Review: Champion AR-500 Steel Pop-Up Target

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posted on October 1, 2017
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AR-500 steel is becoming more and more popular as the range target of choice for the modern shooter, and companies are working double-time to provide a wide range of easy-to-use interactive steel targets for consumers. One of the 2017 introductions to the target market is the Champion AR-500 Steel Pop-Up Target.

The new Steel Pop-Up Target from Champion's Center-Mass Steel lineup adds a new level of interactive shooting, thanks to the target's auto-reset capability. The target is available in two sizes: 14 inches x 4 inches and 20 inches x 6 inches. We received the larger 20x6 target for testing at HQ, and a few things stood out to use about this new offering.

The first thing to note is the target is made from 3/8-inch AR500 steel, which means it can be used with everything from rimfire handguns to magnum-caliber rifles, provided that users stay outside the prescribed safety distances. In order to preserve the target for years of shooting, Champion also provides the maximum foot-pounds of energy that can be dispersed upon impact. For the Steel Pop-Up Target, the company recommends projectile velocity to be less than 2,500 feet per second when it hits the steel.

As for distance, when using full-metal jacketed ammunition, 15 yards is the recommended safe distance with handguns and rimfire rifles and pistols. Non-magnum centerfire rifle rounds, such as the 5.56 NATO, should be shot no less than 100 yards away from the target, and shooters of magnum-level rifles should maintain a safe distance of 250 yards.

When it first arrives, the Champion AR-500 Steel Pop-Up Target requires a bit of assembly to get going. The base must be put together using two included hex bolts and nylon locking nuts. The target mount is attached to the AR-500 steel target with two carriage bolts, and the whole assembly is locked together with a single hex bolt that mates the target, base and return spring together.

During the assembly phase, we discovered that putting enough tension on the spring in order to allow the hex bolt to slide through the requisite openings in the mount and base required a couple pairs of hands, so have a buddy on-hand. Another thing to note when tightening the nylon locking nut that holds everything together is that the nut cannot be locked down too tight. Otherwise, the pressure from the nut prevents the spring from returning the target to its original position.

When assembled correctly, the AR-500 steel target should be facing downward at a 10- to 15-degree angle to deflect bullet fragments into the dirt below the target. If your target isn't facing downward, simply adjust the carriage bolts holding the target to the mount until it does. The Champion AR-500 Steel Pop-Up Target also ships with four sharpened stakes that help to anchor the unit into the ground.

On the range, the steel performed as advertised, receiving fired rounds with a satisfying "clang!" The target also sprung back into action quickly after every hit, allowing for fairly rapid follow-up shots. The AR-500 Steel Pop-Up Target retails at a suggested price of $159.95, which certainly makes it a more substantial investment than a stack of plain paper targets. Paper gets boring, though, and depending on how much you shoot, the investment in disposable targets can add up over the years.

With the Center Mass line of steel targets, those same years of range practice and plinking can be served with one interactive steel target that provides instant feedback and doesn't require running a fresh target up after every string. If the popper-style design doesn't strike your fancy, there are dozens of other options on Champion's website. However, the Champion AR-500 Steel Pop-Up Target is one of a new wave of interactive targets changing the shooting world with one "Plink!" at a time.

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