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Thread: Thickness of metal target v. damage by pistol bullets

  1. #1

    Thickness of metal target v. damage by pistol bullets

    (This is admittedly a shooting rather than a reloading question, but I am banking on answers based on knowledge of favorite handloads)

    If I were to acquire a steel plate for use as a target, what would be the minimum thickness, that is, thick enough not to be penetrated, for use with pistol bullets of 200 grains or less? Could I expect different penetration capabilities from lead, plated, or jacketed bullets? What would be the maximum velocity to avoid damage?

    Put another way, I see plates of 3/8" thickness and 1/2" thickness advertised. Any opinions on differences between the two? Any experiences with such plates with specific calibers?
    TIA

  2. #2
    Boolit Master mattw's Avatar
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    I use 1/2" AR, but I also shoot 30/06 and other rifles at it as well as sometimes shotgun slugs. I would think that 3/8" would be great for about any normal pistol round. I would not beat it up with steel core or AP. It also really helps if there is a slight taper back angle as it hangs from top to bottom. The bullets tend to slide more. I would suspect that 45's, 40's, 9's and 38/57 would never be a problem for 3/8"

  3. #3
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    Well, I've a cheap dueling tree that on of the box stores sells. Supposedly for pistol, not just a 22 tree. Well after about 50-60 rounds, I had one flag break off. Never penetrated, but broke. I've done 9mm, 45auto and 300BO (yeah, more rifle than pistol) and even some 223 cast and I haven't had any go through 3/8". I've got several AR500 (I think that is designation) rifle graded plates and those haven't so much as dented. Now I DO have a 22tcm that if I shoot their jacketed factory, WILL go through 3/8". But it runs at 2100 fps roughly with a 40 grain bullet. Cast lead in that won't go through. (about 1800fps)
    Get good grade steel.....

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    First make sure the plate has some give to how it is hung. I used to hang 5 6" round plates from lag bolts with a spring around the bolt. It worked but was too complicated. Now I use an S hook that can go over a horizontal 2x4 or a piece of rebar. This allows the plate to swing absorbing some of the energy. These were mild steel bought locally. I also have falling plates. Fun but you have to reset after each round. I shot one of these once with my M1 carbine. That plate now has a nickel diameter crater burned over half way through it. Lead, cast or swaged, bullets are more forgiving than j words. Muzzle energy is a factor also. If you are buying from a dealer like Dillon they should say what the plates are rated for. T1 is adequate for up to .44 magnum loads. Different grades of armor plate, more expensive, will handle .454 casull to rifle calibers.

    I started with 3/8" thick mild steel. They bent after a few hundred rounds. 1/2" 8"8" is heavy. So if I can afford it 3/8" T1 is mi next choice.
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  5. #5
    Boolit Grand Master
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    I have a steel swinger target advertised as being usable with 44 Magnum handgun rounds. It has been used within those guidelines for several years with the only damage being done to the paint job. Recently I ran some 22 Win Mag soft point and hollow point ammo against it at 35 yards. These cratered its surface into a moonscape. Velocity seems to matter--so 1800 FPS is a bit much for these targets from Big 5 Sporting Goods. FWIW.
    I don't paint bullets. I like Black Rifle Coffee. Sacred cows are always fair game. California is to the United States what Syria is to Russia and North Korea is to China/South Korea/Japan--a Hermit Kingdom detached from the real world and led by delusional maniacs, an economic and social basket case sustained by "foreign" aid so as to not lose military bases.

  6. #6
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    For lead pistol bullets up to 9mm FMJ 1/4" AR500 (abrasion-resistant 500 BHN) steel will hold up fine.

    For lead core 5.56mm and 7.62mm at ranges beyond 100 yards 3/8" AR500 is fine. Round won't penetrate at shorter ranges, but with heavy use you will "cup" the face of the target and bend it. When this happens turn it around and shoot at the other side.
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  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    Make sure you buy AR400 at the minimum, AR500 is better! Dont buy just a “steel plate” to shoot. Soft plates will get you hurt!
    Id say 3/8” is fine and plenty durable. Speed is what kills AR500 plates. My opinion, you shouldnt hit a steel with velocity above 3,000fps. Seems like thats where the damage starts to occur. So all your typical handgun cartridges and cast boolits will be fine. Absolutely no bi-metal bullets and of coarse no steel core penetrators.
    Over time you may see and develop a dish shape to your plate. Simply just turn the plate around and shoot the other side of it. You can hang the plate in a static state but it needs to be angled so the bullets are deflected to the ground, I dont remember what angle this is.....but its not much. If they are static I wouldnt shoot at them closer than 25yds, but thats me.
    3/8” vs. 1/2”......I like 3/8s because they are lighter. Mine have held up very well to ALOT of USE and ABUSE!
    If I owned a range then I would buy 1/2” plate targets.
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  8. #8
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    3/8" AR500 full-sized Army "E" if hung with 30 degree slope beyond true vertical, and free to swing, will stand up to cal. .50 Ball M33 at 500 meters or .416/.338 at the same distance, or 5.56mm M855 at 200 meters.
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  9. #9
    Boolit Bub BigAlofPa.'s Avatar
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    I have ar500 3/8 steel, Shot rifle at 100 yards 30.06 7.62x54r. It says not to do so under 100 yards. In pistol i have shot 9mm 40sw 45 acp 38 spec. at 25 yards. 357 and 44 mag at 50 yards. It has held up great. Yes the paint get blasted off. Cheap .99 cent spray paint fixes that.

    https://www.palletforks.com/ar500-si...3-8-thick.html

  10. #10
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    3/8 th is fine for pistol one more thing you get a better ring from thinner 3/8 steel then the 1/2" steel
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  11. #11
    Boolit Buddy
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    assuming were talking ar500 1/4" is fine for handguns, that's what I use and the only thing that put the smallest mark is very fast 357 hp at close range. 3/8" is more for very heavy use handgun, powerful magnum handgun, or rifle at 100yd, 1/2" being high use rifle or magnum rifle. but you need to consider how fast the sound reduces with thickness and how fast the price increases. tougher isn't better its a trade off.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Yea a bit surprising what some little bitty bullet can do. Friend had some hung up, been shot at with everything under the sun. It was 22 hornets that did the most damage.

  13. #13
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    Club's plate rack with 3/8" T1 gets shot with anything allowed on our pistol line. Plates were last replaced a couple years back and, after thousands of rounds - mostly 9mm and 40 S&W - don't show any appreciable damage/wear. Last year, we added a Texas Star (1/2" plates) and two 'dueling trees' (3/8") and these have also held up well.

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  14. #14
    Boolit Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by Tackleberry41 View Post
    Yea a bit surprising what some little bitty bullet can do. Friend had some hung up, been shot at with everything under the sun. It was 22 hornets that did the most damage.
    Yup! A buddy bought a set of swingers from Cabela's. Shot the heck out of 'em at 25 yds with factory-load .357s and 9mm FMJs from his H&K 54...no damage. At 50 yards, first .22 Hornet from my 10" Contender punched the neatest 1/4" hole you've ever seen.
    "I'm not often right but I've never been wrong."

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  15. #15
    Boolit Mold
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    I have my own range so I can shoot steel targets according to my own rules. I cut out a dozen bottle shaped targets from 3/8 mild steel and welded a piece of angle iron on the bottom to help them stand up on the ground. Size is about 4"x 11". My rules are 30 yds minimum, lead bullets only, 22LR and all other pistol calibers ok if under 1000fps. They have lasted for years. Kids with 22's love em.
    The only damage has been from inconsiderate and subsequently unwelcome shooters who didn't follow the rules. There are also 8"X1/2" A500 plates hanging in trees from 80 to 100 Yds that are holding up very well to all rifles so far. You can enjoy home made steel targets, just set rules.

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