View Full Version : How to Make Steel Plate Targets

April 3, 2007, 09:40 PM
Im looking to weld up some steel targets. Im looking for any suggestions on how to make some reactive steel targets. I've shot plates in matches before (there would be 5 plates in a line and each would fall... after that they could all be reset by pulling a cord)... any ideas on how to make this type of target? .... I haven't seen it for some time and can't remember how it was configured.

Also, I'ld like to make some pepper popper type targets and was looking for advice on how to make these. Should 1/4" steel suffice to stop handgun velocity bullets?


April 4, 2007, 11:33 AM
Here are a few sites for ideas about how to make them:





April 4, 2007, 12:01 PM
What is the largest caliber you will be shooting at the target?

For general handgun shooting I would use 3/8" thick mild steel.
It will not be very expensive, should handle most handgun rounds and should be easy to find at your local hardware store or steel supplier.

Most of the targets listed above are from hardened steel, which will cost you more. It's worth checking the price on the hardened steel though.

I have shot 1/4" thick mild steel plates with handgun rounds and had some deformation. I cannot recall the exact rounds that were fired at the plate though.

April 4, 2007, 05:09 PM
Probably .45 will be the largest caliber Ill fire at the target. Primarily 9mm but a bit of .45 as well. I'ld rather spend a little more and get steel that will last then have to break welds and replace steel every 6 months. It looks like 3/8" is a better idea than 1/4" ... am I correct in saying that?

Just for an FMI... what would be required for 5.56 rounds?

April 4, 2007, 11:00 PM
Just for an FMI... what would be required for 5.56 rounds?

Armor-grade steel

April 5, 2007, 01:15 AM
Most professional targets are made from steel rated at 500 Brinell (hardness rating).

April 8, 2007, 10:24 AM
I make targets from 3/8 steel, that I get from cutting off new dump truck, frames, I build. The stuff is not armor quality, but it is very hard. Drill bits just hate it:D Maybe check with a local scrap yard or bussiness, that assemble dump trucks. Im not talking pick-up style dumps,but straight framed trucks, will work. The 3/8 will stop any auto loader round, for high power rifles, I double it up. I made a plate rack, that I have to manualy set back up, good exersize, but a PIA. I like the steel B27 style shillouet, I made the best. It has a 3" bull in the center that is hinged, and auto resets. Heres a link to a pic of my homemade shooting range.


Ken O
April 8, 2007, 07:37 PM
I have made tons of targets over the years, not for profit, but for friends and clubs. As far as the steel, 3/8" is fine, used some 1/2" but it wasn't necessary. I used to use the AR (400,500) plate, but it got so expensive, $1600 a 4X8 sheet that I went to the cheap mild steel (A-36) about $250 a sheet, its been a year or so since I bought any, so it probably cost more now. I have many steel targets in my pistol pit in my back yard, they have taken thousands of hits without any damage at all.
I changed all my reactive stuff to just bolt down. You can see the hits each shot, after five or six hits, just take a can of white spray paint and re-paint, just like you do at any Steel Challenge match.
My favorite targets are the bowling pins. Cut the steel out the same dimension as the pin and bolt them to a horizontal 4X4. Shoot like the old pin matches (Second Chance), but you don't have to bend over and reset the pins. For bolting them down, use a 3X3 angle iron 4" long, (or whatever you have laying around), weld the target to the angle in whatever position makes it easy to bolt down.

February 6, 2009, 02:30 AM
I think 3/8” 500 steel plate target is better for that....i think it's strong enough...

blanchard grinding (http://www.preciseplate.com)

February 6, 2009, 09:10 AM
If you dont want to get fancy, or spend lots of money.

Talk a walk down a railraod track, you'll find tigh plates (those steel plates that hold the raid to the cross tighs). They work loose, get screwed up and section crews just leave them lay when they put in new ones. They can take just about any round you shoot at them, rifle pistol or what ever.

If you have a section house (railroad maintance section) in you town go talk to them, they'll give you the old plates to keep from having to haul them off.

You can make falling plate, hanging plates, or what ever your imagination allows but they hold up and they are cheap.

February 26, 2009, 08:15 PM
I have picked up lots of scrap steel for free 1/4 and 3/8 mild steel if it gets holes in it just replace it with another free piece. If your buying the steel you may want to take care what you shoot at it.

pop ups were a pain in the but for me I stuck to welding the targets to spin or at least swing.

longrifles, Inc
February 28, 2009, 11:43 PM
May I suggest 500 brinnel hardness steel.

That's what I've seen used and it seems to last. The ones I've seen fail always break at the weld so my solution would be minimize the welding on any surface that receives an impact.

build it once.

Wild Willie
March 7, 2009, 12:33 PM
I have made several, for different purposes.
I usually use AR400 or AR500, which is armour plate. It handles soft lead bullets of any caliber. I have no exposed welds, the only welding is for a bracket on the back from which the target hangs. It has a nice ring to it when it is hit. Occasionally a weld will break, but that is easy to fix. I have used both 3/8 and 1/2 inch plate. The only difference I have noticed is that they sound different when they ring, and the 1/2 is heavy to haul around.
I would never use a jacketed bullet with these because the jacket will ricochet all over the place, even back towards the shooter! Since most of my firing is relatively close-range that's important to note!!!!
Don't ever fire 5.56 at these! I tried it once at 50 yards, figuring I would be far enough away to avoid any fly-back - which was true. But I destroyed my target. 5.56 does penetrate 1/2 armour plate. It doesn't go through. But it SERIOUSLY pitted the surface to the point where it becomes dangerous to fire at again -no longer being a clean flat surface. It took me a while to dig out the debris and reweld the pits, and grind it flat again - which leaves much softer metal in place of the 400 hard steel that used to be there! I weld the back bracket above the center back of the plate so that it hangs canted forward. That way all the debris is deflected down towards the ground.
On the other hand: our IPSC club uses a Texas Star target with armour steel plates and three different caliber rounds, none of which seriously damage the plates - but the debris flies out in every direction because the plates are not canted to deflect downwards. :o

March 8, 2009, 05:43 PM
Steel plates are great fun, until I bring out the Contender in 7mm, it punches a good hole in mild steel 1/4", but the harder steels in 3/8" plate survives it ok.

Just remember that if your targets are used by others using a T C contender in medium rifle caliber like the AK rounds using armour piercing ammo, they will near punch nice holes in 1/4 and 3/8" Mild Steel plate with a lot of 14" barrel guns.

Any handgun with conventional lead bullets will be OK in 9mm, 38, 357, 44, and 45 cal using 3/8" plate, stainless plate is tougher but somewhat expensive, most mining companies have SS plate laying about, it makes lousy BBQ plates so ya might as well shoot at it.

March 14, 2009, 08:13 PM
We took kraigwy's advice and took a walk down some railroad tracks. Interestingly, around here the RR is going to concrete cross ties. We found some steel plates in the culvert since I guess the new concrete ties do not use this type.