Monday, November 21, 2016

Targets And Their Varieties

Almost anybody who has shot a handgun or a rifle has shot at paper targets of some type. They’re often the only targets allowed at indoor ranges, and they’re common outdoors too because of their low cost and the ability to take home your target to show off.
Paper targets are forever, or at least until they hit the trash can.

But if you’re lucky enough to have access to a range that allows them, reactive targets are a whole other level of fun. Unlike paper targets that require you to get up close to see where your shots landed, reactive targets will give you immediate feedback. The most common, and my favorite, are targets made out of steel plates.
You can get lots of variety in a practice or plinking session with just a few differently sized and shaped pieces of steel.

When freshly painted, hits on steel are easier to spot than regular paper targets, and even unpainted or far away, the audible “ting!” is unmistakable even if it’s not knock-over steel (steel that falls down in some way after it is hit). Steel is also both more forgiving than paper – anywhere on the target counts – and less – you either hit the bullseye or you miss (hopefully into your safe backstop). All of those are reasons why steel is popular not just for practice and learning, but in competitive shooting too. Many of the action shooting sports use steel for all or part of their target arrays.

If you have the opportunity to shoot steel for whatever reason, there are a few things you should keep in mind because shooting steel targets without the right safety measures could turn your day bad very quickly. The very hardness that makes steel a durable, interesting target is what can also lead to problems when bullets impact.


I’ve been bruised as a result of a pistol round ricocheting off steel about ten yards away. Now imagine if you were kneeling.

The first thing to keep in mind is that not all steel targets are created equal. You should make sure that the target is made from the proper strength material, like AR-500 steel, and that it is rated for the type of ammunition you are planning to use with it. Otherwise, the entire target may become curved or the surface may pit, which can cause bullets hitting it to ricochet into unplanned and unsafe directions, including neighboring ranges or properties.

Bullets can bounce back unpredictably even with appropriate steel in good condition, so it’s important to minimize ricochet potential as much as possible. Setting targets so that the flat surface is slightly angled towards the ground, and making sure you shoot from a safe distance also helps. I like to be at least 8-10 yards away for pistol, and at least 100 yards for most rifles, generally speaking. It’s also important that the mounting hardware for your steel target is also safe to shoot at, whether that means it’s something that can’t be damaged by a bullet impact or won’t result in an unsafe ricochet. While some will claim that eye protection is optional, not only is it mandatory when steel targets are on the range, they should also be a full wrap-around style. There are many styles from different manufacturers in all price ranges that can also protect your eyes from both front and side ballistic impacts. The sunglasses you bought at the grocery store probably aren’t adequate; splurge and get some real eye protection, or even go cheap with safety glasses from the hardware store.

Safety is king and if you feel something is not safe don’t do it. Also, don’t put up with others around you doing unsafe things. I’ve had fellow shooters being unsafe around me even after I told them they were being unsafe. I finally just left the range. It’s not worth an injury or worse just because someone doesn’t think it’s a “big deal.”
Self-healing targets are the latest technology. You can fire well over 1,000 rounds at one target and it will remain intact with zero to minimal damage. So you are probably asking yourself, “How do self-healing targets really work?” The magic behind the self-healing target is all about the material. Although most manufacturers aren’t open about the proprietary material they use to create self-healing targets, it is known that they are made out of a durable yet flexible polymeric material.
The flexibility of the material allows for a bullet to enter then immediately contract as the bullet passes through the target. The bullet passes straight through the target and the friction and heat created by the shot allows for the material to close and reseal itself. This lets it keep its shape and durability.
Depending on the types of ammo and calibers that are being used as well as other factors such as the distance and size of the target, one self-healing target can be shot up to 10,000 times.
You may be asking how it is to track the accuracy of your shot with a self-healing target since the bullet goes all the way through the target then reseals. If you want to see the accuracy and exact location of your shot, you are able to do so because the shot leaves behind a burn that marks the precise location of the shot.
Safety is another issue that gets brought up regarding self-healing targets. Some believe that the bullet will ricochet off of the target because the material has an elastic consistency but this is not true. In fact, self-healing targets are a safer alternative to steel targets as they do not splatter lead like steel targets do.
3d Targets are also an alternative. They are usually made of self-healing material also.
Manufacturers say the “dummies” will last 4,000 to 5,000 rounds, and the “self-healing” rubber compound “allows the projectiles to pass through with minimal deformation and degradation to the Dummy.” The #1 thing you aren’t supposed to do if you want this target to last as long as possible is to shoot it with hollow points or wadcutter (flat nose) bullets, as they act like cookie cutters and will remove a plug of rubber on their way through, ruining that whole self-healing thing. So remember that with all self-healing targets. Some dummies are even made to “bleed”.
Exploding targets are also a fun choice. There is Tannerite, Sonic Boom and many others out there. Some require mixing and all require being over 21 to purchase. Don’t buy these exploding targets for teen-agers or kids. You can shoot with them but I would not let them play with this unsupervised. Adults do enough dumb things, we don’t need kids getting hurt doing what stupid adults may do with this stuff on line.
As with all things dangerous, be very careful of the targets you use. Remember distance is your friend when target practicing and always keep the 4 gun handling safety rules.
As a reminder:
All guns are always loaded.
Never point your muzzle at anything you do not wish to destroy.
Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
Know your target and beyond
Shooting is something that can be done for a variety of reasons. Recreation, defense, competition, and hunting. Whichever you decide is for you, there is a target to suit your needs.

Semper Paratus
Check 6
Burn
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