Created with Sketch. Created with Sketch.
Steel Targets - Picking the Perfect AR500 or AR550 Target

Steel Targets - Picking the Perfect AR500 or AR550 Target

Posted by Max Roszkowski on Nov 19th 2019

One of the questions we hear time and time again is, "I know the minimum distance for rifles on your 3/8" AR550 steel targets is 100 yards, but if I buy a 1/2" AR550 target how much closer can I safely shoot it?" This post is to clear that question up, along with some other common questions and misconceptions about steel targets that we run into often.

First, let's address the thickness of the targets. When it comes to thickness, the easy way to think about it is the thicker the target, the more kinetic energy it is able to withstand without bending. You will notice that all of our 1/4" targets, regardless of whether they are AR400 or AR500, are rated for pistol calibers only. This is because these rounds typically have much less muzzle energy than even the smallest of rifle rounds and there is not much risk of the target bending over time due to higher energy levels. Even so, we recommend that people that shoot thousands of rounds a year, and especially ranges looking to outfit their pistol bays, to step up to 3/8" AR500 targets. Again, the thicker the target, the more it will resist bending.

For rifle use, 3/8" AR500 and 3/8" AR550 is going to be the minimum recommended thickness due to the substantial increase in energy over pistol rounds. We rate all of our 3/8" targets for rifles such as 5.56/.223 and .308 Win, along with most other common short action rifle calibers. Through years of product testing we have found the 3/8" targets to be more than capable of withstanding the energy that these rifle rounds are capable of producing with minimal or no bending at all.

It is only if you plan to shoot long action or magnum caliber rifles that it is necessary for you to use 1/2" or even 3/4" AR500 steel targets. These targets are extremely resilient to the extremely high energy levels produced by cartridges like the .338 Lapua Magnum and even the mighty 50 BMG, but are not necessarily any better for smaller short action rifles or pistols. In fact, the thicker the target the less audible feedback and movement you will get - especially from smaller calibers.

The minimum distance argument is more a target longevity concern. When it comes to shooting rifles inside of 100 yards at steel targets, a common issue that people run into is "pitting" or damage to the strike face of the target. This has everything to do with velocity, not energy. This is why rounds like 5.56 typically cause more damage to steel targets than rounds like 7.62x39 or even .308 Win. A thicker target will do nothing to negate that effect, only a harder one. That is why in the beginning of 2019, we decided to make the switch from AR500 to AR550 for most of our 3/8" and 1/2" steel targets.

Gong vs. Static

Another common question we get is whether the gong style targets that are designed to be suspended from chains are a more appropriate choice than our static targets that are designed to be mounted on top of a 2x4 or steel post. Most people assume that the gong targets ring louder and thus are the obvious choice. However, both designs have their advantages and disadvantages that need to be considered before purchasing.

The gong style targets are amazing for people who plan to shoot primarily rifles. The main advantage to a gong style target is the fact that not only does it ring when hit, but it moves as well. This makes calling hits on targets at 300+ yards much easier, as any distance past that it can become quite difficult to hear the impacts even with good electronic hearing protection. The second advantage to the gong style targets is their versatility. While we do sell what we feel is the most appropriate and user friendly stand designs on the market, really all that is needed to hang a gong target is some chain or straps, and something to suspend them from. This can be appealing for people who enjoy designing their own target configurations, as well as people who would like to hang multiple targets from a single stand. However, gong targets tend to be less portable than the static style targets due to them being more permanently affixed to whatever structure they are hanging from (not to mention the gong stand itself is more than likely quite cumbersome to carry and store).

The static style targets are our most popular style, and they have some definite advantages as well. First, they ring louder than the gong style targets which comes as a surprise to most. The targets are held in place by a single bolt and are attached to a hanger with a spring in between the two to provide enough tension to keep them still, or static, but enough room to ring loudly upon impact. This leads me to the second advantage of the static targets, which is due to the fact that they don;t move or swing when hit they are ideal for fast follow up shots. This makes them ideal pistol targets, but they do work well for short action rifle calibers at 100 yards or greater. One thing to keep in mind though is the spring itself is not rated for the high levels of energy typically seen from long action and magnum targets. For calibers like these, the gong style is going to be the best choice for you.

Still having doubts as to which target is right for you? Feel free to consult our comprehensive caliber guide, found HERE or email us directly at max@shootsteel.com as we are always more than happy to help!