Best AR500-550 Steel Targets for Shooting: 2019 Guide And Review

If you shoot outdoors, you should own steel targets. That’s not something I’m going to debate with anyone. If you don’t shoot outdoors ever, you should start, and thus you should own steel targets. (If you’re looking for somewhere to shoot, the NSSF has a  great website for finding a shooting range near you).

Why are steel targets so great? Well first and foremost, they’ll last for years and years if you take care of them, so though they are expensive up front, you’ll save money in the long run over paper targets if you shoot a lot. All you have to do between rounds of shooting is repaint the target and shoot again.

Second, they’re just more convenient. Instead of having to carefully check your target between shots, you get that immediate ping of a hit that’s audible even at several hundred meters, and downright loud as hell at close range. If you’re shooting a lot, you’re going to be going through paper targets quickly, especially if you’re training for a competition or for tactical purposes.

Steel just makes more sense in that kind of high-volume training scenario because you’ll spend more time shooting, and less time stapling up paper targets. There’s a reason so many military and police ranges utilize steel targets. Personally, I shoot tens of thousands of rounds a year, and I cannot imagine using paper for even a quarter of that.

Finally, they’re just plain fun. The motion and sound give a very visceral and satisfying response to a hit that just keeps you at the range longer and makes shooting more enjoyable. This not only is going to make you a better shooter, but it’s also going to increase the sheer joy of the hobby.

So let’s talk about what steel targets you should be looking at, and how to choose between them.


Choosing Steel Targets

When we talk about steel targets, we’re generally talking about steel that has a Brinell hardness rating of 500 or more. This is steel that is made and then further manufactured in ways that cause it to be very hard. The two most common types of steel used for targets are AR500 and AR550.

The AR550 targets are generally used for rifle-focused targets, and the AR500 stuff is for handguns and smaller caliber rifles, although there are exceptions and thicker AR500 may be used for rifles, while thinner AR550 stuff may only be rated for handguns.

Make sure you check carefully with the manufacturer and know what you’re getting, what it’s rated for, and how thick it is. Do not trust a manufacturer that doesn’t give you exact information on the steel they use in their targets, and try to find some third-party testing of the targets if you can. Be certain that the targets you get are rated for the kind of shooting you want to do.

Simple enough, right?

Finally, make sure you look at the mounting system the target is cut for, and make sure the manufacturer offers a solid mounting solution. Quality mounts are extremely important for steel targets as an improperly mounted target can actually send bullet fragments back downrange at the shooter.

You’ll also get more out of your targets, both in overall lifespan and overall fun, if you have them on a dynamic mount that allows the target to move a bit. Whether you get a fancy spinner target or just hang a simple gong from a 2×4 frame, letting the target move with the impact will greatly increase its lifespan as the movement will absorb some energy that would otherwise be directed into the steel.

Alright, with all that out of the way, let’s talk about some of the best targets are available.


Action Target

Action Target specializes in targets and other accessories for automated shooting ranges, particularly indoor ranges. If money is no object, stop reading right now and just go to their website and build your dream range because they have everything you need.

Product

Action Target Rimfire Dueling Tree

Top Overall Pick

  • All the fun and excitement of a full size PT Dueling Tree but...
  • Just like our full size PT Dueling Tree, the Rimfire Dueling Tree...
  • The Rimfire Dueling Tree consists of a forward leaning center...
  • Specifications: - Weight: 35 lbs. - Dimensions: 40" H x 14" W -...

Our rating

Details

  • All the fun and excitement of a full size PT Dueling Tree but...
  • Just like our full size PT Dueling Tree, the Rimfire Dueling Tree...
  • The Rimfire Dueling Tree consists of a forward leaning center...
  • Specifications: - Weight: 35 lbs. - Dimensions: 40" H x 14" W -...

For the rest of us who aren’t building an indoor range for our own private use, they do have a number of really cool dynamic targets like this trulyheavy-duty AR550 dueling tree that can handle just about anything you can throw at it.

They also have a really cool portable plate-style target that mounts on a simple 2×4 stand to give you a steel target that can be set up quickly and easily just about anywhere. These are great if you don’t have the space to build a dedicated range, and have to put up and take down your targets whenever you want to shoot.

Personally, I like this one because it’s been engineered to be incredibly loud when you hit it, which is satisfying as all hell, but also very practical because I can set it up at 400 yards and still get that instant hit verification.

They also make my favorite dueling tree style target. This is a hilariously fun thing to setup at 250 yards and challenge your buddies with. Even if you lose you’ll have a great time, and the AR-550 version will stand up to a lot of abuse. They also make an AR-500 version and a rimfire version if you don’t need something that robust.                                                

Shooting Targets 7

Shooting Targets 7 is one of my favorite places to get steel targets because they have such a strong warranty, and they stand behind their products more than almost anyone. They’re also a veteran-owned company which is great.

They make several great products and I encourage you to check them out, but there’s a few things in particular I want to talk about.

First of all, their gong mounts are awesome. They have these really great self-healing rubber straps for hanging gongs, and I highly recommend you use these over chain mounts if you can.

Hitting a chain with a stray shot is at best going to break your chain and potentially ruin an afternoon of shooting, and is at worst going to send metal shrapnel back towards the firing line. I don’t like using chains if I don’t have to, and don’t recommend you do either.

Besides, even if you’re far enough away to be safe from stray fragments of an impact, you’re going to still have to trek out to the target and ziptie or duct tape it back together.

As far as targets, I think my favorite is this 10” bullseye gong.

Product

ShootingTargets7 10 inch AR500 Bullseye Gong 3/8

Top Overall Pick

  • TARGET WITHIN A TARGET - Bullseye gongs have a unique center...
  • USE WITH - 3/8 inch AR500 targets easily withstand rifle rounds...
  • DURABLE - Target will last forever with proper use AR500 steel is...
  • VERY FUN TO SHOOT - Bullseye targets are a customer favorite due...
  • UNPAINTED - Targets ship unpainted for lowest possible price.

Our rating

Details

  • TARGET WITHIN A TARGET - Bullseye gongs have a unique center...
  • USE WITH - 3/8 inch AR500 targets easily withstand rifle rounds...
  • DURABLE - Target will last forever with proper use AR500 steel is...
  • VERY FUN TO SHOOT - Bullseye targets are a customer favorite due...
  • UNPAINTED - Targets ship unpainted for lowest possible price.

You get a circular gong with a dynamic bullseye in the middle that moves independently of the main body of the target so you can work on your precision shooting and have something to aim for other than just the body of the target itself like you do with most gong targets.

Pretty cool right?

In that same vein they also have some really handy magnetic target stencils that you can use to paint bullseyes and other markings on your target so you can score hits a little more precisely. Just slap them on, hit it with some spray paint, and suddenly you have a scorable target instead of just a featureless hunk of steel to plink at.

Caldwell

If you want to try out steel targets and want to have a little more fun at the range without spending a lot of money, try Caldwell’s rimfire target series.

.22 LR is the cheapest ammo anywhere on the planet, and $20 can keep you well supplied for several range trips. I personally love training with .22 rifles and handguns because it allows me to work on things like my trigger squeeze, sight alignment, and target acquisition without spending much money, and without worrying about recoil.

Product

Caldwell Rimfire Resetting Target

Top Pick

  • DIMENSIONS: Rimfire - 16.8" W x 22.5" H x 1.8" D
  • EASE OF USE: 2.5" shooting spots included and the targets...
  • RELIABLE: Legs insert into the ground and another set brace the...
  • DURABLE: Constructed of heavy duty steel to withstand most all...
  • CONVENIENT: Compact, portable design makes transportation and...
  • VERSATILITY: Comes in Airgun, Rimfire and Handgun models

Our rating

Details

  • DIMENSIONS: Rimfire - 16.8" W x 22.5" H x 1.8" D
  • EASE OF USE: 2.5" shooting spots included and the targets...
  • RELIABLE: Legs insert into the ground and another set brace the...
  • DURABLE: Constructed of heavy duty steel to withstand most all...
  • CONVENIENT: Compact, portable design makes transportation and...
  • VERSATILITY: Comes in Airgun, Rimfire and Handgun models

With precision rifle trainers in .22LR like Ruger’s Precision Rimfire coming out and allowing for precise hits at what used to be extreme distances for the humble .22, this type of shooting is more important and more valuable than ever.

It’s also just a whole barrel of fun, and is a great way to get new or otherwise recoil-sensitive shooters into the hobby. For these reasons, I think everyone that shoots should own some .22LR spinners and other steel targets. Let’s face it, if you own guns you almost certainly have a .22 in your arsenal and these targets really ramp up the fun of owning them.

This simple automatically-resetting spinner target is a great one for training for precision shooting with a rifle, or even for action shooting 3-Gun type stuff with a pistol. I personally love this thing and I always bring it out when I’m at the range, particularly if I’m working with newer or younger shooters.

If you’re looking for something you can shoot bigger bullets at, they also make some centerfire rifle targets and they’re…fine. I’m a bit of a snob because I’ve been spoiled by some of the best steel targets on the planet, and I try to still keep my feet on the ground and look at this from the perspective of the average shooter.

For the average shooter, these targets are…still fine. You’re not going to get a cheaper rifle spinner steel target like this one that you can use for PRS type stuff. Just don’t miss cause you’re gonna blow up your mount like its made of cardboard. Then again, for like $80 can you really complain?

If you find that you can complain, just check the next listing.

Shoot Steel

Shoot Steel is my preferred steel target maker, but Shooting Targets 7, Action Target, and X Steel are all great manufacturers too. From just a pure machining and engineering perspective though, Shoot Steel makes some of the best stuff around.

I also really like their selection. They offer a wide variety of different targets and stands so that you can build whatever kind of setup you want.

Product

12x20 Short Range Target

Top Pick

  • CNC laser cut to reduce heat affected zone
  • Rated for .223/5.56 and .308 at 50 yards
  • AR550 steel for increased abrasion resistance
  • Swinging bracket for visual feedback on hits
  • Made in the USA

Our rating

Details

  • CNC laser cut to reduce heat affected zone
  • Rated for .223/5.56 and .308 at 50 yards
  • AR550 steel for increased abrasion resistance
  • Swinging bracket for visual feedback on hits
  • Made in the USA

I am particularly fond of their precision rifle spinner target. I have been using this thing for almost a year, and it goes with me every time I work on my long range shooting. Hitting this thing at 500-600 yards is immensely satisfying and absolutely worth the cost of admission.

They also have some pretty advanced popper-style targets that you can get in either a prairie dog version or a more standard shooting gallery style. These things are also incredibly fun to sling rifle rounds at. The non-varmint version stays in my vehicle most days so I don’t have to carry it down three flights of stairs every time I want to go shoot.

It’s not that heavy, I’m just lazy.        

If you’re on a budget, they have simple knockdown targets that you can just rest on the ground, or you can use them with a speed plate rack      . For the more budget-conscious among us, they also have steel target  hangers that are designed to work with t-posts that you can get at your local hardware store for about $4 a piece, so you can hang targets quickly and easily in a very cost-effective way.

They also have some static target stands and improved static target hangersthat work together (with the addition of a short length of cheap 2×4 lumber) to give you a static target that will hang at a safe angle and that will move enough to absorb some energy to help increase the longevity of the targets.

This is what all my pistol targets on my home range hang on. I absolutely love this setup, and it works with most static steel target designs that mount from a central bolt.

Finally, they have a modular hostage target system  that I adore. This is one of my favorite targets, all the way up until I see it on a 3Gun stage in which case hate it with a passion. This is a pretty standard hostage target, and the hitmarker hangs over the hostage’s shoulder. It slams down with a very satisfying noise on a hit, and pops right back up to be shot again.

This is a great training tool, and is also great fun.


Parting Shots

I’m a big believer in steel targets for getting more out of your time at the range, both in a practical sense and with an eye towards having fun as well. Paper is great for zeroing a rifle or for working out problems with your pistol shooting don’t get me wrong, but for general shooting and the type of competition shooting that’s popular right now, steel is king.

Thankfully, it’s not nearly as hard to get a hold of high-quality steel targets as it used to be, and you have all these great choices (and a few I haven’t mentioned) to choose from.        

By

Matthew Collins is an active contributor here at GunBacker. He’s enjoys both competitive shooting and gunsmithing. When you don’t see him at the range, you can catch him on Instagram and other gun related websites.

The Daily Ammo

The latest firearms reviews, gear reviews and safe shooting tips for responsible gun owners.

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