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AR500 Vs. AR550 – Does it really matter? What’s the difference?

AR500 vs. AR550 is a great question. Let’s take a moment and explain the differences here, and what these differences will translate to in terms of steel target function and reliability.

The “AR” in AR500 steel actually stands for Abrasion Resistant, while the number, in this case 500, indicates the Brinell Hardness Number (BHN). Most AR500 steel falls within 460-544 BHN.

AR500 steel is an abrasion resistant heat treated material used for high wear applications. You can find steel like this being used in mining operations or other high wear material handling operations. Additionally, it’s also exceptionally durable when used for steel targets.

AR500 has exhibited excellent resistance to high impact stresses, and our AR500 holds up for years. But we’ve found it to be lacking when it comes to the ability to mitigate the “pitting” effect many people experience when shooting AR500 with high velocity rifles, most notably .223/5.56 NATO.

We decided to begin exploring the idea of using AR550 steel for all of our rifle rated targets, with the exclusion of our 50 BMG target line. For pistol use, there will be no noticeable difference between AR500 and AR550. In fact, all of our targets that are intended for use with pistols only are cut from AR400 steel. This is a slightly softer material, but a more economical option as well.

When it comes to pistol targets, the amount of energy and the velocity of the rounds is so much less that the hardness becomes less of a factor.

High velocity and energy exerted by rifle rounds makes the hardness of the material a key factor. We were all very surprised to see just how much better the AR550 steel performed when testing with high velocity rounds such as 5.56 and .308.

While we still rate the targets for the same distances as the AR500 line of targets, we know that our customers will be extremely pleased to see their targets no longer “pitting”. Even at distances inside of 100 yards, AR550 exhibits an extremely high level of impact resistance.

We still put our new targets through the same amount of rigorous testing, putting thousands and thousands of rounds on each target before we release a new design to our customers. We also continue to use extreme care and diligence in our material vetting process, only buying what we feel is the absolute best AR550 from a very select few mills in the US. All AR500 and AR550 is not the same, even if it may have the same material hardness and even if it is indeed “certified” AR500/AR550.

Each mill has a proprietary chemical composition and heat treating process and we have put countless hours into determining which of these is best for our specific uses.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns at all, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly. Call us at 763-205-2109, or email us at

For more information, check out our video below: