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Old February 18, 2020, 04:44 PM   #1
mrdude
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Safe distance to shoot steel?

A little while back I shot some steel targets silhouette angled down (223 AR) with a guy that was an instructor. Not just an average instructor, but someone with a pretty lengthy resume. We were maybe 25 yards away. Really fun and so I went out to buy my own and I'm seeing that min safe distance is at least 75 yards. I'm not sure our exact distance, but we were definitely closer than 75. Is 75 yards just extra cautious?
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Old February 18, 2020, 05:45 PM   #2
indie_rocker
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Not sure about rifle... I bang steel with 9mm pistols at 10+ yards regularly with FMJ and plated bullets. The targets are angled down and I've never been hit with debris.

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Old February 18, 2020, 06:13 PM   #3
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If its angled down the then bullet transfers the energy in the down direction. Most of the cautions listed are for shooting steel that is positioned flat and not angled in my experience with them.
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Old February 18, 2020, 06:42 PM   #4
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Fifty Yards For Me

I have a steel target that swings back on a counterweight. I've shot hundreds of rounds on it at 50 yards and never had an issue.

It is soft steel and won't tolerate rifle hits.

Hard plate and rifle energy? I would think 100 yards would be a good bet, but it does depend lots upon if your plate swings, I expect.
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Old February 18, 2020, 07:21 PM   #5
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Get input and trust your gut feeling !!!

Quote:
I'm seeing that min safe distance is at least 75 yards. I'm not sure our exact distance,
I'm guessing your seeing this caution/rating on the package of the steel target as I've seen this before. Are you seeing a C.Y.A. program at work???

If so, I suspect they are taking the most extreme conditions. There are a lot of factors and variables at work and one size does not fit all. If it didn't feel right to you, you may just be right. …..

Be Safe !!!
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Old February 18, 2020, 07:47 PM   #6
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Even the best steel (AR550), with rifle, is going to be 75 to 100 yards. Same steel, with pistol, can be 5 yards before there is an issue, but most use 7 yards to have a buffer.

Can you shoot steel at 10 yards with rifle? Sure, a few times. But then it starts to pock, and or crack, regardless of what you use or how you hang it.

Method of mount as well as angle is a thing. The more perpendicular to the bullet path and the more rigid the mount, the more the steel is going to be damaged and, after time, cause ricochets. That would of course be inside that 100 yards. The closer you get, the flatter the target face, the softer the steel, the harder the slug, the faster the slug...those all increase damage potential to the target. Damage the target, get ricochets and frags coming back at the shooter.

We have built boxes around steel and shot them at closer ranges, and or with impact velocities over the manufacturers specs, for specific training circumstances. We know we might damage the steel, so we check it regularly. If you want to shoot reactive targets closer, use paper or plastic, like the Newbold targets.
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Old February 19, 2020, 01:04 AM   #7
mrdude
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It didn't feel unsafe, but they also say ignorance is bliss haha. I was just surprised that most targets said min safe distance of 75-100+ and we were way closer than that. These targets are fixed to a 2x4 and angled down so I guess I'll just watch for any damage
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Old February 19, 2020, 10:38 AM   #8
BillM
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I shoot a lot of USPSA, and it uses a variety of steel targets. Plates, poppers,
plate racks, stars---just about any way you can present a piece of steel.
No AP, steel core or steel jacket ammo allowed.

Minimum distances in feet per the current rulebook:

Pistol and PCC 23 ft.
Shotgun birdshot 16 ft.
Shotgun slug and all rifle 147 ft.
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Old February 19, 2020, 12:58 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrdude
It didn't feel unsafe, but they also say ignorance is bliss haha. I was just surprised that most targets said min safe distance of 75-100+ and we were way closer than that. These targets are fixed to a 2x4 and angled down so I guess I'll just watch for any damage
Damage to the plate isn't the issue. Damage to you or someone near you is the problem.

When the range where I shoot was running competitions, they occasionally included a plate rack in the course of fire. Distance was typically about 50 feet. One evening one of the better shooters was running the plates (shooting 9mm) when he felt a sting on his leg. He had been hit with a piece of shrapnel from one of his bullets breaking up when it hit the plate.
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Old February 19, 2020, 01:19 PM   #10
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He doesn't give the range, but the first shot in this video is about what not to do.
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Old February 19, 2020, 01:39 PM   #11
Pathfinder45
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I've been hit by ricochet bullet fragment from a pistol bullet off a steel plate at about 20 yards. It hurt, but I wasn't really injured, though it certainly would have destroyed an eye or teeth if it had hit there.
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Old February 19, 2020, 02:27 PM   #12
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I've been hit by ricochet bullet, not just a piece, from farther than 20 yards. Got hit on the knee by a spent jacketed .45 that scratched my knee and ankle at Second Chance. Carried it in a wee pouch around my neck for a few years with the idea it was the one with my name on it.
Had a single shot pellet drop on me at another shoot. Still don't know how it got through the tent I was in. Might have been one of the guys trying to be funny. One of those guys took a slice of cast bullet in his forehead(no penetration of his skull) from 7 yards while shooting bowling pin plates. The slice went through his hat bill, hit his skull just above his glasses and the point bent, grabbed meat and stuck. Off to the ER.
Anyway, the point is it, like so much, depends. What bullet? (cast or jacketed doesn't matter. Don't think calibre does either.) How fast?
I don't think the angle of the plate matters either. Shoot enough and/or go to enough matches and sooner or later you're going to get hit with something. Highly unlikely you'll get seriously hurt unless you don't wear your shooting glasses.
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Old February 19, 2020, 03:37 PM   #13
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I'm not at all concerned with getting hit with a little shrapnel since that isn't life threatening. I was picturing a full bullet bouncing off the plate or ground and coming back at me and ripping through my face or chest. That would be a bad day, but it sounds like the likelihood of that happening is slim to none since the bullets fragment so much on impact.
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Old February 19, 2020, 05:53 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrdude
I'm not at all concerned with getting hit with a little shrapnel since that isn't life threatening.
If you're not concerned, you should be. The guy who was wounded at our plate shoot had to go to the emergency room to get his leg sewed up. By luck, his day job is in a metalworking shop so he was able to blame it on shrapnel from a lathe operation. Otherwise it would have had to be reported as a gunshot wound, and much hilarity would have ensued (NOT!).
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Old February 19, 2020, 06:40 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aguila Blanca View Post
If you're not concerned, you should be. The guy who was wounded at our plate shoot had to go to the emergency room to get his leg sewed up. By luck, his day job is in a metalworking shop so he was able to blame it on shrapnel from a lathe operation. Otherwise it would have had to be reported as a gunshot wound, and much hilarity would have ensued (NOT!).


I’ve seen pretty bad cuts from bullet splatter as well. It certainly can be a problem.




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Old February 19, 2020, 09:06 PM   #16
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Yeah, guy hit in the neck by a small piece of pistol bullet shrapnel almost bleed out.
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Old February 20, 2020, 12:44 AM   #17
mrdude
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Aguila I was talking about little peppering shrapnel that the others were talking about that caused a scratch. I don't consider a scratch something that serious. I take it you don't really shoot steel at all except long range since 50ft is pretty far for a pistol round to send someone to the emergency room with a bullet in them.
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Old February 20, 2020, 01:05 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrdude
Aguila I was talking about little peppering shrapnel that the others were talking about that caused a scratch. I don't consider a scratch something that serious. I take it you don't really shoot steel at all except long range since 50ft is pretty far for a pistol round to send someone to the emergency room with a bullet in them.
I don't shoot steel at all. The range is an indoor range with a maximum distance of 75 feet. On the rare occasions I get to shoot rifles, I am at the mercy of friends who belong to some facility that has an outdoor rifle range.

I agree that 50 feet sounds like pretty far for ricochet shrapnel to be a problem. But it was, and I was there that night and I saw it first-hand. It wasn't a bullet, it was probably a fragment of the jacket. It wasn't a round hole, it was a jagged tear of a cut ... and it bled profusely. This was just a standard power 9mm handgun round.

Remember, this discussion started because you asked if the plate manufacturer's recommended safe distance could be ignored. My opinion is that it can't safely be ignored. It's your range, your rifle, and your plate. What you choose to do is your responsibility.

I'll just leave one parting thought: At our competition night, it was the shooter himself who was hit but it could easily have been the RSO who was standing just a few feet behind and to the side of the shooter. Everyone else was quite a bit farther back, behind the safety line. Shooting rifles at an outdoor range, do you always shoot alone? If you ignore the manufacturer's published safety recommendations, you have only yourself to blame if you are injured. What happens if a guest at your range is injured? Your liability will likely increase exponentially when (not if) the injured party's attorney finds out that you ignored the published minimum safe distance.
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Old February 20, 2020, 01:07 AM   #19
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It can happen. Even if you hang your target so that it's angled towards the ground. That only works if the target has stopped swinging between shots.
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Old February 21, 2020, 02:21 PM   #20
mrdude
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Here are some pics of the distances to give a better idea. Blue is pistol, looks to be maybe 25 yards. Orange is rifle, looks to be about 30 yards. Aguila, I appreciate the feedback it definitely helps me weigh the risks involved. I could've sworn that I've seen 3 gun matches where they shoot steel at about 25-50 yards at steel, but maybe I'm mistaken. I know they shoot pistol 10-15 yards at steel. I've also heard that the minimum safe distance that manufacturers list isn't or shooter safety, it's for the safety/wear of the steel target.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Steel Pistol.JPG (37.5 KB, 29 views)
File Type: jpg Steel Rifle.JPG (34.1 KB, 26 views)
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Old February 21, 2020, 07:32 PM   #21
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I have been a trainer for many years and I have also set up shooting courses for many other trainers. We have made steel targets with a "twist". What I do is to make a 3" long hanger welded only on one side of the back of the targets up to 8" in size, and a 5"-6" hanger for targets of 10" and larger, so they hang with a slant toward the shooter. This makes the bullet glance off to the side with every hit, as long as the rounds don't pock the face very deeply. Thick AR500 steel prevents the deep pocks.

Such targets do best when they are hung between the support and the target itself with at least 3 links of chain on the back so the targets can bounce a bit from the impacts. Some were hung only with chain, but many had hinged bars with loops on the end to take the short chains. A non-solid suspension with a slanted face makes all the bullet turn some, so none of them will come straight back.

The slant can be to the side or downward, but for close shooting the sideways slat if what you want. At very close range the bullets can bounce back some, but never straight back so the shooter is not endangered. (Note: because the bullet can bounce back to some extent the shooter must be alone for such drills with NO ONE being or behind him and/or off to his side toward the deflecting bullets direction of angle. )

One set I made about 20 years ago could be shot with a 45 ACP using lead bullet from 2 feet, and not one bullet even splashed any lead fragments at a shooters.

Today for real close shooting the use of plastic is likely to be a better option because it's far cheaper and 100% safe , but if you set your steel targets up at the correct angles you can shoot them from very close up.
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Old February 21, 2020, 08:26 PM   #22
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I shot myself in the shin shooting at a steel target intended for 9mm at 25 yards.
The energy was mostly gone, it stung quite a bit and broke the skin a little.
I did hear it making the classic ricochet sound as it headed my way.
I think it was a freak event, however.
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Old February 21, 2020, 10:10 PM   #23
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Well is sounds to me like too many of us have had,"freak events". I think I'm gonna avoid steel plates at close range now. I got hit a couple of inches above my left wrist. luckily I was wearing jacket and long-sleeve shirt, because it hit me right on the radius. It still felt like somebody hit me with a farrier's hammer and it ached for a few minutes. We were able to make adjustments and finish out our shooting without further incidents. Luckily, I wasn't really harmed, but it could have been an emergency situation. It was certainly a wake-up call. If you think it can't happen to you, then it probably will if you continue.
What are the odds? What would you gamble your eyes, your teeth, or your life on?
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Old February 22, 2020, 03:56 AM   #24
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Houses down range? Where the heck do you shoot, man?
I'm thinking that the safe distance from your steel depends upon caliber, bullet construction, velocity, angle of plate, the swing of the darn thing, and maybe several variables that I haven't thought of yet. While it all matters, yet none of it matters to you until you've been hit, or at least can forsee that you could be hit by a ricochet.
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Old February 22, 2020, 07:21 AM   #25
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At our heavily used private range we require 25 yards back for pistol, and 100 yards back for rifle. Our plates are ar500, hung straight down on old conveyor belt strips and bolted to the strips. The distances set were a combination of factors including no full time range officers, bolts used to hang the targets, damage to the targets, having a common distance to shoot at when crowded and safty of others just spectating.

Shooting suppressed is a new realization to how much "shrapnel" can come off a target and especially the ground surrounding the target. On the pistol range we now keep conveyor belt below the targets to catch shrapnel, as the dirt immediately below the targets is quickly blasted away. Bullets can also hit the bolt heads, and 25 yard distance at pistol range is in hope most material that occasionally bounces back loses a lot of energy by 25 yards. If you shoot steel, at some point you will be subject to material coming back.

We also request the targets be shot at head on as much as possible, not at wide angles.
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