Pumpkins. shooting Pumpkins for sale at a Pumpkin Patch. Halloween and Au
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Not that long ago, I was driving my family home when I noticed a flash of orange from the ditch on opposite side of Highway 282 just a few miles from our home. I knew immediately what that flash meant, so I whipped into the first turn-around spot I reached, and headed back to where I had seen that magical color. “What are you doing?” my wife asked. I smiled and said one word back her, “Pumpkins.”

I slowed down and edged off the pavement. Sure enough, there were two lovely pumpkins resting in the ditch, next to some beer cans and a plastic grocery bag. Clearly someone had unceremoniously tossed the two magical gourds out of a car, but we were more than happy to scoop them up, take them home, and give them a ballistically-charged, merciful end to their neglected sufferings.

Some people chunk pumpkins out of big guns and whirling machines. But at our house, we use big guns to turn pumpkins into chunks.

Over the years, we have shot many pumpkins, along with cabbages, spoiled cantaloupes,  zucchini and an entire case of Coca-Cola left over from a local blues festival and way past its expiration date.

Over the winters we’ve spent on our 30-acre rural compound…no, not compound, homestead! Homestead! IT’S A HOMESTEAD, NOT A COMPOUND….where was I? Oh yeah, winter. During the winters, we have built and blasted several snowmen, finding that shotguns with bird shot produce the most satisfying blizzards of snowy destruction, especially at close range.

We’ve also discovered that plastic bottles full of water with a little acrylic paint inside them create the most interesting abstract and impressionist splashes of color in freshly-fallen snow. During the summer, we expand the palette to include generic 2-liter sodas, especially the orange, red, and purple fruit-flavored varieties. After we shake them up a bit, they splatter with brilliant splashes of color–daytime fireworks accompanied by satisfying bangs and booms.

One Valentine’s Day, part of my wife’s gift was a batch of pressurized targets: a can of air freshener, another of spray starch, some cheap sodas. But the all-time show-stopper was the can of silly string. I  volunteered to watch after our toddler son, while she vented some frustrations on the range.

Let me be perfectly clear. For me, nothing says “romance” quite like watching my wife whack a can of silly string with an AR-15. We recorded the destruction on video, and keep a DVD of it to this day. I still get a charge every time I watch that video, and hear Kim’s genuine, knee-slapping laughter as the punctured can somersaults, spewing silly string everywhere.

No, sorry guys. I’m not putting that particular video on Youtube. Much too personal.

There have been old music CDs and cans of clogged spray paint, old cell phones, cinder blocks, and all manner of things that go pop, boom, and bang when perforated by high velocity projectiles. Shortly after the attacks of 9/11, friends gave me an ancient Tandy laptop.

When I flipped it open, I found a photo of Osama bin Laden with lecturing finger pointed right at me glued to the screen of that old computer. I shot it  with a .58 caliber Mini-ball out of an 1853 Enfield replica.

But no matter how much fun we have with unorthodox targets, we always find ourselves coming back to fruits and vegetables, especially the pumpkins.

Pumpkins require a little preparation to become really dynamic, dramatic targets. The best way is to slice the top off them, exactly like you were going to carve a jack-o-lantern. Then, fill the inside of the pumpkin with water, and replace the fleshy little scalp of a lid.

I’ve tried duct-taping the lid down to provide more resistance for the water to push against, but have found that so long as I use something of a .40 caliber or higher, it really doesn’t matter.

If you don’t fill pumpkins with water before shooting, they just sort of flinch a bit and lose a few chunks of orange flesh out the back. It takes water — that almost incompressible liquid — reacting to a high-speed projectile to make pumpkins really dance.

One year, we had a whole crop of volunteer pumpkins spring up where I usually plant our tomato patch. I think I tossed the insides of the previous fall’s jack-o-lantern there as fertilizer, and the seeds must have made it into the ground. We made pumpkin pie out of a few and then pied the rest with shotguns and rifles.

Another year, a friend of mine who works at a local historic home and museum gave me 10 or 12 pumpkins that had been used as fall decorations. We invited several people over, grilled out, and held the Inaugural BBQ and Great Pumpkin Shoot. More than once, I’ve found pumpkins that people have thrown out after Halloween and Thanksgiving, and brought them home to become the stars of high impact backyard comedies.

So we brought home the two pumpkins we found along the highway. We ate lunch, and once we got our son down for a nap, I took the pumpkins out to the backyard range and prepped them for liftoff.

My wife took up a lever-action Marlin in .44 magnum loaded with 240 grain JHPs. I grabbed my trusty Remington 870 stoked with a single slug. Her pumpkin was the first to erupt in an orange gusher. She laughed and smiled at me as she said, “That was excellent.”

Then it was my turn.


When you watch the video, look for the lid of the pumpkin. It flew at least 25 feet, straight up. It had a hang time like an NFL punt. Its launch makes my wife cackle so hard that she has difficulty keeping the camera still.

And as for my reaction? Well…I’m not acting. Not one bit.

Courtesy Roy Hill and YouTube

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  1. Shooting melons with a shotgun and 30/30. 50+ years ago was how my father showed my brother and I the dangers of firearms misuse. Visualizing those melons as someone’s head drove home the reality of what happens when you don’t respect the power of a firearm. I used the same example when teaching my sons about firearms safety.

    • Did the same with my (now adult) sons when they were young. Taught them safety, then let them shoot apples and gourds, and then later squirrels and rabbits. The sober lesson of knowing you just ended the life of that cute (to my young kids) squirrel that was looking at you only a moment ago helped them to understand the power they held in their hands.

      Today, they are capable hunters who enjoy their guns with the mature attitudes of responsible adults. Not wanna-be gangstas.

      • 6.5 creedmoor. Even if they escape into low earth orbit you can hit them with a proper scope.

        Don’t forget to clean out your fire place and line it with sharpened iron stakes pointing upwards.

    • Thanks for sharing the block of ice idea. On my buddy’s private land, in the summer, we shoot soda cans and 2-litter bottles, we recycle them afterwards.

    • Lots of fun. I like blasting them into little chunks with the .30-30 and then using a .22 to turn the little chunks into smaller ones until they’re too small to shoot at.

  2. Awesome!

    You mentioned generic 2-liters of pop/soda.
    I live in the center of our small town and very close to a Kroger. Seeing as the town frowns upon .45 ACP pistols and 12 gauge shotguns being fired within city limits, my two daughters and I will occasionally get some Big K 2-liters and snag our Crosmans.

    We set up said acquisitions, after they’ve been agitated, in the back yard and load up our BB guns (we all have one) with pellets and let loose from my back deck. It is a lot of inexpensive fun!

    Good article. Thanks for the grin!

  3. Oh, the humanity! I cannot believe the wanton cruelty. Shooting poor, defenseless pumpkins — have you no sense of decency, sir?

    I have reported this post to the ASPCG (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Gourds).

    Just kidding, that was spectacular! Filling them with water really adds a hydraulic perspective. Thanks!

  4. my friend had a produce market and one of his suppliers would let him hunt teal on a kankakee pumpkin farm. whatever was abandoned in the field by fowl season was fair game. we knew to bring some slugs for them.
    when folks were still throwing tube tvs away i’d fill the pickup bed over some months and have at a pile of those. bonus if the generator could at least get some snow on the screen.

  5. Shooting pumpkins has become sort of a tradition around my house.
    We buy them before Halloween and carve/paint them all up. After the holiday is over they go to the back of the yard and we unleash a ballistic assault on them! Lol!

    The kids LOVE it as they get equal opportunity to fire rounds through the poor gourds. It’s not only a great bonding opportunity but also a chance for them to practice proper firearm handling and safety. It’s a win all the way around!

    • We’ve used our Henry .22 rifles to make Jack-o-Lantern faces in pumpkins — I call them “smack-o-lanterns.”

      It’s hella fun, and good practice, because you’ve got to be a really steady shot to make it work.

  6. “Homestead! IT’S A HOMESTEAD, NOT A COMPOUND….”

    Bunker. FIFY…

    *snicker* 😉

  7. Done it & proud of it, it was a blast, used a Ruger 3 screw revolver with a 8in barrel in 44mag, I still like that gun,,, my first Magnum, took the scope off , put on Merrit adjustable rear sight & a red ramp on the front, deadly with 180 & 220 hollow points.

  8. Instead of cutting the top of the pumpkin to fill it with water, I found another way that works better. Get one of the cheap ‘Turkey marinade injectors’ at Walmart, Target, etc. They look like a large hypodermic needle for injecting the turkey. Fill the injector with water, stick it in the pumpkin and slowly inject the water into it. Sometimes you will need to stick the pumpkin in one or two other spots to allow the pressure of the internal air to go out. This way, the evil pumpkin is basically still sealed before the big slug hits it.

    • Eagle10,

      I was going to suggest something like this, although I was going to suggest making two small holes (with a drill bit?): one for pouring water in and the other hole to let air escape as you fill the pumpkin with water.

      I have never seen nor heard of the turkey marinade injectors that you described. That is even better than my method since I had no particular idea how to inject water through a small hole into a pumpkin.

  9. We usually bring about a dozen pumpkins out to the shooting property on our November trip, my favorite is the DEagle 50AE with a SIG Romeo 4S 2 moa RDS, loaded with Hornaday XTP JHP. In July we being watermelon with us, and make 100yd fruit salad.

  10. Drill a fill hole and a small vent hole in your pumpkins/gourds. It fills the hollow void and promotes the physics of hydraulics. This allow the “magic” to occur with lesser calibers.


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