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Shooting Steel Targets (Part 3)

*Note: This is the last segment of our three-part series entitled “Shooting Steel Targets.” Part One was published in September and Part Two was published in early October in the Action Target Journal.

Many people are hesitant to shoot on steel targets because of bad experiences they have heard of, been the victim of, or witnessed. Over the years, Action Target has been approached time and again by those who have access to steel, welding equipment, and the ability to shoot on their property. Each and every time we hear similar scenarios: I cut up this piece of steel [usually 1″ thick or greater] to use as a target. It should stop the bullets, but they either go right through it or cause unsafe ricochet and splatter.”

That would make anyone a little skeptical to shoot on steel, wouldn’t it?

So, as we publish the concluding segment of information dedicated to shooting portable steel targets, it is vital to include some facts about steel. We have included some information about what steel actually is, the hardness and quality associated with different ratings of steel, and some truths about steel that affect safety.

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 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 cataloged 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 minimum 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 Two 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 Safety Issue

The hardness of the steel is so 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. HARDOX / SSAB, Bethlehem-Lucas, Oregon Steel Mills, and NKK are major producers of such steel. 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 AR steel as “surface hardened” only. We state the following with all possible force:

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

  • 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.” (Source: http://www.escocorp.com/heflin_steel/wear/materials.html)

Note: 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.

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.

Be careful not to get caught up in the “more is better” mindset. Just because a Brinell hardness number (BHN) of 500 or 550 is good, it does not 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.

For more information on portable steel targets, Action Target has created one of the most comprehensive documents on the subject. The Action Target Steel Resource Guide (PDF) provides details on the properties of steel, how they relate to steel targets, and why they are important and so much more.

If you are looking for information about a specific target, visit our Portable Targets page of our website.

Shooting Steel Targets (Part I)

*Note: This is the first of a three-part series entitled “Shooting Steel Targets.”  Part Two and Part Three were published in October.

As the world’s leader for shooting range development, Action Target has a diverse line of products to meet the needs of all its customers. If there is ever a request for a target system not currently offered, we have a full team of Research & Development personnel to explore the creation of a new target solution. Many times, however, the training need can be met with some of the simplest targets.

Line-up of AT Portable Targets

Action Target has been hailed as the #1 steel shooting target manufacturer based on our unique designs, which have been developed and modified over 26 years. Our steel targets have been influenced, tested, designed, and used extensively by law enforcement, the military, and Special Forces groups around the world. These groups prefer our steel targets since they do not allow any exposed bolts or brackets on the shooting surfaces. This is a limitation to many designs, but the result is the safest possible steel target available.

When using any of our portable steel shooting targets, please remember these safety guidelines to ensure that your experience of shooting targets is a fun and safe one:

STEEL TARGET SAFETY RULES

1.         Always obey the Firearms Safety Rules listed belowMan shooting with PT Swinger

2.         Always wear hearing protection and wrap-around shatter resistant eye protection

3.         Always stand at least 10 yards from the target when using handgun calibers

4.         Always stand at least 100 yards from the target when using shotgun slugs

5.         Always stand at least 100 yards from the target when using rifle calibers like .223 and .308

6.         Never use rifle calibers on handgun rated targets

7.         Never use ammunition that exceeds 3,000 feet per second at the muzzle

8.         Never use ammunition that travels below 750 feet per second

9.         Never shoot BB’s, steel shot, or air gun pellets at steel targetsMan Shooting Bobbers Over Shoulder

10.       Never use more powerful ammunition than the target is rated for (green tip, armor piercing, etc.)

11.        Never shoot on steel that is cratered, pitted, or damaged in any way

12.        Hard ground surfaces under the target should be covered with plywood or boxed pea gravel

13.        Targets should be placed with a 3-foot lateral and deep offset from the adjacent target

14.        If shooting multiple targets, the angle of engagement should not exceed 20 degrees

15.        Use only non-toxic paint on steel targets

16.        Inspect all targets before use for damage, functionality, etc.

17.       Shooters and observers must wear long pants (no shorts), long sleeve shirts, a cap or hat with a brim, and closed toed shoes

18.        Instructors and observers should stand behind the shooter and observe all safety rules

19.        If using frangible ammunition, it is the responsibility of the Rangemaster to test fire all frangible rounds to determine the following:

  • That the projectile pulverizes completely on contact
  • That the projectile does not damage the steel target at the distances you intend to shoot from

For more information about our steel targets or the importance of safety while shooting targets, visit our Portable Targets page on the Action Target website.

New Features for Action Target Website

We received some great feedback following the launch of our new Action Target web site a few months ago. We know that the firearms industry is constantly growing and developing new ideas, products and solutions, which is why we are continually improving and adding new features and offers on our site.

Screenshot of the new Action Target Home Page

These great new features include:

Search: Have you ever wondered if our Action Target Journal has an article discussing a specific question or training need you may have? Or maybe you are looking for a certain target but are not sure which category it is under? To make navigating through our site easier, we have added the search bar to the top of every page to help you find the information you want faster. → Search for Action Target Journal Articles

Home Page: Another way we’ve made navigation easier is by updating our Home Page. The new Home Page design provides access to our three most recent Action Target Journal articles. There are also new scrolling boxes that contain information and specifications about recent Action Target builds, highlight featured products and feature our high-quality range products. A scrolling ticker also informs of recent Action Target and industry news. All of this information is just one click away when you visit www.actiontarget.com. → Visit the Home Page

Webinar: Action Target now presents webinars, or free online trainings. Each webinar is highly informative and entertaining, presented by various experts on topics that help you have the most successful range and training programs possible. Our recent webinar introduced the Total Containment Trap. During the webinar, Addison Sovine (co-founder of Action Target, Inc.) gave critical information and tips for those considering a new bullet trap, answered common questions concerning bullet traps, presented an overview of the Total Containment Trap, and explained why Action Target is an invaluable partner in shooting range planning and construction. Our Online Training page also provides information about upcoming trainings and hosts archived videos of past webinars. → Visit our Online Trainings Page

Partners Page: At Action Target, our top priority is to provide high quality firearms training products and solutions. To ensure this high level of standard in all we do, we have taken great care to only partner with companies that uphold these same standards. We are proud to be partners with some of the greatest companies in this industry and we look forward to working with you to provide the best shooting range equipment and training solutions available in today’s market. To get to know our partners better, visit our Partners Page where you can access their web sites and other great sources of information in the “Links of Interest” section. → Visit the Partners Page

Careers Page: Be a part of our team! Action Target is built around a team of proven executives, skilled engineers and machinists, dedicated sales representatives and tireless customer service technicians. Our team has passionate, knowledgeable and skilled people who are creative and driven to develop innovative new firearms training technology and support in this industry. Now you can be a part of our team by visiting our Careers Page and applying for open positions today! → Visit the Careers Page

Programs Page: We have added a new page devoted to our exclusive Action Target programs. Currently there are two programs, the Brass, Ammo & Firearms Trade-In Program. Check back soon as we will be adding more programs in the near future. → Visit the Programs Page

Online Contact Form: In addition to providing contact information for all of our Territory Managers, we have provided another easy way to contact us – our Online Contact Form. Submit your question, comment, or praise, and we’ll get back to you quickly. →Visit the Online Contact Form

We are incredibly excited about the new changes we have made and we will continue to add more features to ensure the best online experience possible for our customers. If you have any feedback regarding our improved site, we want to hear from you! Simply leave a comment telling us what else you would love to see on our site, what you like about our new design or anything else you want to address.

New Action Target Website

Action Target is pleased to announce the launch of the new Action Target website. The new website will continue to be a key source of information for firearms training, addressing the specific needs of our major customer segments: Military, Law Enforcement, Commercial/Sport Shooting, and Planners/Architects. In addition to the great information and product descriptions that were already present on our old website, we have also added some great new features and will continue to add more throughout the year:

Online Store: Our online store is now more fully integrated with the main ActionTarget.com website. In addition to selling all of our Portable Targets online, you can also purchase other important shooting accessories such as cardboard targets, clearing traps, and Action Target apparel. The shopping experience is now easier than ever with a streamlined shopping cart, product recommendations, and expanded product descriptions. → Visit the store

The @ Report: Our weekly newsletter, officially known as The @ Report, now works together with its online counterpart to create a socially interactive atmosphere. After reading an article, you will have the ability to post a comment, share the article through social media buttons, and find other related articles by through article tags. The @ Report is a vibrant and interactive resource to stay up-to-date on industry news, recent builds, and informational articles that will help you and your organization create the perfect firearms training. → Visit The @ Report

Media: Our Media page now consolidates important industry news and Action Target press releases so you can stay current on changes that are important to your organization. We also pull the most recent articles from PoliceOne.com and Officer.com for your convenience. → Visit the Media Page

Action Target Academy: Starting in 2011, we will offer online registration and payment for our Action Target Academy events. Offering online registration will allow you to quickly register whenever is convenient for you, also allowing registration for your whole department or organization at once. → Visit the Action Target Academy Page

Online Project and Proposal Builder: One of our most exciting features to be added in 2011 will be our online Project and Proposal Builder. This new feature will allow you to build and design your dream range online by selecting the parts and features you want. After defining the scope of your project, the builder will give you an approximate bid and put you in contact with your area representative for further information and counseling before building your site.

We’re excited to have these great new features and look forward to hearing your feedback and working with you in the future!