Shooting steel targets brings a whole new level of fun to a range outing. There’s something intensely satisfying about the sound of a hit and the immediate visible feedback of a target that moves or swings when you hit it.
They’re also great for training, especially if you have several to scatter around the range. The best part of shooting steel? You don’t need to keep going down range to check your results. That’s especially handy when you have the opportunity to shoot at longer distances.
But here’s the thing: while the steel targets themselves are built to be shot and stand up to many, many hits provided you follow the manufacturer guidelines, the things you use to hang or mount them tend to get shot to pieces.
No matter what system you use, you’ll most likely destroy parts of it over time, so plan accordingly. With that said, let’s take a look at some different ways you can mount steel targets and some of the respective pros and cons of each approach.
1. T-Post Mounts
Most home improvement stores and places like Tractor Supply carry steel fence posts called “T-posts.” These are used to support wire fencing but make great target stands. Companies like Champion and Competition Target Systems make target hangers designed to rest right on top of standard T-posts.
Since the hanging adapter is completely behind the steel target, the only part “at risk” is the T-post itself and they’re pretty durable and inexpensive to replace.
The posts are already designed to be pounded into the ground, so you can set up steel targets anywhere – just be sure to bring a good-sized hammer. Be aware that the targets will sway when hit but that can be a good thing for training. You can easily fit a whole steel target setup in your trunk or truck bed and take it anywhere.
2. 2×4 Mounting Systems
If you want more target stability, check out the 2×4 mounting systems. These are also portable as you transport the pieces disassembled and put them together in minutes once at the range.
Bases come in different styles. Some are spiked to drive into the ground, and others are stands that support a vertical 2×4 with plenty of stability. All of these components are sized to slip onto the end of a piece of 2×4 wood so no tools are required to assemble and disassemble the target stands.
The benefit of using 2x4s for vertical and cross bars is that they are easy to find, lightweight, and inexpensive. You will shoot them after all, especially when shooters get excited and start jerking the trigger, sending shots below the steel target. Like T-post hangers, these are great for pistol shooting scenarios.
The most common solution for hanging steel rifle targets only requires some lengths of steel chain. While a dead-center rifle caliber hit will destroy a chain link, an indirect or grazing hit probably won’t, so you’ll get some good life out of steel chains.
If you make your own hangers, you can just attach the last link of chain directly to the target with bolts through the target holes. You might need to use washers depending on the bolt and hole sizes. If you want to be more elegant you can use “S” hooks as the interface between the last chain link and the holes on the steel gong.
Just keep spare chain segments and hooks in your kit as you’ll destroy them sooner or later.
Hey, the goal of creative target hanging solutions is to find super durable stuff that can stand up to getting shot. Someone, somewhere figured out that old firehose material is pretty strong since it contains about a trillion pounds per square inch of water pressure.
Not only that, firehose is somewhat resistant to twisting. That means that when you do hit it, the target won’t go wildly spinning. If you use two fire hose straps instead of one, you’ll have a very stable target. It’ll still swing when struck so you know you hit it but will quickly return to it’s resting position. Firehose acts like a pendulum that’s just a bit tired. Plus, that heavy canvas material responds well to bullets passing through it.
If you have connections, maybe you can find some retired hose from your local department. If you want to go the budget route and don’t know any of the guys on the annual fireman’s calendar, scrap firehose is pretty easy to find online.
People sell it on eBay for a couple of bucks per foot. If you exercise your Google-Fu just a bit, you can find companies that sell complete decommissioned fire hoses for just $15 or $20. You can get a lot of target hanger strap segments out of a single hose, although you’ll need a hefty pair of scissors to cut them.
Of course, you can take the turnkey approach and just buy a brand new target system that uses firehose hangers like the MGM Know Your Limits target pictured above.
5. UHMW Polymer
UHMW is a super-durable plastic. It’s the stuff that runs along the bottom of snowplow blades. Think about a truck zooming down the street at 30 miles per hour or so while that plastic strip absorbs and self-heals from all the bumps in the road. That’s why people use pieces of it to hang steel targets.
And gere’s a big advantage—it’s stiff enough to allow the target to swing like a pendulum when hit, but durable enough to handle a few bullet strikes.
If you know anyone with a surplus snow plow blade, you can find your own. You can also buy UHMW material in various sizes and thicknesses online—even from Amazon. It’s relatively easy to cut and drill, so making your own hangers is an easy task. You can also just buy targets from MGM, who uses it extensively across their product line.
6. Inner Tubes
Here’s something that everyone can easily obtain—old (or new) inner tubes. If you don’t have an old bike with a flat tire, just head to your local Wally Mart and buy a cheap bike tube or two. Or you can buy the expensive kind with a Kevlar included, which will last even longer.
The rubber is easy to cut with a knife or scissors and makes great steel target hanging material. It’s plenty strong to support the weight of a heavy plate and bullets will pass through it. When you destroy it, just cut another length from your tube.
You can buy heavier rubber hanging straps too. Check out the mounting solutions from Champion Targets.
7. Rebar Target Stands
Rebar is cheap and easy to find. That’s why MGM Targets makes a target kit consisting of leg brackets that support sections of rebar to create the target hanger support frame.
It’s sturdy, resilient, and if it should break down or get mangled, it’s not expensive or difficult to replace, and it doesn’t take much more than a hacksaw and a good metal blade to cut it to just the right length. While it’s not the lightest material in the world, the thin pieces of rebar are easy to transport in any vehicle.
8. Shepherd’s Hook Holder
Here’s a ready-to-go hanger and stand from Champion Range and Target. It’s made from a single steel bar that hooks at the top so you can hang most any steel gong or target with a hole in it like the Champion AR500 Center Mass Steel Targets.
The base has spikes angling out from the center post at 90-degree angles made from the same steel bar material.
This gives you a nifty foot platform so you can just step on the unit to drive it into the ground. Voila! Instant target stand and hanging platform—no tools required.
Oh, and since the steel bar is fairly thin, you stand a good chance not hot hitting it too often, unless you’re particularly unlucky. The nature of the design also keeps the target a foot or so from the mounting pole.
9. The Un-Steel Approach
I don’t think this one is cheating just because there’s no steel involved. Think of these targets and mounts as “next generation” steel.
Everything about the NewBold Target system is made out of magic self-sealing polymer. The plates, the plate mounts, and even the nuts and bolts that hold the mounts are all self-healing when you shoot them. Yes, really.
In fact, I accidentally shot right through the center of one of the bolts (the long way), and you couldn’t even tell it had been hit. The 9mm bullet went through the bolt head, passed through the bolt shaft, and came right out the bottom.
The bolt remained in place holding the target to the mount and self-healed, so it was just like new after taking a direct hit.
Since everything in the system is made of soft polymer, it’s all super lightweight too. No chains or heavy mounting platforms are required. Use some scrap 2x4s or even small lumber and build whatever target frame you like.
These are a few ideas to get you started, but there are plenty of ways to set up steel. Just be sure that any “creative” components you use are safe from potential ricochets in unsafe directions. If your mounts or hanging materials allow bullets to pass right on through to the berm or backstop, you’re good to go.