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  • Post last modified:August 19, 2023

AR500 steel targets have become increasingly popular in the shooting community as a way to enhance tactical training.  

However, using steel targets also comes with unique safety concerns and requires proper equipment and knowledge. In this article, we will cover the ins and outs of steel targets, from the benefits to the potential risks.

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Benefits of AR 500 Steel Targets

Steel targets are reactive targets that provide immediate feedback upon impact, allowing the shooter to adjust their aim and technique in real-time. They are particularly useful for tactical training and concealed carry practice, where accuracy and speed are essential.

Steel targets also offer a longer lifespan compared to paper targets, which can be torn or damaged easily. Additionally, they are more environmentally friendly since they do not create paper waste.

Safety Considerations

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Safety is a crucial factor to consider when using steel targets. Unlike paper targets, steel targets present the possibility of ricochets, which can cause injury or even death.

It is crucial to use proper eye and ear protection and to be aware of the target's angle to ensure that bullets hit the ground after impact.

Most manufacturers recommend a minimum distance of 5-10 meters for shooters, although some have different requirements such as bullet type, which we will discuss more below

Choosing the Right Steel

ar500 steel target

Not all steel targets are created equal. It is essential to choose high-quality steel, such as AR500 steel, which is known for its durability and resistance to deformation.

 Using salvaged steel is not recommended, as it may not have the right metallurgy or quality necessary to withstand the impact of bullets. Low-quality steel can create divots and deformations that can cause ricochets.

Equipment and Set-Up

setup ar500 steel target

For steel target set up, shooters need a stand or a mount, which can be made from two-by-fours or purchased pre-made.

The height of the target should be adjusted to chest height to simulate a realistic scenario, and it is essential to ensure that the target has an angle of at least 20 degrees to redirect bullets downward. 

Steel targets can also be painted or colored to add variety to training and help shooters see where their rounds hit.

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Types of Steel Targets

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There are several types of steel targets available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of the most common types include:

  1. Steel Targets on Chains

Steel targets on chains are typically hung up between two points, making them easy to set up and use. However, they can be problematic because they tend to wear out quickly and require frequent replacement of the chains.

  1. Ready-Ship Targets

Ready-ship targets, also known as RSTs, are portable steel targets that are easy to set up and take down. They're often sold with a stand made of two-by-fours, which makes them more stable than targets on chains.

They're also available in various sizes, making them suitable for different types of training.

  1. Pepper Poppers

Pepper poppers are steel targets that fall over when hit, making them popular in competitive shooting events. They're often used in pick-six or three-gun competitions, where participants have to hit multiple targets quickly. Texas Star is another one that is very challenging to shoot.

While they're not as useful for tactical training, they can be a fun addition to any range day.

Target Sizes

The concept of "aim small, miss small" suggests that smaller targets are preferable for training. Shooting at smaller targets helps you to develop good habits and accuracy, making it easier to shoot at full-sized targets in actual self-defense situations.

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For instance, shooting at a smaller target builds up those good training habits and skills, making it easier to hit a full-sized target such as a humanoid or torso.

romeo5 pov red dot reticle on steel target

On the other hand, long gun shooters use larger targets, like human-sized chest targets, when shooting at distances of 500 to 1000 meters.

Using Frangible Ammunition

frangible ammo

Referenced : gunivore.com

Frangible ammunition is designed to break apart upon impact with a hard surface, reducing the risk of ricochets. 

bullet fragments

Bullet fragments like this can splash around the steel target, and some can bounce back and hit the shooter if too close.

Using frangible ammunition can enhance safety and is particularly useful when shooting at steel targets.


However, frangible ammunition can be more expensive than traditional ammunition.

Mixing Paper and Steel Targets

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While steel targets provide immediate feedback, paper targets are still valuable for precision shooting and group size.

Combining both paper and steel targets in training can provide a more comprehensive approach to tactical shooting.