Review: Hill & Mac Gunworks Reactive Steel Targets

The pistol target right out of the box - completely assembled and ready to go.

The pistol target right out of the box - completely assembled and ready to go.

To be honest, I was not too thrilled to be asked to review a set of targets.  It’s not nearly as exciting as reviewing the newest combat carbine or high-speed pistol. So I reluctantly dragged 100+ pounds of steel to the range. Once we arrived and set up all our gear, I asked my range partner to time me while I opened and assembled the Hill & Mac Gunworks reactive steel targets so I could report on the time and difficulty of assembly. My shooting partner started his stopwatch, and I got to work. And then I discovered the first of several surprises that day: When I removed the HMG 8″ round pistol target, it was fully assembled.  All I needed to do was loosen the (very nice) canvas lashing strap, and the target stood up straight on its own, almost as if it was eager to get to work. And get to work we did.
The quarter-inch thick steel target was robust, truly built like a tank. In fact, the thick, matte OD green finish was reminiscent of an M4 Sherman. The weight of the target, the sturdiness of the build, and the clean but simple lines were reassuring, to say the least. The welds were clean, and the olive-and-white finish was uniform and pleasing to the eye, which is telling as to HMG’s attention to detail – obviously, time was spent to make these targets not only function well, but look good. This is a gratuitous plus for a piece of gear that is designed to be abused.
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The rear of the target. Note the large, red spring that gives the target its “reactive” properties.

The pistol target we received was a lollipop-style 8″ circle. The HMG targets rest on a thick steel triangle that lays flat on the ground. The target portion is attached to the base of the triangle, and stands up with the assistance of a spring mechanism attached to the frame. The springs that hold the target up also allow it to “react” – when the target is struck by a bullet, it will bow backwards (or just tilt a few degrees, depending on where the target is struck and how hard it is hit) then quickly pop back into place. The clean, white target surface will also show a black-and-silver mark where it was impacted, which is almost a shame because, like I said, the finish out of the box is quite good. The visible reaction to a hit is a great complement to the pleasing “ting-ting-ting” ringing of lead on steel.
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As you can tell, I quickly got over my apprehension about reviewing a target. This was fun.
I set up cameras to capture the function of the target, including a GoPro only feet away from the target. Shrapnel was very limited, relegated only to what we were calling the “zone of death” – a straight line in the ground parallel to and below the target, where nothing survived.
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The “zone of death” – the impressive rut created by the target’s downward reflection of shrapnel.

We were not worried about catching pieces of jacket when shooting 10 and 15 yards from the HMG target, as it seemed to deflect all material downward, minus the hull of the bullet, that might gently bounce off the surface of the target and land a few inches away (watch the pistol video very closely to see what I mean). Not only were these fun and well-made, but safe.

Hill & Mac Gunworks Reactive Steel Target Review (Pistol) from Pelican Handgun Instruction, LLC on Vimeo.

By the time we were finished with the pistol target, its formerly pristine, ivory finish was flecked with black and silver scars. Surprisingly, though, the target was still smooth to the touch. A new coat of paint, and you’ve basically got a new target. These are built to last.
Satisfied entirely with the pistol target, we moved to the rifle target. This beast came equipped with an IPSC-style torso silhouette and weighed substantially more than the pistol target. This was probably necessary, considering the additional durability that a rifle pounding demands.
The rifle target was simply a more robust clone of the pistol target, with the same general build, design, and excellent finish quality. The chief differences are the heavier base and the 1/2″ thick steel target plate, instead of the pistol target’s 1/4″ plate.
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The rifle target.

We truly abused the rifle target, smacking it over and over with 7.62×39 from a Saiga SGL-21 and a 16″ AR at relatively close ranges of 25 and 50 meters, sometimes with very rapid fire from the hip. The AK rounds did virtually no damage to the target at any range, while the much faster 55gr 5.56mm/.223 rounds would make the slightest impression at 25 meters. The rifle target was not as “reactive” as the pistol target, but that’s probably the nature of the beast when you need 1/2″ of plate steel to stop the intended round. That said, the twang of bullets striking steel rang loud and clear, even through ear protection, across the range – you know when you are hitting these targets…and it feels good.

Hill & Mac Gunworks Reactive Steel Target Review (Rifle) from Pelican Handgun Instruction, LLC on Vimeo.

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The rifle target: aftermath.

In conclusion, I can say that the Hill & Mac Gunworks reactive steel targets not only impressed me with their quality, but made a believer out of me. Spending an afternoon plinking these reactive targets with my same old gear was as fun as shooting paper with something new. Now if only the editors could send me that shiny, new battle rifle plus another HMG target, my entire weekend would slip away.
While I’ve told you about the surprises I encountered while putting these through the paces, pricing for these was about what you’d expect: not cheap. The pistol target we received is $499, and the rifle target is $599, but that’s the price you pay for quality. If a shooter had the means to leave these in place on a range, the convenience of having a durable and always-ready reactive target would pay for itself, not to mention that these are a blast. If you are in the market for a reactive target, do have a look at Hill & Mac.
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The author’s JJ-date-coded (1988) SIG P226, Herndon import, as used in this target review. This pistol has several thousand rounds through it without any cleaning or lubrication, and has yet to malfunction.

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The rifle target.

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The rear of the rifle target.

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The rifle target has a much harder job than the pistol target.



James Reeves

James Reeves is a licensed and practicing concealed weapons instructor, the winner of Maxim Magazine’s MAXIMum Warrior, a graduate of Front Sight, the Shooter Performance Institute, and Tier 1 Group, and is an Appleseed-qualified Rifleman. James previously owned and operated a gun shop in Tallahassee, FL and worked as a regional sales representative for distributor/importer, Interstate Arms Company. He is a coverage litigation attorney by day. James likes traveling with his wife, boating, America, photography, guns, gear he doesn’t really need, cold beer, and a little exercise here and there (James is also GORUCK Tough). Above all, James enjoys creating content for TFBTV. Follow James on Twitter @jjreeves.


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  • Joe V

    I wish my local range allowed steel targets 🙁

  • stephen

    Cool target but the local ranges will not allow any steel targets unless they angle downward. Too many incidents of sprawl hitting shooters and spectators.

    I would hope they could add the forward tilt to minimize sprawl and make it so the plate could be used on both sides = good stuff.

    • You could use a piece of 2×4 to lift the rear. I doubt that would aversely affect performance.
      Mine has a very slight forward tilt. It leaves a line of debri in a line right at the base of the target.
      The reviewed targets don’t have that, at least obviously seen, but the line of debri is still right at the base of the target.
      The smaller target that leans back when hit would put all of the debri into the berm.

    • JDubya

      Actually, all targets come with a tilt. These are very safe targets, I have shot them personally.

    • JDubya

      If you will look at the first pic of the pistol target, you can see the rear post which creates the tilt, this comes standard on all targets. Not sure why the rifle target is pictures without it.

    • Dan

      the targets from salute targets all have significant forward tilt to direct splatter straight down. they are also significantly cheaper than these. and they offer a much wider selection of targets rated up to 50bmg.

      anything welded is going to eventually break under the severe impact from high power rounds. the welded hinges also prevent the targets from being reversible.

  • I’m not sure the rifle target moves enough to be noticed, or enough to be classified as reactive for that matter.

    Perhaps more importantly, I’m afraid that hitting a steel target that’s knocked back, as shown in the pistol target video, would allow bullets to skip off the target and over the backstop. While I’m not sure that the bullet would have enough energy to be deadly after striking the target, but slugs breaking windows of a nearby home would be negative publicity that shooting ranges don’t need more of.

    • Dan

      rifle bullets literally explode when they hit steel, they basically vaporize. doesn’t even matter if it’s a glancing blow. if they touch anything, they basically disintegrate.

      pistol bullets completely flatten out when they hit steel. any hit at an angle low enough to not flatten it would also not be an angle high enough to send it over the backstop.

      rocks are a more serious threat, rocks give a little when hit – either fracturing/chipping or from slight elasticity. so you can get real ricochets off rocks. steel doesn’t give at all.

      • Dan

        Um….what?

        • Dan

          And no we are not the same Dan

  • Alan Lavender

    I personally own a gun range and we do allow steel on our range. The pistol target design appears to be a nightmare for range owners. After the first shot each subsequent shot sends the next round that hits it at dangerous angles, not to the shooter, but the rounds will ricochet over a berm. This has been seen many times with falling pepper poppers being shot twice. The first shot is fine, but the next shot will send a round over a berm. These would not be allowed on my range. It is a really neat concept, but I think the design lends itself to future issues of bullets being sent where they don’t belong.