Caldwell Magnum Rifle Gong Review
April 19, 2011

I'm not trying to say I'm old, but I have been shooting for over 40 years.  Throughout this time I have always enjoyed reactive style targets over simply punching holes in paper.  I know there is a clear need for accuracy shooting and paper gives you measurable results, but it's hard to dispute the sheer fun of a "hit/miss" approach of reactive targets.  For close ranges, I have used nearly anything that I could throw out in front of me. For longer ranges I have shot at bottles (glass or plastic and with or without water), tennis balls or cans hanging from tree limbs, balloons placed on sticks, and nearly anything else I could find to have a little fun.  With this approach, the big problem is having a supply of these item and resetting the target area after a shooting session.  As with most problems, the right application of time and money can solve nearly anything. 

When I started considering what I wanted out of a reactive target, I decided on two things, a combination of sound and motion.  The questions then became how much of each, what was I planning to shoot, and what type of material?.  After much consideration, I decided I wanted my first target to be biased towards rifles with a plan of using the target to around 400 yards which is the maximum distance possible at my shooting range.  Since seeing the target clearly at those distances becomes more challenging with each year of age, I definitely wanted to put sound as a higher priority over motion.  Also knowing that it would receive much abuse over the coming years with each new rifle review, I decided on hardened steel for the material.  After doing a little research, I quickly found out that hardened steel was not cheap.  Another "nice to have" for a target would be some type of portable stand so I could move it to different distances easily.  From all this, I felt I was heading in the direction of some type of gong target 8" to 10" in diameter that comes with a stand, so the search was on.

If you do a search on Google for "gong target" you will find several manufacturers of this type of target.  During my search, I came across Caldwell's new Magnum Rifle Gong target.  After a quick look at the photo and specs, the combination of portable design, AR550 steel, high power rifle capable, and the 10" gong seemed to meet my needs very nicely.  Next I glanced over at the MSRP of $169.99 and thought I had to be able to find a better price on the web.  After doing a quick search, I found the Caldwell Magnum Rifle Gong (Battenfeld Product Item Number # 223375 ) for $112 at MidSouthShootersSupply.com and decided the street price was competitive so I wanted to get one for a review and future use.

The following text in colored italics was taken directly from the Battenfeld Technologies (Caldwell) website on 4/5/2011 and gives an Overview, Features, and Specifications for the Magnum Rifle Gong.  The , and are my way to keep up with details that I have covered in this review with either photos, commentary or both.  I may also add commentary after these marks as necessary to explain some items if needed.

Overview:

  • The Magnum Rifle Gong is a high quality, extremely durable steel target designed to withstand repeated shots from all calibers of high-powered rifles and handguns.
  • It comes complete with a freestanding frame, chains and gong. 
  • The overall size of the target system is 38 in. wide by 33 in. tall.
  • The gong has a 10 in. diameter and is 3/8 inch thick. Actual diameter of 9.25" with a height of 10. 13"
  • The center of the target hangs 18 in. above the ground. I measured 14.25" above the ground.
  • Weighs approximately 21 pounds. For the stand and gong
  • Portability to and from the range is not problem with the Magnum Rifle Gong. I'm not sure I would want the price to increase, but a simple tote bag would have been a nice touch.
  • The frame is constructed of steel tubing which requires no tools to assemble or disassemble, and entire system packs down for easy transportation.
  • The complete system weighs only 25 pounds. System weight seems to be 21 pounds
  • Constructed of industry leading AR-550 steel tested to a Brinell hardness of 550, the Magnum Rifle Gong is designed to withstand bullet impacts without compromising the gong integrity.
  • It is designed to be shot at a minimum distance of 100 yards, for maximum life expectancy impact velocities of 3,000 fps and below are recommended.

Features:

  • AR-550 Steel construction for professional grade durability
  • Designed to withstand impacts with all high power rifles and handguns
  • Complete with freestanding frame, chains and 10" gong Should say 10" gong height (from top to bottom) to match the box

Specifications:

  • Target System 38 in. wide x 33 in. tall 
  • Gong 10 in. diameter x 3/8 in. thick Actual diameter of 9.25" with a height of 10. 13"
  • Weight of System 25 lbs. System weight seems to be 21 pounds
  • Weight of Gong 21 lbs. Weighed in at 7.9 lbs.

When the Caldwell Magnum Rifle Gong target arrived, it was boxed as shown below.  You can click on a photo throughout this review to bring up a high resolution photo allowing you to see more details as needed.

Figure 1

Figure 2

The photo below shows the contents of the box before unwrapping the items.

Figure 3

After fully unpacking and unwrapping, the photo below shows each of the components.

Figure 4

The stand and target comes with a set of instructions, but it doesn't take much skill to figure out how to assembly the  items just from looking at the photo on the box.  After figuring out how to assemble it once, disassembly and reassembly is fast and easy.  With it fully assembled, you can pick the entire assembly up from the top bar as one piece to move it to your desired location.

Figure 5

The gong height measured 14.25" above the ground which is less than the 18" stated in the Overview, but I don't think this is of any real significance for the product.  In the photo below you can see it comes with two spikes even though the box said not included.

Figure 6

Figure 7

The diameter of the circular section of the gong actually measured 9.25" and the total height measured 10.18".  The diameter is less than stated in the specifications, but because of the height I feel it is good enough.

Figure 8                                                                     Figure 9             
  

The gong thickness (including paint) was 0.39" which is clearly a 3/8" plate.  The weight of the gong was 7.9 pounds which was significantly less than the 21 pounds stated in the specifications, but this reduction is actually in favor of the product due to it being lighter than advertised and easier to carry.  The stand weighed in at slightly over 13 pounds including the spikes, with gives a total weight of about 21 pounds.

Figure 10                                                         Figure 11                     
  

The gong is hung by 5/16 chain on both sides with 3/8" S-Hook attaching the chains to the gong.

Figure 12


 

Range Testing

For my range tests, I took the Caldwell Magnum Rifle Gong to a Shoot-A-Rama (all weekend shooting event) at my property.  We had 11 shooters with various levels of shooting skills ranging from near first time shooters to a few hard core marksmen/hunters.  I setup the gong on one end of the dam.  Since the top of the dam was a road and I didn't have a hammer with me, I only pushed the spikes half way into the ground with my foot.  Later in the video, you will see I should have hammered them in all the way.

Figure 13

Figure 14

Although the literature states your minimum distance should be 100 yards for shooting the gong, I decided to setup at 75 yards to give it a slightly more extreme test, but at a distance I felt was still safe for high power rifles.

Figure 15

My first 10 shots were with my FNAR .308 rifle shooting 147 grain PMC full metal jacket ammo.  If you click on the image and zoom in, you can see there is only very slight dimples which were just barely larger than the dimples you would find on a golf ball.  The large marks are just where the paint was knocked off the target due to the deformation of the bullet and splatter. You can view these 10 shots by watching the video found at this link, Video Showing First 10 Shots.  The video will take a moment to load.  From the video you will see I should have driven the spikes all the way into the ground.

Figure 16

Next I setup a table at the 75 yard range and let everyone shoot whatever rifles they wanted at the target.  The bulk of ammo shot at this point was .223 FMJ, but we did have some more .22LR, .308 Win, and .44 Magnum shot at the gong.  The photo below shows a friend of mine shooting my Ruger SR-556c.

Figure 17

It is hard for me to actually know how many shots were fired at the gong throughout the weekend, but I'm fairly certain it was over 500 shots.  In the photo below you can see that we shot the paint off one side and I repainted it with some orange paint so it would more visible.  Again click on the image and zoom in and you will see there are no significant dents in the AR550 steel plate from this abuse.

Figure 18

Figure 19

For my last shot on the gong, I flipped it to the non shot side and had a friend shoot his .300 Winchester Magnum rifle at the gong from 75 yards.  You can watch the video of this shot at this link, Last Shot With Magnum Rifle.  This shot did make a dimple that measured about .038" deep, but you should you expect something from a 165 grain Accubond bullet traveling at just over 3000 feet/second (around 3400 ft-lbs of energy at the target).  In reality, you would seldom shoot this gong with this type of rifle at this distance.  We shot the gong at 400 yards on the other side of the plate and could not find any marks near the size of this one below.  AR550 steel is about the most durable steel you will find in metal targets today.  Most targets utilize the AR500 steel which is good, but the AR550 steel in the Caldwell Magnum Rifle Gong has a higher Brinell hardness which should make it slightly more durable than other metal targets.

Figure 20

You can see the splatter pattern below the target and the plate that Caldwell added to reduce the wear in that are of the stand due to the splatter.

Figure 21

The photo below shows the side support of the stand.  Caldwell also added a wear plate, but I feel the wear plate should have extended further down/forward to a point at the approximate same distance forward as the lower wear plate.

Figure 22

The area I found that had the most significant wear due to bullet splatter was the lower back of the upper support bar.  You can see in the photos below that some of the bullet fragments penetrated this portion of the square tube.  I think this additional wear may be due to this bar's closer proximity to the gong.

Figure 23

Figure 24

You can see below that a bullet fragment passed through the upper side of the tube also.

Figure 25

 

Bottom Line

I'm pleased with the Caldwell Magnum Rifle Gong.  I think it has a couple of areas that should include more wear plates to make the stand more durable, but I see no structural issues with the actual gong.  The chain and S-hooks are beefy enough to take some abuse, but I recommend keeping an eye on them because at some point they will wear out because the steel in them is not as hard as that in the gong.  When they do wear out, go to your local Home Depot and get replacements.  I fully understand the difficulty of kicking off a new product and the discrepancies between the advertising and the actual product geometry will probably be updated by Caldwell at some point.  The one thing I wish would have come in the package was a cheap bag to put everything in for transport and storage, but this would probably knock up the price of the target and you may be able to find something yourself once the box wears out.  I feel the real benefits to this product are first that you get a portable and quick-to-setup stand which substantiates the price, and second you get an extremely durable gong target that will probably last you a lifetime.  If you enjoy shooting, I highly recommend getting gong targets because of the fun reactive nature of the target.  After two weekends of heavy shooting, I can see that this style of targets is a must have at any shooting event.


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