Can Bullets Ricochet off Steel Targets?

steel target safety
Category: Guides

Can Bullets Ricochet off Steel Targets?

Yes, using incorrect ammo, dangerous distances, or a defective target can cause bullets to ricochet off steel targets. However, using the proper safety protocols, well-built targets, safe distances, and normal ammunition (not armor piercing/steel core), we can significantly reduce ricochet hazards to almost zero ricochet incidents.

How to Reduce Chances of Ricochet off Steel Targets

There are many ways to reduce ricochet hazards while practicing with steel targets. Some ways to prevent ricochet include:

  1. Utilizing a bullet trap to safely prevent stray shots
  2. Using only targets made out of certified AR500 steel and have no damage
  3. Using the correct ammunition to avoid bullets leaving the target in an unsafe direction
  4. Check to be sure all targets are properly angled
  5. Following all distance guidelines and using your best judgement

Wood or Sand Filled Bullet Traps

To prevent ricochets, having a solid berm or backstop is crucial for any kind of target practice. Using bullet traps constructed of wood and or sand is a simple and effective way to make a safe solid berm. The best no-ricochet bullet traps are framed by wood filled with soil/sand and planted with grass. A good safety rule is the berm should be at least 2 times the height of the tallest target.

Steel Target Design and Construction

The steel target face or plate should be made of certified AR500 steel to avoid ricochets. The surface of the AR500 steel target should be completely smooth and void of dimples. Imperfections can cause rounds ricochet and send them into unforeseen directions. Besides the shooting surface itself in order to reduce ricochets a shooter needs a well made target that is built for thousands of rounds. The construction of the steel target is a huge factor for many reasons.  Most importantly the steel target needs to be built super solid in order to keep functioning correctly to minimize ricochets.  When a poorly made steel target starts to fall apart it loses its ability to keep the bullet splatter in a safe direction. For instance, if the reactive function or swinging angle breaks down, the bullet ricochets will become a safety hazard.

Use the Right Ammunition

The composition of the bullet itself is very important, basically the softer the better. When the round strikes the steel you want it to easily break apart, like throwing a sand ball at concrete.  To prevent ricochets, you want to stay away from steel core, green tip or armor piercing rounds, like throwing a metal ball at a steel shed. Once the smooth surface of an AR500 steel target is damaged or pitted, it should not be used again. Those imperfections away from a smooth surface could cause the bullet to travel in an uncontrolled path. The best rounds for steel are lead, FMJ or frangible.  Other than the bullets themselves, to avoid ricochets is never a good idea to use rounds that have a higher than recommended speed, per the thickness of steel.  Typically ¼ inch steel is used for pistol, rimfire and shotgun.  ⅜ inch thick steel targets are for pistol, rimfire, shotgun and rifle rounds(under 3000 feet per second).  On ⅜ thick steel targets anything over 3000 feet per second can damage the target and cause a safety issue.

Use the Right Angle

Properly angled targets (close to a 20 degree downward angle) are vital to ricochet safety and control of broken bullet splatter. Bullet fragments are controlled into the same spot every time when a bullet strikes the face of an angled steel target.  When a bullet hits a steel target without the proper angle, the know of where the sharpel ends up is a serious safety issue. A good common sense rule is the closer you are the importance of the steel target increases. Reactive steel targets are also great for ricochet safety because they absorb the energy and therefore control the bullet fragments in a consistent secure zone.

Use the Correct Distance

Shooting anything too close is never a good idea!  Take your time, shoot with commonsense, and follow basic guidelines is the best way to safely avoid ricochet incidents. ¼ inch steel targets are rated for pistol, rimfire and shotgun. The distance guidelines for ¼ inch AR500 steel targets are as follows; 10 yards or more. ⅜ inch thick AR500 steel targets are rated for pistol, rimfire, shotgun and centerfire rifle calibers. The distance guidelines for ⅜ inch AR500 steel targets are as follows; 100 yards or greater for typical AR500 steel targets and 50 yards for specific (targets the are both pitched at an angle and are reactive(swing or are spring loaded) AR500 steel targets


Making the change from paper targets to AR500 steel targets has become increasingly popular with shooting sports, recreational shooters and hunters. With that great report also comes the fact that premium AR500 steel targets are reusable and can last a lifetime. No more heading down range to check or replace targets. The experience is more rewarding and you get to spend more time shooting!  A win-win. At Grizzly Targets, we developed our products alongside Military and Law Enforcement professionals to create the ultimate high quality, interactive and safe target systems.

Each target is meticulously handcrafted and tested by veterans who know what the best performing and longest lasting target systems look like. How do we do that? We overbuild our targets, using heavier steel components, grade 8 hardware and then additionally galvanize our products. These facts set Grizzly Targets apart on the next level. Performance, longevity, and safety are what we focus on. Following the safety guidelines of proper ammo, distance, and using high quality steel targets are the basics. While practicing common sense measures like wearing protective gear and taking one’s time, shooting steel targets is safe and a overall better experience.

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