Here’s a video from professional shooter Jerry Miculek, covering target safety. It seems that shooting steel is more popular than ever these days, and many may not know how dangerous that can be.
I love the audible feedback of steel, and I’ve really enjoyed my Birchwood Casey 2×4 steel target… it’s safe and is set at the correct angle to deflect bullet splatter safely downward. But not all steel targets are created equally, and I’ve watched a shooter hit a swinging steel plate as it’s swinging back towards him, resulting in some bullet splatter hitting the ground pretty darn close to the firing line.
The point is, some targets are truly dangerous — especially when paired with the wrong type of bullets.
Jerry starts out by showing a long-range steel rifle target and explaining why it’s fine for that role but terrible for shooting with a handgun at closer range. He also shows a steel target designed for handgun ammo — and he explains how to properly present it to the shooter in a safe manner.
After that, he moves on to the subject of rifle shooting at mild steel targets. Rifle bullets can create craters or pockmarks in the steel, which makes it unsafe to shoot. When a bullet hits a cratered surface, the soft lead can easily be redirected right back at the shooter. Un-good.
This is also true of FMJ bullets; even with a “full metal jacket,” a significant portion of the bullet can still come right back at ya.
Always pay attention to what’s below the target as well; gravel, concrete, a steel target stand, or another hard surface will fail to absorb the bullet fragments and can easily put you in harm’s way.
Another tip: Don’t shoot steel targets with steel-jacketed bullets. You know, like that foreign military surplus stuff in which the bullet sticks to a magnet. That can cause fires and ricochets. No bueno.
When he heads to the range with some cardboard as a visual aid, it gives viewers a really good idea of just what happens when you shoot a steel target. FMJ or ball ammo splatters in every direction, and some of the chunks of metal are pretty big. Frangible bullets on the other hand break down into much smaller particles, more or less like grains of sand. This means they carry much less energy and are far less likely to bounce around and clobber anything they shouldn’t.
“Always match your ammunition to the target requirements, and always shoot the correct target for the application, and you’ll have a good day on the range.”
Here’s the video; enjoy.
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