Tag: AR550

The Truth About Steel and Steel Targets, Pt. 2

When it comes to steel targets, it is important to understand there are crucial differences in the quality of the steel used to make the targets and the design of the targets themselves. In an age where it seems everyone “knows a guy” who can make steel targets for them out of a welding shop, understanding the facts about steel is even more important. Steel targets can be perfectly safe and a fantastic training tool if done right, but they can also be extremely dangerous if done wrong. Here at Action Target, we have been designing and manufacturing steel targetscart Small and tactical training systems for nearly 30 years. Here are some of the things we’ve learned along the way.

TRUTH – THERE IS A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE IN THE QUALITY OF STEEL BEING USED

Unfortunately, there are steel targets out there that are poorly designed and are made of inferior steel. Homemade targets from local welding shops are usually the culprits, but some commercial target manufacturers use inferior steel as well. Because these targets are vulnerable to cratering, pocking, and general deformation, they are very dangerous and should be avoided. Any steel with a Brinell hardness rating under 400 falls into this category, including standard “T-1” steel with a hardness rating in the 300 range.

LETC 007
Action Target centerfire handgun targets (like this 8″ circle) are all made of 3/8″ AR500 armor steel. Our rifle targets are made of 3/8″ AR550 armor steel.

After many years of experimenting to find the best solution, most major manufacturers of dependable, high quality steel targets now use steel with a Brinell hardness rating of at least 400. A few premium quality manufacturers use steel with a higher Brinell hardness rating of 500 or even 550. Fewer than 10 steel mills in the world can provide quality AR500/550 steel. Action Target has direct relationships with many of these suppliers which allows us to purchase steel mill direct. Steel of this quality is always certified by the plant that created it, however, at Action Target we conduct independent hardness testing on every shipment we receive. If the steel does not meet our ballistic standards, we reject the entire order and send it back.

Other steel certifications like “Magnum Steel” or “Extreme Steel” are merely marketing terms added by the manufacturer. When all the rhetoric is boiled away, there are manufacturers who use steel that is not appropriate for targets, and there are those who use steel that is. Make sure you know the difference.

PROPER DESIGN IS CRITICAL

Even the best steel can’t compensate for poorly designed targets. There are several unavoidable principles that must be followed to create targets that are as safe and durable as possible.

PT Torso (all sides) [web]
All Action Target steel targets are designed for predictable splatter. There are never any exposed bolts, clamps, or brackets on the shooting surface, and the target leans forward slightly to dissipate some of the bullet’s energy.

TRUTH – SMOOTH AND TOTALLY FLAT SHOOTING SURFACES ARE ESSENTIAL FOR CONSISTENT SPLATTER PATTERNS

There are two things manufacturers can do to ruin the smoothness and flatness of a steel target. First, they can use inferior steel that will crater, pock, and deform. Second, they can put brackets, clamps, or bolts in the way of the shooting surfaces. Remember, anything that can be shot will be shot. Why is this an issue? Because you can do a reasonable job of predicting and protecting against a bullet’s splatter pattern when it hits a flat, uniform surface. If the steel is damaged or if anything else is in the way, all bets are off. Bullet fragmentation and ricochet are inherent and acknowledged issues when shooting on steel targets. Proper target design helps you address those issues with the highest degree of safety possible.

TRUTH – DISSIPATING A BULLET’S ENERGY IS SAFER AND HELPS YOUR TARGETS LAST LONGER

When a bullet strikes a steel target that is completely stationary at a 90-degree angle, all the bullet’s energy goes directly to weakening that point on the steel. If the target is completely stationary but is positioned at less than a 90-degree angle, a portion of the bullet’s energy at impact is deflected rather than absorbed. If the target is positioned at slightly less than a 90-degree angle AND the target is able to move on impact, a much larger portion of the bullet’s energy is deflected rather than absorbed.

NO STEEL TARGET IS INDESTRUCTIBLE

Without exception, every steel target out there today can be damaged. Steel hardness and proper design can both be defeated by misuse and/or abuse of the target.

TRUTH – THE BASIC DESTRUCTIVE FORCE GENERATED BY BULLETS STRIKING STEEL TARGETS IS HEAT

Excessive concentrated heat alters the steel’s hardness properties and results in damage to the target’s face. The amount of heat generated is proportional to the speed of the bullet, which is why rifles cause more damage to steel targets than handguns.

TRUTH – RIFLE DISTANCE ON STEEL TARGETS IS NOT AN EXACT SCIENCE

LETC 169
Even though this target is made of AR550 armor steel, shooting too close or shooting with piercing rounds has caused severe damage to its shooting surface.

No matter what anyone tells you, shooting a steel target with a rifle – even at 100 yards – can damage your target, even if it has a Brinell hardness rating of 550. You must be very careful about your choice of steel and ammunition! Even with 550 Brinell steel and the target mounted at a significant angle, some damage is still possible, even at 100 yards. For best results, use only steel targetscart Small that are specifically designed for use with rifles.

With so many complex variables like ammunition type, rifle manufacturer, barrel length, bullet velocity and so on, it is virtually impossible to establish a set distance for shooting rifles on steel targets. To determine what works best with your specific equipment, we suggest the following: Fire a test shot from 100 yards and then examine the target. If there is no damage, move in a few yards and fire another test shot. Repeat the process until you find the optimal distance for your combination of rifle and ammunition. Some people may be comfortable with a certain amount of dimpling on the steel. Minor damage to the shooting surface will not create a shooting hazard if you are shooting at 100 yards, but if can be very dangerous if you choose to shoot at close range with a handgun on the same target. Even if your steel targets have only minimal rifle damage, they should never be used for closer distance handgun training.

TRUTH – SHOTGUN SLUG DISTANCE ON STEEL TARGETS MEANS 100 YARDS MINIMUM

Shotgun slugs have the greatest potential for bodily harm to the shooter due to the sheer volume of lead that can be returned from damaged or poorly designed steel targets. Stay back!

TRUTH – FRANGIBLE AMMUNITION REQUIRES THE SAME QUALITY STEEL AS REGULAR AMMUNITION

Many types of frangible ammunition, particularly for rifles, are lighter than regular lead ammunition. Remember that lighter bullets can mean greater speed, which means more heat, which can mean damage to your steel target. Just because frangible ammunition is designed to break up on impact doesn’t mean the distance requirements do not apply. You should follow the exact same rules with frangible ammunition as you do with any other.

TRUST THE EXPERTS

When it comes to your safety, don’t settle for the advice of your local welder. Steel targets can be fun and safe as long as they are made of quality steel and designed to produce predictable splatter. In fact, steel targets can be one of the greatest tools for firearms training, but they have to be manufactured correctly. Shooting on poorly designed targets made of inferior steel can result in severe bodily harm. Here at Action Target, your safety is our biggest concern. We have decades of experience manufacturing steel targets, and we constantly conduct ballistic research to make sure the steel we use meets our standards and your expectations. If you are looking for a steel target, trust us to point you in the right direction.

The Truth About Steel and Steel Targets

With more and more companies and individuals manufacturing steel targets, the water has become increasingly muddy where accurate information is concerned. With technical data provided by the American Iron and Steel Institute in Washington D.C., this report is designed to cut through the recent hype and establish a basis of fact for accurate evaluation and comparison.

What Is Steel?

Steel MillSteel is an alloy metal composed of iron and varying amounts of carbon and/or other elements such as chromium, nickel, tungsten, manganese, and so on. Steel with specific properties and characteristics is created by adjusting the overall chemical composition or by altering the various production processes such as rolling, finishing, and heat treatment. Because each of these factors can be modified, there is potentially no limit to the number of different steel recipes that can be created. Currently, there are over 3,000 catalogued grades or chemical compositions of steel available. Steel can utilize a wide variety of alloying elements and heat treatments to develop the most desirable combination of properties.

Steel Hardness and Quality

For steel targets to be functional and safe, they should be made of high quality through hardened steel that has a Brinell hardness number (BHN) of at least 500. The steel must also provide sufficient strength, toughness, and impact resistance. The Brinell hardness test depends upon the resistance offered to the penetration of a carbide steel ball (1.6 mm diameter) when subjected to a weight of 12.6 kg. The resulting hardness value is computed as the ratio of the applied load to the area of the indentation produced. This test is accepted as a worldwide standard for measuring the hardness of steel.

Truth – There are 2 Factors that Affect the Hardness of Steel

The first is the amount of carbon and other alloying elements in its chemical composition, and the second is the manner in which the heating and cooling of the steel is manipulated. These factors are determined at the most fundamental level, and affect the finished steel as a whole.

Truth – Steel Hardness is a Critical Issue

Steel Deflection
[Left] Hard steel with a flat surface will create a predictable splatter pattern. [Right] Soft steel with an uneven surface will cause unpredictable and unsafe ricochet and splatter.
The hardness of the steel is critical because only a smooth surface will generate predictable splatter patterns. Steel that is not sufficiently hard can develop pits, craters, dimples, and other hazardous deformations. When a bullet hits one of these deformations, it is impossible to predict where the splatter will go, thereby creating an unacceptable
training environment.

There are many steel mills located around the world, but only a select few are able to produce steel that is hard enough and of sufficient quality to be safely used for steel targets and equipment. Action Target has a list of major producers of Steel that meet quality specifications. Each of these companies may have minor proprietary differences in their production methods, but they all must make sheets of hard steel in essentially the same way. Nevertheless, some suppliers of targets and shooting range equipment attempt to muddy the water and create perceived differences in steel quality where none exist. One particularly misleading claim refers to a certain company’s use of through hardened steel as opposed to merely surface hardened AR500 steel allegedly used by everyone else. We state the following with all possible force:

1. Action Target uses only high quality, through hardened steel with a Brinell hardness rating of at least 500, and we use it in every one of our ballistic steel products.

2. Action Target can also provide through hardened steel targets and other steel products with certified Brinell hardness ratings of 550 and even 600.

3. Despite the inaccurate claims, AR500 steel is NOT surface hardened. It is through hardened. Witness the quotes listed below from steel suppliers around the country.

Chapel Steel – AR500 is a quenched & tempered, through hardened, wear-resistant grade of abrasion resistant steel plate used for severe impact. (SOURCE: http://www.chapelsteel.com/ar500-ar500f.html)

Heflin Steel – Heflin REM 500 abrasion resistant plate is a premium grade wear plate, ideal for extreme abrasion coupled with resistance to impact. REM 500 plate is through hardened up to a 3″ thickness for maximum hardness and abrasion resistance.

Benco Steel – AR500 is a through hardened steel with high hardness for use where there is severe impact and abrasion.

(These companies are steel suppliers, not manufacturers or producers. They buy steel from the actual manufacturers like HARDOX / SSAB, and then re-sell it to their own customers.)Stacked Steel

4. Any statements contrary to those above are simply untrue.

Be careful not to get caught up in the “more is better” mindset. Just because a Brinell hardness number (BHN) of 500 is good, it doesn’t mean a rating of 700 is better. While you must use steel that is hard enough for the task, going overboard only impacts your checkbook and not the product durability. For example, ballistic tests have shown that the performance difference between steel with a 500 BHN and steel with a 535 BHN is so small that you can’t tell the difference with a bullet but only with a gauge. Also be aware that you can actually use steel that is too hard and too brittle for ballistic training purposes.

Action Target’s Tactical Torso

Action Target is pleased to announce its newest target – the AT Tactical Torso. The AT Tactical Torso is the upgraded version of the popular AT Torso. With two swinging plates to simulate the lethal head and center mass zones, you get instant visual feedback from hitting the right spot. Unlike similar targets, you do not have to shoot the swinging plates back into place. The two plates swing vertically from hinges above the shoot zones allowing them to fall back into place after each hit.

The AT Tactical Torso’s target-within-a-target design is perfect for realistic tactical training situations. Instead of just firing at a large torso target where anything that hits counts, the AT Tactical Torso forces shooters to focus their aim on the small lethal areas of the torso increasing accuracy and precision.

The torso and swinging plates are made of through hardened AR550 armor steel with no exposed bolts, clamps, or brackets allowing you to shoot safely without fear of ricochet or splatter. The rear hinge brackets are also made of armor steel (AR500) to minimize wear and tear from daily use and provide you with a lifetime of tactical training.

Get your AT Torso today!

More Photos