CTS AR500 Steel Targets: First Look & Trials

Recently we gave brought you some news on CTS Targets choosing Oregon based Chevalier Advertising as their lead marketing agency. Well since running that article we have been fortunate enough to acquire a CTS AR500 3/8″ thick steel target, complete with the companies’ four-legged base. The Minnesota based company reached out to us a few weeks back and asked if we wanted to test one of their steel targets, So of course we said yes almost immediately. At the point of the contact we didn’t really care what they sent, we actually sort of enjoyed the mystery of it all.

What did CTS Targets send us ? 

I was sitting in my cubicle not expecting anything out of the ordinary when I got a text from UPS Ground, which here in Alaska is an anomaly anyway, which added to the mystery. We here at the site were aware a target was coming but we weren’t sure when it would arrive or what it would be. Checking the UPS tracking system I noticed the package weighted 24 lbs, so whatever they were sending had a bit of weight to it for sure. When it arrive all I knew was that I had one single box on my door step.

I quickly tore into the box and scattered the contents and foam packing peanuts across my work bench looking for the parts, and mounting hardware. When the dust settled it turns out CTS Targets send me the perfect set up. The box contained a complete set up that sell market as the 2 x 4 x Base Pro Kit. It’s has a few variations that I will get detail, but the kit we were sent contains the following.

Included in the 2 x 4 x Base Pro Kit:

  • 3/8″ Thick AR500 Target 12″ Diameter
  • CTS Pro Hangar
  • CTS X Ground Base made of 1.4″ thick steel  (22″ x 25″ foot print)
  • 1/2″ Grade 8 mounting bolts & Hardware
Image:Rick Dembroski
CTS Pro Hangar and Mounting Spring/Hardware

I’ve owned several steel targets over the past few years and some of them have been much worse than advertised, other brands that I own and regularly use have in excess of 5000 rounds on them and still running strong. I’m no stranger to steel targets so I have a decent idea on what has worked for me and what has been sub par. The CTS AR500 Target at first glance appears to be every bit the equal of my other high quality targets, but that’s not because they do the same thing, but rather what they do differently than some other steel target manufacturers. In a CTS Target the owner should notice the small details that set the company apart from the rest of the pack.

When I first opened the boxes I quickly inventoried the contents to make sure I didn’t have to run to the store for extra bolts and nuts, I immediately noticed the finish on the CTS brackets. The bracket and base of the kits comes wrapped tightly with plastic wrap which protects the glossy black powder coated finish that the company applies to all their target brackets and bases. The powder coating on all the brackets, and bases was even and didn’t have any sights of cracks, smears or debris in the finish. It was clear to me that whoever prepared and coated these brackets took their time and didn’t cut corners.

The 2 x 4 x Base Pro kit comes in three different price points with three different diameter AR500 targets , the 8″ kit at $144.99, the 10″ kit with a price of $154.99 and the most expensive the 12″ diameter kit with a price point of $164.99. The 12″ target I received in my kit had nice smooth edges around the entire outside diameter and showed to markings or slag on the edges. This is most likely because CTS uses lasers to cut their round targets out of the stock steel. I’m not an expert in lasers, and honestly have no idea how they work. What I do know is that the steel target that CTS sent me cut clean, precise and with no signs of abnormalities or defects. Again CTS gets high marks for it’s staff’s attention to detail

Image:Rick Dembroski
Adjustable Tension Screw

There are a few other things about this CTS kit that sets is above other brands and that is it’s tension screws that are found on the back of the base and the plate hangar. Anyone who knows about lumber knows that a 2″ x 4″ board is not a dimensionally correct. It is actually 1.5″ x 3.5″ on average, with average being the key word in that phrase. CTS makes their brackets slightly larger to accommodate non standard lumber, but they added a feature other companies don’t have and that is a lumber tension screw. The large screw that runs through the back of the brackets allows you the ability to put tension on the wood post and remove any wobble that might be in the assembly due to the gaps between the wood and the brackets. Often times with my other steel targets I have had to make a wedge and shove it between the wooden post and base plates to reduce the wobble in the target. This isn’t a problem with the CTS set up, and the list of things I like about this target keep growing.

CTS makes targets in 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 inch thicknesses and any of the targets the company sells will fit on the hangar provided with this kit. The company provides a full color catalog with their kits that tells any potential user right up front the safe distances to engage this target with rimfire, pistol or centerfire rifle rounds. It also tells you the 1/2″ AR500 target is rated to .300 Lapua at a range of 200 yards. One other note that the company provides a word of warning that any round traveling at a rate of more than 3000 feet per second can damage the target, this is a first for me to see, a company providing that information in a hand out with each target sold.

Range Time Testing and Impressions: 

During our first range session with the CTS steel set up we were short on time so we kept the Phase 1 testing to only 9mm full metal jacketed 115 grain rounds from Union Metallic Cartridge Company. We routinely use UMC because we are very familiar with the way it shoots, its incredibly consistent ammo and never seems to cause our test guns to jam. It also happens to be sold at reasonably decent prices and when we buy the 250 round bulk pack it’s easier to calculate the amount of rounds shot.

The target performed exactly like we thought it would, each time a round would strike the face the clear crisp “PING” echoed all across our shooting range. Over and over the rounds struck the 3/8″ AR500 steel and each time the 12″ diameter plate that was sent to us rocked back slightly. The spring that is supplied with the CTS target acts as a mini shock absorber and helps to control the gentle rocking of the plate. The energy from the impacts did push the plate back against the 2″x 4″ center post and left a slight mark in the wood. This is completely acceptable because the wooden post is what I consider a consumable item. It is not designed to last thousands of rounds. The wooden post in fact takes the brunt of the rounds being deflected downwards.

Image: Rick Dembroski
12″ Diameter AR500 Plate

Would I Buy This ? 

That’s a question that any firearms or outdoor reviewer should ask themselves, and if they don’t then they are being dishonest. In a word…Yes, I would buy a CTS target and run it for as long as I could without hesitation. Is it the best target on the market all things considering ? That is a tough question and one that I will leave up to you, the consumer. There are a lot of little things that CTS does to make itself stand out from it’s competition, and we noticed that. The way a user can use the set screws to secure the post, base, and head together makes it easier to move than other systems we have used.

CTS Target Systems also makes A-B-C area patterned IPSC targets as well as a wide range of other types of steel targets. All of the different styles of targets can be used on the head bracket we were sent to evaluate. That makes this target ideal for training for IPSC or defensive type shooting while using the larger silhouette pattern or switch to the smaller circle targets and practice precision rifle shooting from hundreds of yards away. The company has all of their types, sizes and thicknesses displayed on their web site which is listed below. We want to take a moment to say thanks to the guys at Competition Target Systems or CTS as they are more commonly known as, for sending us this awesome set up. I also want to mention that the base, 12″ target, bracket and hardware all come in a single 24 lb box and takes about 15 minutes to set up, that includes measuring and cutting a correct length 2″ x 4″ board.

We hope you enjoyed this look at CTS Targets, be sure to check out the link and you should give them serious consideration if you are in the market for a steel target.

CTS Targets can be seen at their web site www.CTSTargets.Com

Image: Rick Dembroski 3/8″ AR500 Steel Plate

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