Steel Armor & Target Systems
Steel Ops armor plates exceed the minimum requirements for NIJ level III. They use a 1/4" AR-500 Steel Core with a minimum hardness of 510, which is verified by an independent ISO Certified Lab. Each plate is cut under water to eliminate heat affected zones. It is then sand blasted to remove any surface debris or rust. Each plate is then primed using a proprietary process that enables the ballistic coating to adhere to the steel while also allowing for some de-lamination to trap bullet fragments. Without this priming process many coatings will "blow out" and create a "crater" allowing fragments to to move perpendicular to the plate. Improper priming will allow the coating to de-laminate too easily and will become ineffective after 2 rounds. A proper coating should allow bullets to go in, but not come back out. The plates then have the ballistic coating applied to military standards. We don't offer "base coats" or "heavy coats". These are common scams to get people to pay extra for what they really want, which is a FULL coating. All our plates receive a full coat which is at least 200 mils or 13/64" (can be up to 250mils or 1/4" in some spots) of either ARMA COAT (Used on Pro Plates) or PAXCON (Used on Flat & Side Plates). In case you're wondering how good ARMA COAT is, know that its also used on the bottom of MRAP Military Vehicles to protect from IED's. If you've never heard of PAXCON you could ask the Pentagon because they've lined the walls with it. These coatings are the real deal. These are not truck bed liners... well they could be but it'd be very expensive. These coating have a different chemical make up and are far more resistant to the heat, energy, and sharp metals. It is designed specifically as a ballistic coating. Every plate format has been tested effective for no penetrations on the following calibers at the following ranges AND have maintained a 99% encapsulation of the bullet fragments:
124 Grain 9mm - 5ft
M193 - 55 Grain 5.56 Lead Core - 30ft
M855/M856 62 Grain 5.56 Steel Core LAP - 15ft
123 Grain 7.62x39 Lead Core - 15ft
148 Grain 7.62x51 (.308) Lead Core - 25ft
160 Grain .30-06 Lead Core - 60ft
We use AR-500 on all our body armor, not AR-550 like our targets. The reason we use different materials is simply that AR-550 is designed to take thousands of rounds and its rare which also makes it expensive. You're likely not going to be taking thousands of rounds to the chest, and the difference between the two materials only shows after extended use, so why pay more for two materials that will perform the same for only 1-6 rounds.
Steel Ops has changed the caliber and range rating for the T3R. ***NOTE*** this change is ONLY for T3R targets, not the T3RX IPSC or the T3RX T3. The new T3Rs will continue to be manufactured to the same specifications, except they will now only be 16" wide and will have a slightly higher price point. The reason for this change is that the T3R was originally designed as a light duty entry level target for those who shoot primarily handguns and some rifle. However many shooters were choosing to purchase the T3R and use it primarily for rifle which may result in premature decline in the life of the target. The original Limited Lifetime Warranties will still be honored for any 18" wide T3R's, however If a warranty issue on an 18" wide T3R requires replacement of the product a 16" version will be used to fulfill the claim and will carry the new caliber ratings and warranty. The new 16" wide T3R's will carry the same warranty except that only handgun usage will be covered. Using rifle rounds will void the warranty. This change will take effect as soon as 18" wide T3R's are out-of-stock. We will not begin selling the 16" wide versions until all 18" versions have been sold. Please don't hesitate to call our office with any questions or concerns. We thank you for your cooperation and understanding.
AR-500 Steel: A specifically formulated Abrasion Resistent plate steel that is austentized (hardened) to a Brinell Hardness rating of 485 to 585, or approximately 500. The 100 point spectrum of AR-500 steel is a lot in terms of targets, but we'll get to that in a minute. AR-500 was never designed to be shot at. It just happens to work well for in that application. In the grand spectrum of all steel, AR-500 is actually just middle of the road. Mild steel and AR-400 are softer, and these steels will cup, bend, or penetrate when hit. Knife steels such as 154CM or S35VN are harder than AR-500, but with hardness comes brittleness, and these harder/expensive steels tend to crack or shatter when hit. The catch is that unless you're willing to buy in bulk the steel mills will not tighten their mixture tolerances, so some of the steel may be 495 Brinell and some may be 585 Brinell. For other target companies this results in huge variance in their products. Through extensive testing, Steel Ops has been able to establish that the optimal Brinell hardness for steel targets is about 545-565. Anything less and the plate tends to cup or bend after 1000 rounds. Anything more and the plate tends to crack or shatter after 1000 rounds. But you have to buy in bulk direct from the mill in order to get a specific Brinell Hardness. Thats what we do. A steel mill makes an MTR or Mill Test Report with every sheet they make so the exact hardness can be tracked to each sheet. These should always be kept on file and we make these available upon request. We do not accept any sheets with a Brinell Hardness outside 545-565. We also test the plate before it is processed with a third party ISO Certified Lab to verify that the MTR is accurate. The cool part is that because we buy in bulk we actually get better steel at a better price. So whats the real difference between the AR500 and AR550? For 1 round, almost nothing. You likely won't even be able to tell which is which. However, after thousands of rounds our targets hold up better than any company using lower grade steel. The reason we choose to use AR500 in our body armor is simply because you likely aren't taking thousands of rounds to the chest. We offer this simple challenge any company: show us video proof that a certified piece of AR-500 out performs a certified piece of AR-550 after 1000 rounds and we'll give you a target. Its simple physics folks, better steel is better.
Powder Coat - Steel Ops uses in-house powder coating to protect and coat all of our target systems. This provides a much more durable finish than paint and protects welds and parts from rust far better.
Speed & Design - We have been unable to find a full size silhouette target system that is faster and easier to set-up. If you find one we'd love to know about it. The fastest recorded set-up of our targets can be seen here. Its also pretty hilarious.
Price - Our pricing structure is based on what it takes to make these products. Not what the market value is. We pride ourselves on charging a fair price for great products and will never charge more than necessary just because another company is able to get more.
Steel Ops uses a unique technique called Water Submerged CNC Plasma cutting. Its affordable, its precise within 1/32", it eliminates large heat affected zones (HAZ) that soften the steel, and actually re-hardens the edge immediately as it cuts. The entire sheet is placed on a water table and is then submerged under the water by about 1/2". You can actually touch the steel less than 1" behind the cutting head and its cool to the touch. Any company or individual who states otherwise is flat wrong, and wants you to pick up the tab for them using another metal shop cut their material for them. Still dont believe us? Come on down to our shop. Thats right, open door policy. You're welcome to come in and literally put your hands on our steel as it comes off our machine. If you can find a piece that measures the needed 400 degrees to change the material hardness then we'll buy you the plate of your choice from a competitor. Still need more proof? You pay for the ISO Certified Lab to test our material within 1/4" of the edge of our plate and if it doesn't meet the AR-500 criteria we'll buy you a plate of your choice from a competitor.
What do other companies use?
Some companies use a Non-Submerged CNC plasma. Avoid these at all costs. This process is cost effective but it creates a heat affected zone (HAZ) that spans about 1"-2" on each side of the cut that makes the steel soft and easy to penetrate. Some companies use CNC Laser Cutting which delivers a very precise cut and creates a low heat affected zone, however its very expensive which drives up cost to you. Additionally the precision, though impressive, is simply unnecessary. Lets be real here, we're firing a gun at steel. Does it really matter if its 1/32" bigger or smaller? Some companies use Water Jet. This process has the lowest heat affected zone, and is very precise as well. However as with Laser it is very expensive to own and operate, the precision is unnecessary, and the operating costs result in overpriced products.