I stayed at a buddy’s place this weekend, and he’s got some steel from me on his home range. One plate is an old piece of mild steel I scrounged for him, the other was an early prototype target for his department (he’s a deputy in CA).
I took the opportunity to take a couple photos and write down my observations, because I typically never have mild steel on my ranges. If I’m going to shoot pistols, I’ll downgrade to 1/4 AR400.
The targets have been up for about a year. It’s a pistol range, but occasionally a rifle sneaks onto it. When something other than a non-magnum pistol caliber is used on the range, he’s careful to make sure it only goes at the AR500 target. As a result, the mild steel target is holding up very well, but the difference between the two is obvious when you look at it close.
I’ll probably be swapping out his mild steel target for more AR500 this summer, before the surface turns into a moonscape.
As of May 5, 2014, targets have been hung for about one year. A total of approximately 2,000 rounds fired down range, the majority of which are 40S&W.
Places paint has been removed and repainted with no impact mark are from 9mm, 40S&W, and 45ACP. On this private range owned by a law enforcement officer, pistols are used as close as seven yards. MOA recommends no closer than 12 yards for pistols due to concerns of lead and copper jacket splashing back.
There ya go. Thought you guys might enjoy this. As always, use common sense. I personally wouldn’t have mounted these the same way that my buddy did, there isn’t enough forward angle, it’s against a hard backstop so it can’t swing, and he shoots at it closer than I recommend. Plus, ewww, mild steel target?
In the past four weeks, I’ve attended two gun shows and two agricultural trade shows (whaaa?) as a vendor for my home based steel target business, MOA Targets. I spent a total of eleven days staffing the shows, and about 2500 miles traveled, and three states. As I’m still in my first year of business, this was the most concentrated bit of promotion I’ve done to date, and was largely done to show off my new long range reactive target, the Mozambique. Here’s my analysis.
Crossroads of the West Phoenix January 18-19 – in a metropolitan area of 4.3 million people, this show was the weekend after SHOT, and was considered a small one. It was about the size of what is billed as the Big Reno Show (which I’m used to doing), which brings in folks from all over the west coast. Sales were better than normal for me, despite not being local and not having a very diverse onsite inventory, due to travel. Two local competitors, neither of which have a web presence, were present. Decent amount of cards handed out, but less than average. Many of the same vendors that attend the Reno Crossroads shows were here. This was my first ever show outside my normal stomping grounds of Reno, NV.
Colusa Farm Show (NorCal) February 4-6 – The annual farm show is the big happenings in fertile Colusa, CA. A largely outdoor show, it covers the several acres of the local fairgrounds, and is focused on commercial agriculture, mostly nut orchards and rice. At a population of less than 6,000 (county population ~22k), this show is a whole different scale than the Phoenix one a couple weeks earlier. That being said, considering my booth cost me nothing, it was worth doing just to get my product in front of folks that might never make it to a gun show. Plenty of farmers and ranchers shoot, and a decent amount of cards were handed out, no sales at this show. Interestingly, while there were less people at this show than an average gun show, I estimate I talked to a larger percentage of the farmers than I do gun show folks. Apparently, I was a big enough deal to make the local paper, so I’ve got that going for me. No other firearms industry vendors were present, that I noticed.
World Ag Expo (SoCal) February 11-13. The annual World Ag Expo in Tulare, CA is similar to the Colusa show, but much larger and more trafficked, with the promoters estimating 1500 vendors and 100k paid attendees at this largely outdoor show. While once again I had no sales, I spent the majority of the show talking to interested folks, and handing out cards with wild abandon. I learned something important about California shooters at this show. With no more 50 BMG sales allowed in the state, long range shooters have taken to 338 lapua strongly, and there is a lot of interest in products that are suitable to use with the round. The NRA and the Elk Foundation also had booths at this show.
Silver Sage Gun Show, Bourbon Square Casino Feb 14-16. The final show of my tour, this was held in the hallway and meeting room of a small casino in Sparks, NV, my home turf. This was the first show at the venue, and with a total attendance of about 500, and less than 50 tables, it was the smallest by far. Poorly advertised, and mostly viewed as a potential failure, this show was actually pretty decent. I had better sales than I have at some larger shows, and while I didn’t hand out many cards, it was to a higher percentage of the attendees than normal. Most importantly, every attendee was given two tickets for free beer, and many of those tickets ended up with me, so I drank for free all weekend. Only local vendors were present.
My conclusions based on these four very different shows, three of which were outside my normal area of operations, is that it’s worth getting out of your normal area for an occasional show, but it’s tough to measure the return on investment. Looking at the analytics for my website, I didn’t see much of a bump in traffic from any of these shows. Total sales from the two shows that included sales were average for what I would get in Reno, but included significant travel in one case. The Phoenix show nominally paid for itself, assuming I work for free. The farm shows may yet bear fruit, but for the short term only pencil out if I work for free. The local show, which was the smallest, most poorly attended, and vaguely depressing show I’ve ever done, at least left me with free beer and lunch money.
tl;dr – starting a small business is hard, but generally involves more beer than a real job
As a purveyor of fine AR500 rifle and pistol targets, I also build expensive target stands. Most customers don’t buy my target stands, because they are portable and durable, but pretty damn expensive due to the welding and AR500 use.
So, I’m here to talk about stands you can build yourself, achieving the affordability goal. You’ll have to decide if you want portable or durable, since you only get to pick one of the two. This writeup will deal with just the portable affordable target stands. If you can figure out how to make them durable, affordable, and portable, message me, let’s make a deal.
Many of the designs herein are ones that have been posted on www.reddit.com/r/guns in the past by fellow gunnitors, who I have asked permission of to repost. If you see your pictures, and I haven’t asked permission, let me know and I’ll fix it, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got you all.
The Shepherd Hook – can be purchased at your local garden shop, or made at home with a vice and some rebar. I made this one out of ¼” piece of rebar, using the target itself as the jig, after clamping the rebar to a bumper.
Portable, but any rifle round will destroy the rebar, and successive hits will rotate the target away from the shooter. Super cheap, and takes basically no time to build or set up.
The Rebar Ground Stand (credit to /u/recklessredneck) – Take a piece of ⅜” or heavier rebar, a vice, and a cheater bar, and bend that sucker up. OP used s-rings crimped with channel locks to mount his targets (which he bought from someone other than me, the jerk). Semi-portable (lugging that looks like a bitch), but it won’t rotate when you shoot it. Direct hits to the rebar from a rifle will end the fun for the day. Super cheap, little time invested.
The Steel A-Frame(credit to /u/zanemasterx) – Welding required, which may or may not be affordable to you. Flat bar and round stock used to build a versatile A-frame to hang targets off of. Quick to set up, with no fasteners, with a bungee across the top. However, as with many affordable and portable targets, a single rifle round can ruin your day. Can be built with scrap most welders have laying around, or for probably less than $30 worth steel from a local hardware store.
Single point standSalute Targets single point style, sorry for the shitty photo, my others have gone missing. Designed to hold a target using a 1.5×2.25” tab on the bottom of the target. Expensive, and fairly specialized, but in theory could be made at home. Won’t shred when you shoot it, made of AR500. Available in both portable and static version.
Hook and socket
Welded hook to go into a socket. I hate this style. Any time you weld on an AR target, you risk ruining the temper and the whole point of AR steel is that it’s tempered. Socket piece is on a piece of rectangular tubing which slips on a 2×4. Uses a matched 2×4 H-base.At least the hardware is hidden from the shooter, 2x4s are cheap. Available from GT Targets. Wouldn’t recommend it for rifle targets, due to the welding on the target.
2×4 single point(credit /u/eclypse). A stupidly simple 2×4 setup. Looks like it uses maybe ten linear feet of 2×4 (about $4) and a handful of screws. Utilizes the square hole on this target properly to hold a carriage bolt, which means with the wingnuton the back, you need exactly zero tools to assemble this in the field. Assembly time is going to be longer than the rebar setups to cut up all the 2x4s to fit, but this will take a lot of stray rounds before it needs a new $1 worth of 2×4 upright. A+ would review again.
Of course, no collection is complete without my design. The base is angle iron and holds 2x4s for sleepers and uprights. You can use a 2×4 across the top, or get a top plate for it, made of AR500. Designed to have carriage bolts run through the topper to suspend your targets. Spendy at $115 for a 20” wide base and top plate, but has held up to machine guns and arfcommers, in Nevada, which says a lot. Requires no tools to set up in the field.
There ya go. There are a ton more designs out there, including a bunch I didn’t feel like dealing with right now for permanent range setups using 4x4s and railroad ties. I’ll get those another time.
Feel free to post your own designs here, lemmi know in advance if you don’t want me to include them in future collections.
How to choose the correct steel for your shooting needs
Or: Why shouldn’t I just get the thickest steel plate I can find and use it for all my shooting?
Let’s get cost out of the way first. As steel is ultimately sold by the pound, the thicker the steel, the more you are paying for the same target surface area. The thicker the target, the more weight you have to move to and from the range if you don’t have the luxury of having a permanent range to use, and you’ll need to use a sufficiently heavy stand to hold the target for you to shoot. Therefore, it behooves you use the thinnest steel that will safely and reliably handle your long term shooting needs.
Secondly, a discussion of modern commercial steel. The typical steel you’ll likely find laying around is referred to as Mild Steel, or A36. It is easily welded, cut, formed, and drilled. It has a Brinell Scale hardness of 120-180, typically. It is the backbone of modern society, and can be bought in your local hardware store, picked up as scrap from local shops, and salvaged from various sources. It is also completely unsuitable for use as a safe, long lasting firearms target for anything other than small caliber, relatively low velocity, rimfire platforms such as the 22LR and 17HMR.
In thicknesses less than 3/8”, modern handgun calibers such as 9x19mm, 40S&W, and 45 ACP will leave dimples, rapidly causing an unsafe shooting surface on mild steel.
Magnum handgun calibers will leave deep dents, and may even penetrate the relatively soft mild steel. At 100 yards, centerfire rifle calibers such 308 will fully penetrate 1/2” mild steel, and lesser calibers will leave deep craters.
To get enough mild steel to stop rifle rounds at 100 yards, you’re looking at about 40 pounds of steel per square foot (one inch thick), and a surface that will rapidly be a moonscape of jagged edges, pits, and ricochet inducing odd angles. As I stated, mild steel is completely unsuitable as a firearm target .
Abrasion Resistant (AR) steel comes in various hardness (typically 400 and 500, Brinell Scale) and thicknesses. AR400 and AR500 steel is commonly used as wear plate on construction equipment, dump trucks, mining process equipment, and farm equipment. It is, effectively, the same thing as mild steel, but with better quality control, and a heat tempering process that hardens the steel through its entire cross section. AR400 is generally less expensive than AR500, and is therefore more commonly available. It is, alas, too soft to handle centerfire rifles at 100 yards, pitting visibly.
3/8” AR500, on the other hand, will readily stop non-magnum rifle calibers at 100 yards with little to no visible damage to the steel. Happily, for our purposes, AR500 plate can take a real pounding.
At 200-300 yards, 3/8” AR500 is sufficient to stop magnum rifle calibers without damage. It is suitable for all standard magnum and non-magnum handgun calibers at 12 yards (including 500 S&W, with minor crushing of the plate surface and your hands), shotgun slugs at 50 yards, non-magnum rifle calibers at 100 yards, and magnum rifle calibers at 200-300 yards. Simply put, 3/8” AR500 will do the job for most shooters out there.
A quick diversion back AR400, which I so callously discarded as too soft. While 3/8” mild steel is unsuitable and weighs 15 pounds per square foot, it turns out that relatively inexpensive ¼” AR400 steel is useful. ¼” AR400 will readily stop standard handgun calibers such as 9x19mm, 40S&W, and 45 ACP, and is only 10 pounds per square foot. For non-magnum pistol shooters, who will never have a rifle on their range or are just getting into shooting steel, ¼” AR400 is a very practical answer to the age old question of “what am I going to shoot at today that I don’t have to clean up?”
So why would you ever buy ½” AR500 or 1” AR500 steel? For the average shooter, it is overkill to go to ½” AR500, and nearly comical to go to 1” AR500. However, for those with limited distance on their range and magnum rifles, it is helpful to step up to ½” for magnum rifles at less than 200 yards. ½” AR500 will wear longer than 3/8” AR500, and it resists deformation from repeated impacts. These features of ½” AR500 make it useful for law enforcement, public and private ranges and clubs, and other high volume shooters. 1” AR500 is pretty much exclusively used for 50 BMG.