocked and divoted mess in a hurry.
My dad has a "range" in his backyard consisting of 3/8" steel plates hanging from chains . I don't know about rifle calibers but 44 mag will sping them around but barley leaves an impression in the steel.
You should use armor plate steel ,you can also angle it 45 degrees so the bullet hits and goes into the ground. 1" for a start.
A friend has a rifle chambered in 300 ultra mag. It shoots completely through 1 inch steel plate at 100 yards. It was prolly hot rolled steel, but still impressive.
Important consideration for the ignorant, uninformed, or otherwise steel-plate handicapped (i.e., me):

How do you ensure that bullets hitting aforementioned steel-plates don't go and come back ("IT CAME BACK!" ~Myself, every time a grenade bounces wrong and comes back at me in a game) and possibly hit the shooter/bystanders? Is it a design consideration? a distances thing? What's the story?

I know that 7.62x54R will penetrate a steel man hole cover at about 50 yards. Granted, it was old and brittle, but it went clean through, and blew a nice big chunk away as it exited. You'll want something thick, and hard.
Made some swingers out of two layers of 3/8" mild steel welded together, total thickness of 3/4". Takes soft nose hunting rounds easily with no perforation, military ammo will crater the first layer. Laminating several layers together or hardened steel will make it tougher to penetrate.

brinell 500 with an abrasion resistance (AR) 800 is a start. that is what the plates at the 3 gun shoots use. granted a 3/8" 1 foot square is about $40-50 depending on where you buy it. haveing someone cut it with a plasma cutter so it dont remove its temper as bad also helps with this steel.

I have had a little experience with hardening. I would be very careful because if you just take a mild steel sample and harden it, it probably become too hard and just shatter. Tool steel is a much better alloy and likewise is much more expensive. If you simply heat it to red hot and throw it in water you have very little control on the hardness, I have seen people take a cold chisel and harden the end so that it does not mushroom, these people usually have steel chips in an arm.
Common steel plate is soft and will crater - a gun club I used to belong to had made some metallic silhouettes for handgun competition and people shooting things like .30/30s and 7mm TCUs out of Contenders beat the stuffings out of them.

High power rifle will be worse.

They soon went to a material called "T1" or "Boralloy" (probably a trade name) and those worked well.

You might do a search on something like "Metallic Silhouette Shooting" or "IHMSA" as a starting point on what material works for targets.
dasmi said:
I know that 7.62x54R will penetrate a steel man hole cover at about 50 yards. Granted, it was old and brittle, but it went clean through, and blew a nice big chunk away as it exited. You'll want something thick, and hard.
Manhole covers are hard ... but as noted, they are brittle. I believe they are castings, not hot rolled steel. In fact, I don't think they are steel at all, I believe they are cast iron, which has excellent compressive strength but is VERY brittle and has little tensile or bending strength.
Forget about hardening steel plate. It doesn't have the proper composition for hardening and to try it with a torch is ludicrous !!!...T1 is tricky to weld.
The steel has to be hard and tough (resistant to permanently deforming) more than thick. Steel of the right type that is 3/8 to 1/2 thick should be OK for most non magnum bullet types especially if the target is angled as others have suggested.

A good place to start is to find a shop that makes replacement scraper edges for snow plows or bulldozers. The steel they use is usually B500 or better and has high abrasion resistance. It needs to be plasma cut so it doesn't soften at the edges and it is a bit fussy to weld. Not a job for most home hobby shoppers.
It really depends on what you want to use it for. If it is out past 100 then just get thick mild steel. It will get beat to crap but if it is free then who cares. If it is close enough to splatter then use AR plate and angle it down.
I would suggest making sure the plate is not hard mounted and will move, swing, or fall when you hit it. That way some of the energy of the bullet will go into moving the plate. My experience is that bullets tend to flatten out on steel targets, but I am sure there are exceptions. I am not sure how the copper jacket would flatten or fragment.

But I am not expert so don't take my word for it. :D
when I used to harden steel

Lucky said:
Hey hey to harden steel, can you go over it with a torch? What heat, roughly, and what fuel, O2+mapp or acety?

I used to use o2+gas. I would heat it red hot and then quench it in oil. That was what the old millwright showed me to do.
Well I was thinking of using it at 200-300 yards. We've got plenty of 1" thick stuff that just ends up in the scrapper so I'll use that. Its just mild steel nothing fancy. But I was thinking of hanging it off chains. Sounds like that would work ok.
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