Railroad plates for targets?

Railroad plates for targets?

This is a discussion on Railroad plates for targets? within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; I have some of these railroad plates lyeing around. Im thinking I could hang up five of them for shooting plates. They have a very ...

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Thread: Railroad plates for targets?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array wormy's Avatar
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    Railroad plates for targets?

    I have some of these railroad plates lyeing around. Im thinking I could hang up five of them for shooting plates. They have a very nice clang to them. Im just wondering about the holes in them. You think they would cause some kind of ricochet problem or not?

    Last edited by wormy; April 3rd, 2011 at 09:11 PM.
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    Only if you hit one of them.


    I would say, just play it safe, and not use them, but thats just me.

    Maybe someone else with more experience might chime in.
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    VIP Member Array Hiram25's Avatar
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    I personally don't shoot at anything metal, worried about something coming back at me! You would have to be real sure of what is behind this as it would be possible for a round to go completely through one of the holes. You'd also have to be sure about anything on either side of the target as a round could be deflected to either side, or up or down.
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    I used to use them on my home range on my 200 yard target to shoot with the high powered rifles and my Sharps blackpowder rifles. They were great for that use. Shooting close up any irregularities can cause bits and pieces of bullet to richochet back towards you.
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    Just make sure to angle them down a bit so the shots are deflected down and not back. I've wondered the same thing, I've seen those things laying around and thought they'd make a fair target if they were hard enough.

    Don't shoot too close either.

    Let us know how they do.

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    They are a ricochet hazard. Don't use them for hand gun shooting.
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    Lots of concern about shooting steel voiced here. Good to see folks have their minds wrapped around safety. But for years shooters have been banging and clanging on steel targets in action games, so... is it safe to shoot steel or not?

    Fundamentally, the target will be a lot harder than than all but armor-piercing bullets you throw at it. The steel will deform a little, but the bullet will deform a lot. Bits of bullet will go off in different directions, but for a bullet to come back at you would require an extremely hard bullet that deforms little, and for the target to be almost precisely perpendicular to the bullet's path at the moment of impact. A projectile that will deform completely elastically (like a tennis ball) will also come back at you. Just about everything else in between won't. I'd be more wary of a .22 rimfire coming back at me than any centerfire pistol bullet, since the .22 has such little energy available to deform the bullet substantially.

    From a practical standpoint, my club runs a steel plate shoot every Tuesday night, with over 100 shooters running 4 stages. The minimum distance I've observed is about 7 yards from shooter to steel. I've been hit a few times by shards of jacket material, and I know of one instance where a piece of jacket actually broke the skin... but I am unaware of any "reportable" injury due to actual bullet ricochet. If you watch the ground below the steel targets you'll see dust kick up so at least some of the broken-up bullet is directed downward.

    I'd say proceed with caution. Hang your tie plates from chains so they deflect when hit. Shoot with an observer sometime and see if you can detect where the bullet fragments go (or surround your target with a cardboard box and look for holes in the cardboard after a few rounds.
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    Senior Member Array wormy's Avatar
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    What if I weld up the holes in the plates and grind them down smooth.
    Last edited by wormy; April 3rd, 2011 at 09:12 PM.
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    Senior Member Array wormy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gasmitty View Post
    Lots of concern about shooting steel voiced here. Good to see folks have their minds wrapped around safety. But for years shooters have been banging and clanging on steel targets in action games, so... is it safe to shoot steel or not?

    Fundamentally, the target will be a lot harder than than all but armor-piercing bullets you throw at it. The steel will deform a little, but the bullet will deform a lot. Bits of bullet will go off in different directions, but for a bullet to come back at you would require an extremely hard bullet that deforms little, and for the target to be almost precisely perpendicular to the bullet's path at the moment of impact. A projectile that will deform completely elastically (like a tennis ball) will also come back at you. Just about everything else in between won't. I'd be more wary of a .22 rimfire coming back at me than any centerfire pistol bullet, since the .22 has such little energy available to deform the bullet substantially.

    From a practical standpoint, my club runs a steel plate shoot every Tuesday night, with over 100 shooters running 4 stages. The minimum distance I've observed is about 7 yards from shooter to steel. I've been hit a few times by shards of jacket material, and I know of one instance where a piece of jacket actually broke the skin... but I am unaware of any "reportable" injury due to actual bullet ricochet. If you watch the ground below the steel targets you'll see dust kick up so at least some of the broken-up bullet is directed downward.

    I'd say proceed with caution. Hang your tie plates from chains so they deflect when hit. Shoot with an observer sometime and see if you can detect where the bullet fragments go (or surround your target with a cardboard box and look for holes in the cardboard after a few rounds.
    Thanks for the good info. Hikock45 has shot probaly gazillions of rounds at steel plates at pistol range. Hes still livin!
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    Senior Member Array Spidey2011's Avatar
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    I hadn't thought about that, but I think it's a fairly good idea. Maybe angle it downward some, so that everything gets deflected towards the ground. I've got a couple of those lying around, so I might have to try it, myself.

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    If you do decide to shoot it. At least do us the courtesy of setting a camera so we have some evidence for the next guy that asks.



    I think there are many types of metal and it is hard to guess just exactly how a bullet is going to react coming off of it. Personally I wouldn't try a steel target other than one that had been designed and tested for that purpose.

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    OK for those who think it is a good idea I'll lay it out for you. When you shoot steel the bullet splashes off of the plate and goes out in a 360 circle. To keep things safer you usually angle the plates slightly forward or slightly away in order to splash the lead in a specific direction. If you have a smooth plate this works fine, but if you have any dimples or edges then the lead deflects off of those edges a second time and can come right back at you. The square hole make those plates very dangerous.

    I had a steel plate with the A zone cut out and then bolted to a backer to make a neat looking target with the A zone highlighted. The backer was a treated 2X4 and when it started to get loose it left an edge at the top. That edge really caused lead to come back, it was about ten times the normal amount of splash. We welded it up and ground it smooth...problem solved.

    Quote Originally Posted by wormy View Post
    What if I weld up the holes in the plates and grind them down smooth.
    That would work great. That is what you need to do.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wormy View Post
    What if I weld up the holes in the plates and grind them down smooth.
    Wormy, I scaled some dimensions and those 10 spike holes amount to about 4% of the total area of the plate. That means if you fired randomly at the plate at most you'd have 1 in 25 chance of having a round go thru one of those holes. Realistically, it's probably more like 1 in 250.

    Welding may not be the best idea because it softens the surrounding metal (even though the actual weldment will be locally harder), and that works against your purpose. My suggestion is to take two plates on lay them on top of each other... hopefully all the holes won't exactly match up. If they don't, good... then just hang the pair back-to-back with cable or chain, and you've reduced the chances of a round passing through an opening.
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    Senior Member Array Ring's Avatar
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    i used them. but i weld up the holes

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    Distinguished Member Array Black Knight's Avatar
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    While I have shot steel targets they were manufactured for that purpose. I shot them at the police academy. We used frangible ammo. This ammo disintegrates into a powder when it hits steel or some other solid surface. I would not shoot those railroad plates [U]unless[U] you are going to use frangible ammo.

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