Spending quality time at the gun range is always a fun prospect. It might be rifle, pistol or shotgun, depending on what I am in the mood for and what needs to be trained.
Defensive training usually means handgun; hunting season might be rifle or shotgun. I like shooting paper targets, because I can size my groupings and see where I need improvement.
But there are those occasions for which steel targets are the better choice—and, for the most part, they are more fun to shoot at.
There are as many different types and configurations of steel targets as there are gun selections to shoot them. One of the top advantages of steel is the immediate feedback. I also like the fact that I can shoot 100 or more rounds and not have to be constantly putting a new target up or pasters to see if I am still hitting the target. That loud ringing is all I need to know I have hit my intended target.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Brad Brune, president of Challenge Targets. I had met him at the 2017 NRA Annual meeting, at which I purchased the Steel IPSC A Zone Target Holder. I liked the idea that with a single target, it can be configured to work several different training drills.
The next three drills can be trained on using the different configurations of the Challenge Target.
The first drill (figure 1) is the “Mozambique drill,” “failure drill” or “failure-to-stop drill,” depending on whom you talk to. The bottom line is that you fire two rounds center mass, or body A zone, and then fire a follow-up shot to the head.
To configure the target, you place the steel target on a 2×4 with the steel behind the head of the target. This is what will cause the target to fall. Missing the head or not hitting it with enough “power factor” will result in a failure to stop.
SAVE THE HOSTAGE
The next drill (figure 2) is the hostage drill. For this, you will need to place a silhouette on a single 1×2, either to the left or right, so that the steel is the head of the “bad guy.” You must hit the steel—without hitting the “hostage”—with enough force to cause the target to fall.
SCAN FOR MULTIPLE TARGETS
The last drill (figure 3) with the Challenge target is to have a second target present itself after you have eliminated the first. It just takes a couple of quick pin changes; and you now have a silhouette that rises as you eliminate the steel plate target. This is a great drill that forces you to scan your surroundings, because it takes only a second for the first target to fall and the second one to rise.
A steady favorite for me is shooting at a steel plate rack—six targets of any shape, size or color, depending on what I am working on at the moment. The six-plate rack is a staple in most competition events and develops the skills to transition from one target to the next while maintaining shooting fundamentals and target selection.
I was able to get 6- and 8-inch plates from a company called Shooting Targets 7. I bought just the plates and made my own rack to save some money. The plates swing instead of falling like a traditional plate rack. I have also found I can use strips of rubber to hang the plates. As a result, they don’t swing as much, which allows for quicker follow-up shots.
THE COMPLETE PACKAGE
I also recently picked up a couple of steel silhouettes from a local company near where I live. The company is called Bad Ass Targets. The Pack Mule AR500 Steel Target System comes as a complete system, ready to shoot. The targets are rated for handgun and rifle, and I use them for both.
The targets hang at an angle that causes the splatter to go to the ground, thus making these pretty safe targets to shoot. I can use them to shoot multiple targets at various distances and easily move them around the range to change up my training routine.
GET THE GOOD STUFF!
Most commercial ranges that have steel targets are going to use AR500 or better. If you are looking to add some steel to your private range, spend the money to get at least AR500, and make sure to get a thickness for the intended purpose. Using mild steel for targets can be very dangerous.
Challenge Targets’ Brad Brune explained that for the most part, AR500 and AR550 have the same characteristics, so if there is a price difference, go with the AR500. It will have a consistent hardness between 500 and 530. If you are shooting handgun, the ¼ inch is good for all non-magnum calibers; 3/8 inch will handle up to .44 Magnum and up to .308 rifle. For safety considerations, 7 yards is recommended for handgun and 100 yards for rifle.
KEEP IT SAFE
Regardless of what type of steel you shoot, in addition to getting instant feedback, they are just plain fun. By taking just a few extra precautions over paper targets, such as clothing to protect skin from possible splatter and definitely making sure you have quality eye protection, this will be a training session that will leave you eager to get back to the range for more practice.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the November 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.