Steel Target Torture – Action Targets PT Tactical Torso

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This is how the Action Target PT (PorTable) Tactical Torso started out.

This is how the Action Target PT (PorTable) Tactical Torso started out.


Action Targets PT Tactical Torso
http://store.actiontarget.com/pt-tactical-torso.html

Believe it or not, a steel target is not something that you buy in anticipation of ultimately destroying it. Sure, we have all seen steel targets at the range that are shot up and shot through, but that is not what you should expect from a quality steel target. If the company engineers the target to not fail, and instructs you in the proper use of what the target can and can’t do, your target probably won’t even have any divots in it after a full day’s match. The key is to understand the nature of steel targets, and follow directions as to their limitations.

To demonstrate this point, we chose to show you what not to do, and Action Target sent us their “PT Tactical Torso” as a sacrificial lamb. This target is a steel plate measuring 13″ x 24″ and it has two holes cut for rear swingers, one is a 3″ triangle and the other is a 4″ x 6″ rectangle. Head and chest shots respectively. It is made from AR550 steel, which is the top grade of armor grade steel you see in steel targets. The price is $349, direct from Action Target.

If you follow GunsAmerica Magazine, you may remember our last steel target test. It didn’t go so well for the target, and that was largely because the company had put no engineering into what actually happens to a steel target, and they had no information at all on their website about the target’s limitations.

The damage after our test was significant, but it was done to demonstrate what not to do to your steel targets. Our shooting was with a STAG AR-15 at 50 yards, way too close for even an AR550 rated steel target for rifle fire.

The damage after our test was significant, but it was done to demonstrate what not to do to your steel targets. Our shooting was with a STAG AR-15 at 50 yards, way too close for even an AR550 rated steel target for rifle fire.

Action Target is the opposite. Their targets are engineered from the ground up for longevity and safety, and they start by giving you a PDF of how steel targets work and how to use them safely. But again we decided to break all the rules regarding steel targets, and shoot this one up pretty bad as well.

There is, however, a chasm of difference between how the last target held up and how this one held up. That is because Action Target does everything right. All of the bolts are protected by a plate. The shooting surface itself is angled severely down, assuring that even if you divot the plate, and a subsequent bullet hits the divot, the splatter is directed downward. But even more important, Action Target gives you those clear instructions about how to make your targets last longer, how to shoot them safer, and what you can expect and not expect from your steel target investment. Handguns don’t as a rule damage steel targets. As you have read time and time again in these pages, there is no such thing as a powerful handgun… when you compare them to rifles. Rifles can destroy steel targets, and lead to seriously unsafe conditions.

If you read the tutorial on the Action Targtets website, Making Sense of Steel Targets the comments they use to dispel many myths about steel targets were taken from that last article we did. Part Two goes on to explain some of the background concepts, and they even have slow motion video of bullets hitting the target so you can understand the safety implications of shooting at random pieces of steel you might pick up, local targets made by hobbiests, and cheap knock offs, like our first steel target article regarding Walmart swingers.

This target has a severely angled head for safety. You can shoot a handgun as close at 10 yards, but rifles are meant to be at better than 100 yards.

This target has a severely angled head for safety. You can shoot a handgun as close at 10 yards, but rifles are meant to be at better than 100 yards.


For our tests, this time we used an AR-15 and surplus .223 from I think Romania. It does not appear to be armor piercing, but we did shoot it at 50 yards, which is about 100 yards too close according to the instructions at Action Target’s website. We did this because ultimately, unless people see and understand what happens at 50 yards, they will invariably shoot at steel targets with rifles at distances that are too close, then complain that their target is splattering them with jacket material as the divots multiply.

We shot a STAG Arms AR-15, and a 50 round X-Products magazine. It was filled 4 times, for a total of 200 rounds. At 50 yards, offhand that STAG isn’t hard to keep pretty much inside that 3″ triangle, but like the last target, we intentionally tried to hit all over the target, including the stand, as well as multiple hits into the same spot on the surface of the face. This isn’t easy, but as you can see from the pictures, we were able to show you the various divots that an AR will do to an AR550 target at 50 yards.

Again, the Action Targets do not have any exposed bolts, so there is no danger of breaking a bolt with your bullet and having a piece fly off into the next shooting bay. The stand part of this “PT” or portable, target is mild steel, not armor steel, but it has a novel (and probably patented) bend in the edge that faces the shooter so that a direct hit doesn’t bounce right back at you. There was no damage to the swinging plates at all, but the splatter from the swingers completely sand blasted the powder coat off the back of the target, including the welds. This could become an issue with corrosion down the road, because welds tend to rust much more. If you plan to re-paint the fronts of your targets for each match, it might be a good idea to paint the backs as well.

The Tactical Torso comes in these pieces. Once you get how the target works it goes together easy.

The Tactical Torso comes in these pieces. Once you get how the target works it goes together easy.

The swinging plates drop into slotted crossbars. There is no hardware on the target itself, just steel plates.

The swinging plates drop into slotted crossbars. There is no hardware on the target itself, just steel plates.


Assembling the PT Tactical Torso was pretty funny for me. I had no idea which target they sent, and the boxes had sat for several months as a major procrastination issue. At first I had no idea how the thing went together, but as you can see from the pictures, once you understand the way the target works it is very easy to put together. These PT models are meant to be able to transport in your trunk, and they assemble with four bolts. The swingers plates are really genius (and again, probably patented). There are no hardware components at all, and you can’t knock the swingers off no matter where they are hit, and we hit them over 100 times in the span of 10 minutes. The whole target is made from steel plates, and nothing else. No bolts. No hinges. Nothing to break or jam.

It is hard to accept sometimes how dangerous our sport can be. If you have shot in matches, but you were not involved in the planning or setup, the match directors generally will follow the guidelines for targets. For home purchased targets, not so much. Most people don’t even realize that the targets were put at specific distances in a match for a reason, and they have no idea that they will be hurting the longevity of their targets by shooting at them too close. Very few people especially understand the safety implications. Most rifle bullets are travelling at over 3,000 feet per second. The splatter comes off the target not much slower, and once a target has received a good divot, the subsequent bullet that hits that divot will fragment unpredictably. Large pieces can fly back at unpredictable angles, travelling at deadly speeds.

This is the crossbar

This is the crossbar


Please see the pictures if you are considering an investment in steel targets, and you shoot rifles. One picture is worth a thousand words, and some of those divots are quite large, and quite dangerous at 50 yards. We used a barrier at the shooting line to protect the shooter from forward splatter, though none seemed to come back. The extreme angle of the Action Target PT Tactical Torso keeps the splatter down, but why chance it. Even the most independent (stubborn) of us will follow the directions as a last resort, and when it comes to steel targets, your own safety should be a cause of last resort. You won’t find more target for your money than Action Target, and it is up to you to use it safely.

Our test gun was a STAG Arms AR-15, and the X-Products 50 round AR mag we have tested previously. This is surplus Romanian .223.  (it was actually way more than 200 rounds, because that triangle plate is so fun to shoot)

Our test gun was a STAG Arms AR-15, and the X-Products 50 round AR mag we have tested previously. This is surplus Romanian .223. (it was actually way more than 200 rounds, because that triangle plate is so fun to shoot)


The angle of the target keeps the splatter directly straight down.

The angle of the target keeps the splatter directly straight down.


The back of the target got sand blasted from the splatter from the swingers.

The back of the target got sand blasted from the splatter from the swingers.


These are the top bolts on the target head where it connects to the portable stand. They are behind the target face.

These are the top bolts on the target head where it connects to the portable stand. They are behind the target face.


The bolts at the bottom are also behind steel, but this is not armor steel on the legs.

The bolts at the bottom are also behind steel, but this is not armor steel on the legs.


One of the legs intentionally shot for demonstration. Don't do this at home!

One of the legs intentionally shot for demonstration. Don’t do this at home!


The stand has a bent over lip so that if you hit it, the bullet doesn't come back at you. They do significant damage to the stand, but this is of course an easily replaceable part.  People are going to hit the stand.

The stand has a bent over lip so that if you hit it, the bullet doesn’t come back at you. They do significant damage to the stand, but this is of course an easily replaceable part. People are going to hit the stand.


This was one clear double hit into a divot. As you can see, the hole is large and could easily ricochet a piece right back at you.

This was one clear double hit into a divot. As you can see, the hole is large and could easily ricochet a piece right back at you.


These were the single hit divots, and edge hits. AR550 is tough, but it isn't meant for this kind of abuse.

These were the single hit divots, and edge hits. AR550 is tough, but it isn’t meant for this kind of abuse.


If you have any doubt that splatter is dangerous, this steel part's edge was damaged from the swinger splatter.

If you have any doubt that splatter is dangerous, this steel part’s edge was damaged from the swinger splatter.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • eric bongers August 4, 2014, 11:26 am

    isn’t it dangerous to hit steel thought all targets hd to be soft to absorb the bullet so it doesn’t bounce and hit somebody or something

  • Wallace Canterbury August 4, 2014, 7:46 am

    When shooting at steel targets, bullet splatter can and will start vegetation on fire! Clear your shooting area of dry vegetation, leafs and other debris.

    • Russ Florian August 4, 2014, 5:07 pm

      Bring a squirt gun with you.
      You would really be the greatest fire starter in the world to catch brush on fire with spent lead.
      I get my information by firemen who try to do exactly that.
      Nice rumor though, many use it.

      • Russ August 5, 2014, 11:53 am

        By the way, real nice target.

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