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Old June 9, 2019, 02:33 PM   #1
TruthTellers
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Safe distances to shoot steel?

My range has a pistol pit area where steel knockdown targets are kept year round. They recently did work in that area to make the pits deeper and sent an email saying that rimfire shooting in the pits is not allowed, then recently I heard another member say that nothing under .38 is allowed to be shot in the pits.

I know their reasons are "safety" but this doesn't make sense to me. I've shot .22 Short, LR's, and Mags in the pits not two months ago with no problems as well as .25 and .32 ACP and again, no problems.

So is it safe to shoot steel with low power/low velocity rounds like rimfire and .25 ACP and the .32 ACP/S&W Long? If yes, what's the distances recommended?
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Old June 9, 2019, 03:49 PM   #2
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If the targets are slightly angled and tilted down slightly and ground is soft between you and the steel, you’re likely safer than if they’re square to you with a slight tilt up.
As such I don’t typically shoot steel with a handgun at less than 20 yards.

I’m also not sure of the under .38.
We’ve shot .22 up to .44 mag at steel and don’t see a ricochet difference.
Maybe someone else can address lighter weight ammo.
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Old June 9, 2019, 04:36 PM   #3
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With typical service pistol calibers and standard ammunition (lead, copper-jacketed lead or frangible rounds) something around 10 yards is about right.

Shooters and bystanders will still likely get hit with fragments occasionally when using non-frangible rounds at that range, but the fragments should be spent and will be unlikely to cause any significant injury to anyone wearing normal eye protection.

I don't know about the numbers when using solid copper/gilding metal rounds. I would be inclined to be very cautious with those.
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Old June 9, 2019, 04:58 PM   #4
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Just a shot in the dark, no pun intended, but maybe the small projectiles cause more damage to the targets. I have a BirchwoodCasey 44mag steel spinner target good for handguns up to 44 magnum. It seems like 22's leave a slight dimple that larger rounds do not. Again, this is just a guess and might be way off.
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Old June 9, 2019, 09:56 PM   #5
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On hardened steel, with targets that are either angled downward or that spin or swing when hit, I have never had an issue with rimfire or pistol rounds on targets as close as 7 yards. Eye protection is, as with all shooting, very important...just in case. This is on my on range, of course. I never shoot anywhere else.
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Old June 10, 2019, 01:25 AM   #6
TruthTellers
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmhyer View Post
On hardened steel, with targets that are either angled downward or that spin or swing when hit, I have never had an issue with rimfire or pistol rounds on targets as close as 7 yards. Eye protection is, as with all shooting, very important...just in case. This is on my on range, of course. I never shoot anywhere else.
All the steel targets are knockdown targets, so if hit hard enough they fall down.

.22 doesn't knock them down all the time tho.
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Old June 10, 2019, 02:31 AM   #7
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My experience with 22's is that the low velocity and the light bullet weight makes it very susceptible to ricochet. I hear it all the time in my range. The bullet does not hit the plate with enough force depending on size to know the silhouette down so it could come back and hit you. Hear is a video of Hickock 45 hitting silhouette starting with rimfire and going up to larger calibers. You can notice the difference immediately . I believe that the more force the bullet has it will expand all its energy on impact.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDAWc9TB6CY
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Old June 10, 2019, 06:04 AM   #8
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Shooting suppressed sub sonic pistol rounds at steel is enlightening to the amount of "wizzies" going on shooting at steel. Our range has separate 22 rf range with appropriately sized 500 brinell for 22's. Our regular pistol range has heavier/larger targets that swing back. 22's and lower powered pistol rounds have higher chance of ricocheting against the heavier targets. Common to find smaller caliber fmj bullets up to 20 yards back from the targets. We require shooters to be back 25 yards form the steel as a safety factor from bullet fragments.

The worst round i have seen for steel targets is the 38 special swaged wad cutters.
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Old June 10, 2019, 07:30 AM   #9
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IDPA and I think USPSA mandate a minimum of 10 yards from steel plates. This is for everything under rifle calibers.
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Old June 10, 2019, 12:44 PM   #10
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In the old days, when shooting pins and plates with a shotgun, the minimum shot size was Number 2's. Smaller shot would bounce back and hit spectators. Got hit myself a couple times with bouncing bullets. One of which was a very long bouncing FMJ .45 at Second Chance. Got hit on the leg from a lot farther than 10 yards.
Buddy of mine took a slice of lead .45 bullet in his forehead from 7ish yards while practicing on pin shaped plates. The slice went through the bill of his hat, missed his glasses and stuck in his eye brow. The point of the slice bent upon impact on his skull and grabbed the hide so it required ER removal.
Point is that 10 yards may or may not be enough.
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Old June 10, 2019, 04:34 PM   #11
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A really big factor in splatter off plates is when the plates are really pocked up from being hit. I use all AR500 steel on mine and it's not a problem. I remember being at the NSSF Team Challenge in Florida for their big shoot and I saw what looked like a bumble bee coming towards me. I was behind the handgun firing line at the time and there were guys shooting. I tried to lean back because it was going to "fly" into me. I got a little bit back before it hit, and it was a very large piece off a .45 slug that hit me. It cut through my shirt and left a pretty big cut on my chest. Ruined the shirt and a few band-aids fixed the cut. That slug went out thrity-five yards and hit the plate and then came back over that distance to hit me. Those plates were really pocked up. Other places where I've shot would result in some splatter, but not that bad. In Conn. one time I saw the RO setting up the handgun line and testing the targets with his 38 Super. He had a slug come back and actually enter his sinus cavity and get lodged in there. That thing really hit him hard. He was one tough son of a gun. He went to the ER and they x-rayed the slug in his sinuses. He told them he'd be back on Monday for surgery and they taped his face up and he ran the match for the weekend. He was a state trooper up there. Not one to mess with. Those targets were pocked pretty bad also. After most of those episodes the NSSF made sure the targets were smooth faced. Good reason not to use mild steel regardless of how thick it is.
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Old June 10, 2019, 04:51 PM   #12
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NoSecondBest makes excellent point. Am still "discussing" with certain older club members why thicker/heavier steel is dangerous to use at range. Let a certain old timer weld a bracket on back of 500 brinell plate, after explaining it would take the temper out of it. Thought maybe an example might learn him. Hung the target and and had someone shoot where it was welded leaving deep pockmarks.
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Old June 10, 2019, 05:27 PM   #13
Don P
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USPSA states 23 feet minimum for steel and if fault lines are used the distance is 26 feet
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Old June 10, 2019, 05:58 PM   #14
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And you will STILL get hit by spatter occasionallly.
Wear eye protection and get tough.
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Old June 10, 2019, 11:12 PM   #15
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My comments above related to steel targets in good condition. The points made later about pock-marked steel are accurate and important to consider.
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Old June 11, 2019, 09:02 AM   #16
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Quote:
My experience with 22's is that the low velocity and the light bullet weight makes it very susceptible to ricochet. I hear it all the time in my range. The bullet does not hit the plate with enough force depending on size to know the silhouette down so it could come back and hit you.
This is my understanding as well, and why I have always been hesitant to shoot steel with with .22 (aside from silhouette targets at distance at a good range). Larger pistol calibers typically have enough energy to reliably "splatter" on impact, but I don't get this impression with any .22 ammo.

Can anyone elaborate on this? What is the safe distance for shooting something like a hanging plate or steel torso target with a .22?


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Old June 11, 2019, 10:39 AM   #17
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I shoot Steel Challenge with .22 LR. The closest plate is 7 yards. I have not been hit by spatter from my .22, but:
1. I have been hit by spatter from other guys' centerfires. I once had a whole 9mm bullet bounce over the berm from the next bay. It didn't land hard but it was definitely a surprise. If you shoot alone, you are not subject to what other people are doing.
2. The targets are smooth and hard, we don't shoot scrap iron and we don't shoot plates that have been dinged up by rifles.
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Old June 11, 2019, 12:57 PM   #18
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I've shot a lot of steel targets over the last twenty-five or so years. Most .22lr bullets turn into a small flat disc when they hit steel. The idea of "more energy" lessening the chance of splatter doesen't hold water. A 45acp slug moving along at 800-900fps doesn't have enough energy to cause the slug to do anything other than leave the target mostly in one piece. If you look around on the berm you can easily find heavy handgun bullets flattened out on the nose and somewhat intact on the last half of the bullet. In almost every case of injury due to bullets bouncing back it's been a case of a slow moving, heavy handgun bullet coming back to hit someone. A .22lr can "splatter", but it's usually very small parts of that flat disc coming back from the side of the target that's not directly in front of you. That RO I referred to in CT. had a nearly intact bullet in his sinus cavity...ragged jacket and all. I've seen rifle shooters shooting high velocity rounds at steel targets and shoot completely through them with some rounds (small caliber high velocity) and many who pocked the plate with their bullet. Rifle rounds (cneter fire) should not be shot under a hundred yards with any type of steel. We built steel backer boards to use with .22lr rounds for Team Challenge shoots and used 4x8' sheets of 3/16" steel and found out that after several thousand rounds of impact from the lowly .22lr that the entire plate curved from all the impacts. We had to add another piece of angle iron in the center after we straightened them out. Due to the curve, we had splatter coming back to the firing line. No one was hurt, but glasses were an absolute must. What ever you use, check the targets on a regular basis.
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Old June 11, 2019, 02:00 PM   #19
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I think the general fact that "knock downs" are set at eye-level creates a general problem of splatter management. I shoot a lot of steel myself, and I always have the target set lower than my muzzle. But I would love to own a rack of plates

22lr doesn't usually splatter in my experience - it just flattens.

Even with chain mounted, downward-canted, AR500 plates set below muzzle, I don't shoot closer than 20 feet.
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Old June 13, 2019, 06:23 PM   #20
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For steel silhouettes, I start to feel splatter at 7 yards and in. The splatter hits the large bolt head and then comes back at me. These are my targets with pretty much no dents.
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Old June 13, 2019, 07:22 PM   #21
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I have my own range and let friends use it. I have hung all kinds of stuff since I built the range and don't put any steel closer than 25 yds. and those are supposed to be for handguns only. Unfortunately someone manages to put a .223 through one of those targets occasionally...even if I get upset about it. I have a torso shaped target at 75 yds that guys do all kinds of damage to, and a line of goofy stuff at 100 yds for any calibers. I even hang some propane tanks occasionally.
75 yards:

100 yds:

Haven't had any problems with splatter …….yet !
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Old June 15, 2019, 04:38 PM   #22
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It's a real eye opener as to what you hear when you shoot suppressed subsonic ammo at steel. The ricochets can be very concerning when you hear shrapnel whizzing by about 10 ft away. My club has a 25 ft minimum distance shooting steel , and steel plates must be AR500 and angle downwards 10 degrees.
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Old June 15, 2019, 04:51 PM   #23
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That "STUFF" hanging there looks like a clothes line from a "ROAD WARRIORS" movie.
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