steel shooting targets lined up and hung at an outdoor shooting range

How Close Can You Shoot Steel Targets?

We all love the satisfying 'ping' when we hit steel targets. But here's the thing: standing too close can be risky. You might get hit by a stray bullet ricochet or by target fragments. To keep the fun safe, it's crucial to know the right distance to stand while shooting. In this guide, we’re going to break it all down. Let's get to it!

General Guidelines When Shooting Steel Shooting Targets


metal gongs aligned at an outdoor shooting range
Credit: Titan Great Outdoors

Before getting into the general distances for shooting steel targets, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • The thicker the steel, the closer you can safely be when shooting.
  • If you're shooting with softer bullets, you can generally be closer to the target.
  • Lastly, for larger caliber bullets, it's safer to shoot from a greater distance.

How Close Can You Shoot Steel Targets?


beautiful woman concentrating and aiming with gun
Credit: Envato Elements/ svitlanah

The safe shooting distance from steel targets varies depending on the caliber of the ammunition used. Here are some general guidelines to ensure steel target safety:

  • Handguns (9mm, .45 ACP, etc.): It is generally safe to shoot at steel targets from a distance of at least 10 yards (30 feet) for handguns. This distance minimizes the risk of ricochets.
  • Rifles (5.56mm, .308, etc.): For rifles, it's recommended to shoot from a minimum safe distance of 100 yards.
  • Shotguns: When shooting shotguns, maintain a minimum distance of 10 yards for birdshot and 20 yards for buckshot or slugs.

Remember, the thickness of the target matters too. For thinner targets, about 1/4-inch thick, a good rule of thumb is to keep at least 25 yards away. When you're dealing with thicker targets, like those that are 3/8- to 1/2-inch thick, you'll want to maintain a distance of 100 yards or more.

Safety Precautions for Setting Up Steel Targets


woman with gun in hand looking at shooting range and target
Credit: Envato Elements/ westend61

When setting up steel targets, follow these simple steps to stay safe:

  1. Place your steel target on a flat, steady surface to prevent it from tipping or moving unexpectedly.
  2. Make sure that the target stands are angled downward, around 15 to 20 degrees. This helps absorb bullet speed safely, directing any fragments or ricochets toward the ground, not towards you.
  3. Make sure to shoot steel targets straight to prevent any ricochet.
  4. Make sure there's a clear space behind the target to avoid any stray bullets causing injury.
  5. Regularly check your steel plate for dents or cracks. Replace damaged targets to avoid unpredictable behavior when hit.
  6. Always wear eye and ear protection like safety glasses and hearing protection when shooting at steel targets.

What Type of Bullets Are Safest To Use With Steel Targets?


man at outdoor shooting range aiming at target
Credit: Envato Elements/ Pressmaster

Softer bullets, such as those made from lead or frangible materials, are generally safer as they are less likely to cause ricochet. Avoid steel-core or armor-piercing rounds, as these increase the risk of ricochet and target damage. Also, when using steel plates, make sure they're made of AR400 or AR500 steel for safety.


Shooting at steel targets can be a safe and enjoyable activity when proper precautions are taken. Always prioritize safety and remember that maintaining a respectful distance from steel targets is key to minimizing risks and ensuring a fun and hazard-free shooting experience.

And speaking of hitting the mark, have you tried EasyShot Shooting Targets yet? EasyShot paper targets are designed for shooters who value quality and safety. Durable, reliable, and perfect for honing your skills, they're the ideal choice for anyone looking to make their mark. Shop with us today. 

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