Steel plates, fun, but not at close range

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treadlightly
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Steel plates, fun, but not at close range

Postby treadlightly » Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:22 pm

One day, about 30 years ago, I was plinking away at a friend's steel target setup just like shooters do every day. All was well, save for how safe those 6 inch plates seemed to be at 25 yards that day. I pinged a few, I missed a few, I was disappointed but the plates weren't shooting back, at least not at first. It wasn't a bad day to miss targets, save for embarrassment and damage to unworthy self's fragile honor.

Then, I thought I was on a roll. Bang, plink, bang, plink, bang, plink - what in the heck happened?

I felt a poke in the jaw and my face went numb. Careful, gentle, superficial exploration at the wound site found blood.

My face was still numb, which I figured was going to be nice as long as it lasted. Keeping whatever remained of my teeth and jaw absolutely motionless, lest I miss the benefit of even a second of shock-induced numbness, I stepped over to my truck and adjusted the outside mirror so I could see the damage.

At best case, I figured I could tell Mom she didn't have to worry any more about those times I skipped brushing my teeth. Worst case, I didn't want to think about.

But I got good news. About two thirds of a cast lead .45 round came flying back, socked me good, but gave me no more than a couple of very minor cuts. It had enough velocity to numb my face when it hit but I didn't get much bruising. Just a little black-and-blue. The blood was from sharp edges on the flattened bullet fragment.

No doubt my scraggly beard helped cushion the impact, but that wasn't all good news. The sharp edges on the bullet fragment crimped themselves around hair. I got a new bald spot.

A good laugh was had by all. My buddies theorize I flinched, hitting a metal fence post supporting the steel plates. I'll never know. The plate lurched over like I hit it, but maybe I hit the springy fence post.

As for the "never again" part, I learned the rule that says always be sure of your target includes being sure of how your target is going to absorb or deflect the bullet's mechanical energy. If I had taken that round an inch or two higher, in the shooting glasses, they might be calling me Ol' Squinty, if I were around to be called anything at all.

Steel plates aren't close range targets, and for me, they aren't targets at all. I think most folks wouldn't think 25 yards is close, but somehow I sproinged a bunch of lead back at myself in a 50 yard round trip.

If I were to shoot a steel target, it wouldn't be at short range, and I would want to know there was nothing to hit - like a springy metal fence post - that wouldn't deflect the bullet in a safe direction.

And I probably still wouldn't shoot steel. I know, I'm a weenie. But I've shot myself in the face with a .45 - sort of - and I don't intend to do that again. I don't shoot steel, steel doesn't shoot back at me.

I take pains to be a safe shooter, and I fully understand that what I don't know or can't control can bite, hard. For the record, when I got hit with the lead splash, the first thing I did was set the thumb safety on my .45 and put the gun on the shooting bench, muzzle downrange. I thought about opening the action, but I was using one hand to explore first aid needs. I took care of opening the action as soon as I found I wasn't seriously hurt.


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treadlightly
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Re: Steel plates, fun, but not at close range

Postby treadlightly » Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:26 pm

Hmmm.. Apologies for the dual posts. Must have gotten another richchet, not sure how I did that.

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Re: Steel plates, fun, but not at close range

Postby The Annoyed Man » Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:42 pm

I have been hit by lead spatter from a steel target at 15-20 yards distance, and once I was hit in the chest by a piece of copper jacketing but my clothing stopped it and it didn't hit hard enough to hurt. It just felt like a tap on the chest.

I've seen a competitor at a match get hit in her arm by a piece of jacketing that sent her to the ER for stitches. And of course there's that famous YouTube video of the guy getting conked on the noggin pretty hard by a .50 BMG bounce-back, but I've never seen anybody seriously injured by a bullet fired against a steel plate.

I guess I haven't been around enough.....

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Re: Steel plates, fun, but not at close range

Postby Keith B » Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:47 pm

treadlightly wrote:Hmmm.. Apologies for the dual posts. Must have gotten another richchet, not sure how I did that.

I deleted the duplicate for you. :tiphat:

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Re: Steel plates, fun, but not at close range

Postby Excaliber » Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:55 pm

Frangible rounds are the way to go on steel. Solid projectiles are a "never again" waiting to happen.
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Re: Steel plates, fun, but not at close range

Postby cb1000rider » Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:33 pm

A friend of mine was trying to get me to buy a set of these. I asked about the ricochet issue, he said that they're setup at an angle so that if they do deflect, it deflects into the ground.
He also said that once they're "shot up" they'll curve and then the angles get less predictable - time to replace them.

I guess the consensus here is that these targets shouldn't be used at typical "handgun" range?


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Re: Steel plates, fun, but not at close range

Postby JSThane » Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:49 pm

Steel plates, rocks, bowling pins... wait, what?

Several years back, I got pegged in the shoulder by a ricochet from a bowling pin. Best I can figure, the round managed to hit the pin exactly right to spin it as it went through, and the jacketed slug came speeding back uprange, zipped over the shooter's shoulder, and whacked me right below the web of my neck. Distance was a -bit- further than 15-25 yards, too... closer to 50, IIRC.

It "hurt," but no more than someone jabbing you with a stiffened finger. Never broke skin, never bruised. I did get to say for a while that my mother had accidentally "shot" me, though. :biggrinjester:


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Re: Steel plates, fun, but not at close range

Postby MechAg94 » Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:53 pm

I have never had an issue with steel as long as the plate is set it up so it is not rigid. IMO, any steel targets at close or intermediate range should be set up to hang or fall over so they always move when they are hit. Allowing movement helps absorb the bullet impact even if you are not using soft lead ammo.

I would also agree with the post above about setting it up with a slight angle. Not hard to do hanging a heavy plate by a bolt on the back side.

Of course, you should still use eye protection, but that goes for any shooting at all.

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Re: Steel plates, fun, but not at close range

Postby mojo84 » Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:55 pm

It's important to get the correct hardness of steel in order for it to be safe. If the steel is pitting, it's too soft for the caliber and type of bullet being used.

http://www.arntzentargets.com

http://www.arntzentargets.com/SteelTypes.htm
Last edited by mojo84 on Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.


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Re: Steel plates, fun, but not at close range

Postby KD5NRH » Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:57 pm

Did a quick draw on a hot, full, unopened soda bottle once from about ten feet. Getting smacked in the forehead with a high velocity bottlecap still containing shards of the neck isn't fun.

.243 Varmint Grenades on oranges from ~30 yards was more fun; orange pulp doesn't hurt. Cleaning orange pulp off the windshield of the car that was parked ~50 yards away was worth it.

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Re: Steel plates, fun, but not at close range

Postby E10 » Mon Jan 19, 2015 2:40 pm

There's a sign on the plinkin' range (Range 8) at the Fort Bliss Rod & Gun Club: 'No fruit or vegetables.' Seems the range workers got tired o' cleanin' up the mess.

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Re: Steel plates, fun, but not at close range

Postby anygunanywhere » Mon Jan 19, 2015 2:55 pm

Be careful. You'll put your eye out.
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Re: Steel plates, fun, but not at close range

Postby OldCurlyWolf » Mon Jan 19, 2015 6:11 pm

E10 wrote:There's a sign on the plinkin' range (Range 8) at the Fort Bliss Rod & Gun Club: 'No fruit or vegetables.' Seems the range workers got tired o' cleanin' up the mess.

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Re: Steel plates, fun, but not at close range

Postby TomV » Mon Jan 19, 2015 7:41 pm

I've been thinking about getting some spinner plates for my daughter to shoot at with a .22 at my lease.

She does not like going to the range as we typically end up next to someone with a AR and she's noise sensitive. Last time she wore plugs and muffs.

What is a safe range for shooting something like spinner plates? She will be wearing eye and ear protection.

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Re: Steel plates, fun, but not at close range

Postby Charlies.Contingency » Mon Jan 19, 2015 8:00 pm

You never know what will happen. I've been shot multiple times by ricochet's, last one being about say, three months ago. Myself and three other people were shooting targets I set up on a stock tank embankment, and I was observing their 25-30yrd crack shots at bottle caps and spent shot shells, when somebody shot, and as soon as I hear the vvvvrrrmmm, of a ricochet, I was trying to hit the deck, but as I was heading for the ground, I heard "thud," quickly followed by a great big "Ughh." Before I realized it, It was me curled over, holding my right side. A .40cal slug angled off of some rocks just under a tad of dirt and smacked me dead in ribs. I always wear eye protection, and depending on who I'm with, and what we're shooting, I'll wear a light vest. Even if you can't see a ricochet hazard, they're always there.
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