woman aiming a gun

Is It Safe To Shoot Steel Targets?

When it comes to practicing your aim, enhancing shooting skills, or just having fun at the range, steel targets are an excellent option to consider. However, the question of safety often comes up when using these targets.

In this guide, we will navigate through the safety aspects of using steel targets and highlight measures you can implement to safeguard yourself against potential hazards. So, let's dive in.


Why Do Shooters Use Steel Targets?


steel target with bullet marks
Credit: Getty Images/ iStockphoto


Before discussing safety concerns, it's important to understand why steel targets are popular among shooting enthusiasts. Compared to other target materials, steel offers several advantages that contribute to an enhanced shooting experience. These advantages include:


1) Provides Audible Feedback


One of the unique advantages of steel targets is the audible feedback they provide upon impact. This distinct and recognizable "ping" sound enables shooters to effortlessly assess their accuracy and promptly fine-tune their aim for immediate improvements.


2) Offers Exceptional Durability


Steel targets are known for their exceptional durability, making them capable of withstanding repeated hits without significant damage. Unlike paper or cardboard targets, these targets can last for years, providing shooters with a long-lasting investment.


3) Cost-Effective Option


While steel targets may require an initial investment, their durability and reusability make them cost-effective in the long run. Over time, shooters can save money on target replacement and maintenance, maximizing their shooting budget.


4) Practical for Varied Skill Levels


Whether you're a beginner shooter or an experienced marksman, steel targets serve a practical purpose. For beginners, the instant feedback helps improve aim and technique quickly. For seasoned shooters, they offer a challenge to maintain precision and consistency.


The Dangers of Using Steel Targets


man aiming at target
Credit: Envato Elements/ ASphotostudio


While steel targets offer many benefits, it's equally important to be aware of the potential dangers associated with their use. Understanding these risks can help shooters implement the appropriate safety measures to prevent accidents and ensure a safe shooting environment. Below are the dangers of using steel targets:


1) Risk of Ricochet and Fragmentation


The primary concern with steel targets is the risk of ricochet and fragmentation. When a bullet strikes a steel target, it can fragment, sending pieces flying in various directions. When this happens, there's a chance it could return toward the shooter or spectators, potentially leading to injuries.


2) Damage to the Targets


Although steel targets are highly durable, they're not immune to damage. Continuous shooting with high-powered firearms or armor-piercing ammunition can cause pitting and deformation of the target. These surface irregularities can cause unpredictable bullet patterns, posing a safety risk.


3) Inadequate Distance


Inadequate distance between the shooter and the target can also lead to safety issues. The closer the shooter is to the target, the less time there is for bullet fragments to lose energy and fall to the ground, increasing the chance of injury.


4) Poor Target Installation and Maintenance


Poorly installed or maintained targets can also present a danger. If a target isn't securely mounted, it could move unpredictably or fall over when hit, possibly leading to accidents. Additionally, regular maintenance is crucial; over time, rust, cracks, and other types of wear and tear can alter the target's behavior upon impact, increasing the ricochet risk.


Is It Safe to Shoot Steel Targets?


orange target with bullet marks
Credit: Getty Images/ iStockphoto


So, is it safe to shoot steel targets? With proper precautions, the answer is yes. A quality steel target, used responsibly, can offer a satisfying and safe shooting session.

However, for those who are new to shooting, it's advisable to start with more beginner-friendly options, such as paper targets. This enables beginners to focus on honing their basic shooting skills without having to deal with the additional safety concerns associated with steel targets.


Safety Measures To Take When Shooting Steel Targets


man with gun aiming at target
Credit: Envato Elements/ thananit_s


Although steel targets are safe to use, it is imperative to adhere to specific steel target safety measures to ensure a safe shooting experience. Here are some essential guidelines to consider:


1) Properly Angle and Secure Your Targets


The way your target is positioned can influence the direction of a ricochet. Steel targets should be slightly angled downward to direct any potential ricochet toward the ground. Also, ensure that your targets are securely mounted on target stands to avoid unnecessary movement that could lead to unpredictable bullet deflection.


2) Invest in High-Quality Safety Gear


Protection is crucial when handling firearms, and this begins with the right safety gear. When shooting at steel targets, consider wearing quality eye protection to protect yourself against potential ricocheting fragments, and durable ear protection to shield your ears from the loud noises of gunfire and target impact. Also, consider wearing long-sleeved shirts and full-length pants to protect your skin.


3) Maintain a Safe Distance


Always respect the recommended minimum safe shooting distance from the target. This distance allows any fragmented pieces from the bullet's impact to lose their energy, thereby reducing the risk of injury. As a rule of thumb, the minimum safe distance for shooting steel targets is 15 yards for handguns and 100 yards for rifles.


4) Choose the Right Ammunition


Selecting the right ammunition is an essential factor in the safe use of steel targets. Steel-core, steel-jacketed, solid copper, or other armor-piercing rounds can cause substantial damage to steel targets, increasing the risk of ricochet. Soft lead or copper-jacketed lead bullets are a safer choice, as they tend to fragment upon impact.




While shooting steel targets can be an exciting and rewarding experience, it's crucial to acknowledge the potential dangers involved. By being aware of these risks and taking necessary precautions, shooters can ensure a safe and enjoyable shooting experience.

If you're a beginner shooter or someone who prioritizes absolute safety in your shooting practice, consider using EasyShot paper shooting targets. EasyShot shooting targets offer a seamless way to sharpen your shooting skills without the added concern of bullet ricochet. Check us out today.

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