By Paul Helinski
Steel targets are the backbone of competitive shooting sports. Once a club invests in a good set of steel targets, it opens up a great deal of income-producing events that you just can’t do with paper. If you go to the range on a Sunday afternoon, you will also see individuals shlepping heavy steel target sets sometimes, because dinging steel is much more rewarding than punching paper, and because you can get a lot of fun in while the range is hot, with no need to go down and change targets. The problem with steel is that it is expensive, so buying it right the first time is critical. There are a lot of target companies, and Grizzly Targets, out of Tampa, Florida, contacted us to test one of theirs, a $279 three-paddle auto-reset called the “Trifecta.” Grizzly laser-cuts their targets out of AR500 steel and galvanizes the final product. They claim that the targets “can withstand almost anything,” so we decided to give it the ultimate torture test, within reason. AR500 steel isn’t made to withstand a .50BMG or even a .338 Lapua, so that wouldn’t be fair. A .30-06 is probably the most popular rifle caliber of all time, so we chose the M1C Sniper Garand that we made back in the Garand series from a commercial Springfield Armory gun. It beat the target up pretty well, but at no time did the target cease to do its job, so you be the judge.
The key to this test was to simulate abusive misses. We used 12 Garand clips, at 8 rounds each, 96 rounds total at 50 yards. This isn’t a ton of abuse for a steel target that can see thousands of rounds just over one match. That is assuming that the 96 rounds are shot at the target portion of the target. What you’ll find though is that a certain percentage of shooters, over the course of even one match, will not hit the ideal target area, and will instead do damage to the working components of the target. All but two clips were fired at places other than the top paddles on this target, and for what it’s worth, the paddles didn’t sustain any damage at all. However, after repeatedly battering the middle of the posts, the bottom of the posts, and the bolt area, you can see that if you buy a Grizzly target for casual match shooters, you probably will have some maintenance after a match.
One of the problems with this target is that the Grizzly website doesn’t give you any specifics about the target whatsoever. There are no suggested calibers and distances. There is no information as to what type of steel the base is made of, and no guidelines as to what to be careful with shooting and not shooting. It doesn’t help anyone to say that the target can stand up to anything, when it clearly can’t. We all want to support products made in America by Americans, and the Grizzly target isn’t a bad product, but when you go out and spend almost $300 of your hard-earned money on a target, it would be nice to have some basic instruction as to how to not ruin it.
If you plan to shoot pistol calibers only, have no fear in buying any of the Grizzly targets. They have a really cool campsite setup that will add up to probably a lifetime of fun without ever breaking down, but if you want to shoot rifles, even at distance, beware that this target is going to fail on you with errant shots. We decided to use a .30-06 for this test, but in our experience .223/.556 is just as brutal on targets because of its blinding speed and heat transfer on solid hits. For the record, I did suggest to my contact at Grizzly that they make a deflector plate to go over the bolts, but though they are working on a solution it would be expensive to make a cover plate out of AR500. The bottom line is that the target never failed, but it was close to doing so, and it could be done a lot better.