I have belonged to an indoor range for about two years now. I practice every week or two. The range runs “Action Handgun Pin Shooting” on Tuesday nights. I gave it a try this week. Gun guru Massad Ayoob wrote a book on pin shooting back in the early 1980’s, and the sport appears to have started back in the early 1970’s.  I did my research the day after my first attempt, which wasn’t the proper order . . .

For my range, normal matches consist of a couple rounds of practice shooting metal targets shaped like bowling pins, followed by double elimination tournaments: one for rim-fire .22 and one for any center-fire handgun. Once a month, they run a rim-fire .22 only tournament with real bowling pins. No practice, just straight into competition. I was there for this format. Again, not the best choice for my first experience.

The organizers place the targets 25 feet away for this contest. Five pins per table, four tables across. The matches are head-to-head, two out of three. The first person with their five pins on the floor wins the round.

How hard can it be to hit a big old bowling pin 25 feet away with a .22? Gotta be easy – my trusty Ruger Mark III never misses. The other 15 guys in attendance have been doing this for years, so I tried to get some strategy tips. Shoot more slowly and thus more accurately? Crank-out shots quickly and come back for missed pins? Seems like the best approach is . . . shoot very quickly and don’t miss. Sure.

I watched one match before my turn. The round was close. The winner shot all five pins down in about 2.5 seconds. Same for the next round. Pretty impressive shooting.

When it was my turn, the pins suddenly looked about a mile away and they seem to me moving. The horn sounded. Bang, bang, bang. One down! Bang! Two down! Only one problem: my opponent is done, magazine out, gun unloaded, and he’s examining his finger nails. Ouch.

That was my M.O. for the remaining matches. I ended up dead last. (I’m still convinced that somebody slipped some blanks in my ammo box.)

What an amazing difference between standing still, firing at a stationary target – without any pressure – compared to some light competition. I’m hooked, but I’m not going back until I get some fresh ammo and a boatload of experience.

Click here for A Brief Guide to the Sport of Pinshooting
Books on the subject: Hit the White Part, Massad Ayoob – available via Police Bookshelf. (800) 624-9049 Concord, NH; Pinshooting – a Complete Guide, Mitchell Ota, Wolfe Publishing (602) 445-7810 Prescott, AZ

9 Responses to The Joy of Shooting Bowling Pins

  1. I started doing pin and plate shooting last year with my sons , and it is a blast. You will find out very quickly how reliable your gun/ammo/clips are. most people who have done only bench shooting are stunned how difficult it is to shoot quickly and accurately offhand.
    If you do centerfire it will make you a reloader if in short order, practice and competition use up a lot of ammo quickly. 9mm and 7.62×25 are not really worth it but 40 and 45 sure are. my 13 yr old shoots a bone stock wwII era 1911.

  2. I shot some bowling pins at the local range and completely destroyed them, I was then banned from any further shooting of bowling pins. The range officer who investigated the bowling pin massacre asked who the F*** was shooting an elephant gun at his bowling pins. The lil rats all pointed at me without even the slighted hesitation. He then said he should have know it was me without asking. I told him it could have been anyone, but he didn’t buy it since I’m the only one with three S&W 500’s shooting 700 grain ammo.

  3. Mitchell Ota here, and I still shoot bowling pins at the Chester Rod & Gun Club in Chester, NH. I still am pretty good at it at age 55.

    • Hi Mitchell,
      A copy of your book lives happily on my bedside table. Do you know of any pin shooting international or national bodies? The South African Pin Shooting Federation would like to make contact.

  4. IM ENTERING MY FIRST BOWLING PIN MATCH AT BIG WOODS GOODS IN CANTON, GA TONIGHT. EVERYTHING IM READING IS KINDA GETTING ME WORRIED SINCE IM ONLY SHOOTING A 9MM. IM HOPING FOR THE BEST THOUGH. GUESS IM JUST GONNA HAVE TO START SAVING UP FOR A NICE 1911 .45 ACP.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *