Steel Target Safety Questions

I go to a range that includes a steel target shooting gallery for pistols. The closest target is set up 11 yards from the shooting line. I asked the RO why no closer targets and he replied that was the closest they could be to avoid ricochets from hitting shooters and bystanders. A number, but not all, targets are the type that fall over when hit or swing back and forth on a vertical pipe. The fall over types do not fall over if you hit them low close to the hinge/horizontal pipe.

Is that an accurate response? Or does it matter how they are mounted, angled, etc.

How do any of you set up your personal steel targets and have you ever had ricochet issues?


No matter how the steel target is mounted. There is ALWAYS ricochet and chance to be hit.
There is no way you can control ricochet from steel.

Response was accurate.


@Gary_H I pretty much shoot steel exclusively. All my targets are the swing type supported by chains to an extra tall 2 x 4 saw horse. Plate racks as you describe above are just not portable. That said I did have a battery operated falling LaRue target that was a mini silhouette that I traded for a rifle as it was more of a PITA than it was worth to haul around. I’ve not been fragged by my swinging plates but I have been hit by frags from “non-movable” steel such as the cross bar on a plate rack or a fixed target.

When I was setting up a range we had to make a determination where the safe line was with our steel. We set up paper around the target at various distances and shot the crap out of them with a variety of firearms. ~5 yards was where the hits petered out in the 90* directly in front of the target. Off to the sides we were getting hits to about 10 yards but A LOT more of them.

As an outlier, low velocity FMJ’s will bounce, sometimes at a fair distance. A bud of mine took a .380 ball round to the leg at 25 yards standing behind/to the side of the girl shooting it. She hit the cross bar of the plate rack at 10 yards. I bounced and missed her by 2 -3 feet to the left. Left a nice bruise on his thigh (similar to a paint ball hit) but did not penetrate even his pants.

If I were to set up steel for pistol exclusively I would make sure that they were swingers. If I had a plate rack or dueling tree I’d want to make sure that there were no non moveable perpendicular surfaces. The lower the velocity at impact the higher the chances for ricochets ESPECIALLY with FMJ or HP’s. Lead doesn’t bounce real well but I have recovered hundreds of lead slugs w/i 5’ of steel plates when shot at a fair distance, say more than 25 yards.

So 11 yards is a fair guess as far as a safety factor goes but there will always be some risk. Long sleeves/pants and EYE PRO are definitely required when shooting steel with pistols at closer ranges. Most rifle rounds will disintegrate at close ranges but some with hardened penetrators may bounce so if you are running a CQB type scenario with say “green tip 5.56 ammo” angle the plates just a bit to force the deflection to down range. IMHO you should do this with plate racks also, mebby a foot of angle for the length of the rack (assuming a 10’ rack).




30’ is what the ranges I go to use. At that distance I have occasionally caught a fragment… kind of like a campfire spark… hot, but too small to find later, and not actually leaving a mark. I wouldn’t want it in my eye, so anyone nearby needs glasses for sure.


Generally, 7 yards is considered the minimum distance. I see no need to get that close.
Like @zee I stay 10 yards away or more.

Even at 25 yards, it’s possible to get splashed with lead. All of us that have had significant range time have been pelted with lead: hands, cheeks, arms, nose, forehead. It happens.

Eyes and a ball cap are critical.


IMO, if steel is involved you’re going to have splatter. A range I visited in Scarborough Maine had wooden sheds built around the GSSF steel targets. Most other matches, I hear lead raining down on top of the tents where steel is used. That’s why we ALWAYS wear eye protection.

At my backyard range, hanger chains are attached to a bolt BEHIND the plate or silhouette so it is angled downward, and I avoid shooting inside of 11 yards.


This was my thoughts. A local range says no magnum rounds on the metal plates they have at 25 yards. They were getting splatter at that range. Specials, and pistol ammo didn’t pose a problem.


As the steel gets pockmarks you start to get odd things happening as well. Get around a 3gun match and you will hear stuff on the roof of the shed. I have to replace my shooting lenses every few years from the marks on them. I had a 10mm JHP jacket come and take a great slice of my nose one time. As @Sully_LST says, you do this enough long enough and yes you will get pelted.

My personal steel is angled, well most of it is. My big BC target you could get really darn close to it, even if I do not.