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AR500 VS. AR550: What's the Difference?

AR500 VS. AR550: What's the Difference?

Posted by Max Roszkowski on Sep 30th 2019

For the last few months, we have been quietly working on a new website here at ShootSteel.com. We had multiple customers bring a variety of issues to our attention with respect to our previous site, and we were eager to take your advice in order to improve the overall customer experience. Let us know what you think!

You may notice that the majority of our products have changed from our standard AR500 to a new material. We are proud to announce that ShootSteel.com has indeed started using AR550 steel in all of our 3/8" and 1/2" targets. Now most people might not know what this means, so we thought it would be best to take a moment and explain the differences here, and what these differences will translate to in terms of steel target function and reliability.

First, AR500 steel is an abrasion resistant heat treated material used for high wear applications. Typically, you can find steel like this being used in mining operations or other high wear material handling operations, but it is also exceptionally durable when used for steel targets. The "AR" in AR500 steel actually stands for Abrasion Resistant, while the number, in this case 500, indicates the Brinell Hardness Number (BHN) which falls within 460-544 for most AR500 steel. While AR500 has exhibited excellent resistance to high impact stresses, we still have 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. 

For this reason, 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 which 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. However, the high velocity and energy exerted by rifle rounds makes the hardness of the material much more of 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, so much so that we decided to make the switch. While we still rate the targets for the same distances that we did for our old AR500 line of targets, we know that our customers will be extremely pleased to see their targets no longer "pitting" like they once did. Even at distances inside of 100 yards, the AR550 steel exhibited an extremely high level of impact resistance, meaning our targets will last longer than the competition even in the off chance that they are shot within the recommended distances.

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. All this switch means for you is that the industries best steel targets just got better.

We appreciate all of you loyal customers out there, and are happy to welcome you to our new and improved shopping experience. As always, if you have any questions or concerns at all, please don't hesitate to reach out to us directly.