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Range Safety: 6 golden rules many shooters ignore

From the desk of Jerry Bolster

Southwest Asia

We’ve heard more than one person  tell us they don’t use steel targets because they ‘ricochet.’ Though there’s always risk involved in any type of shooting, steel targets are safe when used properly. They’re used every week by thousands of shooters in Steel Challenge, Cowboy Action, USPSA and IDPA shoots. They’re also used by every military branch and on hundreds of civilian law enforcement ranges. If you consider how many steel targets are shot at each week - it's a huge number. Tens of thousands are shooting at steel targets for training. 

These targets work because AR500 steel is very hard, harder than the projectiles, and cause lead and copper jacketing to disintegrate when they strike a proper AR500 steel target in good condition. To add to the safety factor, it’s a best practice to slightly angle the bottom side of the target away from the shooter which helps deflect any powder or fragments into the ground.

Here's six actions you can take on the range that we've often seen shooters overlook:

  • Always, always, always wear eye protection. The most likely problem with shooting steel targets at close range is that small bits of lead or paint may come back at the shooter. These are usually not traveling fast enough to cause any serious damage to any part of you except for your EYES! Always wear eye glasses that are ballistic rated. Just because you wear prescription glasses for sight doesn’t mean that they offer you fragment protection. 
  • Maintain a safe distance. When the projectiles impact the much harder AR500 steel surface, nearly all the energy is delivered to the target, leaving very little energy for a bounce or ricochet. With that said, distance is always your friend.  By maintaining distances of 200 or more yards with rifles and 25 yards or more with pistols, you greatly increase your measure of safety.
  • Use the right ammo. You should only use lead rounds or lead with a copper jacket. Never use steel core, partial steel core, or any type of armor penetrating rounds.These can cause dimpling on the surface of a steel target and increase the chance of unpredictable fragments.
  • Only shoot at targets in good condition. If you go to a range and the targets look like the surface of the moon – these can cause unpredictable fragments. A smooth hard surface made of AR500 steel provides the optimum shooting target for safety and predictable disintegration and minimal fragmentation.
  • Don’t shoot alone. If you’re alone and become injured on a range, you’re in trouble. If you have a shooting buddy or two with you, your chances of surviving a range accident go up tremendously. Know how to call for help at your particular range, and know where the closest medical facility is located. Don't assume your cell phone will work.
  • Your medical kit is as important as your weapon. In the military, battlefield units are taught a type of emergency medicine geared toward injuries common in war. Blood loss from penetrating wounds, such as the type that might happen by accident on a training range, are one of the key topics in this training called 'Tactical Combat Casualty Care', or TCCC.  From our experience with TCCC, we can tell you that keeping a good trauma kit with a Combat Action Tourniquet is worth every penny, provided you learn how to use it. There are many organizations that offer training and kits, and although we don’t have any affiliation with them, we've personally used Dark Angel Medical, LLC's kits and can vouch for their quality. The company also provides training that would help you or your shooting buddies survive the first critical hour of an injury. We recommend shooters keep a kit in their vehicle...why?  Because according the NSSA, a person is 56 times more likely to die in a car accident than from a firearm. Your kit could be handy simply driving TO the range.

How you manipulate and handle your firearm is also a critical safety consideration, but that's another post altogether.

Keep shooting, and here's to your victory, on and off the range!


Until we reload,

The VSS Team

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