Love your range time? Put a ring on it with CTS steel targets

   12.18.18

There’s something about that sound of a hit on a steel target. The instant gratification of auditory feedback is a bit like a drug—addictive.  But that sound is a bit like a paycheck—you gotta work for it.

For the past year-plus, my training partner and I have given a good workout to an assortment of portable steel targets by Complete Target Solutions, AKA CTS Steel Targets. I’m pleased to say these targets have made training more fun, and convenient, with no end in sight—with one small caveat.

CTS steel targets are nice enough for when important company comes to the house. Precision-cut laser edges give a consistent and refined appearance to each plate. The edges are distinct but not sharp, making them safe to carry without gloves.

The test targets are 3/8 inches thick and cut from AR500 steel, so they’ll stand up to centerfire rifle rounds of up to .30-06 at 100 or more yards, and pistol-caliber rounds from 15 yards or more. The company also makes ¼-inch thick targets for rimfire, and half-inch thick models that will handle calibers up to .338 Lapua at 200 yards.

The targets arrived individually boxed. Plates are purchased separately from stands, which CTS also sells. The models I possess: 8- and 10-inch rounds, a 9×12-inch IPSC-style silhouette, and a 10×17-inch tombstone, were each ordered with an ingenious CTS invention: a swiveling bracket that’s secured to the plate by two bolts. The two-prong, curved bracket is made to set exactly over the top of a standard T post.

With the bracket mounted on a T-post, the targets hang with the bottom just slightly tilted away from the shooter. The bracket’s intelligent design exploits gravity such that they hang in a safe manner. Bullet material is deflected downward where it belongs.

CTS Steel Targets 2
Intelligent design insures a safe angle thanks to gravity

Unlike many other steel targets, can easily carry the 16.5-pound tombstone outfitted with the bracket, a T-post, and post pounder, downrange for installation. There is a bit of exercise to be had driving the post into the local limestone soil. They also do well in soft, loamy soil, and with the post adequately rooted, the target stays secure for multiple hits even in soft ground. A carbine class in Texas last year was proof of that.

Under regular use at close range (15 yards minimum) with pistol loads from .380 to .45 ACP, and with rifle loads including .223/5.56 and 7.62×39, these targets have taken a beating and are still going strong. We are careful to monitor that no steel core ammunition is used in the rifles. The plates have some tiny dings but no real pitting.  The only real wear is on two edges of the large plates, where a bullet has nicked the edge. Some deformation of these or any steel target is inevitable when that happens.

These targets have held up very well under use and are easy to install. Remember I said there’s a small caveat? It has nothing to do with shooting the targets, but with removing the brackets from the T posts.  In hard ground, the soft steel of the posts can be deformed by the act of pounding the post into hard ground.  It’s not a major deformation, but the finely-cut, jigsaw puzzle piece-like fit of the bracket on the post becomes something of a traffic jam about 25 percent of the time. On these occasions, it’s been necessary to tap the bracket with a mallet, from the bottom with the whole works turned on its head, to loosen its hold on the T-post.  I think CTS could cut the bracket holes a tad more generously to avoid this problem.  Or I could move to a location with loamy soil!

CTS Steel Targets 3
Detail of T-Post bracket

CTS claims that laser cutting helps steel retain hardness better than cutting with plasma. I don’t know steel cutting science, but I can vouch that these targets have held up to being shot with less visible wear than the plasma-cut targets in our collection. These targets are a great asset to range training and enjoyment. Prices are reasonable, with 3/8-inch targets ranging from $14.99 to $165.00. The T-post hangers described here are $29.99, CTS has numerous other hanging/mounting options.

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