Shooting Steel

Yesterday Kim and I had our first trip to the range to shoot steel. After watching Max Michel tear up the steel challenge courses on Outdoor Channel, I wanted to try it for myself. Steel targets are expensive, and I had to save for them, but my beautiful wonderful wife bought me a heart shaped one from CMP for our eleventh anniversary (anniversary eleven happens to be steel, how about that?) and then I purchased two more twelve inch plates from MGM Targets. All three of these are 3/8″ thick AR500 steel. The heart is a knockdown target and the other two are stationary plates.

Steel Heart

I did some looking around on-line, but I was still worried when we went to the range. For one thing, steel shooting involves shooting a hard object (a bullet) at a hard target (steel) so what happens then? I was worried about pieces of lead splashing back at us. Also, I didn’t know whether the range rules allowed for steel. Yesterday afternoon was rainy, so that cleared out the range, even though there is a roof. When we arrived there was only one other person on the pistol side. We have seen him before, he is one of the unofficial range officers, by which I mean he hangs out and puts his two cents in often. There were also two guys on the rifle range, and they were shooting steel plates, so that made me feel better. We carted out the targets and set them up at 24 yards, far enough away to feel safe for our first go-round. Then I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to hit them, a fear shared by our compatriot. However, he didn’t say anything negative about shooting at the steel, only that they might be difficult to hit at that distance. When we finished setting up it looked like this:


Kim and I both brought our P238 (380 Auto) pistols, which are small and supposedly more difficult to shoot at that distance. Imagine our surprise when we were both able to get hits right off the bat? The steel is so much fun. The instant feedback (that pinging sound) when I put the bullet on the target is delicious. The knockdown target is even better because it flipped off its stand when I hit it, although I need more targets because of course it has to be reset after each strike. The steel really forced me to focus on my breathing and squeezing, but by lining up the sights and concentrating both Kim and I could hit the targets. When I tried with the P220 (45 Auto) the results were even better-my first round I got 7 out of 8 hits even at 24 yards, and took down the heart with my first shot, great because on a P220 the first shot requires a longer, double action trigger pull. Part of that is the quality of the pistols-I am constantly amazed by how much I love these firearms, and how well I can perform with them. We are both getting better at shooting-I snuck a dummy round into one of Kim’s magazines to see if she was flinching, and when she pulled the trigger the pistol stayed completely still.

Other than the lead splatter and chipped paint, the steel showed no signs of damage after about seventy rounds.


A fresh coat of spray paint and they will be good as new, and both companies claim that the targets will last as long as no rifle rounds are used on them. Set up and clean up is easier, and there was no splash back at all. I plan to move the targets in closer, get more of them (a complete steel challenge course, you can Wikipedia it and they show the layout) and then start shooting it with the timer.

I really enjoy ballistic therapy. It relaxes me. I am gaining more knowledge about targets, which are really where it’s at. I am lucky to live where I do, about ten minutes from a state maintained shooting range. I enjoy the engineering of the pistols. I even like cleaning them. My comfort level with my carry pistol is growing. I recommend shooting steel, and plan to form my own discipline: Concealed Steel. Stock pistols that are drawn from concealment and then run on a Steel Challenge course for time. I love the 380 round for concealment, so even though it is not included in traditional Steel Challenge competition I think it will be perfect for Concealed Steel.


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