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- Last updated: 29/12/2020
I have used steel reactive targets for years, to practice with rifles at differing ranges and in various scenarios. They offer a superb visual and audible indication when hit. The only problem I had was that my mild steel targets now resemble Swiss cheese. They have been re-welded so many times they represent some mutant Sci-Fi animal!
Enter Tom’s Targets from Rugby. The Midlands-based engineering company can make targets using Hardox/AR500 steel. The choices include gongs, animals, torsos or reactive profiles as well as a host of custom designs to order.
They can design and manufacture targets up to 2x1m in Hardox steel and fabricate the stands using UK CNC tube bending technology. They buy only certified raw materials including the steel, tubing, shackles, nuts, bolts and chains. This means the prices of the targets are good, as you are buying directly from the manufacturer, plus being shooters themselves they know what works.
Hardox steel targets are suitable for all firearms except .50 calibre (these are special order). Tom’s Targets use 10mm thick Hardox 500, abrasion-resistant steel which has a nominal hardness of 500 HBW, which is the Brinell hardness figure that stops the bullet piercing the plate, thus guaranteeing impact toughness. AR500 steel is exactly the same as Hardox 500, just a different name.
All the target shapes are formed by a laser cutter which creates a defined edge when compared to a plasma cutter, so any shape within reason is possible! The targets are supplied in the raw steel finish, which is actually very durable and can be painted to your specification, or can be powder coated for an additional £15.00.
When compared to the mild steel 3/8” plate that I used, Hardox 500 shows only very small indentation marks when hit. The bullet is vaporised on impact, whereas a mild steel plate is totally penetrated. This means that Tom’s targets can be repeatedly used by all calibres up to .50 cal with minimal maintenance.
Individual gongs vary from 300mm (£47.95) to 50mm (£6.95). A typical set of gongs includes six pieces with diameters varying from 300 to 50mm and will set you back £119.95, whilst a set of three measuring 100-75-50mm would be a very reasonable £23.95. These steels can be suspended from a stand, and the kit contains two 16mm diameter solid bar uprights. They are 1m high and come with two chains (7 links) and two D shackles, all for £31.95. Other options include Jaxx targets, duelling trees and torso shaped, static or reactive targets. All items are free UK delivery.
Being primarily a hunter, I like to use realistic shaped and sized Hardox animal targets. I purchased a crow and alert rabbit which measure 250x150mm and 200x200mm respectively. They both included a 260x100mm wedge-shaped stand and cost £34.95 each (free P&P). For practice, I also bought a life-sized roe buck for £295.00. It measures 1100x950mm and includes a 100mm kill zone. I will use it at differing ranges and for hill, moor and woodland scenarios.
Other life-sized options include a Fox, Muntjac, Fallow, Chinese Water Deer and even a Red Stag! The latter is very realistic and has a reactive 150mm kill zone. With bolt-on antlers, it measures 2190x1212mm and costs £840.00.
The hardness of the targets also allows them to be left outside, as even without a coating the raw steel will take a long time to rust. My roe target now has a nice patina, giving it a very realistic roe red pelage!
You have a choice of spike-type stands or flat free-standing bases dependent on the terrain. I used a wedge on the crow and rabbit, which allowed a good anchor and even hits from a .308 Win at 100 yards did not dislodge them. Impacts from .22 rimfire, .22 Satan, .243 Win and .308 Win bullets at 100-300 yards barely marked the Hardox 500 steel surface. There were some very small indentations from the fast .22 Satan and .243 Win cartridges, 75-grain and 85-grain bullet weights respectively. I resprayed the crow and rabbit with grey and black paint to hide the previous bullet strikes and to create a bit of realism/replicate a shot out in the field.
The life-sized roe buck is excellent, heavy as you would expect, but the perfect size and the reactive swinging plate gives a very good practical aiming mark. It is worth noting that Tom has also made custom deer targets with all the major organs as swinging plates, for tuition. I placed the buck on the edge of woodland, in crops and at long range. When hit, the satisfying clang and visual swing of the vital area indicated an impact, and even when the edge was struck very little damaged occurred to the steel surface.
I had to control myself at Tom’s workshop from overspending, as everything was very tempting! The steel targets are such a good way to practice your shooting skills in a safe and fun manner. There are options for competition use, casual shooters or hunters, but all will benefit from the challenge of hitting those vital zones.
Tom’s Targets www.Tom’s-targets.co.uk