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CA Guns & Huntin: Plinkers

CA Guns & Hunting: Plinkers: Having fun with a gun

BY STEVE COMUS/Cal. Guns & Hunting Guns EditorPublished: Feb 09, 2018

Want to have fun with a gun? Go plinking and take some friends with you. It is easy to overlook the true value of just going shooting.

For me, one of the highest forms of shooting is plinking, simply because it is fun. I have competed seriously at the local, national and international levels and it was all rewarding and enjoyable. But it wasn’t “fun.”

.32 REVOLVER PLINKING can be fun. The .32 caliber guns aren’t big and heavy; they don’t make a lot of noise and have almost no felt recoil. That’s a recipe for fun with a gun.

In more recent times, with much focus on “tactical” shooting and defense, there exists a seriousness that is well placed, but doesn’t include the mindset of just having a good time. There is nothing wrong with shooting, just for the fun of it.

The real beauty of plinking is that anyone who wants to play can join in the fun and they can use any type of gun at hand – BB gun, airgun, rifle, pistol, shotgun. Frankly, plinkers are limited only by their imaginations. About the only rule in plinking is that there are no rules.

It is not as convenient for most folks to plink now as it was in the long ago when open spaces where plinking could be done easily, quickly and safely were close to home. But, there still are places to plink. Heck, it also is possible to plink on just about any shooting range that is open to the public.

Not only is any gun a proper plinker, just about any target also is a logical part of the plinking game. Historically, interactive targets ranging from tin cans to oranges and milk cartons were pressed into service. Regular paper targets on a range also can work fine – just focus on the fun when the bullet hole is in the right spot and don’t fret when it misses – shoot again and again until it does hit the intended mark.

Don’t worry about having some kind of exotic target for paper target plinking, although there is nothing wrong with them, either. A plain piece of paper can suffice. Attach it to the target stand, step back and shoot a bullet hole anywhere on the paper. Then aim and try to put other bullets through the same hole. It’s a lot of fun and is known as dot shooting.

AR PLINKING MEANS a lot of bang to go along with the fun. Here, author shoots a .22 rimfire AR, but a centerfire AR also makes for a good plinker.

Regardless the setting, most shooters and hunters begin by plinking. Face it: No one becomes a champion shooter or an effective hunter the first time he or she picks up a gun. Somewhere, sometime there has to come that initial familiarization with both guns and shooting. There may some shortcuts, but there are no end-runs around it.

Foremost in any kind of shooting, including plinking, is safety. It is impossible to un-shoot an errant shot. Always be safe. Know the target and what is in front, to the sides and behind it. And remember, anything that is downrange eventually WILL be hit.

Also, if there are others in the group who are new or relatively new to shooting, it is a good idea to have one or more of the experienced shooters on hand to mentor them and to be right at their side when they are handling firearms. Newbies may not know they are making mistakes in gun handling. Better to have someone right there to make certain all is safe – which means all then can be fun.

Proper plinking means blowing through a lot of ammo. This is great for new shooters, because they get the benefit of learning physically how to shoot a gun, and then have opportunities to hit something with it. The instant gratification of shooting at and then instantly hitting a target is addicting.

In practice, this means that the distance needs to be as close as necessary to result in hits at first. For some people, this may be five feet, while with others it can be longer. Then, as hits become more consistent, the distance can be increased, all the way from close to as far as the surroundings allow.

OLD OR NEW doesn’t matter with plinkers. Here, the S&W Model 41 .22 full-on target pistol (at top) is no more or less fun for plinking than the old Iver Johnson .22 revolver (below).

Because of the need for lots of shots, both the budget and physical stamina usually dictate that initial plinking sessions for shooters focus on BB guns, pellet guns or .17 or .22 caliber rimfires. There is lots of “bang” for the buck when such guns are used.

For new shooters, it is important to remember that they are not used to the loud noise (always wear eye and ear protection when plinking) and the recoil of larger caliber firearms. Try to avoid intimidating them with a big boomer that might dampen their enthusiasm to squeeze the trigger. No need to have anyone start shooting with a flinch.

This doesn’t mean that big bore rifles and handguns can’t be tremendous plinkers. They can. But, with them comes higher costs for ammo, more noise and recoil. As long as the shooter is up for it, plink away with anything handy. I have been known to plink with my S&W Model 500 revolver in .500 S&W Magnum and with my Weatherby Mark V in .460 Weatherby Magnum. That is lots of fun, but not a good idea for entry-level shooters.

Another really nice thing about plinking is that it affords an excuse to play with some of the older guns that otherwise might just gather dust in the shadows. New gun, old gun — for plinking it doesn’t matter. And sometimes it is really fun to shoot some of the older guns, just to refresh the memory about how enjoyable they can be.

Also, there is no such thing as a thoroughbred plinking gun. The gun can be one of simplest, least expensive ones on the market, or it can be the fanciest, most expensive one. It just needs to go bang. Don’t forget that full-on target rifles and handguns also make great plinkers. Often, target guns become relegated to the background when shooters cease serious competition. That’s a shame, because full-on target guns shoot so well. If there is such a gun handy, plink with it. Put a smile on your face.

I began plinking in the 1940s and haven’t tired of it yet. And that’s a lifetime of shooting. The way I figure it is that there are only two reasons to stop plinking: Either when there is no more ammo or when the time comes to go to the Happy Hunting Grounds. Heck. Maybe there’s plinking there, too. If so, I’m ready.

OLD TIMERS ALSO make good plinkers. Here, the J.C. Higgins Model 42 .22 (above), originally sold through Sears, is as serious of a plinker as is the Springfield Model 22 .22 (below) that, in its day, was one of the most serious target .22s in the world.


RUGER 10/22 HAS to be mentioned when talking about plinkers. This .22 semi-auto is one of the most popular .22s on the market.

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