Min Distance to Shoot Steel Targets

Discussion in 'Strategies, Tactics, and Training' started by eldude, Feb 18, 2020.

  1. eldude

    eldude Member

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    About a week ago I shot some steel targets silhouette angled down (223 AR) with a guy that was an instructor. Not just an average instructor, but someone with a pretty lengthy resume. We were maybe 25 yards away. Really fun and so I went out to buy my own and I'm seeing that min safe distance is at least 75 yards. I'm not sure our exact distance, but we were definitely closer than 75. Is 75 yards just extra cautious?
     
  2. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    IMO yes. It's not really a safety issue (beyond about 15 yards IMO). It's harder on the steel the closer you are. Standard 5.56 DOES dimple AR500 steel at 100 yards plus. And M855 really chews it up. but if you mount it properly and have it angled down, I personally feel ok shooting AR500 as close as about 15 yards.

    Also ALWAYYYYYYYS wear good eye pro and once your steel starts to get chewed up a little, flip it, and if it's significantly dimpled, use it for long range or recycle it. When it gets divots in it is when it starts turning rounds back at you.

    Disclaimers, lawyerspeek, etc. Don't do this, YMMV, life is dangerous....
     
  3. mcb

    mcb Member

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    With the assumption that its good steel (AR500 or similar) and that its in good condition (ie flat, smooth, with no major surface defects like bullet craters) then I would shoot steel with a rifle as close as 20-25 yards maybe closer with lower energy rifle cartridges. With pistols I would close that distance down to 7 or so yards without worry. Obviously good eye protection is worn.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
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  4. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    With a rifle, I don't bother with it closer than 50 meters, and usually 100 plus- but that's just me.
     
  5. rodinal220

    rodinal220 Member

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    Part of the reason manufacturers have minimum distances is so the targets last awhile, yes there is a safety element too. 5.56 is hard on steel and at the shorter distances the targets are not going to last as long. There are other factors in the equation like barrel length. I run 10.3-11.5" barrels on most of my MSPs(modern sporting pistols) so the velocity is a lot less that a full size 20" (or 14.5-16") barrel slinging M193 or M855.

    Those little 55gr bullets don't have much mass so they turn to dust if you have the proper targets(heavy/thick enough) and use downward angle. Your trainer buddy understands this and realizes the price of admission is replacing steel more often. With everybody and their bother making AR500 targets the cost has come way down.
     
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  6. Jammersix

    Jammersix Member

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    Steel splashes back. It was common to get hit with debris at about forty feet in a plate league I used to shoot in.
     
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  7. DukeConnor

    DukeConnor Member

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    No way I would shoot a rifle at steel that close unless it had anti spall material on the face.
     
  8. Koroner

    Koroner Member

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    The angled down targets have never been a problem at my ranch, but short range vertical pistol targets have sent stuff back at me.
    As stated EYE PROTECTION!
    But here is some food for thought; I had a 9mm come back and hit me pretty hard 2" from the family jewels.

    Now I sometimes wear light armor and a cup.
     
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  9. Jenrick

    Jenrick Member

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    When I went through my tac pistol/tac rifle instructor course with NTOA/TTPOA years and years ago, the numbers were:

    Pistol - 10 yd minimum
    Rifle - 25 yd minimum

    As noted having targets that are angled, or can swing readily dramatically decreases the risk of splash back. As was mentioned above shooting close does wear out the steel faster, though training ammo does help with this. The typical range fodder people shoot in training is usually slower and has a thinner jacket than the good stuff. If you really want to be sure, run frangible rounds (note these can eat a barrel pretty quick), and depending on the exact round you may be able to shoot up to almost contact distance (3-4" was the closest I ever saw demoed).
     
  10. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    Depends on the steel, projectiles and velocity.

    This is a good video of what’s goin on.



    Around 7:30 in is rifle bullets impacting hard plate, you’ll notice the “splash” is radial vs going back like when they were hitting “soft” steel at the beginning.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
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  11. mcb

    mcb Member

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    Yeah, all the fragment come off the steel nearly parallel to the surface, if the surface is hard and smooth. I have been hit many times at USPSA matches with bits of jacket and lead coming off steel but if it drew blood it was almost always coming from the bay next door not the bay I was in.
     
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  12. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    Worth noting that the very first impacts on soft steel have frags moving much further rearward than hard steel but it only gets worse with every subsequent shot fired, as the craters have created “ramps” now for even the debris that would have gone radial to now turn and go back towards the shooter.

    7B54E138-3623-4F63-A794-666463130E07.jpeg

    Why keeping steel flat is som important.
     
  13. eldude

    eldude Member

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    Just to be clear I always wear eye protection even if I'm shooting steel at 500 yards. I'm not really worried about getting hit with little stuff. I'm only concerned about something that will kill me or really mess me up permanently. It sounds like if the plates are angled it's minimal risk. The guy I was shooting with certainly didn't have a concern. I was just curious for my own knowledge. I also wouldn't use 193 or 855. I use the the cheapest brass case 55gr stuff I can find, like Fiocchi.
     
  14. entropy

    entropy Member

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    The key was in the 'angled down' . If they are strung up so they are angled down, they can be shot at closer than if free-hanging. I personally do not like shooting at steel any closer than 100 yards.
     
  15. eldude

    eldude Member

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    I never realized the bullet basically disintegrates when hitting hard steel. I was picturing more of a full bullet hitting the plate, bouncing off the ground and coming back at me. I guess I'm just an idiot haha
     
  16. mcb

    mcb Member

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    Nope, not an idiot, just someone learning. Keep at it.
     
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  17. 27hand

    27hand Member

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    One aspect of shooting steel I have not seen mentioned in this thread is the wearing of a brimmed baseball style hat with bill facing forward.

    Bullets explode off a flat surface at roughly a 20 degree angle ( as per a write up from a steel target mfg years ago).

    Even steel angled downward has frags that go upward and back although substantially less than vertically mounted plate.

    The pieces of bullet coming back down can find the space between your safety glasses and your eyeball.
    A brimmed ball cap can mostly prevent this from occurring.

    I shoot steel as close as 5 to 7 yards with a pistol and am comfortable in doing so.

    As with everything related to the shooting sports, there is risk and everyone's risk threshold varies.
     
  18. Olon

    Olon Member

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    You might need to experiment with your steel. I have a 3/8" gong that has quite a few dimples on it from my 270 at 200 yards. That's 100 yards farther than champion targets recommends for non magnum rifles!

    That's after I had a 1/4" champion AR500 target that I shot plumb through with the same gun (and load) at 70ish yards.
     
  19. luzyfuerza

    luzyfuerza Member

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  20. Charlie Martinez

    Charlie Martinez Member

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    In CAS the steel plates are placed as close as 7 yards from the shooting line & all CAS shooters have felt the sting somewhere in the face from small pieces of lead bouncing off the steel targets From personal experience I have been hit while standing several yards behind the shooting line & in at least one occasion if I had not been wearing eye protection I would have been hit directly in one eye. There's no question that eye protection is crucial in shooting sports & especially when shooting steel targets at close range.
     
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  21. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    One other thing I will add, based mostly on shooting steel at USPSA matches. It scares me when people show up to steel-equipped ranges with ordinary eyeglasses, regardless of the lens material. Frag/splash is unlikely to shatter lens material IMO, so that's not what freaks me out. It's the large exposed area to the sides that scares me. If your head is turned 45 or 90 degrees to the steel that someone is shooting - as it would be if you were talking to your buddy as you watch another shooter run the stage/course - the frag has an unobstructed path to the side of your eyeball.

    Be sure to wear glasses with a good amount of "wrap" to them.
     
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  22. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Minimum range to steel is 10 yards in IDPA; used to be 10 meters in USPSA but I think they allow it closer now.
    CAS sets it closer than anybody else; one of the three worst hits I ever took was at a CAS match but it was a setup fault; the plate was not perpendicular to the line of fire, so most of a bullet deflected off of it and hit me on the next stage over. Had a knot and bruise just above the knee.
    Another was off of a dinged up Pepper Popper, even at 10m the spatter was fast enough that I felt the blow to the ribs and shortly heard another shooter say: "Your shirt is bloody."
    The most recent, and worst, was off a non-metallic target. A .45 Minor bounced straight back off a synthetic timber block being used in lieu of a bowling pin. It hit me on the middle finger right below the WML. I shifted to the other hand and finished the stage dripping blood. Patched it up and shot the last stage of the match, then went to have the wound glued shut. Fortunately we were shooting WHO, so it was my left hand that got gouged. An inch up and it would have broken my searchlight, an inch to the right and it would have hit me in the face. Seems I was not the only victim of bounceback that day, just the worst hurt. They quit using that stuff for targets.
     
  23. mcb

    mcb Member

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    USPSA is 8 meters if the only thing to stop the shooter is a fault line. 7 meter if there is some type of physical barrier like a wall or elevated rope etc.

    I had a 38 special wad cutter bounce off a steel plate and go by my head sounding like a angry hornet. Took me a second to realize it was not a hornet but that bullet I had just fired. I quit shooting the wad cutters at the plate. Make sure your pistol bullets have enough energy to shatter the bullet. Super slow stuff can bounce back.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2020
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  24. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Slow, heavy bullets are the scariest to me. They may lack enough energy to splatter... they're more likely to hold together through impact than something driven faster.
     
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  25. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    Yep. Handgun stuff definitely sends more crap back. .22 is pretty bad also.
     
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