Long story to start guys, skip down below the section of dashes to get to the good stuff
I was a range master down in Florida, was amazing, I had multiple ranges to use, targets to use, shooting stands etc etc etc.
When I relocated to Nebraska I lost all this and have been having to slowly build up. You'd think in NEBRASKA of all places outside ranges would be plentiful. Yeah noooooooooooo.
Fortunately with my job I meet a lot of people, and many of them have family with Farms So I took it upon myself to build ranges for my friends since I'm the local "redneck gun nut".
I thought I knew a lot about this seeing as I was a bloody range master. But having to build things from scratch tends to teach you a great deal. I've learned a lot and I feel the need to pass it to others who want to either build ranges for themselves, or create portable targets to take to a friends place or gov property to shoot on.
As we can mostly agree shooting steel is infinitely more fun than paper. And honestly its CHEAPER than paper in the long run! As long as you plan properly
Reactive targets like poppers and swinging plates are even more fun than standard steel, but those are more expensive, and require the stands to support them. So I'll be leaving action targets out. But cheap portable steel that you can fit in a tiny sedan, that I can make recommendations.
So first off, you want decent gongs/ringers you can shoot with handguns, but also our popular 223, 7.62, and 6.5
While you can go to trademarked places such as "shootsteel" and "actiontargets" and a plethora of others, our good friend AMAZON actually meets our needs for this. Is it the best hardened ar500? Naa. Does it more than suit our needs, YER DAMN SKIPPY!
If you search amazon for "ar500 target" you will find a plethora of cheapo ar500 steel gongs, 4-12 inch ringers and silhouette tagets.
To hang them all you need is a simple Shepherds hook that you would use for hanging heavy plants. You can pick em up at your local hardware store. I try to shy away from wally world ones as they are usually to thin and sag, and a single unlucky shot puts em down for good.
An 8 inch 3/8s gong is about $25-27 and usually prime eligible. Larger ones are a tad more.
An 8 Inch 1/2 gong is about $35-37 and also usually prime eligible.
The 3/8s are capable of taking 308/7.62x54 russian @100 yards.
The 1/2 is for larger/higher velocity rounds.
The key to making your steel last is HANGING it properly. You do not want to bolt these down. If you do they will crater fast, which causes dangerous hazards. You want to either hang your steel so it swings freely when shot, or have it angled down so it forces a ricochet down into the dirt. The second one is harder and more expensive on a budget, especially if you want the target to travel in a car.
The first is easy. Shepherds hooks work ALMOST perfectly for this, it allows the plates to swing freely, and also they have multiple heights available to you can keep em low to the ground or chest height depending on your range and distance.
A small tip, don't just hang the plate on the hook and be done, with the hook behind your plate there are chances to hit it, very tiny but it will happen eventually and you need to setup a new $13 hook.
Instead go buy a small deep curved S hook $0.50-0.99, turn the shepherds hook sideways, and now you can hang your gong with it's base to the left or right of it instead of behind it.
I like and share this for simple reasons, not everyone has their own dedicated range. And when you are shooting outside long distance, or at ranges that only supply paper targets. The ability to toss in the tiniest of cars an 8 inch gong, and a sheps hook allows you to take multiple steel targets to wherever you like to shoot. Be it gov lands, a friends farm, or even an outside range that doesn't have it's own steel.
I've got ar500 3/8s and 1/2 thick 8inch gongs with backup hooks for less than $70, and they'll last forever. I can hang em anywhere outside where the ground isn't stone and since they 'swing' they'll last virtually forever as long as you don't get too close with rifle rounds.
If you notice you are getting 'craters' in your steel, you either don't have good ar500 or are getting to close with high powered rounds, or your steel isn't swinging freely. Or any combination there of.
I hope this was helpful to folks. I know some people get lost in the world of steel and trying to find stuff that they can not only afford on a budget, but also transport to their place of shooting. I favor 8 inch ringers as they are fun, the audible noise of your hit always generates a smile, you can even use them for sighting in if you bring a can of spray paint with you.