since man decided it's as much fun to shoot bowling
pins off a table as it is to knock them over with a
bowling ball, shooters have been trying to come up
with a magic gun and load that will knock five pins
off a table in the fastest time.
I’m not a pin shooting
specialist, but I have made one appearance at what is
the Superbowl of pinshoots, the Second Chance match,
and also a few lesser pin championships. These events
were lots of fun and are an excellent test of
accuracy, power and speed for both the handgunner and
Laughridge, master pistolsmith and head honcho at the
Cylinder & Slide Shop, has been building high
quality pistols for many years. Cylinder & Slide
manufactures and markets a line of custom parts for
1911’s, S&W revolvers and Browning Hi-Powers.
Bill’s shop is in Fremont, NE.
For years, Laughridge has been
towing his portable gunsmithing trailer loaded with
parts and machinery to selected major pistol
competitions around the U.S., offering emergency
on-site repair service to competitors who have
mechanical problems. Needless to say, he keeps very
busy. One of his stops is at the Second Chance Bowling
Pin Shoot in Michigan.
Pin Shooting Primer
For readers not familiar with
pin matches, a short description is on order.
Regulation bowling pins are the targets, usually
scrounged from local bowling alleys. The pins are
placed on heavily constructed tables, 6’ long by
Three pins are centered on the
table top 16" apart, 6" back from the front
edge. Two more pins are placed on a 6" wide shelf
above the lower pins. One pin is slightly to the left
side, another placed slightly to right. From a
shooting position, the pins form a wide "U"
shooter stands behind a rail 25 feet from the pins and
rests his pistol on the rail at a 45° angle. On an
audible start signal, the pistol is raised, and the
pins are shot off the table as quickly as possible.
The shooter can fire as many times as necessary to
take all the pins off the table. The time stops when
the last pin hits the ground.
The pins must be knocked back
about 3 feet to clear the table. The total combined
time for the best five out of six runs is added up and
the fastest time wins. Competitive times for
individual runs are around 3.5 seconds. The winning
total time for five runs is about 17 seconds. These
times are quite fast, and many people think that pin
shoots are purely speed matches, but they are really
accuracy matches as well.
Big Bore Revolvers
Some early pin matches were won
by shooters using big bore revolvers. However, as more
experience was gained, the advantage of the 1911 .45
Auto became apparent. The pins could be cleared off
the table just as fast, and you didn’t have to make
every shot count. A wheelgunner had to go six-for-six
or face a slow reload time.
However, some top shooters are
still very successful with their wheelguns. Many pin
matches have special classes for revolvers.
Taking the bowling pins all the
way off the table requires a fairly heavy bullet at
moderate velocity. The 230 gr. .45 ACP loaded with
jacketed hollowpoints does the job well. Pin shooters
push this type of bullet from 850 to 1,000 fps.
The hollowpoint design digs into
the hard surface of the pin without skidding off and
is more reliable for taking the pins cleanly off the
table. The ‘sweet spot" on a pin is only about
3" wide and 4" high. Hits out of this area
cause the pins to fall over, but not necessarily go
off the back of the table.
When a poorly hit pin falls
over, it sometimes spins and there’s a good chance
it will knock over the pins next to it. This creates a
real mess and makes clearing pins off the table time
consuming. It definitely pays to make good hits in the
"sweet spot" if you want fast times.