Plinking Fun — Unrestricted!

Asian woman holding a Kel-Tec PMR 30 handgun.

Plinking is difficult to define, and that is how I like it. To place boundaries on recreation, or what may even advance to an art form, is an exercise in frustration.

I disagree with hardcore instructors who claim that all shooting that isn’t structured is simply ‘making brass.’ I am a hardcore instructor as well, and I completely enjoy shooting for its own sake and would hate to give up plinking.

Asian woman holding a Kel-Tec PMR 30 handgun.
This young lady is ready for a bit of fun firing the PMR 30. (Courtesy Oleg Volk.).

Anything that encourages the learning of proper trigger press and sight alignment is good. Another great advantage of plinking is that you may just find that the wife and kids will come along to plink much more readily than if they are sighting the rifle in for hunting season or engaging in personal defense practice. They may just get the bug and make an affair of it.

Plinking includes firing at the inoffensive tin can, modern, purpose-designed plastic targets, dirt clods, or even rocks at suitable range. The clay bird is a good choice. Firing at targets at known ranges is fine for sighting in but when the range isn’t known, marksmanship comes into play, and we learn how to handle our firearm. This used to be called Kentucky Windage. Kentucky Windage has brought home a lot of game not to mention the effect on Redcoats.

Plinking is far from the province of the novice. Sure, it is a good beginning to get used to the firearm, but those that have mastered the firearm also engaged in plinking. “How will the Glock perform at 100 yards?” or “Can I hit that rock in the desert with my .308?” may not be exact practice, but it sure is fun.

As long as safety is followed strictly, you need no rules for plinking. Plinking is for fun. You can make a little contest out of it if you wish, but don’t get too serious. Just make brass.

Boy shooting a Ruger Single Six pistol
This young shooter is plinking with a Ruger Single Six.

Get the kids out!

Unfortunately, today many kids have been raised by video games. Not long ago, I flew over the Rockies and experienced a brilliant sunset, as a young man to my right remained buried in his cell phone screen. There is more to life than texting and more to life than shooting, but when shooting you must have your attention on the task at hand.

Getting involved may mean reactive targets. Paper targets work sometimes, particularly the Zombie breed, but steel reaction targets and the Newbold plastic targets work even better. Have an indoctrination for safety, and be certain that they realize that the firearm may malfunction, short cycle, or jam. This happens with .22s—especially if they are not gripped properly.

Get on with business!

There are many good targets. A tin can filled with water makes quite a commotion when hit. You can even stack the cans and aim for the bottom can, double tap, and perforate each neatly! This really impresses beginners, but do not wear it out. Balloons are great fun too. You do not have to center punch them to get a great reaction. As marksmanship progresses, it is good to concentrate on trigger control, sight alignment, and sight picture— quickly getting the sights on the target.

Multiple loaded magazines on a wood table
We are setting up for the Zombieland drill. Woody Harrelson would approve. When a drill is of no training value, it is plinking!


The .22 caliber rifle is the natural first choice for plinking. Recoil is light, economy is foremost, and the rifles are very accurate to 100 yards. Everyone enjoys firing the .22 rifle. The pistol is much more difficult to master, but a quality .22 caliber handgun leads shooters into the proper marksmanship pattern for centerfire firearms.

I have enjoyed using the .22 caliber handgun with a red dot sight as just one example. I have learned the best setting for the red dot (I do well with the highest brightness setting). In short, plinking leads to proficiency with all firearms and with iron sights, red dots, or scopes. But don’t make it a practice exercise all of the time. Fun is fun. I know plenty of good shots that have never engaged in any sort of practice other than plinking, and they take game on a regular basis after simply sighting the rifle in. No, they are not prepared for a combat course, but they are prepared to defend their home.

A rather pleasant exercise has been called Mini Sniping. This is using a precision (or at least very accurate) rifle at ranges far short of its potential, but using reduced targets. Driving a tack at 15 yards is quite possible with a good quality scope and rimfire rifle. Likewise, using reduced-size targets at range of 50 yards or less is good practice with .223 and .308 rifles. Plinking is a lot of fun, and while stretching the definition, it is plinking to me.

Ruger .22 LR rifle on a zombie reactive target
A .22 rifle and a good mix of targets makes for an afternoon of fun.

Another type of plinking is perhaps my favorite. I like using centerfire handguns for plinking. Most of them are fun shooters that I would not carry for personal defense, and most are not useful for hunting. I just like to see what they are capable of. One example is the Beretta Jetfire .25 ACP self loader. This little jewel is well made, reliable, and surprisingly accurate. I have managed to hit balloons with it at 25 yards. A drawback in plinking with this handgun and the .22 is that as the range increases, bullet strikes are more difficult to spot in the dirt or on the berm.

A class of plinkers that are surprisingly accurate are the military grade .32 ACP pistols such as the Colt 1903 and the CZ 50. A firearm that is a plinker’s dream, and which I enjoy very much, is the Tokarev 7.62 x 25mm pistol. The Tokarev doesn’t kick much and the 1400 fps cartridge shoots very flat. I use the Red Army Standard loads and enjoy these accurate loads. The Tokarev has never failed to feed, fire, and eject—it is pretty useful in 100 yard plinking.

While it has some utility for personal defense with the Wolf JHP loads, I have other choices. Just the same, I’d rather have this 9-shot 7.62 x 25mm pistol than any .32 H and R Magnum or compact .380 ACP for personal defense. And, if your pistol is accurate enough, this is a good coyote gun.

But it all begins with plinking. One of the best plinkers of all is the 9mm pistol. Accurate, reliable, economical and a great fun gun, the 9mm high capacity pistol makes plinking enjoyable and even therapeutic.

Flattened lead bullet on a steel target
Bullets flatten on steel targets, but be aware of backsplash as well.

Among the best big bore plinkers are the .357 Magnum revolvers. I use a good quality hard cast bullet from Magnus Cast Bullets in the .38 Special cartridge case. A 148-grain full wadcutter at about 800 fps is right, although I have loaded the 196-grain RNL at 900 fps for long range plinking. At 50 to 100 yards and plinking at dirt clods and such on the berm, the Python, Model 19, and Ruger GP100 are excellent plinkers.

This builds familiarity with the firearm, and quite often I fire double action. Scoring a hit at 100 yards with the .357 in the double-action mode brings exhilaration and instant feedback. Not that it is the norm, plinking involves a lot of misses, and that’s just fine.

Another favorite for plinking is the single-action revolver in either .357 Magnum or .45 Colt. Cowboy action loads from Winchester do a great job for most chores. After a bit of familiarization, you really can throw the gunfighter gun about and get a fast hit using just the front sight. For some reason, I almost never plink with my favorite carry and service pistols, the 1911 .45. I suppose I get enough time in practicing tactical shooting with these!

Sometimes a shooting session is filled with surprises. As an example, I drafted my wife as a rater in a test program. She took to the .30 caliber carbine and promptly ate up a box of Hornady’s 110-grain FMJ loading. More satisfying than the .22—and with little kick—she discovered what generations rediscovered about the .30 carbine. This is a great plinker that is fun, accurate enough, and builds familiarity with what is still a great home-defense carbine. Plinking is full of surprises and an all American pursuit. Get started now!

Are you ready to go plinking? What is your favorite plinking gun? Do you have a favorite plinking game? Share your answers in the comment section.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (22)

  1. You’re absolutely right Glenn. It very well could have been someone other than the target shooters that hauled that junk out there. And, in fact, it probably was someone else after I think about it for a few.
    With the exception of a few, most of the people going out to target practice would be more apt to take a trash bag & take garbage home with them from our outdoor spaces like myself & my kids always did whenever we went out.

  2. Yeah that’s one often problems here in Indiana as well. Unless you can find some private land to shoot on you’re out of luck.
    We used to have several kind of “unofficial” areas on state land to shoot at but like always some morons decide it would be cool to drag their old TV’s, washer & dryers, couches & whatever else out there to shoot up & just leave the junk laying around. So the state shut those areas down to all.
    But apparently any state or county road sign is fair game. Lol.

    1. biggjim, I think you may be jumping to conclusions that it was the target shooters who left the household items there. People other than target shooters have access to that site as well. But it’s the shooters who always get blamed for it just because they put the holes in them.

  3. Plinking is awesome. Problem is where can you plinking? I don’t know of any land here in Texas that is not private. Is it legal to go plinking in BLM land? My understanding is that it is only for hunting with license and your limited to certain firearms.
    I guess a person would have to spend 500k to buy 50 acres to go plinking..

  4. I have competed 2 years in the military many years ago, and it was fun, but I’d much rather just do plinking. And just about any firearm would do.

  5. I think everyone here has missed Mr. Campbell’s point. It’s just for fun, right way wrong way it doesn’t matter. It just for fun! I’ll bet that while they are out plinking, the kids are not thinking about video games, the wife and dad are not thinking about any hectic schedule the next day. It’s just Fun.

  6. The first plinking gun that comes to mind is the first gun I ever owned my Marlin 39A .22 lever action.Accurate as hell and a lot of fun to shoot.Next would be my Ruger Single Six and the Ruger Mark 111 with the red dot.

  7. Plinking will be a thing of the the past if we dont pull our head out of our butt and demand 22 to come back and at a fair price. I used to shoot 2 550 packs every weekend before obama ruined everthing with his fake shootings once a month . Any 550 pack over 25 bucks is immoral. 22 is so hard to find and its aways like 45 bucks after tax for a 500 brick. Citizens deserve to practice in abundence. Buckets full. If the military gets too, than we do too. Theres no good enough excuse to tolerate it anymore!

    1. Please, please be just a troll.

      1) The mass murders at Sandy Hook, etc were all real.
      2) The price of 22 LR is a reflection of demand badly outpacing supply for years. Other than the second-hand resellers, nobody is artificially inflating the price.
      3) Ask Venezeula what happens when the government tries to fix prices at what it considers “fair” numbers.

  8. Structure and discipline are paramount for new shooters to live it, learn it and love it, but standing in the lane putting holes in paper gets boring and people lose interest. My kids(college and high school) would rather plink in the backyard with their BB guns, than put holes in paper at the local range because it’s more fun to knock down cans and spin lids.

  9. I disagree with Adam, the more you shoot your gun, whether it be a rifle or hand gun, the more of an extension of you it becomes. Not that anyone can shoot a butload of lead and be a marksman, but when was the last time a coyote poped out at exactly 50 yards. Gotta be able to adjust, plinking….

    1. A difference of +/- 20 yards is not going to dramatically alter the required elevation for any rifle round bigger than 22 LR.

      Your statement is true up to the point of a basic competence level. However, building speed and/or accuracy beyond that requires more serious practice than mere plinking will provide.

  10. Other than the S&W Governor, what other gun maker makes a pistol that can fire both .45 LC or .45 ACP and .41o shot shell interchangeably?

    1. The Taurus Judge line of revolvers handles .45 colt, 454 casull, 410 shot shells & some even take the 460 S&W magnum I do believe.

    2. There’s a company called Ducktown that makes single and double barrel derringers (side by side) that use 45 LC and 410 bore. doesn’t use 45acp. Boy the kick though, especially on the 410 is bad..

  11. The notion that plinking is simply turning money into noise (or “making brass”, as the author put it) is technically correct. It’s not the sort of practice that will push you towards being a better shooter.

    That said, there’s nothing wrong with target shooting simply for the joy of it. Just recognize it for what it is (pure recreation), avoid reinforcing any bad habits, and remember to have fun.

    1. In my experience I would have to disagree. As long as the instructor is focusing on the positive aspects of shooting & correcting the negative ones, I don’t think it matters what you are shooting at.
      My daughter gets bored with tactical style shooting sometimes & we resort to more of a plinking style & she loves it & can usually out shoot mist if the family at any style of shooting we do.
      I think if the instructor does their “part” the actual shooting style is most times irrelevant. At least for us.

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