Stop! Don’t Shoot! Beware of Hazardous Targets

Reduce downrange hazards and follow Rule #4.
Reduce downrange hazards and follow Rule #4.

Student of the GunBiloxi, Mississippi (Ammoland) Experience is the best teacher, but sometimes a bad experience can maim or kill you. For instance, if you are struck by a ricocheted bullet or large bullet fragment in the face or throat it can cause serious harm. If a bullet pierces an arm or leg and cuts an artery you going to be in trouble.

Fortunately, such back splash or ricochet incidents are indeed rare. The reason for this rarity is because the vast majority of military, police, and sport shooters understand the hazards of live fire and follow Universal Safety Rule #4 “Know your target, what is around it, and what is beyond it.”

For three decades I have been actively involved in the use of and training with firearms. Often I am shocked to see (watch video or read about) someone engaging in a behavior that is unnecessarily risky or hazardous.

Case in point, somehow I was made aware of video floating around the gun blog world featuring a guy shooting at a car tire with a shotgun. I watched the video expecting it to be a “shock” or “blooper” video wherein the shooter was peppered by the birdshot he was firing. Fortunately for the man in question, the tire he was shooting at was loose, as in it was freestanding and not secured to a vehicle or immobilized. The #8 birdshot struck the tire, knocked it over and some embedded in the tread.

Car Tires 

Although many might not realize it, car tire can present a serious ricochet hazard.
Although many might not realize it, car tires can present a serious ricochet hazard.

Over twenty years ago I was informed (I saw the pictures, read incident report, talked to instructor) of a ricochet incident the happened on a range on which I had previously trained. A shooter was struck by a 9mm FMJ bullet in his upper arm. The projectile passed completely through and fortunately did not sever the brachial artery. Medical care was given and training was halted to investigate and determine what happened. The victim had been engaged in a shooting exercise with a number of other students and the bullet came from the downrange direction.

The subsequent investigation determined that pistol rounds were indeed being redirected or ricocheted in any and all directions by the impact berm. You see, the berm had been constructed by stacking hundreds and hundreds of discarded car tires and then filling/covering them with dirt. This berm building technique was extremely popular and seemed a great idea thirty years ago.

Read the Entire Article Here (SOTG)

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Gene
Gene
5 years ago

Some years ago I took a new S&W 36 to a local outdoor range with stacked automobile tire target backups. I fired a couple of wadcutters from a bench at 25 yards at my target without incident. My next shot, I actually saw the bullet come straight back at my gun. It struck my trigger guard and finger (without injury) and dropped directly down in front of the bench. I took a few minutes to find the bullet, since it has my name on it and have it still. I like to think it got me through nearly 40 years… Read more »

jamie
jamie
5 years ago

I am surprised that more people are not hurt shooting steel targets that are not angled properly.

Hank
Hank
5 years ago

I’ve been hit many times by ricochets, mostly in the thigh or shin, never resulting in worse than a bruise. The worst example was a test of 8 layer kevlar nailed to a standing railroad tie. I shot it from a range of 12″ using a .38 spl, 158 gr. hard cast bullet. The flattened slug bounced straight back hitting me in the third finger just under the trigger guard. I still have that slug bearing the imprint of the fabric in my collection. The result was a badly bruised and swollen knuckle, nothing more. But that’s not say ricochets… Read more »

Infidel7.62
Infidel7.62
5 years ago

Back in the late 70’s a local range decided to try steel plate shooting. They welded up 8″ round 1/2″ thick plates to a piece of flat stock about 3/8 X 2 X 6, but the round plate was welded to the center of the flat base plate forming a “T”. I was shooting .45 200 gr. lead semiwadcutters when i thought I was stung by a bee in the stomach. At the end of the string I pulled up my shirt and found a piece of lead sticking out of my skin. The targets were quickly altered so the… Read more »

Firearmtutorials.com
Firearmtutorials.com
5 years ago

That actually makes a lot of sense. The backstop should be either really hard (steel) or really soft (dirt). The in-between seems like trouble. Not to mention that fact that tires aren’t flat so you never really know which angle the bullet will impact.

anonymous
anonymous
5 years ago

Tires also have kevlar in them as well as metal threading. 18 wheeler tires the metal threads can slash regular car tires to bits. Reason cops don’t shoot tires is that bullets will bounce off the tire. Knives will go through kevlar btw. Bullet resistant doesn’t mean knife or slash resistant.

Tires can be used as a backstop but you have to know what you are doing.

Eric
Eric
5 years ago

Shooting some tracers you will see how much bullets change direction including straight back at the shooter. There is a video of a 50 bmg richocet hitting the shooter in the ear defenders.(shooting at steel at <100 yards)

throwedoff
throwedoff
5 years ago
Reply to  Eric

Very true. While night firing on a 50 cal. machine gun range while serving in the Army, I was shocked to see several rounds ricochet not just up and off to the sides of the hulks that were placed down range as targets, but also back at various angles towards the firing berm. One tracer was observed to land two to three hundred meters back and to our left igniting a range fire. It was truly amazing the number of tracers that were redirected back our way, only one out of every five rounds was a tracer! It’s amazing we… Read more »