If there is a target type more routinely satisfying than steel, we’re open to suggestions. We grant that others may be more necessary, dramatic or even fulfilling (in several senses of that word), but few—ding in and ding out—are so much fun.
There was a time when the fun was seriously eroded and corroded by several annoying and unsafe attributes, most of which boiled down to one thing—inappropriate base materials for the targets. Long story short and the good news: Unless you pay an absurdly low price—and, deep down, you’ll know it’s too little—most of the rust-to-pieces, rimfire-only (and barely up to that), never-did-work-right junk has finally been chased out of the marketplace.
Despite necessarily higher costs, shooters have played a sensible part. It appears most have decided to own a couple of good steel targets rather than hunt through, buy and discard cheesy ones. We put ourselves in this group too, by the by—our hopefully acquired junk went to the recycler’s long ago. It’s no leap to guess what mostly replaced it: Mike Gibson Manufacturing specimens of one type or another (here, here and here).
The latest thing they’ve sent along we introduced in our NRA Annual Meetings coverage (here, 7 of 9), and it makes us chuckle still. Why in the world somebody didn't think of this sooner is the main cause: MGM’s real name is, “Steel Challenge Plate Rack,” but the one that’s going to stick is, “Plate Rack in a Bucket.”
Most folks get into relatively serious “coveting” trouble once they shoot on a plate rack. Simply speaking, they rock because they have it all—reactivity (something happens when you score a hit), simple hit repair (a can of spray paint will see you handily through more ammo than you can probably justify, money-wise), multiple ways to “skin the cat” (you can build a host of different skills) and no trudging-to-reset (in theory, you could practice from geosynchronous orbit with a sufficiently long rope).
And now, a single person can load one in his or her (tiny) car, set it up in about three minutes and plink away ad infinitum for $299 (free shipping, to boot). Rather than 225- to nearly 400-pound (and $900 to roughly $2000) systems that are great, but essentially a team proposition, the 44-pound “Bucket” puts six hexagonal plates and their “hangers” in a steel bucket. Two clever brackets complete the toolless set up: In combination with structural components you cut from readily available 2x4s, you’ll be shooting in pretty much no time.
It’d be easy to go on and on. Like our other MGM kit, there are thought-out details at almost every turn. Variable height is one that strikes us right off: Nestled on shortish legs at the base of your backstop, you’ll have uncommonly good control of those inevitable edge hits that don’t altogether destroy the projectile, and be far more likely to keep them down and safe.
Just one word comes to mind: Easy. Photo by A1F Staff
Another is AR500 steel. Used correctly and with the proper hanger technology, the plates themselves are incredibly tough. Most pistol calibers won’t leave any mark at all—except on the paint—at the recommended 15 yards, and rifle practice is very much in play. Anything over 3,100 fps probably needs to be shot at 125 yards or farther, but anything slower won’t pit at all, even at 100. (Hangers are the same ultra-tough material.)
Alternate sides if you want to be super-safe; one for pistol, and the other for rifle. That way, any dimples have essentially no chance of round-the-cornering anything back at you instead of obliterating projectile as they normally would. Better yet, just follow the distance rules.
A last note: Part of the reason the Steel Challenge/Bucket plate rack is so affordable is that it goes into the bucket “as cut.” This means no paint, no grinding, no sanding to dress the plates up. Just be a tad careful in handling, and all will be well. Use, of course, will tidy them up some too. The important point is that no cost is spared on the quality of the targets.
It would not be exactly fair to claim Ken Kelly “bullied” us into sending a cherished Glock 43 slide off to him in Michigan—we called him, after all. Nor would it be like him, being a polite Midwesterner and all. But suffice it to say he was, ah, less than subtle about what a good idea he thought it would be.
Based on past experience, we would have been cracked not to believe him, so off it went. And in modern, abbreviated argot, the best description of the returned article may be “OMG!”
A1F readers may already know we’re comparatively major fans (and early adopters) of the smallest Glock 9 mm (here and here). Despite modest proportions, it’s a surprisingly unpunishing pistol, even with stout defensive ammunition, and accuracy and reliability are, well, typical Glock. “Superb,” we think, covers it.
The Mag-na-ported version we’ve now been running for a couple of weeks? It is simply burnishing that already-excellent estimation of the little single stack.
Trademark trapezoidal ports in both the barrel and slide. No re-finishing, either; ready to go. Photo by A1F Staff
If you’re still in what-the-heck-are-they-talking-about land, the short version is as follows. The Mag-na-port process cuts “ports” into firearm barrels (and slides, on auto-loaders) that allow the passing projectile to act as a sort of valve for propulsive gases behind the projectile. The size, shape and positioning of the ports vent those gases to varying degrees and reduce recoil-induced muzzle movement. You can whack somewhere between 15 and 35 percent of felt recoil off a given firearm—revolver or semi-auto, long gun or short, even shotguns—without changing aim/impact point or downrange ballistics in any consequential respect.
We are not suggesting that your G43—or one you are perhaps considering—needs improvement. But that’s very different from suggesting it can’t be improved, and the absurd grins produced by our ported G43 by everyone who has shot it are all the proof we need to recommend such a modification with vigor. Even Glock nonfans are finding it disturbing in an amusing, alluring way.
A couple of things to remember about ports, however, and especially on defensive pistols. There’s a school of thought—and practice—that recommends against porting in fairly strident terms, and we follow the argument(s) to some extent. The first is generally along the lines of, “They wreck dark-accommodated vision.” We respectfully think this is highly non-uniform: We’ve tried it many times ourselves, and find little degradation compared to normal muzzle signature; other shooters we very much respect find it all but disabling. We hope to have some objective data soon to help you assess for yourself (and specifically on the side-by-side G43 front, to boot).
The second is more serious: Those vented gases which so splendidly tame recoil are hot. Very hot. Burning-you hot. In normal shooting situations, this factoid is of no consequence, but the same is not true for some defensive circumstances, namely “retention” positions, or shots inside vehicles. In these, the firearm is often and of necessity closer to the body when a shot is taken, meaning the venting occurs closer to the face and particularly the eyes. We experimented fairly extensively here, and did notice pressure, but no heat. But find a vented or comp’d gun to try, maybe, if this is a concern.
Note too, that a small technique adjustment will likely render this moot. Start with the gun low but extendedaway from the torso, and bring the trigger press/shot position back toward you slowly. When you start to feel the “puff,” as we did, that is close enough. We found this handily indexed to the inside of the elbow. There’s still very strong retention, but now tiny risk of ejecta, over-pressure or gas reaching the eyes and face.
Even non-Glock shooting pals were nothing short of dazzled by our “new” version of the fine G43. Photo by A1F Staff
The last is a pet peeve of sorts, or at least a side effect of said peeve. We’ve no objection to “+P” ammunition, unless it is an excuse for poor or timid pistolcraft. The first manifests along the lines of, “I don’t need to be that accurate because I’ve got stopping power enough for peripheral hits to work!” Really? Please turn in your permit: You are a jerk and a fool, and will eventually embarrass the shooting community. Accuracy always matters more than caliber or virtually any other expression of power. Period.
The “timid” part is more subtle. An at-length discussion can be found here, but the upshot for our purposes is simple: Across most of the ammunition spectrum, Mag-na-porting will admirably improve the comfort of shooting a G43, and certainly of +P varieties. If, however, you’re thinking of porting as a way to skate by the recoil vs. gun handling reality, think again: Train with the power level you expect to need and use in any defensive firearm.
But if you’re hoping to simply enjoy your G43 more, a trip to Mag-na-port is as sure a winner as we know.
Frank Winn has been studying arms and their relationship to tyranny, meaningful liberty and personal security all his adult life. He has been a firearms safety/shooting instructor for more than 20 years, and earned state, regional and national titles in several competitive disciplines.