Editor’s Note: This is the ninth article in our ongoing Christmas buyer’s guide. While the items we’re highlighting are not exactly stocking stuffers, we’re only featuring products in the $150 range or less that we think represent exceptional value. Stay tuned for more great gifts ideas targeted at your favorite gunslinger.
As everyone who regularly visits the Kokohead range knows by now, “temporary indefinite” closure of Koko Head Rifle Range was announced Dec. 6, 2013 by the Mayor’s Office. This followed limitation of the rifle range to 100 yard targets effective November 1, 2013 after bullet strikes were reported to two homes in late Oct., 2013, one in the Queen’s Gate housing area and the other on Koko Kai Place. Thankfully, all other ranges at the Koko Head Shooting Complex remain open.
The upshot, so to speak, means that when the rifle range reopens, if you’re interested in shooting at metal, you’re going to have to byo.
Fortuitously, we were able to acquire a very solid Gong Target from Weldon Spring, Missouri-based Custom Metal Products. Established in in 2010 it was founded for the specific purpose of producing high quality steel shooting targets. The principals of CMP are life-long shooters with extensive backgrounds in engineering, manufacturing and an interest in continuous innovation. The company President, HR Eddens, told me that “CMP prides itself on producing the most innovative, easiest to use targets for the recreational, competitive, and law enforcement shooter.”
Why a gong?
They make the most sense for both a rifle and pistol shooter who wants the instant feedback (and gratification) that only metal can provide. Eddens said the CMP’s 3/8” thick AR500 steel is suitable for use with handgun or rifle calibers and that one of the company’s most popular products is the Gong Target.
For those who are not familiar with a gong, it’s a circular target hung from an A-frame style stand. Eddens suggested that it’s something akin to a kid’s swing. (I wonder if kids nowadays still do that!? But that’s another story).
What we liked about the CMP Gong was that it was easy to assemble. Simply bolt a couple of short lengths of chain to the gong and hang it from the frame from a couple of hooks that fit inside the chain links. Pretty easy.
In fact all you need is one tool—a good sized crescent wrench and you are in business. Putting the actual frame together took no tools—it was just a matter of fitting four angle irons into four slots and bingo you’ve got a gong ready for action. This was something that even sometimes technically challenged gun writers can do.
So what exactly do you look for in a gong target?
If you’re shopping around for a steel shooting target, Mr. Eddens suggests that the most important feature is the steel. From our research the industry standard is to use targets made from AR500 hardened steel. “Any lesser grade of steel,” says the CMP President, “will be softer and will be damaged by bullet impact. When hard steel is used the surface remains flat with minimal dimpling due to the bullet impact. With a hard flat surface, bullet splatter is controlled and minimized. At impact the bullet will shatter into tiny fragments that fall near the target. There is no ricochet with hard, flat steel targets.”
He also notes that if softer steel is used, the surface will be severely pitted and cratered. This will result in unpredictable bullet splatter and possible ricochet. It is even possible for some rifle calibers to produce holes in softer steel. If you’ve been over to the silhouette side of the Koko Head range you’ll certainly have seen that phenomena.
Safety of course is always paramount. Eddens told us there were a few safety guidelines to remember when using steel targets. He reiterated that it was best to stick with AR500 hardened steel.
This is steel that has been heat treated to 500 Brinnell hardness through the entire thickness. AR500 steel is rated for handguns at 15 yards or more and for most rifles at 100 yards or more. The velocity at impact should be less than 3000 ft/sec at impact to prevent damage to the steel targets. It’s not a good idea to use steel core or armor piercing ammunition with steel targets–otherwise you’re going to get a steel plate that resembles Swiss cheese.
Unless you have your own private range—and few of us in Hawaii do, you’re going to need to transport a target with you. One issue that we were concerned about was the weight and portability factor. The structure is pretty substantial (the entire assembly weighs about 47 lbs) and we wondered how easy it was to get around. What we did was deploy the services of a battered duffle bag that was headed for the garbage dump. In fact, it made a perfect carrier. I must say, we hit the bullseye on that one.
We were happy to find out that the CMP gong got great reviews from Hilo-based Jim O’Keefe, an NRA Certified Instructor and Trainer who serves as President of the Big Island Gun Club, and as a board member of the Hawaii Rifle Association. Jim had nothing but good things to say about the CMP gong. He uses a 16” gong for his classes as well as a dueling tree, also manufactured by CMP. O’Keefe says that students get bored using paper and that reactive targets such as the gong are a great tool to reinforce skills and shooting fundamentals. He stated, “We’ve put everything up to a .338 on the CMP gong and the only thing to come off was the paint.” (A fresh spray coat of paint fixes that). He added that there was “no cratering”.
How did Jim come to choose the CMP targets?
He said at the Shot Show last year, there were six or seven vendors and that CMP had a “nice variety of targets and good pricing”. He added that the bigger vendors “won’t give you the time of day” whereas CMP treated everyone the same—whether you were a volume buyer or not.
Suffice it to say we liked the Gong setup. It’s solid, safe and the only maintenance you’ll have to perform is an occasionally spray paint to keep exposed areas from oxidizing.
This is sturdy, well engineered product and at an MSRP of $184, it’s very reasonably priced.