Month: October 2011

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.

Action Target Becomes an NSSF Voting Member

Action Target is proud to announce its recent acceptance as a voting member of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).

Founded over 25 years ago, Action Target began with two high school friends working out of their garage. Today, Action Target has become the world’s largest shooting range equipment manufacturer.

Holding more than 40 patents, Action Target has steadily increased its inventory to include over 4,000 products. In addition to manufacturing, Action Target also designs, delivers, and installs indoor and outdoor range equipment throughout the world. Action Target is the preferred choice for the firearms training programs of US & international commercial/sport shooters, law enforcement, military, Special Forces groups, and tactical training schools.

Action Target is honored to be accepted as a voting member by the NSSF’s Board of Directors. It is our pledge to assist in the NSSF’s ongoing mission to promote, protect, and preserve both the shooting industry and the heritage we all share. As private ownership of firearms increases, the need for safe facilities to practice shooting has become crucial. Action Target and the NSSF will work together to enhance the presence of commercial shooting ranges in the USA while supporting the many programs they offer.

About the NSSF

Following a series of industry meetings in the late 1950’s—sponsored by Field & Stream Magazine—the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) was chartered in 1961 to promote a better understanding of and a greater participation in hunting and shooting sports.

In 1963, the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) merged its promotional arm into the NSSF enabling the foundation to expand its efforts and establish its own headquarters in Riverside, CT.

Recognizing the growing urbanization of America, NSSF first sought to build public awareness of the sportsman’s role in conservation and their contributions to wildlife management through landmark efforts such as the annual National Hunting and Fishing Day, established in 1973.

Over the years, the foundation has continued its public outreach efforts while also developing a wide array of programs to encourage new and added participation in hunting and target shooting sports. In the early 1980’s, NSSF was at the forefront of promoting the then-new sport of sporting clays and generating widespread publicity for shooting games of all kinds. An example was the 1988 “Sportsman’s Team Challenge”—the first made-for-TV shooting competition appearing on ESPN, which continued through the 1990’s.

Over the past several decades, NSSF has greatly expanded its efforts to strengthen hunting and shooting sports traditions through nationally based efforts such as STEP OUTSIDE, the Families Afield initiative, First Shots, and the Hunting Heritage Partnership, which provides grants to state wildlife agencies for programs that improve access and opportunity.

Since its inception, NSSF has been a leader in building opportunities so future generations can continue to enjoy hunting and shooting sports. NSSF is a major supporter of the nation’s youth shooting programs and has created its own programs such as the Scholastic Clay Target Program along with other similar efforts at the collegiate level.

Firearms safety education has also been a fundamental mission of NSSF throughout its history. Over the years, the foundation has distributed millions of safety brochures and delivered safety messages through television, radio, and print media outlets. Initiated in 1999, NSSF’s Project ChildSafe has distributed more than 35 million firearm safety kits throughout all 50 states.

The NSSF is actively engaged in representing its members in respect to key legal, regulatory, and legislative issues through its Government Relations division.

Since 1979, critical funding for NSSF’s many programs and activities has come from the NSSF-owned industry trade show, SHOT Show. From an inaugural event of only 50,000 square feet of exhibit space, the show has grown to some 700,000 square feet of exhibit space today and is the largest trade exposition of its kind in the world.

NSSF’s foundation represents the broad scope of the hunting and shooting sports industry. Members include manufacturers of sporting firearms, ammunition, a wide array of accessories, and equipment manufacturers as well as distributors, retailers, shooting ranges, and many other companies and organizations in the hunting and shooting sports community. Today’s membership includes more than 5,500 companies and organizations.

Shooting Steel Targets (Part 2)

*Note: This is the second of a three-part series entitled “Shooting Steel Targets.” Part One was published in the Action Target Journal in September and Part Three was published in October.

Action Target produces the finest and most sought after portable steel targets in the world. As a world leader for shooting range development, our steel targets have been developed in conjunction with law enforcement and the US Military for the last 26 years. As a result, our steel targets are among the safest around, which allows you to predict splatter patterns and ricochet. We 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.

Why are portable steel targets important?

Instant feedback reinforces positive behavior and programs muscle memory. Just like hitting a baseball, your body subconsciously remembers how to orchestrate all the variables required for a successful shot. If you do not get instant feedback, your mind and body are not able to accurately correlate which variables produce positive results, and which produce negative results. The more senses you involve in the process, the more powerful and more rapid the conditioning becomes.

Sight

The target shouldAction Target 3-D Targets bounce, spin, rock, wobble, explode, fall, or give some other visual indicator when hit. High contrast paint on a shooting surface will increase visual feedback, but paint must be reapplied frequently. Paint can also be used to reduce visibility if desired.

Targets do not have to be made of steel to provide visual feedback. Plastic can provide some of the same effects, and cardboard targets can be equipped with various types of hit sensors. Balloons by themselves can be simple reactive targets, and they become even more effective when used with a three dimensional cardboard torso like our reactive 3D Target .

Sound

Steel is required for a target to produce a “gong” sound when hit. The size and thickness of the steel will affect the quality of the sound produced, as will the method by which the target is mounted or suspended. If the target is mounted so it is not too restricted and can move when hit, the gong will be louder and more effective. Although quality steel targets will cost more upfront, the savings in training time and ongoing cardboard and paper target replacement will more than pay for your original investment.

Shoot More, Waste Less Time

Action Target Evil Roy Practice TargetIn addition to providing effective visible and audible indicators when hit, steel targets greatly enhance the steel efficiency of your training as well. Instead of changing out paper or cardboard targets, you can spend more time actually shooting. The 30 or so minutes you save each day really add up over the course of a year, especially if you are working with a large department.

If You Build It, They Will Come

A final benefit of reactive targets is the pure entertainment factor. This may seem frivolous, but it can provide an enormous benefit to your training program. Would you rather shoot holes in paper all day, or would you rather participate in tactical shooting scenarios that involve movement, communication, and targets that drop, fall, spin, dodge, and charge you? The more enjoyable the training process is, the more often people will come to the range.

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

AT Swinger for Only $175

Action Target SwingerDuring the entire month of October, we are offering our AT Swinger for only $175 as part of our Target of the Month program! This offer is available at the Action Target Store or by contacting the Territory Manager for your region.

Enter the code OCTSWINGER when placing your order in the online store for the discount. Only one code per order. There is NO LIMIT on the number of products ordered. Offer cannot be combined with other discounts or specials. Offer expires October 31, 2011.

Self-Funding Shooting Ranges

A New Way of Looking at Shooting Range Viability

By Addison Sovine

While the top-level view of a commercial indoor shooting range may appear simple and direct, the economic reality is often the opposite. If one were to take the cost of a range based on today’s market value and implement a state-of-the-art range featuring approximately ten lanes, the initial investment would be well into the millions. A range costing a million dollars would require $50,000 in range fees just to cover the interest payment alone. If a range yields $10 per participant for each hour of range time, five hundred shooters would be necessary to simply cover that interest. In addition to start-up fees, heating and cooling of the facility can be substantial when variables like airflow and heat are factored in.

Expenses that add up quickly

Another five hundred shooters—if not a full additional thousand—would be necessary to cover the cumulative cost of operations and physical utility bills. This does not include costs associated with labor, maintenance, or any other expenses, causing the cost of an operation range to accumulate.

Making Your Good Range Great

Over the past 26 years of leading the industry, the men and women of Action Target have learned that an indoor range in and of itself is not as viable a solution as an indoor range used in conjunction with a retail store. However, a guiding principle sometimes forgotten is that a good range validates a good store. A good range makes it possible for a store to perform a service that dealers and stores without a range cannot perform. Clients can test firearms prior to making their purchase. AT Constructs Indoor Shooting Range for OrlandoRental or lease programs are realistic possibilities, allowing for more informed decisions to be made. A singular offering like an on-site range provides a service unavailable elsewhere, meaning you are selling not only the firearms, but also a rare service–your expertise.

Your ability to provide a critical service as an expert in the shooting industry, in conjunction with the services of a range, allows you to train and demonstrate that which you sell. A range also gives the opportunity for relevant, adjacent offerings, such as personal protection classes, concealed carry classes, and other things not available from people who would need to rent or borrow a range. With this in mind, reconsider the economic validity of building or purchasing a range.

A Model of Economic Viability

Supposing your range will consist of ten lanes, the last thing that you want to worry about it is the required maintenance. Any mechanical device follows a single objective rule—the more complex the device, the more expertise necessary in its service and maintenance. Just a few years ago, having an automobile with a motor, a carburetor, and a little common sense may have been the only necessary tool in order to adjust the carburetor. Today, however, the proliferation of computer controlled, microchip-fueled components makes it incredibly difficult to do so. Accidents or problems can necessitate repairs that are far more expensive now than they may have been ten or fifteen years ago.

The laws of physics hold domain over any space, including ranges where bullets are being fired. Combined with constant historical trends of human innovation, we can see that whenever someone builds something to stop a bullet, someone else will build a bullet strong enough to go through it. Thus, it is only a matter of time before an equipment failure or breakdown on a range occurs.

AT Builds New Shooting Range and StoreThe value of simplicity, then, is clearly demonstrated. On a typical commercial range, there is no need for fancy, high-end target retrieval systems. The most cost-effective system on a range is a simple toggle switch on a track and a motor that takes the target down to a distance—this distance determined perhaps by a line painted on the wall or a line painted on the floor. This distance is determined and used as the operator runs the target down by holding the switch. As the operator brings the target back, they will run the switch until the target returns. While this may not sound like sufficient technology for training law enforcement, it truly is the only necessary mechanism for target retrieval.

If you are going to donate your commercial range to local law enforcement, understand what that could entail. Even with donations of use, local law enforcement agencies’ use of your range will be a small fraction of its cumulative use. You will not be able to properly maintain your range or even break even based upon the rental of that range with your law enforcement under typical circumstances.

*NOTE: This has been the first section of many Action Target White Papers being released to the public. All white papers can be accessed through our website. To read the rest of the Self-Funding Shooting Ranges White Paper, you can download the entire PDF document by clicking on the link provided. You can also watch the full video presentation.

About Addison Sovine

Addison is the Executive Vice-President and Co-Founder of Action Target. He has over 26 years industry experience and has personally designed, built, and maintained thousands of shooting ranges.