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Heavy Metal: Shooting Steel Like a Pro



I love the sweet heavy metal sound of shooting steel targets. There is no lying about a hit or miss—the target will let you know. If you are a long-distance shooter, steel gongs are great in that you can get both visual and audible feedback when the target moves. They save time and effort. I don’t know about you, but I want to spend more time shooting and less time pasting and stapling new targets in place downrange. What’s more, a well-built steel target can actually outlive the barrel that is shooting at it.

There are almost as many different steel target designs and manufacturers as there are shooters. I’m a fan of Action Target, myself, but there are others who make quality steel targets as well. When it comes to shooting I am not a monogamous man. Everything from your standard IPSA trio target, to reactive hostage style targets, to plate racks and trees.

Steel targets are manufactured in a variety of different ways. The most robust and “standard” targets are meant to be more of a static target. These static targets have heavy metal bases that can withstand ammunition impact just like the actual target part, so they’re good for public ranges. These targets are bolted together and it can require two people to align everything together while the other secures the nut and bolts. When I have to move these targets I basically just He-Man them into the truck and back into the storage shed.

For the average consumer, portable steel targets are more manageable. Since the portable systems are meant to be easily disassembled, it takes less than a minute to assemble/disassemble. The disassembled pieces easily fit in a car’s trunk or in the back of an SUV. If you can lift 25 pounds, then you will be able to handle the portable target systems. They have consumable parts that can be replaced. Since the base is skeletonized thin steel braces, the weight is about 1/10th of the static targets. Instead of a heavy steel center column, the Action Target Scout and Ranger systems require you to provide your own wooden 2×4. The downside of bases that are lightweight enough to move is that they’re too light to withstand a bullet impact. If you accidentally shoot the base, you may have to replace pieces.

If you are an avid .22LR shooter, Action Target still has you covered with some different options. One of my personal favorites is the PT Twist Rimfire with three different target plates. One of the three plates is always sticking up proud and as you shoot it, the target will flip, twist and jump. Since the target is moving, each shot will be slightly different than the last, getting more challenging as the PT Twist moves further away from you.

There are times when my goal is speed but I also need accuracy feedback. Rainbow Technology makes some fantastic steel target paint. The nozzles spray wider and cover faster compared to discount-store spray paint. Available in several different colors, once a steel target is painted when you hit it, your impacts are visible allowing you to see and correct your “shooting low and left” bad habits.

It’s not all roses when it comes to steel targets—there are some important safety considerations. I don’t want to scare you, but this is where buying from a reputable manufacturer like Action Target is your best bet. Homemade steel targets can become dangerous very quickly. If they’re not made from armor-rated steel, even shooting pistol calibers can deform and pit the metal. The more deformations, the more likely you can experience splash back. That’s where a bullet will hit a hard object and part of the bullet actually flies back at the shooter. I have personally experienced splash back, and let me tell you that seeing part of the bullet’s jacket embedded into my safety glasses caused me to Have A Moment. If it were not for the glasses, I would be wearing a pirate’s eye patch right now!

Action Targets can literally claim that their targets and designs have withstood millions and millions of rounds on target all over the world. Their targets are designed in a way that, when hit, the projectile is angled and deflected into the ground. Where a flat target has more of a chance at splash back, the momentum of the bullet hitting the angle sends it away from the shooter.

You should never shoot steel targets closer than 25 yards with a pistol. Action Target recommends a minimum of 100 yards for rifles. Even with the deflection angle built into the targets, the closer you shoot a steel target the more you have a chance of splash back.

One way to get around that is by using frangible ammo. I have shot steel as close as a couple feet with frangible the drawback is the dust that gets all over you. Frangible ammo is a compressed powder that turns into a fine dust when it hits a hard surface with no large pieces to hit the shooter. I think the worst con is the cost of the ammo, usually twice the price of standard trains ball ammo. My advice is that if you find frangible on sale, jump on it since that’s the only safe way to shoot steel at closer ranges.

Yes, quality steel targets are more expensive than paper or cardboard; that’s just the way of things. It’s best to look at the steel targets as an investment; as a professional Concealed Weapons Carrier I personally want the best equipment for my training and fun. You can easily save money by building your steel collection and starting out with a smaller style target like the PT 8 inch round target. These are easy to carry and set up and the size forces you to be a better shooter. Aim small, shoot small!

Start with some of the small bore targets to get you hooked into the game. Then move into the pistol caliber targets finishing up with long gun targets. Buying during different holidays is a fantastic way of saving some big bucks. Take advantage of the 15- 25% off deals and look for the bargain bin seconds deals. Simple cosmetic welding imperfections or rust can save you big time. Rust is easy to fix with a rust converter spray, and after you shoot them the rust gets blown off anyway. Save the money and take your range time to the next level with some heavy metal rock and roll!

James the “XDMAN” Nicholas Mr. UnPewFessional Himself. 


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