Steel Shooting Targets: How to Paint and Extend Their Life

Steel shooting targets are made of, well, steel, And steel rusts.

Fortunately, paints like metal-protecting Rust-Oleum, are the perfect way to prevent rusting and extend the useful life of your steel shooting targets. Even if you just bought brand new steel shooting targets, and they came painted, they are eventually going to need a fresh coat.

There are three basic steps to protecting your steel shooting targets from rust and for keeping them attractive:

  1. Prep
  2. Paint
  3. Let Dry

Let’s take a look at how to get ‘er done..

Preparing Your Steel Shooting Targets for Painting

Quality paints like Rust-Oleum are specially formulated to protect metals like steel from the effects of the environment. But even the best paint will flake and peel if the surface you apply it to is not properly prepared. Here’s how you do that:

Step 1: Wash the surface with a general purpose cleaning product, or dish detergent, or one of the Rust-Oleum recommended cleaning products, to remove the accumulated dirt, grease, etc. Rinse thoroughly and let the surface dry completely.

Step 2: Remove any scale, rusted areas or previous coatings with a scraper, wire brush, sandpaper, or whatever it takes to get the surface smooth and ready to paint. You do not have to get down to the bare metal. The goal here is to create a surface that paint can adhere to. If you make the surface too smooth, the paint won’t have anything to adhere to.

So, don’t worry if portions of the paint and rust cannot be removed. If those areas seem to have blended in with the steel target surface, and can’t be scraped or lifted with a putty knife, it’s all good. These are called adherent surfaces and you’ll be able to paint over them just fine.

Applying The Paint

Paint color choices are up to you. You might want to return the target to the original paint color, or choose something entirely new. Whether or not you apply a primer coat is entirely up to you. A lot of people don’t bother, especially if the surface has not been taken down to the bare metal.

 If you are using a brush or roller, apply a thin coat. Let it dry for at least an hour before applying a second coat. Two coats should do the trick.

If you are spraying the paint, be sure to shake the can for a minute after the steel ball starts clattering. Hold the nozzle 10 to 12 inches from the steel target surface. Apply even coats, a section at a time, using a sweeping motion. Always start from the top and work towards the bottom. Again, let the paint dry for at least an hour between coats and apply as many coats as needed to completely cover the surface.

Drying Time

It is important to let the paint dry completely before subjecting the steel target to a barrage of bullets. Drying times are dependent on ambient temperature and humidity levels.

According to the Rust-Oleum company:

“Dry and recoat times are based on 70°F and 50% relative humidity. Allow more time at cooler temperatures. Dries tack-free in 2-4 hours, to handle in 5-9 hours, and is fully dry in 24 hours. Apply a second coat within 1 hour or after 48 hours.”

It’s Time to Start Shooting!

Freshly painted steel shooting targetsOnce your steel targets have dried, and you are satisfied with the results, load up your firearms and start enjoying that sweet ping of bullets hitting your freshly painted steel shooting target.

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