Steel Targets come in tons of variations, so what size and shape works best? It can depend on desired use and personal choice. I will try and give some personal opinions into the matter to help you make your choice when it comes to selecting a steel target.
Steel Target thickness
First of all just because one target is thicker than the other docent mean its better. There are basically two factors when deciding on steel target, energy and velocity. Both of those have to be considered. Steel target thickness is required to stop energy from projectile, We rate our 3/8″ AR500 steel targets at 3500 ft.lb. energy and then the 1/2″ AR500 steel targets over 3500 ft,lbs energy. The energy factor needs to be measured at impact distance and not a muzzle, this information cab be from any of the widely available ballistic programs, reloading manuals, or sometimes factory ammo has the info on the box. Our 3/8″ AR500 and AR550 steel targets will stop projectiles with a impact energy of 3500 ft. lb. energy, which will cover just about any option in the handgun world and a great majority of rifles and even some magnum rifles. The 1/2″ steel targets are then used for magnum rifles producing more than 3500 ft.lb. energy at impact, such as .300RUM, 45-70, .338 lapua, .375 H&H and so on if shot a closer distances. If shooting the larger magnums at distances where energy has dropped 3500 ft. lbs. you once again can use the 3/8″ steel targets. With that said 90% of steel target use can be done with the 3/8″ thickness.
Projectile velocity is another important factor in choosing a steel target. As we all have heard “Speed Kills” and it is true in many different situations, and steel targets is just one of them. An important number to remember is 3000 fps. which applies to all AR500 steel targets regardless of thickness. High velocity impacts can result in a “pit” at the impact location, due to the increased heat caused at impact. In some cases during our testing we have found the thicker steel targets actually pit deeper than thinner targets of same size, the reason is the weight of the target, causing more resistance against moving when hit.
Type of Steel Target
Another factor in decision is the type or shape of target, is it round, square, a silhouette or something else? This can be a absolute personal choice, some shooters like round steel targets, some like steel silhouettes, just a preference. The most popular are the steel gong targets, which is round with generally two mounting holes for hanging, allows for good sound with the traditional round target shape. Square steel targets of same size as round steel target will have about 20% more area on target face, allowing for shots that would have just been off a round steel target to hit one of the corners of a square steel target. Steel silhouette targets are another type of popular steel target which can be useful for several uses. Rogue Shooting Targets offer several steel silhouette targets, a 2/3rd scale IDPA silhouette which is 12.08″ wide by 20.5″ tall and the full size IDPA silhouette that is 18″ wide by 30″ tall. Both silhouettes can be used for tactical or self defense training but are also commonly used by law enforcement and protection groups for handgun and rifle training alike. Steel silhouette targets are versatile for several reasons. One is size, a full size silhouette is 18″x 30″, making it a great long range steel target for rifle shooters, even the 2/3rd scale is still relativity large handgun target. Another is that steel silhouette targets are kinda made up of 3 targets in one, overall, head and body, so if its no longer challenging to hit overall target try just the center of body and then just the head portion. If to tough of choice you can always get several, most do.
Size of Steel Target
The Size of steel target you choose depends also on several factors also. What is the distance it will be shot, what weapon system will it be shot with and skill level of shooter. The distance target will be shot plays a roll in deciding what size of target as will capabilities of firearm/operator. We feel a good general steel rifle target at 100 yards is about 10″, generally a rifle shooter can keep it on the steel. As for a hand gun shooter it also is about 10″ to 12″, but distance is closer, maybe 15 yards or so. Then we get to the more advanced precision rifle shooter, for them targets seem to work well at about 2 MOA (minutes of angle). This group of shooters will shoot better than 1MOA throughout the range of yardage, so why use a target twice that size? Well, things happen.. maybe we were off on dope, maybe unseen wind, or even mirage, having just a little more target allows for us to figure out what went wrong. Another reason is if you take a friend shooting who is not as well skilled they can make more hits and not get discouraged by misses. In some cases on our range we use one steel target at 1MOA and then also one at 2MOA, making everyone happy.