Shoot Steel Slickguns Review [AR500 Steel Targets]
There are few things more satisfying than that distinctive ping! of a round striking a steel target.
It’s like that check mark beside a test answer you weren’t sure about, or the perfect swish of the net after you drain a three-point shot in basketball. It’s an immediate and extremely rewarding sound that you did everything right.
And boy do I love that sound.
I love it so much that I was recently talking to Eric about my desire to grab some more targets for a home range I was building out and he mentioned that the good folks at Shoot Steel had some targets they were looking to have tested for a Slickguns Review.
Obviously, I took him up on the offer and I spent the next few months and several thousand rounds beating them up to see if they would meet my needs long term.
Here’s what I learned.
First, The Steel
The most important part of a steel target is, of course, the steel, and that’s one of the reasons it’s so important to get your steel targets from a quality, reputable manufacturer that is forming and cutting their steel in a way that makes for a safe and long-lasting target.
Shoot Steel does a couple of things in this regard that is worth pointing out. First, they handle all their steel (US made steel if that matters to you) and cut it themselves.
They aren’t ordering cut steel an adding a target stand and calling it a day.
They also aren’t a machine shop that just saw the market for steel targets and started CNC-ing IDPA silhouettes and gongs.
They set out to sell targets, and they put a lot of thought into making targets that actually stand up to repeated high-velocity rifle impacts.
One of the key ways they do this is in the way they cut their steel. Now, I’m a machinist and general metallurgy nerd, so bear with me for a second while I explain some technical(ish) stuff.
A key thing to know about working with steel: hot things make metal soft.
Heat softens steel, and that heated steel will be softer after its heated too, especially if it’s allowed to cool down gradually. This is a process called annealing. Annealing is a great process for other things, but when we’re looking for a target to retain hardness, it’s bad.
Hardness is important in a target because it allows the target to take these repeated impacts from a high-velocity rifle round without deforming in any significant way. That gives you a target that will last a long time, which of course gives you a good value for your money.
How do they do this?
Their cutting process. This is where they’ve put a lot of thought into what they’re doing.
When you cut hardened steel, and the AR500 in these targets is very hard, you have a few options, most of which aren’t great because they introduce heat. And of course, heat is bad for that all-important hardness we’re after.
The cheapest option is plasma cutting which is quick, economical, and introduces a frankly ridiculous amount of heat, even if you use a specialized water-submerged plasma cutting setup. Anything with plasma is going to anneal the heck out of the edges of your target and leave them prone to chipping and deformation.
If you cut on something like a CNC router, you’re using friction and abrasion in the form of a router bit, which introduces roughly a shit ton to two full shit tons of heat.
Excuse the technical jargon there, but that makes steel less desirable.
This is hardened steel, any kind of saw/drill/router/whatever solid object cutting into it is going to generate a lot of heat.
The next best option, and what would be my ideal method is waterjet cutting.
Waterjet CNC introduces very little heat, is very precise, and is virtually self-cooling because you have a large amount of water covering your workpiece. The problem is that it’s expensive, especially compared to the other options, and that cost is reflected in the finished piece. Not ideal, still a good choice.
Finally, we have the most balanced option, which is what Shoot Steel uses, and that’s laser CNC cut steel.
Laser cutting does introduce some heat to the steal, but it’s a very slight amount compared to any kind of physically abrasive cutting, and it’s way less than plasma cutting.
It’s also a very small area even compared to waterjet cutting so it’s only the very edge you have to worry about being soft.
Best of all, this process is relatively cheap, with only some plasma options being cheaper, so you get a finished piece that’s produced in a very economical way…and that’s reflected in the price.
Shoot Steel offers a number of these laser cut targets, from silhouettes to reactive targets to gongs to spring-assisted poppers. They were kind enough to send me a variety. I got their IDPA silhouette, rifle popper, and precision rifle swinger all in ⅜” AR500 steel.
Let’s look at each one.
The IDPA Silhouette
This is the simplest target of the bunch, but possibly my favorite. It’s a 12”x20” IDPA-style silhouette that you’re almost certainly familiar with, but this is not a gong. They do have a swinging gong in this shape, but this is a static target.
The mounting hardware, which I highly suggest you get, is absolutely awesome. It uses a 2×4 post (not included) that attaches to a pair of included feet.
You then have a bolt that goes through the target which comes with a spring that separates it from a piece of tube steel that slots over the top of the 2×4. The spring keeps the target hanging at a safe angle to avoid sending fragmentation back at the shooter.
Now at this point, you can run two lag bolts into the 2×4 through holes in that tube steel, but I left them out and didn’t have any problems. Your mileage may vary.
Overall, I love that this target uses a simple 2×4 as a stand, and the way it’s designed makes it simple to setup and easy to tear down when you’re done. My two potential issues with these targets, in general, is actually with the target hanger, and they’re both small.
First, the bolt. I don’t know what they bolt is made out of, and I probably should have asked Shoot Steel, but I don’t think it’s a very hard steel. I could be wrong, but that is a potential failure point.
That said, I drilled that exposed bolt head with a .308 and with a few fast 9mms and it held up fine so this is probably a needless worry.
Prices accurate at time of writing
The other issue is that because the hangers are made of relatively weak tool steel, you can actually deform them if you tighten the bolts down too much, both on this one and on the rifle swinger. Now there is a warning in the instructions not to overtighten them, so as long as you don’t ugga dugga them like a Neanderthal you should be fine.
The Rifle Popper
The rifle popper was a really cool target and I’m glad I got to play with it. The target itself is a foot tall, with a six-inch circle and a piece of spring steel that holds the target up and activates the reset.
The legs (which were included but you have to order separately) are easy to install and keep the target up off the ground and make it much, much easier to use. They come with cutouts for stakes too which is great.
One problem I have here is with the legs, which are made of hardened steel. That’s great as it makes them much more durable and will keep them from deforming due to bullet splatter or an errant shot, but it also presents a danger in that the shape coupled with the hardness can cause some ricochets back towards the firing line.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Now, if you don’t miss it isn’t a problem, and if you have the target at the recommended 25+ yard range with handguns or only use it with rifles at 100 yards it isn’t a problem, but I’d like to see a leg design that would allow it to be safely used in close at say 10 yards for handgun use.
Still, the legs do their job and come powder coated a nice black just like the target itself.
The Precision Rifle Swinger
I lied early. This is actually my favorite target of the bunch. You have the choice of a six or eight-inch strike plate on a swinger that comes with a set of twenty-four-inch legs to keep the target off the ground while still keeping it relatively small when disassembled (more on that later).
The target spins freely and is held in place by spacers that keep the plate from drifting to either side, and boy will it spin. With a 6.5 CM rifle, I was able to almost get it to spin all the way around the crossbar, but couldn’t quite get the timing right to send it all the way around at 400 yards because the wind was doing…a thing. And the sun! Boy that sun. Just right in my eyes.
Yep, that was it.
The spinner worked flawlessly and it was easy to set up and tear down.
Assembly and Transport
Speaking of setting up an tearing down, all of these targets are designed to be super easy to put together, take apart, and transport when you need them. The rifle spinner especially, as it will actually pack down into a 6”x15” box, which is pretty fantastic.
I was able to put all these targets together with only the briefest glances at the instructions, as is the way according to Dude Law, and it took maybe 20 minutes total. Most of that time was spent digging out the right size wrenches and ratchets to tighten everything down properly.
I don’t remember what size, so you’ll have to go on that adventure for yourself if you buy them.
The torso silhouette comes apart in seconds, even if you use the lag bolts, and the swinger is literally held together with simple locking pins so you can take it down and put it up in under a minute, easy peasy.
A lot of folks don’t have land they can just leave expensive targets laying around on, so this ease-of-transport and assembly/disassembly is fantastic for taking the targets out to the range or some public land, setting up for a day of shooting, and then packing up quickly when you’re done.
At The Range
Actually shooting these things was a freaking blast, make no mistake about that. They were easy to put together and move around so I was able to do a lot with them, which was great, and they held up to everything I threw at them.
I even sent some big heavy .45-70 LEVERevolution rounds at them and had no problems (well, other than trying to compensate for drop with a .45-70 at 200 yards).
I actually took my father with me one of the times I shot with them, because shooting steel was a new experience for him, and he was so impressed by them that he’s thinking about ordering some himself.
That’s a pretty solid endorsement from someone who’s been driving the same truck since 1994 and hasn’t taken the same Garth Brooks cassette out of the player in that entire time.
The targets come unpainted (other than the popper for some reason) so we painted them white with some cheap spray paint and set them up at varying distances.
The rifle swinger went at 400 yards, the popper at 200 yards, and the silhouette I kept at 10 yards for some pistol shooting. We ran out of ammo, but we had a blast, and I’ve been out there shooting them as much as I can ever since.
Look I beat the hell out of these targets and the only deformation I had in any of them was shooting the popper at 100 yards with a .30-06, which is something they specifically tell you not to do but I did it anyway because I’m a jerk and wanted to see what it would do.
Answer: it gave me three very small divots.
Follow the instructions from Shoot Steel and these targets will last a lifetime for all but the very highest of high volume shooters. If you’re looking for targets for a public range or club that’ll see several thousand rounds a month, look at their ½” AR500 offerings.
I’ve been shooting, hauling, assembling and disassembling these targets for about five months now and I have to say, could not be more pleased. They are quality targets, and the stands and hangers and stands are just really well thought out. You can tell the guys and gals at Shoot Steel actually do what their name implies and shoot steel and they’ve taken that experience into everything they do with their targets.
I have a few nits to pick here and there, but really I can’t complain at all about these targets as I think the combination of the manufacturing and the design really make for some great targets that stand out in what is now a very crowded industry.
Shoot Steel targets are carefully and thoughtfully designed and manufactured, and that is a great thing for anyone looking to buy a high-quality steel target at an affordable price.
5/5 for me.
I was actually a little shocked at the price for some of their offerings.
They aren’t the cheapest out there, but they are definitely one of the better values for what you get, and for something like this I’d definitely prefer to take the “buy once, cry once” approach and get something that’s actually worth having instead of something that’s going to be ruined after a few range trips.
I spend enough money on shooting and its nice to know that I can count on these targets to hold up for a while.
Now I just gotta convince Shoot Steel to send me one of their speed racks…
And you…check out all the rest of their offerings here.
What do you think of these steel targets? Which ones do you want the most? Sound off in the comments below and let me know! Check out more awesome Slickguns and gear in our Editor’s Picks!
The post Shoot Steel Slickguns Review [AR500 Steel Targets] appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.