The Benefits of Steel Targets vs Paper or Cardboard


Why Choose Steel Targets?

Steel targets offer a range of benefits that make them a preferred choice for many shooters. From longevity to environmental considerations, let’s explore why American made AR500 steel targets stand out.

Durability and Longevity

One of the most significant advantages of steel targets is their durability. Unlike paper or cardboard targets, which can be easily damaged and require frequent replacement, steel targets can withstand thousands of rounds. This longevity means that shooters can spend more time training and less time replacing targets.

paper vs cardboard targets


Although the initial investment in steel targets may be higher than that for paper or cardboard, the long-term cost savings are substantial. Quality steel targets do not need to be replaced as often, reducing ongoing costs. Over time, this makes steel targets a more economical choice.

Immediate Feedback

Steel targets provide immediate auditory and visual feedback when hit. The distinctive “ping” sound and the movement of the target allow shooters to quickly assess their accuracy without needing to walk downrange to check hits. This instant feedback is invaluable for improving shooting skills.

Environmental Impact

Using steel targets is also more environmentally friendly. Paper and cardboard targets generate waste that needs to be cleaned up and disposed of, whereas steel targets do not produce such waste. This reduction in debris helps maintain cleaner shooting ranges and reduces the environmental footprint of shooting activities.

Versatility and Training Realism

Steel targets come in various shapes and sizes, allowing for a diverse range of training scenarios. From static targets to reactive and moving targets, steel options can simulate different real-life shooting situations, enhancing the training experience and making it more realistic.

Safety Considerations

Modern steel targets are designed with safety in mind. They are typically made from high-quality, hardened steel (such as AR500 or AR550) and are angled to deflect bullets downward, minimizing the risk of ricochet. Properly designed steel targets ensure a safe training environment when used correctly.

Maintenance and Upkeep

Maintaining steel targets is relatively straightforward. Unlike paper or cardboard targets, which need to be replaced frequently, steel targets require minimal upkeep. Regular inspections and occasional repainting to enhance visibility are usually all that is needed to keep steel targets in top condition.

Comparing Steel, Paper, and Cardboard Targets

To fully appreciate the benefits of steel targets, it’s helpful to compare them directly with paper and cardboard alternatives.

Durability Comparison

  • Steel Targets: Can withstand thousands of rounds, requiring minimal replacement.
  • Paper Targets: Typically last for one shooting session before becoming unusable.
  • Cardboard Targets: More durable than paper but still need frequent replacement.

Cost Analysis

  • Steel Targets: Higher upfront cost, but low long-term expenses due to durability.
  • Paper Targets: Low initial cost, but high recurring expenses due to frequent replacements.
  • Cardboard Targets: Moderate initial cost, but still significant ongoing replacement costs.

Feedback Quality

  • Steel Targets: Immediate audible and visual feedback.
  • Paper Targets: Requires visual inspection to assess accuracy.
  • Cardboard Targets: Similar to paper, needing close inspection for feedback.

Environmental Impact

  • Steel Targets: Minimal waste and environmental impact.
  • Paper Targets: Generate waste that needs disposal.
  • Cardboard Targets: Generate waste, though slightly less than paper targets.

Training Applications

  • Steel Targets: Suitable for various training scenarios, including tactical and dynamic shooting.
  • Paper Targets: Best for static, precision shooting drills.
  • Cardboard Targets: Can be used for static drills but lack the versatility of steel.

Types of Steel Targets

There are several types of steel targets, each suited for different training purposes.

Static Steel Targets

These are fixed in place and ideal for improving accuracy and precision. They are commonly used in basic marksmanship training and competition shooting.

Reactive Steel Targets

Reactive targets move or make noise when hit, providing immediate feedback and enhancing the training experience. Examples include plate racks, dueling trees, and poppers.

Resetting Steel Targets

These targets automatically reset after being hit, allowing for continuous shooting without needing to reset the targets manually. They are excellent for endurance and speed training.

Moving Steel Targets

Moving targets add a dynamic element to training, simulating real-life scenarios where targets may not be stationary. They help improve tracking and shooting at moving objects.

Customizable Steel Targets

Some steel targets can be customized with different shapes, sizes, and designs to fit specific training needs. These targets can simulate various objects or threats, providing a versatile training environment.

Best Practices for Using Steel Targets

To maximize the benefits of steel targets, it’s important to follow best practices for their use.

Proper Setup

Ensure that steel targets are set up correctly, with appropriate spacing and angles to minimize the risk of ricochet. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for safe distances.

Regular Inspections

Regularly inspect steel targets for signs of wear and tear. Although they are durable, high-frequency use can cause damage that needs to be addressed to maintain safety.

Use Appropriate Ammunition

Use ammunition that is compatible with the steel target. Avoid using armor-piercing or high-velocity rounds that can damage the target.

Safety Gear

Always wear appropriate safety gear, including eye and ear protection, when shooting at steel targets. Safety should always be the top priority.


What are the benefits of steel targets over paper or cardboard? Steel targets offer greater durability, cost-effectiveness, immediate feedback, and environmental benefits compared to paper or cardboard targets.

How long do steel targets last? Steel targets can last for thousands of rounds, significantly outlasting paper or cardboard targets, which typically need replacement after each session.

Are steel targets safe to use? Yes, modern steel targets are designed with safety in mind. They are made from hardened steel and angled to deflect bullets downward, reducing the risk of ricochet.

Do steel targets require a lot of maintenance? Steel targets require minimal maintenance. Regular inspections and occasional repainting are usually sufficient to keep them in good condition.

Can steel targets be used for all types of shooting? Steel targets are versatile and can be used for a wide range of shooting activities, from basic marksmanship to dynamic tactical training.

What type of ammunition should be used with steel targets? Standard ammunition is typically safe for use with steel targets. Avoid using armor-piercing or high-velocity rounds that can damage the target.


In conclusion, steel targets offer numerous advantages over traditional paper or cardboard targets. Their durability, cost-effectiveness, and ability to provide immediate feedback make them an excellent choice for both recreational shooters and professional training environments. By following best practices for their use and maintenance, shooters can enjoy a safe, efficient, and environmentally friendly training experience with steel targets.

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