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The Nuts and Bolts of Shooting Steel

May 6, 2012

It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that “Ping”, with apologies to Duke Ellington.

Cathi Baird at Rounds and Roses pointed me to a competition she shoots called the Steel Challenge.  Give her a read, then let me tell you about shooting steel.

New shooters are taught to shoot on paper targets at first.  They can easily see the bullet holes at 5 yards, but the next step is to move the target out to 10 yards, so sometimes the holes get a little hard to see.  Seeing what you’re doing is part of the excitement for the new shooter.  I like to give them feedback from plastic targets that swing, bowling pins that fall over, or steel targets.  Yes, steel.

You don’t have to tape over the holes with steel so the range stays open for other shooters.  The steel targets move a bit, even when hit with 22 long rifle.  You get an audible “ping” with each hit, and you’re ready to hit it again.  You can usually see the bullet splash from the impact on painted steel.  New shooters love it, and it is fun for experienced shooters too.

The steel challenge is a speed game.  The shooter stands in a shooter’s box, draws and shoots a set of steel targets for time with one hit per plate.  Competitors typically shoot the same stage several times and discard their slowest time.  This emphasizes presentation and transition between targets.  You need to get hits because you can’t miss fast enough to win.


There are other ways to shoot steel.  You can use multiple hits per plate, add reloads, require shooting with strong hand or support hand only, and make the shooter move his shooting position between targets.  The handguns range from beginners with a Buckmark 22 to compensated/scoped race rigs.  It really doesn’t matter.  Simply start from where you are with what you have.

One disadvantage of shooting steel is bullet splatter.  You want the steel plates angled down and at least 7 yards away from anyone.  Shooting glasses are a necessity even for spectators.  Now you know the steel game.  Here is a video of the professionals shooting steel  so jump in and have fun.

One advantage of paper targets is that you can take them home and hang them on the refrigerator or post them on the office wall.  Don’t try that with steel plate.  :-p


Thank you, Cathi.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 6, 2012 7:45 pm

    Thanks, Rob! And to answer your previous question, no, I haven’t been in any that require reloads. I wasn’t thinking when I responded before, but the ones I have participated in have not. Tons of fun, though!!


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