Is Shooting Steel Targets Safe?

Is Shooting Steel Targets Safe

Shooting steel targets is one of the most satisfying sounds you’ll hear when shooting on the range.

The satisfaction of hearing that “ring” or seeing that target fall is not only fun, but it builds your confidence as a shooter and helps create muscle memory for more consistent accuracy.

This article answers the crucial question: Is shooting steel targets safe? We will explore the potential risks associated with shooting steel and how the revolutionary HOP Munitions Poly Ammo aims to enhance safety and shooting experiences alike.

is shooting steel targets safe
40 S&W – 180gr Poly – 500 Rounds

Traditional steel target shooting has posed certain hazards, such as projectile fragmentation and unpredictable ricochets, leading to concerns among shooters and range operators.

These risks have prompted the development of innovative ammunition solutions that address the shortcomings of conventional rounds. Among these pioneering options, HOP Munitions polymer bullets stand out as a game-changer.

HOP Munitions has engineered the Poly Ammo series to meet the demands of modern shooting enthusiasts while significantly mitigating potential hazards.

In this article, we will closely examine the unique features and advantages of this ammunition, exploring how it revolutionizes the shooting experience.

Know What Your Steel Target Can Handle

Not all steel targets are made alike. Those with a lower hardness than AR500 steel can deform and become compromised when repeatedly hit by bullets.

AR500 steel stands out as a type of abrasion-resistant (AR) steel plate, known for its remarkable hardness, toughness, and ability to withstand numerous high-impact blows. Among the various AR steel grades, AR500 has one of the highest levels of hardness.

Its Brinell Hardness Number (BHN) falls in the range of 460-544, granting AR500 steel the capability to maintain its flat shape even under intense usage. This quality ensures that bullets shatter upon impact, effectively dispersing them away from the shooter.

Hang Steel Targets Properly

Ideally, the target should be positioned to absorb as much of the impact shock as it can. 

For fixed or swinging targets, angling them downward helps direct bullet splatter into the ground, reducing the risk of ricochets or unpredictable bullet paths. On the other hand, hanging or gong targets should be suspended straight up and down.

Reactive targets, those that respond visibly to bullet impacts, are designed to absorb the energy from the bullets they receive. Properly setting up the steel target with the right angle ensures a safer and more effective shooting experience.

What is the safe distance for shooting steel targets?

As a general guideline, the size of the caliber dictates the distance from which you should engage the target. 

Assuming you’re using AR500 steel, it is advised to set the target at a distance of 25 yards when using pistol calibers. For rifles, the recommended distance increases to 100 yards.

HOP Munitions polymer pistol ammunition can be used on steel targets as close as 10 yards.

Benefits of Shooting Steel Targets

Shooting steel targets offers multiple benefits that contribute to a more effective and enjoyable shooting experience.

Instant Feedback: Steel targets provide immediate auditory and visual feedback. The ‘ping’ sound and the slight movement of the target help the shooter confirm the hit.

Durability: Steel targets can withstand thousands of hits without significant damage, making them a cost-effective long-term investment.

Versatility: Steel targets come in various shapes and sizes, accommodating different shooting drills and skill levels.

What ammo to use when shooting steel

In the past, it has been a standard practice to use FMJ ammo for shooting steel. With that though, comes two distinct disadvantages; you risk getting injured due to ricochets and you have to keep your steel targets further away to reduce that chance.

Generally, it is preferable to use softer bullets. Avoid using armor-piercing bullets and steel bullets, as they have a higher tendency to cause ricochets and damage the steel target.

We have introduced a new type of training round called Polymer Bullets to meet the growing demand in the shooting industry.

HOP Munitions Polymer Bullets

These more economical rounds have become quite popular among competition shooters and firearms trainers. 

The Polymer Bullets contain a lead core coated in a high-temperature polymer. 

These poly coated bullets offer several benefits, such as reducing barrel wear, preventing barrel fouling, improving accuracy, and most importantly, being more affordable.

is shooting steel targets safe
9mm – 147gr Poly – 500 Rounds

Optimized for competition shooting and training, this is an incredibly affordable training and practice round!

Also safe for shooting steel at distances greater than 10ft! You can’t do that with standard FMJ ammunition.

Advantages of Using Polymer Bullets

Shooting our Poly Bullets comes with several advantages over other types of ammunition. 

Unlike lead rounds, they do not release toxic gases into the air, making them a safer choice, particularly for indoor shooters.

Polymer-coated rounds ensure smooth feeding from the magazine to the chamber, reducing the likelihood of a failure to feed. They tend to cycle more consistently into the chamber when compared to standard FMJ or even jacketed hollow points.

is shooting steel targets safe
300 AAC Blackout – 220gr POLY – 250 Rounds

Another advantage is that they produce less fouling in the barrel compared to lead round nose bullets. The soft lead can leave residue in the barrel, affecting accuracy and performance. Polymer-coated rounds, however, leave less or no residue, contributing to improved barrel longevity.

The overall purpose of using a polymer coating on bullets is to enhance performance by reducing friction, resulting in smoother and safer shooting experiences.


The safety of shooting steel targets largely depends on the precautions taken and the ammunition used. When proper safety guidelines are followed, shooting steel targets can be an enjoyable and safe experience for firearms enthusiasts. 

However, it is crucial to use high-quality ammunition that minimizes the risk of ricochets and splatter.

HOP Munitions has a proven track record of producing top-tier ammunition. Our polymer coating technology enhances safety without compromising on performance, providing shooters with peace of mind during their range sessions.

Visit our Polymer Coated Ammunition page today to explore your options and take your shooting sessions to the next level.

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