Is There Ricochet When Shooting Steel Targets?

Many people have a common misconception about shooting steel targets: there is always a ricochet, and bullets end up flying everywhere. This fear is rooted in a general misunderstanding that non-gun owners have about bullets and steel targets. In reality, when used properly, steel targets have a very low ricochet risk.

There can be ricochet when shooting steel targets if the wrong ammo is used on the wrong target. With proper precautions, ricochets are extremely rare and not harmful. When shooting steel, you must use an undamaged armour steel target, the correct ammo, and stand a safe distance from your target. 

If you read the instructions accompanying your steel target and adhere to its guidelines, the risk of ricochet accidents is significantly reduced. In the article that follows, we will discuss more specifics about ricochets and steel targets. If you have questions about how to avoid these dangerous accidents, then continue reading to learn more. 

How to Avoid Ricochet When Shooting Steel Targets

Shooting steel targets has quickly become a prevalent form of target practice. While paper and cardboard targets are fun and shooting clay pigeons is a challenge, few things are more rewarding than the loud sound of a steel target being struck. 

The risk of being hit by a ricocheting bullet off a steel target is low, but it can happen. 

The number one rule to being safe when shooting steel is to follow directions and be careful. Unfortunately, most shooting accidents happen as a result of carelessness and disregard. 

Use the Right Ammo

Steel targets are designed to absorb the impact of a bullet and destroy it on impact. However, if you use the wrong ammo type, the steel may not be thick or strong enough to destroy the bullet.

Also, consider the solidity of your ammunition, as some bullets may be too hard to be fully absorbed by your steel target. 

Know What Your Steel Target Can Handle

Most steel targets are made of AR 500 or AR 550 steel. These are some of the best money can buy, will last longer, and absorb more bullets than other steel targets. 

For example, this Highwild 3/8″ AR500 12″ Classic Popper from provides high visibility and is suitable for “most pistols and rifle calibers.” It’s under $50, and it’s ready to go right out of the box.

It’s also important to know how thick your target is and what bullets it is rated for. 

Some targets are meant for handguns or shotguns, while others are capable of handling rifle impacts. 

These High Caliber AR500 Geometric Steel Targets come in a range of thicknesses from ¼ to ½ inches (6.35 – 12.7 mm), with the thickest option suited to everything from a classic 9mm to a 12-gauge slug buck.

Read the instructions that come with each target and if you’re still not sure, contact a firearms expert. They will be able to inform you as to the best way to use your target. 

Angle Your Steel Target Appropriately

angling your target in a downward direction is recommended to reduce splatter and extend life. This ensures that the only path the ricochet has to go when the bullet strikes is down into the ground. 

This is a helpful safety tip to remember. 

Factors That Can Reduce the Risk of Ricochet

The number one cause of ricochet accidents is people not knowing what they’re doing. If you use the wrong gun or ammo with the wrong target, you significantly increase your risk for an accident. 

If you adhere to the directions of your target and are still worried about ricochet, here are a few things you can do to ensure safety. 

Only Use Targets Certified As AR 500 or AR 550

Steel targets made of this steel will ensure that you have a high-quality target capable of handling multiple types of weapons and ammo.  

While you can use AR500 or AR550 targets for pistol shooting, the heavier AR550 plates are better suited for rifle practice and last longer without pitting or damaging a rifle range. 

ALWAYS Check Your Ammo

The best type of ammo to use for shooting steel targets is FMJ (full metal jacket). As a general rule, the softer the bullet is, the better. 

If your bullet is too hard, you risk dinging or denting the steel target, making it more of a liability. Avoid using armor-piercing rounds and steel rounds which are more likely to cause ricochets.  

Stand the Correct Distance Away From the Target

This is perhaps the most important rule to remember. If you stand far enough away from your steel target, you significantly reduce the risk of being hit by a stray ricochet. 

The distance you’ll want to maintain when shooting steel targets depends on what kind of gun you’re shooting with. For shotguns, stand at least 30 yards away. When shooting with rifles, stand at least 100 yards away.

Make Sure Your Target Is Not Damaged in Any Way

If your target is old and beat up, or if you use the wrong ammo and damage your target, stop using it. A damaged target is a recipe for disaster. 

If a bullet should hit the steel target in a damaged area, the steel may be too compromised to absorb the bullet’s impact. 

Additionally, dings or dents could send a ricochet in an unpredictable direction, further putting yourself and anyone with you at risk. 

Following directions, being cautious, and using the above safety techniques will help you avoid nearly all ricochet accidents. 

Weapon Guidelines for Avoiding Ricochet 

Every gun is made differently and uses different ammo calibers, but listed below are general guidelines to remember when shooting steel targets. 

Handgun Guidelines

When shooting steel targets with a handgun, a minimum distance of 25 yards (22.86 m) should be kept between you and your target. 

This may vary depending on the type of gun and steel target you use, though, so always check before pulling the trigger.

Shotgun Guidelines

A minimum distance of 25 yards (22.86 m) should be maintained between the shooter and their steel target when using shotguns. 

Once again, this may vary from target to target and from gun to gun, but 25 yards (22.86 m) is an excellent standard to have.

Rifle Guidelines

When it comes to shooting steel targets with rifles, more caution is necessary. 

Rifles are often more potent than shotguns and handguns and use larger bullets. Therefore, a minimum distance of 100 yards (91.44 m) should be kept between you and your target when using a rifle. 

Contact Action Target Today

Shooting steel targets is a great and fun way to hone your firearm skills. As long as you are aware of the risks that accompany this activity and how to mitigate them, shooting steel targets is relatively safe. 

Remember to use the right ammo, have a high-quality AR material and undamaged target, and stand a safe distance away. If you follow each of these steps in conjunction with your steel targets instructions, then you should be able to enjoy an accident-free day at the range!

With over 30 years of experience, Action Target can help you build the perfect range for your unique needs. Whether you’re building a commercial range that caters to casual or tactical training or a law enforcement range to better prepare your officers, our experts can help with the challenges of building a range. Talk to one of our representatives in your neck of the woods here