Paper or steel?

4ked Horn

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2007
Hi all. Wasn't sure where to plunk this question so I plunked it here. Give me a day or two and I'll get the hang of where stuff goes. Anyway...

What types of tatgets do you like to use for practice and getting the dope on your loads? Do you preffer to shoot paper at shorter ranges and switch to steel gongs at the longer distances or do you go for paper all the way out?

Also does anyone have any suggestions for building gongs? I'm looking for input on materials (T1, 4140 plate or other steel),sizes (10", 12", 18" or does it matter),and maybe a few ideas for construction (simple and quick to set up but wont fall apart as soon as the frame or hanger gets shot).

I have pictures from the weekend. Is there anyone who I can e-mail them to that can post them for me?!?!? It is funny that there is a post about this today. Me and a friend were trying to decide that exact thing this weekend. We went and found a steel plate that is about 2 1/2 feet across. 5/8" thick steel. We were shooting at it from 609 yds. It was alot of fun. Next weekend we are going out to 1000 yds and trying it for the first time. Anyone who could post pics of our steel plate please contact me at [email protected] Thanks!!
We have to take our steel with us for each shoot, as opposed to having permanently placed targets. We are using simple 2"x4" four foot tall, five foot wide, saw-horses for 1, 2 and 300 yards, placing a 2'x4' piece of plastic corrugated board for a target backing. From 400 to 1000 we are using either old swing-sets or the same saw-horses for holding sheets of steel that are also 2' high and 4' wide. We have three weights of steel plates, 0.5", 0.375" and 0.25". Most bullets are still pretty rough on the plates at 400 so we hang a second 15"x15"x 1/2" square plate down the middle of the big one and beat it up, saves bending the big one into a bow. All plates have a 1/4" hole drilled into the top corners and we use "S" hooks and pieces of light chain to hang the plates. The weight of the plate holds the saw-horse together, we use the cheap tin legholders with an aligator jaw on top to hold the crosspiece. You have to watch the 2"x4"'s when you handle them, they get some nasty shrapnel in them. Old swingset is better, it is big enough that it rarely gets hit. We haul our steel plates in an old flatbed trailor, 1/2 plates get very heavy quick. Make sure you have lots of white spray paint and you are in business.
For load testing and making drop tables, I use paper. I need to see and measure where the bullets land relative to the bullseye.

For plinking, I will use plates 8" square and bigger. This indicates the boiler room of different game and allow hits to be seen and sometimes heard.

Get the thickest stuff you can find. Any scrap mild steel will work. At 385yds, my 308 and 155gr Amax went through 1/4" plate so gives you an idea of how much energy and damage our rifles can do. At 1000yds, the impacts don't dent the plates much.

Use contrasting paint and have at it. If you can make a swinging target, this will be easier on the plates in the long run. For a lot of my LR plinking, I also choose suitably sized rocks.


I've got an article at Varmint Hunter Mag. that will be published "soon", entitled, "Portable Range Design for Long-Range Testing". Here's what it is in a nutshell. For long-range testing i use a very simple target that is very portable, light, simple and cheap to make. I use 5' pieces of electrical conduit that i can put any size piece of cardboard between, by attaching it to the conduit with plastic cable ties along both edges. I use rebar or any metal rod i can find for stakes hammered into the ground and the whole works fits right over the stakes. Conduit and stakes are easily found at most any junkyard, and the cable ties are cheap at Dollar General stores. I setup all the targets at once wherever i'm going to shoot, and shoot either from my tailgate or portable bench. If the terrain allows i have a spotter downrange (in a safe position) with walkie talkie, so we can communicate. The system works great, and I can carry 8 or 10 of these targets in the back of my pickup, along with my bench.
Thanks everyone for your input. I now have a few good ideas on whatI need to build and a great answer to what I am doing with the kids old swingset frame.

Your setup sounds sort of like the one I built not to long ago, only it's using 1/2" threaded pipe that can easily be disassembled too. I wanted to use the heavier stuff for steel plates but if you're not getting too carried away the EMT would be much lighter and real inexpensive too.



Double up the top section and hang more if you shooting alot. It looks a little flimsy but it doesn't move much at all, that pipe is pretty stiff stuff. The joints are just tightened by hand.
I like it Brent, especially the hinges to fold the sheet. Good idea.

If you want steel targets to use over and over get Wearalloy AR 400 plate. It has an RC of 40. One 1/4" plate will stop any lead core bullet at 60 feet.
Brent, how far out can you see those hits with a spotting scope or rifle scope? One things for sure, my system is definitely cheap, from the junkyard, but there not much chance of hanging metal from it. How do you support the whole works? in the ground?
Oh, i think i see now. Is that the base in the 2nd picture sitting on the snow? I think i'm going to build one of those now that i've seen it, but i'm going to stick with mine for multiple target/ranges 'cause i can set it up quick.

The brass hinges have the removable pins, the galvi ones don't. Each seam has two removables on one side and two non-removeables on the opposite. The removables alternate sides so it folds up nicely.

There is about an 1/8" gap between the edges of the sheets so if they get wet it'll keep the swelling from making it hard to put in the pins while standing it up. Take extra hinges, someday you might need one or two!

I made it this way so I could haul it in my Polaris 6x6 down to the range easier.
Same thing with the 30" sections of pipe on the target frame.

I tiewire the plywood to the frame, leaning it back about a foot away from the plate so if we're off the gong we'll know where were hitting anyway. The "T" couplings on the 3" nipples on the front of each leg were to hold the base of the plywood from kicking out when the plywood is on the front side wired to the frame while using it to make drop charts.


So far I have only shot the steel out to 1000 yards and you can see them in the 22x Nightforce no problem, I'm not sure what they'll look like at 1500 yards. At 1000 yards with the size of plates I've been using, the hard thing to distiguish is which was the exact last hit, you have to keep track pretty closely there. You have 3-5 shots on each plate before you'll end up getting mixed up over which is which, sometimes a couple more but not usually.

I usually shoot that far by myself so after 5-10 rounds on a couple plates, I just take a drive down and paint em again. Two people make a mess of them pretty quick and them it just turns into a "clangin" match for number of misses out of ten or twenty rounds, or whenever we stop.
My brother's the only one that stands a chance of hangin with me at 1000 yards though. Dad's been out to 500 with me a couple times but he's been preoccupied with his mil-dot scope trying to establish an aimpoint associated with the reticle at 100 yard increments each time, so he's ready to move out farther now.

I put 90 degree male end connectors on the end of each leg, these grab the ground well and don't let it slide on the ice or hard ground, and with the extra weight of the steel pipe setup it doesn't move just setting there, hang the steel plates on it and it it's just heavier yet. I can screw it together in about a minute. I leave the connectors on the ends of the legs and frame pieces, so all you have is 9 or 10 sticks to screw together hand tight and it's standing there done.

I weld big nuts on the back corners of the plates to run wire through or hook chain hooks or whatever you using up. I like this because the whole surface is left white and at 1000 yards I think the chain or hole in it to hang it from would always make me wonder if I hit it there, or somewhere else. The whole surface being nice and white makes it just a little easier to keep track of hits is all.

Here's a pic, the first time out at 1000 yards with this 180gr Scirocco load, 26.25 moa, first and second shot hits. Just so happens that my 180 Nosler Ballistic Silvertip with the same load was centering it at the same exact setting too. The Ballistic Tip was 16" high at 500 yards with the same 100 yard zero though.

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