I remember the discussion like it was yesterday, my wife said “shooting is dangerous isn’t it?!”. This was part of a discussion we had when I told her that I wanted to take my shooting to the next level. As with everything, she is right. Shooting can be a dangerous sport if safety measures are not taken seriously and by everyone.
During the first Pro Am I shot, I remember shooting open centerfire on a 30 target array. There was a target which was approximately 5-7 yards away from the shooter and it was an 18”x24” plate with an exposed hook style hanger. The hook is the hanging mechanism to support the target. In order to make this design work there is a hole drilled/cut into the face of the target. It seemed instantaneous, when I touched the trigger I was hit in the forehead with a fragment of a bullet. I was fortunate, I was wearing a hat which absorbed the majority of the blow but left me with a reminder of the experience.
A couple of months ago I was shooting a major Steel Challenge match with targets that had an exposed hook. In the morning session I had at least two shots where I called a ‘hit’ on the target but I did not hear a ring or I could not see the ‘hit’. When we went out to look at the first target, sure enough, there was a hit right at the top of the hanger. The second target was tougher to see, but the bullet impact was on the edge of the hole of the plate where the hanger protrudes. It was during the second session when matters took a turn for the worst. On the first stage, the first string of fire, the competitor took their first shot. A fragment of the bullet hit the top of my Hunters HD Glasses and I felt like I was hit with a pellet from a pellet gun. On the third string of fire, on the third target the RO screamed and threw down the timer. Blood was rushing from his arm. The paramedics were called and after a short trip to the hospital they stitched him up. When looking at the target, the bullet impact was on the bottom of the hanger and the best we can surmise, it was a bullet fragment from the target.
Fast forward to a match I recently attended. The same style of hook/hanger steel plates were being used at another major match. It was on the first day, we had just broke for lunch with one squad finishing up their last stage. We were approximately 100 yards behind the squad with their backs to us. You heard a gunshot at a target and immediately you heard a bullet tumbling past us. This was one of the scariest sounds I have ever heard. Thankfully no one was hit.
One of the large shooting organizations has incorporated into their rules to prohibit targets which do not have a flat face. A flat target face has a consistent splatter pattern at bullet impact. As described above, an irregular face, bolts, hooks, etc cause erratic and unpredictable splatter patterns. Targets should also have a slight angle as illustrated in the picture below. When a bullet impacts a target with a ~10-15 degree angle the majority of the splatter is directed safely to the ground below the target. We hear AR500 or AR550 steel types a lot when discussing targets. So why is this important? The lower the steel rating IE AR350 the softer the steel is and easier for it to pit, crater, and deform. As with the situation with the hooks, these irregularities can cause and erratic splatter pattern from the bullets. Please do your research on your style of shooting to determine which hardness is right for your application before you buy.
If you have a range, looking to purchase a set of steel to practice, or you manage a club I highly recommend GT Targets. They are targets for shooters made by shooters. They have a flat front design with a desirable angle of defection. Afterall, shooting can be dangerous enough, why not remove one variable from the equation? Karl and GT Targets is who I have trusted for the past ten years and these are the only targets I shoot on my range. Karl’s contact information is below.
GT TARGETS LLC
816 Limerick Road
Collegeville, PA 19473
Office phone: 610 287 5868
Cell phone: 610 247 0633
See you out on the range soon!