There's a right way and a wrong way to shoot steel targets.
Shooting at paper is probably what the majority of us spend our time doing at the range. Paper is cheap, easily transported and allows us to readily record group sizes. It's also a pain to replace if others want to continue shooting and can become a little onerous after a while.
Steel is my favorite target to shoot because it can be set up and shot at until we're out of ammo or lose interest. That ever-welcome tink tells us when we're on our game. Yeah, it's heavier than paper, and we can't fold it up and stuff it in our pocket when we're done, but steel is never boring, and good steel targets don't wear out.
I've spent some time shooting steel targets from Action Target, a company that specializes in (not surprisingly) steel targets for personal and public use. The two models I tested were the Evil Roy and the PT Tactical Torso.
I've never found an easier steel target to transport than the Evil Roy. It has a three-legged folding stand that sets up in seconds and collapses down into a small, 6-inch-by-3-foot package that I can easily throw in the back of my car.
Different-size heads are available for the Evil Roy, ranging from 6-inch to 12-inch circles, as are rectangles and reduced IPSC silhouettes.
The beauty of Evil Roy steel targets is that the head attaches by way of two shielded carriage bolts and a couple of wing nuts that take no time to put in place. Head sizes and shapes can be swapped out to accommodate engagement distances, shooter ability or desired level of difficulty.
One of my favorite drills is to put the 6-inch circle out at 100 yards and shoot off-hand. It's a great drill to test trigger control and really helps us focus on the basics without shooting a ton of ammo.
The PT Tactical Torso is quite a bit larger and heavier, yet it gives us a ton of shooting options. We can put it at 100 yards, and it's plenty big for young shooters to hit, while the smaller face and chest plates provide an additional challenge for more-skilled shooters.
The smaller steel target plates also allow us to work on positional shooting by providing appropriately sized steel targets for sitting and kneeling positions at 100 yards. The face and chest plates are removable without tools for a quick repainting when needed.
Both targets I tested were made from AR550 steel, the only safe material to shoot with a rifle at distances of 100 yards or farther. It is possible to make AR550 rifle-rated targets safe to shoot at 50 yards if the target face is angled at about 45 degrees. Steel handgun targets can be made of AR500, which is a slightly softer armor steel that is safe to shoot with handguns as close as 10 yards.
There are a lot of misconceptions about shooting steel. Not all steel targets are created equal; anything softer than AR500 and AR550 can deform with repeated impact. AR500 and AR550 retain their flat shape even after heavy use. The flat shape is vital to ensure that bullets fragment completely and the fragments get uniformly dispersed.
Never shoot green-tip or bi-metal bullets at steel targets of any kind because they will dimple and deform the target, radically increasing the likelihood of a ricochet. Plus, these "penetrator" projectiles will wreak havoc on your target.
Shooting at scrap steel targets or anything other than AR500 or AR550 can yield unpredictable results. It's not uncommon for cupped or concave steel to send bullets right back toward the firing line.