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Of the four rules of gun safety, “be aware of your target and what’s behind it” is the one most people can’t recall. If they can remember it, they usually focus on the bit that reminds shooters that bullets can travel a long, long way beyond the target before they come to rest. (A .22 can travel a mile before ending its flight.) But the admonition to “be aware of your target” is equally important. We recently reported on a shooter killed by a ricochet off a steel target. [Click here for info on steel target safety.] As these bright sparks learned, targets made of other materials also fight back. Always stay a safe distance from your target and wear eyes and ears. Otherwise, even a tiny fragment from your target can come back and blind you. You have been warned.

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    • Yep, went to watch a match and when one of the steel targets was hit a fragment came back and hit me in the chest. Wasn’t enough to cause pain or damage but I made sure to change my position since I was at an almost perfect angle for ricochet. Had eyes and ears before I left the car for just in case that day.

    • After catching some lead splatter off our 50-foot indoor range recently, I upgraded my eye pro as well based on the above article. My new bifocal safety glasses are rated well beyond Z87.1 for impact.

    • Thanks Paul- lost this link but used it in past- fancier look but still seems to be most detailed and “real” research. Have used Revision Sawfly’s for 3 years, now need a replacement- anyone use the Smith Optics Aegis Echo or Arc’s?
      Gonna give in to the reality of old age …. and get the doggone RX inserts, too.

      Caught a couple of itty bitty fragments in the shins awhile back when I forgot to check and used FMJs in a close in steel target range.

    • Paul, thanks for posting this. I had never seen it and I recently had some of my shooting gear stolen so I need new shooting glasses. So after reading it I ordered the Revision Sawfly which is a major upgrade from my previous glasses. BTW the Sawfly Essential Kit is on sale at Sportsmen’s Warehouse right now.

  1. Same type of thing happened to me back in the 90s.
    We used to use a tree in the woods to shoot at.
    Over the years we blew a hole in the tree about a foot across.
    One time shooting a bullet bounced back and hit me in the leg.
    It did indeed break the skin.
    There was so much lead and copper in that tree.
    Im surprised something didn’t happen sooner.
    Lesson learned well.

  2. Why would anyone put a target on a healthy tree and then not think it might weaken the tree
    Kill the tree?
    Tree won

    • People who use trees as target stands are idiots. One of my favorite shooting spots has had a very large tree killed that way and now there are probably 8 more that are dying a slow death.

      • Copper in a tree will kill is with absolute certainty over a period of a year to several years.

        In New England, one of the low-rent ways to kill trees and dry them on the stump for later harvesting was to hammer a copper nail into them.

  3. “…can come back and blind you.” Or in my case, permanently numb your pinky when that fragment hits a nerve. Haven’t gone shooting without glasses since!

  4. Why would you use a tree when you have a perfectly good backstop made of dirt a few measly feet to both the left and the right?

  5. Putting metal in a tree is a bad idea, look up spiking trees. While ammo is softer and probably wont stop a mill blade, its a bad practice.
    I prefer high earth berms to keep what i am shooting where i can personally vouch for where it went. Just in case.

  6. We have large Live Oaks under a hill that died of Oak Wilt years ago we use for bracing target. Difference is we attach backer board with duck tape and use adhesive targets. It’s used by me and my sister-in-law but if the guys decide to take a break from ranch chores come down to shoot, we insist on ear plugs/safety glasses and always have extras in range bags. We just don’t want to interupt a good range session to have to take someone to emergency room.

  7. In the area where I live shooting at healthy trees perpetuates the general public’s often negative view of people target shooting on public land as being nothing more than knuckle-dragging dimwits. It has successfully shut down some decent shooting spots over the years too.

    While I hope the dude wasn’t hurt, I hope he considers that there is a world outside of his head.

  8. At an indoor range for 10-metre UIT air rifle, we found the low velocity match guns (about 530fps) could occasionally bounce a pellet back to you. But the high-velocity hunting air rifles such as the Weirauch HW 77 and HW 80 would bounce the pellet off the angled back plates at you all the time.

    At the outdoor service range, until the buttstops were filled, getting hit by “bounceouts” was a regular problem.

    So you not only have to be aware of where the bullet goes if you miss. You also have to worry where it goes if you hit.


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