Slamming a rifle bullet that's zipping along at 1,500 feet per second, or even faster, against toughened steel generates an immense amount of energy.
To avoid encountering explosive outcomes or triggering hazardous situations, such as ricochets or excessive splintering, it's crucial to adhere to these recommended methods:
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Steel Target Thickness Chart + Guidelines
- Steer clear of employing steel-core projectiles like the M855.
- Refrain from discharging rounds that travel at speeds surpassing 2,850 FPS.
- Remember to don protective eyewear while engaging steel targets.
- Avoid shooting at steel targets that are tilted to the left or right.
- Always position your steel targets at an angle facing downward.
- Consider opting for steel coated with rubber if shooting from close quarters.
Here's a quick steel target thicknesses chart based on the type of firearm you'll be using:
- Rimfire and pistol rounds: 1/4-inch thickness
- Non-magnum centerfire rifles at 100 yards or more: 3/8-inch thickness (AR500)
- Magnum centerfire rifles at 100 yards or more: 1/2-inch thickness
Always wear eye protection at keep at a safe distance when shooting FMJ or frangible ammo
Check out: Detailed steel target guide
Always Keep Bullet Velocity in Check
While thicker targets may seem more durable, they also have some downsides. Heavier targets are more difficult to transport and have more mass, making them less likely to "give in" when struck by a bullet.
High velocity rounds that go over 3000 - 3400 fps like 5.56mm, 5.7, 224 valkyrie, 308, 30-06...etc will do fine with a 3/8" steel, as long as the shooting distance is safe, so nothing bounce back and hit you.
Pitting from 7+ years of heavy use
This can result in increased damage from smaller, faster rounds. On the other hand, 3/8-inch thick steel targets are lighter, more mobile, and can "roll with the punches" better, leading to less damage overall.
Additionally, 3/8-inch targets produce a more satisfying "ring" when hit.
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The Universal Law of Steel Targets
Even if you're shooting a non-magnum round, you still need to abide by the "universal law of steel targets." This law applies to all steel targets, no matter the thickness or firearm used.
For big magnum rounds traveling at high speeds with large slugs, it's worth considering a 1/2-inch thick target, as it can handle the impact more effectively due to its mass.
The Pros and Cons of Thicker Targets
While thicker targets may seem more durable, they also have some downsides.
Heavier targets are more difficult to transport if they aren't setup as permanent stationary target.
On the other hand, 3/8-inch thick steel targets are lighter, more mobile, and can "roll with the punches" better, leading to less damage overall. Additionally, 3/8-inch targets produce a more satisfying "ring" when hit.