1/4″ AR400 as a Long Range Rifle Target

MOA Targets currently makes targets from four different steels. 3/8″, 1/2″, and 1″ AR500 for rifles, and 1/4″ AR400 for service pistols and rimfire. The 500 & 400 part is the Brinell hardness, where 400 is softer than 500.

We’re always working to improve our data and widen the use of steel targets. Being based in northern Nevada, we’ve got lots of wide open spaces to shoot long range. 300 yards is common and up to 1000 yards isn’t unusual for long range shooters out here. Recently, we figured out at what distances you can shoot the 1/4″ AR400 pistol targets with rifle.

The tl;dr is 556 at 300 yards, 308 at 500 yards. Limits on use are: 2500 fps at the target (as opposed to 2800 fps with AR500) and 1000 ft/lbs of energy at the target. The details of the test are below.

Our testing was primarily conducted with 5.56x45mm 55gr ammo fired from a 16″ barrel AR15 and 7.62x51mm 147gr ammo fired from a 16″ barrel AR10. The initial test was at 300 yards.

MOA AR500 steel target gong
Initial test platform. 8″ diameter 1/4″ AR400 gong, on MOA A-Frame bracket based stand.

At 300 yards, 5.56x45mm put a visible hit on the metal target but did no damage. The 7.62x51mm dented the target pretty badly.

556 at center, 308 at 4 o’clock, and 6.5CM at 2 o’clock
Deformation of edge strike by 6.5CM at 300 yards. 1/4 AR400 steel gong.

With these results in hand, we backed out to 800 yards and switched to 7.62x51mm and 270WIN. We also upped the target to a 18×12″ 1/4″ AR400 test plate, which is a standard size MOA product.

At 800 yards we got a great ring sound off this thinner than usual rifle gong and no damage. Ditto when we moved in to 600 yards. At 500 yards, the sound was excellent, and we did a careful examination for damage on the target. No damage noted at 500 yards.

12×18″ 1/4″ AR400 steel rifle gong. As engaged at 800, 600, and 500 yards with 7.52x51mm and 270WIN. No damage.
Edge view of 1/4″ AR400 steel rifle target. As engaged at 800, 600, and 500 yards with 7.62x51mm and 270WIN. No deformation of target noted.

At this point, we discontinued the test, as the math showed that if we moved in much closer we would start seeing deformation of the target. At distances less than 500 yards, long range shooters typically aren’t using a very large target, which reduces the need for a thinner (lighter) gong.

Advantages with using 1/4″ AR400 for long range rifle include: reduced weight and cost by going with the thinner material; improved sound return by going with the thinner steel; improved visibility of swinging target when struck, by reducing target mass.

Disadvantages  with using 1/4″ AR400 for long range rifle include: increased minimum engagement distance to prevent damaging the target, 300 yards for 556 instead of 100 yards with 3/8″ AR500 and 500 yards for 7.62x51mm (308WIN) instead of 100 yards with 3/8″ AR500; and explaining to your friends why you are using 1/4″ AR400 and what that means.

The minimum distances are recommendations only. These distances are based off the calibers and conditions as tested, with a result of a maximum velocity of the projectile at the target of 2500 fps and a maximum energy at the target of 1000 ft/lbs.

That means you’re gonna have to break out your ballistics charts before you go throwing rifle projectiles at pistol targets.

As a result of this testing, we have a new package deal for long range shooters. This package includes a 10×20″ 1/4″ AR400 steel rifle target, a set of A-Frame brackets, and 18″ firehose hang kit to put it all together. This package runs $100, and ships for free USPS flat rate. For another $60, you can add a second 10×20″ gong and the hardware to combine the two gongs into a 20×20″ target. Neat.

As a follow up to the new 1/4″ AR400 long range kit we did the same thing but in 3/8″ AR500, so you don’t have to worry about the increased minimum engagement distance. Same package details but in 3/8″ AR500. Out the door at $150, plus $100 for a second 10×20″ gong if you want to go big.