Back in January of this year we had a chance to review the AR500 Steel gong system from a company out of Minneapolis called Shootsteel.com. They manufacture a variety of steel targets from both 3/8” and ½” thick AR 500 hardened steel. Earlier this year we tested a 12” diameter gong (made from ½” steel) and their 36 x 36 A-Frame style conduit gong stand.
We gave the system a glowing review but thought it would be a good idea to revisit the product in six months and see how it held up.
We also looked at a couple of other gongs from the company and have had a chance to review those items too.
We’ve been using this setup non-stop for nearly six months nearly every weekend and have a very positive impression. Here’s our thoughts:
- The 12” gong has withstood everything we’ve thrown at it, which mostly means 7.62 AK rounds. We’ve tested lesser quality gongs and they would be toast by now.
- The gong hangs from a stand fashioned from conduit. It’s solid, but the most important take away is that it’s light enough for one person to set up the entire shebang. We tested a competing unit from CMP a few years ago which was durable but it used angle irons and consequently weighed a lot more. You needed two people to schlep the thing down the range to set it up. Not so with this baby.
- The caveat is that the conduit is not going to hold up too well to 7.62 rounds. That said, we didn’t whack the frame once during the entire six month period. Maybe we were lucky, maybe we are better than average shots or maybe there’s some force field protecting the stand. We don’t know, but to date, the frame is still pristine. Even if we did mangle the thing (which will happen someday) conduit is cheap and it wouldn’t cost too much to repair.
- The gong is suspended on a rubber hanger, which is different from other systems that I’ve encountered. (Usually you’ll find these hanging from a chain). The hanger material is tough—much like tire tread. You can destroy it by punching too many rounds through it but it has proven to be more durable than a chain, which by now we would have had to replace. The rubber strap system has taken quite a few rounds and it will definitely have to be swapped out at some point soon.
- The Shootsteel system is easy to easy to assemble and take down. All you do is plug the conduits into the brackets and latch them down with locking pins. Then it’s just a matter of hanging the hefty gong. The only tool you’ll need is a crescent wrench and a socket wrench to bolt the gong to the strap. You don’t really need tools once the set up is in place. To hang the gong you simply hand tighten the connecting links. You don’t have to worry about bringing extra chains (because there are no chain links to shoot out) when you bring the assembly to the range.
Perhaps the most vulnerable part of the gong/hanger system is the actual bolt that connects hanger to gong. It’s always the weakest link because a direct hit or two on the head of the bolt can destroy it. Can’t do much about that. Eventually, if you’re shooting rifle rounds, you will have to replace one of the bolts but that’s also not a huge deal.
We wanted ½ inch steel because the 3/8 inch version we had (from another company) simply couldn’t handle the 7.62 rounds. The ½ inch steel has proven to be indestructible. The only downside with that is that it weighs a lot and doesn’t dance when hit by a bullet the way the 3/8 inch gong would. That’s kinetic energy for you! I have begun to shoot handguns and even a decent hit with a .41 magnum round isn’t going to register on this behemoth gong too much. If you’re mostly using hand guns then the 3/8 inch plates are more than enough. The company suggests that 3/8 inch is also strong enough for rifle rounds but with the ½” steel you’ll never have to replace it.
A variety of gongs are available
We liked this setup so much, we acquired two more gongs, an 8” circle and a 10” square—both ½ inch steel. We like challenging ourselves—all of our shooting is offhand. At 100 yards with iron sights both of these targets are perfect for this type of shooting. We shoot mostly AKs or 7.62 uppers mounted on AR 15s and these gongs are made to order for this. Shootsteel says they will also take a 7.62 x 51 round.
At 100 yards the 8” gong is not easy to hit offhand. But what’s life without a challenge? I’ve urged our staff to shoot at this target for the last month or so with iron sights and guess what? Everyone has improved. I’m even shooting at the 8” gong with 10mm and .41 magnum handguns (with optics) and have gotten much better at this then I ever thought. (Jerry Miceluk, watch out!)
We’re also using their 10” square gong which gives me a little more real estate to shoot at 100 yards.
After six months and thousands of rounds downrange, the Shootsteel unit is still performing like a champ.
They are built to last, easy to maintain and fairly priced. What’s not to like?