Shooting Steel Targets FAQ's

Shooting AR500 steel targets is fun and actually very safe as long as you use some basic guidelines. It's important to understand:

  • Why You should Only Shoot AR500 or AR550 Hardened Steel
  • What Type of Ammo to Use
  • What are Safe Distances for Rifles vs. Handguns
  • How to select the right target thickness for your caliber
  • How Bullets React on Fixed Targets vs. Hanging Targets

Let's dive right in... 

Why Should I Only Shoot AR500 or AR550 Steel?

This hardened metal is much tougher than stainless steel. Stainless steel is a soft steel and bullets can actually ricochet. But if you use AR500, the bullet will basically vaporize on contact.   See the video in the next section. 

What Kind of Ammo Should I Use?

If you can get it, the best ammo to use is frangible ammo because it completely disintegrates on contact. But, it's not that common to find. So, you'll want to use Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) ammo or ball ammo. It is everywhere.

FMJ has an outer shell made from one type of metal (usually copper) and a soft interior such as lead. Both frangible or FMJ act almost like a water balloon on contact.

The bullet splatters and sends fragments out perpendicular to the target.

Watch us use soda cans to prove it in the video below. 

Avoid using steel core, armor piercing or green tip. This ammo reacts very differently. It doesn't break apart easily and can be unsafe. 

How Close Can I be When I Shoot AR500 Steel? 

Table header 0Distance to TargetTarget Thickness
Rifles100+ Yards3/8" AR500
Handguns25+ Yards1/4" AR500

The recommended distance for handguns is 25 yards.  For rifles, its 100 yards. If the target is reactive (ie. hanging targets that absorb some energy) you can safely make shots closer than  the recommended distance. But be careful because as you move closer to the target there is higher chance of splash back. You could also cause damage to the target if you are too close. Always uses safety equipment such as eye and ear protection. 

Fixed Targets Vs. Hanging (Reactive) Targets

The difference is pretty straightforward. A hanging absorbs some of the energy from a bullet and causes the target to react. If the target is hanging it will swing. A dueling tree target will swing to the other side.

A fixed target is usually affixed to a pole or sturdy object and doesn't move. Fixed targets should have a downward angle to direct bullet fragments downward. You don't need that downward angle with a hanging target. It will absorb the energy and direct the bullet downward.

Fixed Target Example

Hanging & Reactive Examples


Shooting steel targets can be fun and safe. Just make sure you follow the rules above and you'll be hearing the sweet clang of success in no time!

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