.22 Caliber Steel Pistol Target

Just a simple steel reactive target for .22 pistol practice.  Easy to move, and cheap to build.  Well……cheap if you have a bunch of cutoffs laying around.  Nothing is cheap these days.


target1This is an experimental design using pretty lightweight material.

ANGLE IRON:  1 1/2″ x 1/8″
TUBING FOR LEGS:  14ga 1″ square tubing
TUBING FOR TARGET AXLE:  11ga 1″ square tubing
TARGETS:  3/16″ plate.   We’re talking 10 yard range small bore pistol.  Ten yard minimum distance!

Key parts will be armored to prevent damage.

The Axle

3/4 cold roll round stock will serve as an axle for the target arm.  To cut cost, and weight, the axle is merely a stub inserted into two pieces of tubing.

Somebody once said square pegs in round holes 😀 .target6The round stock is close, but no cigar.  The seam material inside the tubing makes for an impossible fit.  Flats are ground into the round stock to accommodate the seam.target7The stub is then fitted, and slots cut in the tubing for plug welds.target8Next, it’s time to make the arm, and bushings.target9The arm is slotted to provide for balance.  The mass of the target plates will be centered in line with the pivot.  Makes things hang straight.

Assembling the Axle

The axle stub is fitted inside the two pieces of tubing, along with the arm and bushings.  Then it’s fixtured for welding.target10When making the plug welds, it’s important to keep the weld away from the loose bushings, and the area where the bushings have to be welded.target11The loose bushings are then welded after the plug welds are ground flush.  The finish welds on the bushings cover any gaps left during the plug welding process.target12All welding on this project is being done with actual Lincoln NR-211MP.  I’m not crazy about this wire.  It has a tendancy to deposit mondo crap on the gun tip.  Blue Demon, which I normally use, leaves little deposit, and what deposit there is, will ride the wire into the puddle and melt into it.  The Lincoln wire leaves you with a glob of near molten crap on the tip.

I got fed up with the Lincoln wire, which also left spatter BB’s all over the place.  Like little ball bearings scattered all over the welding table.  target14I switched back to my favorite wire.target16BIG CAVEAT HERE…………….While the Blue Demon is excellent for thinner material, or where there’s a mix of thick/thin……I found the Lincoln wire to be hands-down, bar-none, mondo good for thicker material.  It has good penetration to say the least (which means it will burn through 14ga like butter, where the Blue Demon won’t)

And we’re talkin’ self shielding flux core wire here.  I don’t use the MIG process, as all of my welding is outdoors.

The Frame

All of the components are fixtured, and welded while on the fixture to help prevent distortion.target13The runners are attached after the frame is welded out.target15Now it’s time to begin armoring the top of the frame (axle).  Spacers are welded to the tubing.target17Then the armor plate (3/16 flat stock) is attached.target18The angle iron serves to keep the two separate armor pieces in line while tacking.

Because I’m using a 115v wire welder, welds on thicker material (1/8″ and over) are done in the uphill position for greater penetration.target19The backside of the uphill welds tells the story.  A good heat signature from the weld on the other side of the metal.target21In contrast…..the welds at the middle of the armor strip are in the flat position.target22AND……..there is no appreciable corresponding heat signature on the opposite side of the weld.  Slight discoloration indicates some heat, but not like the uphill weld generated.target23I feel this is a valuable example to those who depend on 115v machines for sound welds.  They are severely limited when working with material thicker than 1/8-3/16″.  If you are aware of the limitations, you can compensate, as I do, and still wind up with serviceable welds.

Finishing Out

I was unhappy with the slop in the target arm.  It occurred to me that it had to be built to closer tolerances.  So it had to be tightened up a bit.  Two washers were modified.target25And tacked in place.  (Should have done this before the axle was welded up, but hindsight is 20/20 🙂 )target26The final piece of the armor assembly can now be made, and installed.target27target28For as much penetration as possible, this assembly is also welded in the uphill position.

The last thing to do is to attach the target thingies.  They’re made of 3/16″ A36 steel.

After reading the usual internet horror stories that tell you that you have to use AR500 plate for all steel targets, I figured I ought to see if I needed to upgrade.  Fired a couple of rounds at around 15 feet.  Figured I’d check it out before actually spending the time to cut/install the plate.  Remember, I’ve never made one of these things before.target24Dimpling is a danger associated with steel targets.  It can change the possible ricochet angle, and be extremely dangerous.  I feel comfortable with the dimpling I observed.  The actual dimple resembles the mark left by a center punch.  For a 40gr bullet travelling at roughly 1100fps……..it’s not bad.  So…….for small caliber ammo, the A36 seems adequate.

The targets are now installed.target29The centerline, that was used to establish the circular cut line, is used to center the target on the arm.  Center the line, then use a straightedge to eyeball the line as an extension of the arm.target30A little heads-up.  When welding around moving parts, make sure to attach the work lead in a place that DOESN’T allow current to flow through the moving parts.  You can arc the moving parts, and actually weld them together.  Oh yeah, the targets were welded using the stick process.  The parts are simply too thick for wire welding with the 115v machine.



You can either be the Greatest Welder In The Universe, or the best shooter on the planet.  Well…………I ain’t the best shooter 😀 .  4 out of 6 won’t win any matches 🙂 .

No major pitting, or dimpling.target33The lead spatter tells you what the experts say read more……there is a definite 20 degree splatter cone radiating out sideways from the point of impact.  You can see evidence of it on the frame.target35target36You don’t want to be standing anywhere to the side of this thing while it’s in use.

Anyways……there you have it.  The experiment seems to be ok.  At least it’s some experience to build on when I put together a large caliber target.

Ballistic Observations

Safety is paramount, so I’ve tried to keep track of some results.spatter1The harder you drive the bullet into the steel, the better the results as far as disintegration goes.  You want as much disintegration as possible.  The subsonic rounds are acceptable as far as I’m concerned, although I’d be afraid to fire ammo with a lower muzzle velocity at this target.  This will give you an idea of the lethality of firing at steel.

Relative angles also come into play.  The angle of the target relative to the shooter.

I’ve seen a few videos that mention the “lead raining down” (tiny particles of spatter).  This seems to occur when using targets that angle downwards, instead of facing the shooter at a 90 degree angle.

In theory, at least, a target facing downwards will deflect bullet spatter towards the shooter within the 20 degree spatter cone.  While the downward angle may deflect larger pieces of the bullet into the ground, the small pieces can spray in the direction of the shooter.  You’re simply adding the 20 degree cone to the already slanted angle of the target.

If, as in this case, the target is straight-on, then all spatter is directed to the sides, and directly above/below the target.  You still have the 20 degree cone, but it’s directing shards at a closer angle to 90 degrees from the line of bullet travel.  This means, at least in my mind, that closer proximity to the target is somewhat, AND I STRESS SOMEWHAT, safer with the non slanted orientation.  I WOULD NOT TAKE THIS TO THE BANK THOUGH. 

The greatest danger is using plate that will suffer pockmarks when fired at.  Each crater is like a reverse funnel.  It directs the spatter towards the shooter.  Think of dumping a glass of water in a bowl….it will splash back at you up the sides of the bowl.  This is exactly why A36 mild steel is NOT suitable for anything but the little .22’s.

At this point, and in the future, I’d not stand any closer than 25′ to these……PERIOD!!  And then I wouldn’t do anything without good eye protection, and a brimmed cap!!!!!



misc,_stuff_020Any day above ground is a good day

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