There are many ways one can practice to better their shooting, from dry-fire to airsoft to working on physical training, however there is nothing like practicing with live ammunition. Steel target plates are a popular aid for effective practice and training for many reasons, primarily due to the instant feedback when the bullet impacts the target and their long service life. While many steel companies exist today, Mike Gibson Manufacturing… aka MGM Targets, has been making high quality steel targets for decades. With experience in making targets for competitive and professional shooters, MGM offers a variety of standard and specialized target systems.
Steel targets and their mounting systems can be heavy and a pain to setup, which leaves many shooters only experiencing shot up stationary steel at a range or gun club, maybe finding something nice at a competitive match or training class. For shooters that want their own steel to practice or play with, MGM offers a Steel Challenge Target Set that is easily setup and removed from the range, stores in a compact package and is affordable for nearly anyone to have a couple targets to practice and train with.
The Steel Challenge Target Set includes a target plate (many options on size and shape), a cap/target hanger and a base. The shooter must come up with a 2×4 post of their preferred height for use. Target plates are cut from hardened 3/8” thick AR550 steel, while the cap/target hanger are made from AR500 steel. Having a mount manufactured of armor plate is a smart thing to do as not every shot is going to hit the target plate, and repeated impacts on non-armored mounts will cause a target failure. Additionally, the target hanger system allows the plate to swing, making both noise and dissipating the energy of the bullet impact to preserve the life of the steel and reduce ricochets by diverting the rounds away from the shooter. The bases are made of welded tube steel with a bracket for the 2×4, with additional holes drilled in to allow staking the target base into the ground.
As there are many different target options that work with this system, you must choose what will be best for your use. As a novice shooter, you might opt for a larger target (up to a full-size IPSC steel plate) while you develop skills and abilities, while a more experienced or skilled shooter would select a smaller target to increase shot difficulty for both precision and speed-oriented drills. An 8” circle plate is standard and was selected as it was the smallest available target to help maintain a focus on accuracy.
When the boxes showed up from MGM, everything was test fit to make sure there wouldn’t be any surprises after making the drive to the range. The 2x4s fit perfectly into the bases, and the caps slid nicely over the top. The swinging plate made a nice audible sound with just a smack of the hand and didn’t rock the hanger. Once at the range, the steel was out of the trunk and setup at the edge of the berm in less than 5 minutes. With mags loaded, gun hot and holstered and clean targets, it was time to shoot.
Over the next 25 minutes, 300 newly fired brass cases hit the dirt with lots of steel ringing. Drills ranged from precision focused shots at ranges of 15-25 yards, to speed and movement drills from 7-20 yards. The eight-inch plates required a little more focus to maintain hits on plate than a usual cardboard USPSA or IDPA type target, even with a smaller bullseye type target at the center. The steel provided instant feedback of a hit or miss, meaning a pass or fail on a drill. At 25 yards, there is very little room for error on sight alignment and trigger manipulation; but when going back to 7 yards it is much easier to go a lot faster when changing drills.
Even with tall posts, the targets did not rock or fall over with rapid fire strings.
A main benefit to fixed position steel is not having to reset the targets. The downside to this is it is easy to churn through a lot of repetitions/aka ammo, in a short amount of time. At the end of my days ammunition stash, the Glock 17 was quite toasty when manipulating the slide. The targets themselves held up very well to repeated hits, showing only gray marks for bullet impacts. Not once, even on rapid fire drills, did the stands start to bend or rock around as if they were going to fall over. The plates gave a noticeable and satisfactory audible report when hit. In the event of too many misses below the target, the 2×4 will eventually give way to the copper and lead cutting through it…fortunately 2x4s are cheap and easy to replace. If you are looking to upgrade your practice regimen or like to make steel ring at the range, look into the MGM Steel Challenge Target Set.