The Joys of Pin Shooting
By Paul Scarlata,
I can practically guarantee that when I inform a new acquaintance that one of my favorite hobbies is Bowling Pin Shooting the most common reaction is an uncomprehending stare. And I'm not just talking about non-shooters. For some unfathomable reason-at least to we pin-busters-even most shooters are unaware of this branch of the Action Shooting sports! So, to enlighten the readers of this fine publication let me give you a little bit of background information.
Richard Davis is a perfect example of the American success story. A former US Marine who owned a pizza delivery service in the Detroit area, Richard was injured in a shoot out with three holdup men some years ago (a gunfight that he won, by the way). Afterwards, he began to ruminate upon the idea of a bulletproof vest that could be worn comfortably, and unobtrusively, at all times. From this was born the concept of soft body armor made from Kevlar, which has become standard equipment for thousands of law enforcement officers around the world. Richard founded the Second Chance Body Armor Company and his company proudly, and truthfully, states that more police officers' lives have been saved by their vests then all the other brands put together.
Twenty-six years ago Richard staged a little weekend get together for some of the officers who had been saved by his vests. They entertained themselves by having a shooting match and Richard thought up the novel idea of using bowling pins as reactive targets. The rest is competitive shooting history-bowling pin shooting caught the imagination of shooters around the world and became increasingly popular. The Second Chance Pin Shoot grew until it was an eight-day affair attracting nearly 500 registered shooters, plus assorted spouses, companions, in-laws, children, pets, and other sundry hangers-on. And while personal and business considerations have caused Richard to postpone the Shoot these past two years, he has high hopes that 2002 will see things back up and running.
Now the uninitiated among the readership may ask just what does this bowling pin shooting entail? It is very simple: you have a two-level steel table measuring 6x3 feet, situated twenty-five feet in front of the shooting line, upon which are bowling pins, the number varying according to the event. You begin with your loaded firearm in your hand, resting on a waist high wooden rail. On the signal (a blank is fired) you lift your gun and begin shooting. Whoever clears all their pins off the table first wins. It's that simple.
Now for the hard part-the damn pins don't want to go off the table! A bowling pin is a heavy, unstable object and can only be moved off the back of the table (the tables have side walls preventing pins from rolling off sideways) with a good solid hit. A bad or glancing hit will topple it over where it will proceed to roll around knocking over other pins, preventing hit pins from moving off the table and in general screwing everything up. A pin might fall over with its top (small end) facing you which gives you a VERY tiny, difficult target. Several might end up in a pile in the corner, known as "dead wood;" wedged together in a heap that not even a .44 Magnum or 00 buckshot can dislodge. That's why pin shooting is so much fun, especially for the spectators-it is just so damned unpredictable.
Second Chance rules recognize only two classes: OSS (Ordinary Standard Shooter) and Master Blaster (a term that needs no explanation). All first timers, except the odd well-known professional shooter, compete in OSS. Master Blaster status is awarded based upon your final placement in that year's shoot or the winning of special events. These two classes are broken down into handgun and long gun categories. So if you are a whiz kid with a shotgun but can't hit the broadside of a barn with a pistol you can still compete as an OSS shooter with your handgun-or vice versa. Men and women compete head to head, there are no separate classes based upon sex or age. It is a very simple and fair system and has worked very well over the years.
For the past two decades a dedicated group of shooters from my part of North Carolina have trekked north to Michigan each June to compete at Second Chance. So as to keep in practice, they formed a club that sponsors a monthly pin shoot. Known as T.A.S.K (Triad Action Shooters Klub), they sponsor a pin match the third Saturday of each month at their range located between Asheboro and Lexington, North Carolina.
To make the match more attractive to new shooters, T.A.S.K. has modified the rules. Instead of OSS and Master Blaster, they have adopted a classification system similar to those used by other Action Shooting disciplines: Master, A, B, C and Unclassified. As is done at Second Chance, these are further divided into Handgun and Shotgun Divisions.
At T.A.S.K. matches there are events for all kinds of firearms: semiauto pistols, DA revolvers, SA revolvers and .22 revolver/pistols. They also compete with shotguns, with both pump action and semiautos having their own classes.
Main Event shooters can compete in Pin Gun or Stock Gun classes. A "Pin Gun" normally features a compensator or ported barrel and all the other "bells & whistles" the shooter's bank account can afford! The one caveat is that NO optical sights are permitted-iron sights only. "Stock Gun" class allows you to use any basically stock auto pistol or revolver although its weight cannot exceed 44 ounces and a 5 inch barrel for semiautos or 56 ounces, with up to a 8.4 inch barrel, for revolvers.
Pistols cannot be loaded with more then eight rounds, with a maximum of eight rounds in spare magazines. Instead of reloading, revolver shooters are permitted to use a second revolver. Most wheelgunners will wear it holstered on their belt and place a box with a padded lining in front of the shooting line. If they run their revolver dry, they just drop it into the box, draw their second gun and keep shooting. Pistol and revolver shooters compete head to head in the Main Event.
The most popular semiauto pistols are the various 1911 variants, although we have been seeing more and more Glocks. And while the .45 ACP is the overwhelming favorite caliber, both the 10mm and .40 S&W cartridges have strong followings.
Round gun shooters favor revolvers that are capable of using full moon clips, which makes the various S&W .45 ACP revolvers the hands down favorite. But there is a loyal clique (the author being a member of it) who favor the .357 Magnum-especially the new S&W and Taurus revolvers that hold seven and eight rounds.
Note: in all of the following "optional events" you shoot three tables of pins with your single best run being your final score.
Nine Pin-as its name signifies, in this event nine pins are placed one foot from the back edge of the table. While originally conceived as a venue for high capacity 9mm pistols, many shooters use high capacity 1911 Pin Guns or single stack 1911s with extended 10 or 11 round magazines.
Eight Pin Revolver-this event is restricted to "Stock" revolvers. Four pins are set three feet from the back edge of the table and four on the upper shelf. And in case you think you are going to gain an "edge" by using one of the new eight shooters-forget it, because the rules state you can only load a maximum of seven rounds to begin with and there is a mandatory reload. This rule is rigidly enforced, even if you somehow manage to clear all eight pins off the table with six or seven rounds (yes, it has happened!), you must reload your revolver and fire at least one round downrange to stop the clock.
Eight Pin Space Gun-was designed to appease the techno-junkie crowd. The pin arrangement is the same as in Eight Pin Revolver except there are NO restrictions on the modifications allowed to your handgun. Compensators, extended barrels, weights, high capacity magazines and optical sights are all welcome. This is the one pin event where you are likely see a lot of IPSC .38 Super and 9x23 Race Guns. If you want to use it-and can afford to-go for it!
Crank & Yank-for fans of single action revolvers. The standard Five Pin arrangement is used but the shooter is restricted to six shots and six shots only.
Snubbie Event-a shooter equipped with a five or six shot revolver with a barrel length of three inches or less faces four pins placed one foot from the rear edge of the table. No reloading allowed
.22 Five Pin Tip Over-only .22 rimfire handguns may be used although there is no magazine capacity limits. Pins only need to be tipped over, not shot off the table
.22 Nine Pin-the rules are the same as regular Nine Pin. Pins must go off the table to score.
Five Pin Shotgun-uses the Five Pin arrangement. Shooter begins with their shotgun loaded with five rounds of ammunition.
Eight Pin Shotgun-uses the Eight Pin arrangement and the shotgun may not be loaded with more than eight rounds.
Two Person Team-two handgunners face an array of twenty-one pins spread over three tables. Handguns and spare magazines may only be loaded with eight rounds of ammunition. The plan for this event is simple, "...just keep on shooting!!!
Three Person Team-three shooters, one equipped with a handgun, one with a pump shotgun and one with a semiauto shotgun, face the same twenty-one pin array as above. All shooters begin with their firearm loaded with no more then eight rounds. Because of the impressive amount of sound produced, this event is affectionately known as "Rolling Thunder" and is a real crowd pleaser.
Pin shooting is one of the few Action Shooting disciplines where the old axiom "Shoot what ya brung!" still rings true. Unless you have the desire to do so, there is no need for fancy guns. I have seen many a match won by a person with a box stock Springfield 1911, S&W Model 686, Glock 35 or Remington Model 870 firing factory ammo.
Pin shooting can be especially attractive for the new shooter because there is no need for fancy equipment. You don't need holsters, belts or magazine pouches. All that is required is a handgun, a half dozen magazines or speedloaders, sufficient ammunition, eye and ear protection. There is no movement or obstacle courses to be negotiated so if you have neglected your aerobics or haven't stuck to your diet, that's OK.
Unlike other Action Shooting events, pin matches are low key events where the participants are primarily interested in having fun. I'm not saying that the competitive spirit is not alive and well, but you will see little of the tension, apprehensiveness and the "win at all costs" mentality that are evident at some events. Thin skinned persons should make a point of avoiding pin matches. This is because one of pin shooterdom's most beloved traditions allows (hey-it's almost mandatory!) anyone present to pass judgment upon their fellow competitors' guns, ammunition, shooting abilities, mode of dress and antecedents. Being that everyone present is wearing hearing protection, comments are usually made in a most vociferous manner-even if the party under discussion happens to be on the line, ready to shoot. It might take you a few matches to get used to this heckling but don't worry, because after the first time you can do it too!