During tough economic times, many shooters decide to create or build their own steel targets to save money. With more and more companies and individuals manufacturing steel targets, the water has become increasingly muddy where accurate information is concerned.
Safety should always be the highest priority when choosing or building a target. Action Target’s steel target product line has been developed in conjunction with law enforcement and the U.S. Military for the last 26 years so it is time-tested and proven to withstand even the most intense firearms training.
Steel is Steel Right?
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.
Many times, shooters find an old piece of steel in their garage and think to themselves, “I can make a good steel target out of this!” While, you may be able to shoot and hit the target, with no problems, it may not always be the safest option every time.
Action Target Steel Target Design
Because steel target training is extremely effective, we have spent years combining high quality materials and practices in order to create innovative, effective, and safe steel target systems.
Our target designs include:
Made exclusively of the finest through hardened 500 and 550 Brinell steel with proper alloy elements that produce the required toughness and depth of hardening. In other words, they can withhold more rounds and they remain solid. The more craters and dents a steel target gets, the more unsafe it becomes. This is because its splatter pattern and ricochet is no longer constant and predictable.
Designed with smooth and flat shooting surfaces for consistent and predictable bullet splatter patterns. There are no dangerous brackets, clamps, or bolts to get in the way and to deflect rounds in unforeseen directions.
Designed to rest at a downward sloping angle, allowing for dissipation of bullet impact energy.
Designed to move when struck allowing for even greater dissipation of bullet impact energy.
Pay Today, Save Tomorrow
Steel targets in general are great investments. Action Target’s steel target product lines aid shooters with their pocketbook. Although these targets can cost more up front, they save money in the long run. Because they are made out of the best steel available, steel targets last much longer than a homemade target would.
In addition to our top quality products, we offer promotions, discount codes, and other types of savings to help our fellow shooters stretch their shooting budget needs. To learn more about Action Targets award-winning line of steel targets, visit https://www.actiontarget.com/portable-targets.
Editor’s Note: This is a continuation from last weeks article titled, Perfect Practice Makes Perfect. Action Target has republished this article in its entirety with the permission of the author. Ideas, comments, practices, recommendations, etc. are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of Action Target.
The Action Target Dueling Tree is comprised of six individual 6” swinger plates that slam from one side to the other with each individual bullet strike. Of course one can use these targets in the conventional way of swinging the plates back and forth. Yawn! Why, for goodness sakes, would you squander your range time by just shooting when you could be training? If you spend a little time thinking about it, you can really ramp up the training regimen with these things. Here are just a few of the drills that I’ve come up with so far with just two dueling trees.
First. You have a total of 12 swinging plates; those 12 plates give you a total of 24 individual, customizable targets to work with. And yes, you really should spend the money and get two of these—two is one, one is none. I’ll tell you why later on. By employing various color combinations you can take what is normally a simple target shooting session and turn it into a neuron-scathing race that usually leaves shooters out of breath and laughing pretty hard at the end. However, more than that, they will have made multiple Positive Instant Recognition (PIR) pathways that will stick in their minds. The most basic drill that can be done with this sort of thing is actually with just the factory flat black color that these come with. Once you have both trees set up, which only takes about ten minutes with a socket wrench, you can get started with the fun stuff. You stand the trees side by side then swing all of the plates to the inside of both trees. Next, you want to choose your comfort level as to just how close you want to stand when shooting on steel. Here’s my input on the subject: I have been shooting on steel for several years and have only been hit once when I was standing too far to the side of a student. Understand that when I say “hit,” it was more like being popped by a piece of flying gravel from a mower. Trust me, Airsoft pellets hurt far worse than this.
If you are shooting steel you should know that the mechanics of how the bullet dumps its energy is always going to be in a radial pattern. What this means is if you’re the shooter you’re fine, you will not get hit due to simple physics. However, if you’re the instructor, try standing behind the shooter and giving verbal commands from about a foot back, otherwise you might get stung. Most of the plates that Action Target makes have a slight downward face that deflects the impact energy down towards the ground. This allows you to shoot pistols very close and rifles from moderate distance. Please refer to the instructions that come with your targets and follow what they say as not doing so could result in harm to yourself and damage to your plates.
As you begin shooting the first drill with your dueling trees, you start at the lower left then move to the upper right, then upper left, then lower right, and so on until you have all of the plates turned to the outside. Essentially you’re making an “X” pattern over and over. Twelve shots later you are good and warmed up and you have just completed a more dynamic training exercise than any static paper target session could have ever afforded you. In doing this drill you have engaged multiple targets that required a large amount of swinging of your weapon so as to acquire sight picture for each. The idea here is to engage your target with follow through but not to dwell on it. In a very short time frame you will find that you will be hitting a target while your eyes are already locking onto the next plate. You want to keep moving one to the other as rapidly as possible. Because the dueling trees are so tall I like to do this drill from the 5-yard line with my pistol and from about the 10-yard line with my rifle. I’m 6’4” and I find these trees to be high enough that I’m not shooting down all the time. By staying in close, it forces me to have to really move my sights and body around for each shot.
If you really want to pour on the pressure you can do things like painting each plate a different color on either side. You can repeat colors if need be, just don’t repeat them in the same 12 plate set/side. Next you need to make small discs of wood (available at hobby stores) that have the same exact color combinations as your plates. For example, if you paint a plate blue on one side and green on the other you will need to have a disk with the same color scheme. Do this for all 12 plates then have your range buddy (never shoot alone) set the row of 12 discs out in front of you on your range table with a towel covering them. When your buddy says, “go” they start a timer, you then uncover the discs and whatever color combo is in front of you dictates the order you must shoot in, (from left to right). The problem is that the dueling trees are not left to right, or horizontal to put it simply. They are vertical, and to add insult to injury, your “buddy” has done a superb job of making sure that the discs are staggered so that no two colors are beside the other on the actual dueling tree…don’t you just love it? But wait, there’s more!
While you’re busy taking out plates, you’re uncovering even more colors which are muddying up your concentration so not only do you have to pay attention to the color orders, you also have to pay attention that you’re not re-shooting the same color that is on the other side of a plate. So, now you have to not only look for colors but you have to make sure that they don’t already have a bullet hit on them. Oh trust me, this game gets worse! Now that you have all of your plates flipped over, you holster your pistol, reach down and flip all of the color plates over and, that’s right, you do it all over again.
Meanwhile it is your buddy’s job to be trash talking you the whole time and vice-versa. And yes this is a requirement on my range. I want my shooters talking because I want to split their attention as much as possible so that their brains learn how to run their guns on autopilot. I don’t want rounds being counted because I want you to have to reload at least once, hence the need for two dueling trees. At a total of 24 plates in this drill even an FN 5-Seven will need a reload. If you’re doing this with a rifle it is your buddy’s sworn duty to download your magazines to only about 15 rounds each. Twelve rounds would be too obvious, now wouldn’t it? No, boys and girls, I want you well into your next course of 12 plates when your gun runs dry. I love it!
At the end of this drill you will be wasted, and remember, the clock is running so no dawdling. The time element is crucial because without it you won’t feel the urgency of performance that is so needed to properly motivate you to perform at your best. To not run a timer would be like basketball not having a shot clock…sacrilege!
This write up is just the tip of the iceberg for what I have in store for you. In upcoming issues I’m going to show you some truly creative ways to rethink the use of your steel targets. There are so many more drills that are possible with these highly versatile reactive targets that there isn’t room in this review to show them all to you. Besides, I need to keep you hooked. Until then, practice hard.
About the Author
Abner Miranda is a patrol officer at Signal Mountain (Tenn.) Police Department. He is an FBI-trained hostage negotiator, a tactical rifle instructor and an AR-15 armorer.
Editor’s Note: Action Target has republished this article in its entirety with the permission of the author. Ideas, comments, practices, recommendations, etc. are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of Action Target.
Last year I attended a shortened version of the world famous Rogers Range Course (RRC). It was put on by High Caliber Training in Crittenden County, AR. In law enforcement, pistol craft is your bread and butter and reactive shooting is a must-have for the modern officer. Reactive shooting is the condition in which you cease to think about engaging the target and just do it. The course of fire at the RRC is comprised of seven, pneumatically operated targets across five shooting stands that are staggered from seven to 20 yards. The shooter stands inside a framed doorway inset in a wall that runs the length of the multi-bay RRC. From this position, you fire nine challenging courses of fire, during which 8″ steel targets are only exposed from .5 to .75 seconds each. Those times are tough considering that a precision shooter’s reaction time to hit a target, from a security holster, is about 1.5 seconds. Upon leaving the course with a final score of around 70%, if memory serves, I was stunned that “a top notch shooter who is accustomed to scoring no less than in the high 90’s would score so poorly.” OK, all drama set aside, the fact is that at the RRC a 70% is pretty darn good considering just how hard this kind of training is. I spoke with Bill Rogers at SHOT Show 2012 and he told me that it was a respectable score. So there you go. Now I feel better.
Upon returning home from the RRC I knew that I had to incorporate those things that I’d learned into my weekly training time on my home range. It was then that I reached out to Action Target and requested to borrow some of their steel targets. I have, since then, cast off all of my paper targets, except for zeroing purposes and have gone to all steel. Why you may ask? Once you transition to steel you will NEVER go back to shooting paper…ever! Nothing is better at giving the shooter instant feedback than hitting a reactive steel target.
Practice Makes Permanent
After a solid year of looking for a piece of property that would allow me to shoot unfettered, I found a 3.5 acre piece of land in southeastern Tennessee that fit the bill. Since moving in I have set out to create a range that allows me to do all of the things that I could never get away with at my LE range. Cars, house doors, cinder blocks, watermelons, body armor, and armored glass—you name it, we shoot it. With multiple barriers and about 17 reactive steel targets, I have the range that I’ve always wanted. By incorporating the training that Bill Rogers has laid out in his courses, I have started honing my shooting skills and am now passing these skills onto my friends and family.
There is a saying in shooting that goes “perfect practice makes perfect.” Most of us are accustomed to hearing “practice makes perfect.” However, time has shown us that practice only makes permanent. In other words, repetition makes something permanent—it doesn’t make it right. When you were a kid learning to play baseball, how many times did you hear your coach yell “keep your eye on the ball!”? Through devotion and arduous repetition, the moment finally arrives when the young athlete hears the crack of the bat and sends the ball sailing over the outfield. Within 300 milliseconds of the success, the mind forms a positive neural pathway and stores the muscle memory labeling it “success!” Bill refers to this similar phenomenon in shooting as Positive Instant Recognition (PIR). PIR in shooting, just as in sports, must be recognized immediately or else the mind won’t record the success as such. This is easy in sports because you can see, feel, and hear the contact with the ball. In shooting, PIR is almost impossible to achieve because a fired shot that misses a paper target sounds and feels exactly like one that pierces the 10 ring. So how does one achieve PIR in shooting? Ditch the paper targets and go to all steel. With the instant feedback of ringing steel, the shooter gets the PIR that’s desperately needed to form a positive neural pathway.
No one makes steel targets better than Action Target. I have been using their target systems for several years now and have grown accustomed to the sound of steel registering a hit from hundreds of yards away. Of all of the products that Action Target makes, I find the Dueling Tree the most versatile. Not only does it offer an exhilarating speed challenge while shooting up close, it also offers a positive swinging action that can be easily seen from far away. Available in AR550 through-hardened steel capable of absorbing rifle fire, the Dueling Tree offers years of training in an affordable target. Refacing these five-foot tall targets is as easy as spray-painting the bullet hits away.
To read the rest of the article and to hear more about Abner Miranda’s innovative use of Action Target’s Dueling Tree Targets, please refer to next week’s Action Target Journal article.
About the Author
Abner Miranda is a patrol officer at Signal Mountain (TN) Police Department. He is an FBI-trained hostage negotiator, a tactical rifle instructor, and an AR-15 armorer.
There seems to be an ongoing industry-wide debate about which targets are best—paper or steel. While neither one will ever be crowned the ultimate victor, Action Target’s Steel Target Resource Guide gives meaningful insight to outline the strengths and weaknesses of each target type.
Shooting on paper is a great way to sight-in rifles and score trainings, and is great for qualifications held by law enforcement agencies. Paper allows a shooter to see where shots land, illustrating how tight groups are. The NRA and other leading organizations use a lot of paper targets precisely for this reason. Another benefit of paper targets is that they provide a bigger variety of shapes, sizes, pictures, and scenarios (there are even a lot of zombie targets out now to add an extra element of fun to training). Each organization has its own types of score zones, stages, and qualification targets, so the wide variety of paper targets allows for greater flexibility between events. Many competitions use paper targets because of this flexibility.
One of the greatest benefits of using steel targets is the instant feedback they provide. Shooters can usually see and hear when they’ve hit a steel target and this is something that cannot be done when using a paper target. Whether the range is training civilians or law enforcement officials, steel targets help shooters know whether their intended target was hit or not. Hearing and reacting to the sound of a shot hitting a target helps program muscle memory, which reinforces positive behavior. Just like in all athletic training, the body subconsciously remembers how to repeat or orchestrate all the different variables required for a successful movement, or in this case, shot. The ability that steel targets offer in regards to instantaneous feedback can actually enhance training, speed, and accuracy. This is especially important for tactical shooting scenarios with movement, such as moving plates and targets. Having multiple senses invoked during this training process conditions the shooter to become a more powerful and effective shooter.
Another benefit of reactive steel targets is the pure entertainment factor. It may seem frivolous at first, but it can provide an enormous benefit to a training program. The fall, spin, bounce, and dodge of a target all lead to a fun and enjoyable experience for shooters of all skill levels. This will eventually lead to an increase in range use and therefore, an increase in profitability for the range.
So, should you shoot on paper or steel targets? In short, it depends on the purpose of the shooting exercise. As already discussed, if the purpose is for scoring, a paper target is best. However, if the shooter wants immediate feedback and would like to train on a more tactical level, steel targets are recommended. For more information on making the best decision, download Action Target’s Steel Resource Guide.
Editor’s Note: The views in this article are the author’s own and don’t necessarily represent those of Action Target, Inc.
Gunsite Instructor Il Ling New believes one of the best ways to train with a defensive handgun is to practice head shots at moderate to extended ranges; meaning as far out as 20 yards. At first glance this may seem a bit extreme but consider that if you can consistently and quickly get heads shots at these distances, center punching a troll at between three and five yards should be easy.
The most common way to practice head shots is to draw from the holster and fire a single shot at the head of a target. Action Target’s Steel Hostage Target works great for this because you can use either the square head of the silhouette or the flapper head that will swing from side to side when hit. This flapper target actually adds a new dimension to head shot training that is impossible to achieve just about any other way.
Regardless of the defensive handgun training that you conduct, training to only deliver one round is not tactically sound and does little to advance your skills, especially when working at varying distances. One question firearms instructors often get asked is, “How soon after my first shot should my next shot be?” In other words, students want to know what their shot cadence should be. The answer is, of course, as fast as you can get hits, and this will vary as your ability increases.
With the Action Target Steel Hostage Target you don’t need a shot timer or an instructor telling you you’re shooting too slowly. Since the flapper target swings from side to side based on energy imparted to it by the bullet, the further away the target is, the slower it will flop over to the other side. The time it takes the target to flop lets the shooter recover from recoil and reengage the target at a new location.
This is realistic because it’s doubtful a bad guy will stand still while you are shooting at him and the greater the distance to the target, the more time it will take you to recover and align your sights. This time is matched very well by the flapper target. If you are ready to shoot as soon as it reappears, you’re shooting fast enough and not too fast, if you get a hit.
Here is a simple drill you can use to practice head-shots at varying ranges while fine tuning your shot cadence:
Set Action Target Hostage Targets at 5, 15, and 20 yards
Start by practicing at each individual distance, engaging the flapper target only
After you are consistent at each range, engage all the flapper targets starting with the closest and moving to the furthest, with at least two shots each (more shots at each range are even better if your handgun has a higher capacity).
If you only have two Action Target Hostage Targets or limited ammo capacity, place one at 5 yards and the other at 20.
You don’t need a shot timer. Your goal is to engage each flapper target as soon as it reappears. Do this often and you’ll become at-one with your proper shot cadence at near and far ranges. This drill, coupled with the Action Target Steel Hostage Targets, offers a simple mechanical solution to a complex firearms training problem for shooters of all abilities.
Action Target has met the training needs of law enforcement agencies around the country for more than 26 years. By working closely with agencies in every state, we have been able to enhance our product line to better achieve requirements of firearms programs. With 2012 just around the corner, many departments are experiencing budget cuts…again. Action Target has a solution that provides a balance between providing quality and value-added training while staying fiscally conservative.
As part of the solution, we will follow a more flexible schedule in the types of courses Action Target Academy will offer to law enforcement. We have also designed new courses that demonstrate effective, yet budget friendly firearms trainings. For example, we will dramatically increase the number of our Portable Steel Target Seminars, which are held at outdoor ranges and taught by some of the best firearm instructors in the country. Some of these expert instructors include Mike Lehner with Safariland Shooting School, John Krupa with Spartan Tactical, Dennis Tueller, Brian Hoffner and Leo Hathway.
Action Target has many training options for you and your department. By hosting one of our Portable Steel Target Seminars at your outdoor range,your department will learn how to effectively train on a budget. While the Action Target Academy is at your range, you can either replenish your existing supply of steel targets or start anew by using the targets provided during the course for next to nothing in cost. For more information about our Portable Steel Target Seminarand the Action Target Academy, please contact Rick Matthews, Director of Training, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view upcoming Action Target Academy seminars and trainings, visit our Calendar.
About the Action Target Academy: Established in January of 2004, the Action Target Academy conducts firearms training courses at host locations around the country. The mission of the Action Target Academy is to provide world-class firearms and defense training to law enforcement agencies and individuals who might not have such an opportunity otherwise.
Action Target Academy instructors bring experience, passion and intensity to every class they teach. With detailed lesson plans, instructors help participants document and retain training in order to allow for continual use and skill development. Adding Action Target’s superior line of firearms training equipment and services intensifies range drills and elevates realism to create the ultimate training experience.
*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.
The target should 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 .
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
In 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.
Action Target has recently released the first of five training videos on YouTube featuring world champion shooter Rob Leatham. The videos feature instruction from Rob and the drills he uses in his own training. Each video showcases a different type of steel target in Action Target’s Portable Target line.
The first video includes drills and skill demonstrations as Rob practices on the PT Plate Rack . The remaining four videos, to be released in the upcoming weeks, will emphasize how to train on other steel targets like the PT Static and PT Dueling Tree . This group of training videos was filmed at Rob’s home range located at the Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club in Mesa, AZ.
“The cool thing about these videos is that they are real training videos and not some promotional piece where we only talk about Action Target,” said David Mathis, Marketing Director at Action Target. “Rob shows you some of the drills he uses in his own practice, and explains the purpose and relevance of each one.”
Rob’s resume proves that these drills work. Rob began shooting in the late 70’s and soon became one of the top shooters to watch at local and national competitions. He currently holds 24 national titles, including five world titles and 16 consecutive years as the Single-Stack National Champion. A professional shooter for over 20 years, Rob currently shoots for Springfield Armory and Safariland. When Rob is not competing, he is a sought after firearms instructor for both law enforcement and military.
“Working with Rob on this was a great experience and it really showed his level of skill,” added Mathis. “Except for one or two drills later in the day when we were all hot and tired, each of the drills you see was shot in one take. Rob is just that good. And his level of understanding of the mechanics and what is going on while you are shooting matches his shooting ability.”
We are excited to bring this form of virtual firearms training to shooters around the world through the Action Target YouTube page. Whether viewed by a law enforcement officer, a casual shooter, or a serious competition shooter, these training videos are designed to help all shooters increase their skills when using a pistol.
Summer has arrived! To complement these long sunny days and make outdoor shooting even better, Action Target is offering multiple products for July’s Target of the Month program!
Setting up targets for outdoor shooting can be a daunting and exhausting task. Most outdoor setup requires carrying heavy targets across uneven terrain to set up a single shot. That is why we are proud to offer our exclusive self-healing target line by Reactive Target Systems (RTS). These systems are light and easy to assemble, making shooting outdoors more enjoyable.
Our RTS targets are not only great for outdoor use but they are also the best close quarter combat targets for live fire training scenarios. In addition, they can be placed in front of steel targets with no splatter, making them great for indoor range use. During the entire month of July, we are offering our RTS Static Packages at a discounted price:
To ensure a perfect target visual, we offer our Torso Targets in six different vibrant colors.
Don’t wait any longer! Purchase your RTS targets today. Visit our Action Target Online Store and use the appropriate coupon code to receive your discount. Offer ends July 31, 2011. Only one coupon code may be used per order.
At Action Target, we know budgets are tighter more than ever right now. We also know that training needs have to continually change to avoid complacency. To help ease the burdens these factors place on the training industry, we are excited to announce our Target of the Month program.
The Target of the Month program offers one of our portable target systems at an unbelievable low price to our newsletter subscribers. The discount price lasts the entire month that the specific product is advertised, so be sure to place your orders early before the month ends. There is NO LIMIT on the number of products ordered.
To kick off this program, we are featuring our PT Hold (Set of 3) Package . This package includes three target bases that utilize 1” x 2” strips of wood and provides a superior stable platform for you to mount targets onto. Regularly priced at $199 for the three-pack, this program allows you to purchase all three PT Holds for $150.
This offer is now available through June 30, 2011 at our Action Target online store, www.shopactiontarget.com , by entering the coupon code HOLDUP3 upon checkout.
With this promotional offer changing each month, we also want to announce our ‘Standing Offer’ that starts this June and continues through the end of December 2011. This offer includes our Newsletter Steel Target Package consisting of the following target systems:
AT Hostage (AR550 rifle rated steel)
AT Dueling Tree (AR550 rifle rated steel)
AT Plate Rack (only available in AR500 handgun steel)
When priced individually, these target systems cost about $1800, but through the Newsletter Steel Target Package, you only pay $1,500. To purchase these systems, add the Steel Target Package (AT Hostage, Dueling Tree AR550 & Plate Rack Package) to your shopping cart and enter the coupon code STEELSPECIAL2011 upon checking out to receive your discount.