View Full Version : Bowling Pins as targets?

January 14, 2007, 04:17 PM

i was thinking of a new target since paper and clay pigeons is getting boring. i wanted metal targets but they are not allowed at my range, then i thought...bowling pins. so i called a few locals places and they have some for sale, are there all basically the same hard plastic shell or are some brands better than others? i will mainly be shooting 9mm and 45acp FMJ, about how many shots will these bowling pins hold up to? can i use FMJ 223 or will that tear them up faster? does the 9mm and 45 get deflected because it is a hard plastic and round in shape or actually penetrate? any other suggestions for different targets would be great.



January 14, 2007, 04:54 PM
Bowling pin are great. A friend and I shot 10 pins that I got from the local bowling alley. I shot 150 rounds of 9mm and he shot 150 rounds of 40S&W and the pins are still in great shape. I was thinking about taking some small rope next time and hanging them. Somebody else I know shoots at bowling balls with pistol and rifle. He said one ball will last him at least four trips to the range. I hear ballons with powder in them and fruit are also fun. No cleanup with the fruit.

January 14, 2007, 05:05 PM
I have about a hundred bowling pins that a local bowling alley gave away when they got a new pin-setting machine. They make great targets for both pistol and rifle shooting.

They will get torn up from being hit with rifle fire. They'll hold up for a while to .223 and 7.62 X 39 rounds, but larger calibers will do more damage more quickly.

The pins are made of laminated hardwood and coated with a thick, tough plastic shell. I've had .38 FMJ ricochet quite often so I don't use it anymore with bowling pins. I've shot with good effect with 9X18 flat nosed FMJ and HP rounds, 9X19 FMJ and anything larger in a pistol caliber. As a rule, HP ammo will "bite" better into the shell of the pin and reduce the chance of ricochets.

Semi-wad cutters are great for bowling pins in any caliber.


January 14, 2007, 06:12 PM
After shooting some bowling pins with .45, .357 , and .22 , I x-rayed one just for laughs. It had 200 rounds in it and didn't look that bad. If you do hang one , also loosley thether the botom of the pin as it will swing pretty wildly when hit. I wish my truck body was made of the same plastic material . That stuff is tough !

January 14, 2007, 07:50 PM
I use Bowling Pins all the time. I have one alley that will give them to me. The range I go to also sells them for $1 each. The plastic shell holds most bullets inside the pin so it gets larger. .223 rounds are a bit hard on bowling pins and will tear them apart. I try to stick with handguns.

You can also take a set of Saw Horses and take a 5 -6 foot 2x4 and then hang the bowling pins so the swing when you shoot them. I have tried screwing in eye bolts in the top and then using a small chain it works. You can also just tie some string around the neck. Bowling Pins are one of my favorite targets.

January 14, 2007, 10:21 PM
I used bowling balls get them at garage sales for hardly nothing sometimes free.

January 15, 2007, 01:30 AM
My experience is that even pistols tear them up rather quickly. If memory serves, we got about 3 shooting sessions in on them before they were trashed. I think they held up to ~20 shots of 45? I can't remember exactly, but I do remember the sentiment that they lasted a lot less time than I expected.

January 15, 2007, 02:07 AM
Bowling pics are great reactive targets and make an awsome "crack" sound when hit. They aren't really that great for .22LR, but are great for a shotgun. Shotgun slugs though tear them up pretty badly pretty quickly. For me I love shooting them with my Security Six loaded with .38 specials.

January 15, 2007, 02:37 AM
yep bowling pins are fun to shoot up.... i have several in my garage that i shoot once in awhile with my .357 magnum.... it is amazing how many rounds they will take before they come apart... i have an official sized bowling pin steel sihouette target a friend made for me hanging on an old real estate sign...... i mostly shoot that with my rws air rifle in my back yard in the summer... they seem like just a good size to shoot too... about the same size as a rabbit or large squirrel or something......

January 15, 2007, 01:44 PM
Bowling pins work great, here is a picture of "The Range", my brother picked up some torn/damaged pins from the local alley for free (evidently they got stuck in the machine some how) we drilled through a couple and built the stand and they spin great. .22 seam to tear at the coating a little but we have shot a ton of rounds and they hold up really well.

Big Don
January 15, 2007, 10:11 PM
I have been shooting pins for years and they're great targets. You do have to watch out for ricochets, especially if you're shooting a relatively close range. Putting them on a raised flat surface (e.g. a table top) and shooting them until they fall off of the table has been the bane of many a shooter! I have pins suspended from a framework and they're excellent moving targets.

I like mine to last so they are only for pistol shooting and they do get heavy after absorbing all of that lead. Watch how you handle the veteran pins as lead and jackets will penetrate and give you a nasty slice or puncture.

Grab pins any time you can, free or otherwise!

January 16, 2007, 12:15 PM
My range has a dedicated pin range. They seem to hold up well to 100+ rounds of 9mm. Once they're too shot up to use, we cut off the tops and use them for .22s. It's a blast - the only kind of plinking that's alowed at my range.

para lda
January 16, 2007, 02:51 PM
In some parts of they country they do shotgun bowling. They set up the pins light a normal rack and shoot them with shotguns. I have also seen targets at gun shows with bowling pins. The have 5-6 pins set up on a stand and if you hit them right they fall over. There is a cord to pull to reset them. I guess if you don't hit them right they won't fall.

January 16, 2007, 03:26 PM
Pin matches were a major attraction to the handgun crowd for many years. Second Chance used to sponsor a pin tournament for some time. I believe they were placed 1 foot back on a 3 foot wide table and you needed to clear X amount of pins OFF the table with as many shots as needed. This meant you needed to have a caliber of sufficient horse power to knock the pin clear off the table AND hit it squarely or it simply fell over and spun around. 45s were popular and large caliber revolvers also were favoured as they could use very aggresively shaped bulletsthat would not feed in the autos of the day.

It was a simple way to require an effective "power factor" without all the mathmatical hogwash that is utilized to make major in things like IPSC... You could use a 22 if you wanted but the odds of you knocking a pin off the table were pretty remote even if you hit it squarely. Too bad pin shooting fell out of vogue before I reall got into shooting. Look up some old books on the subject. Hit the White Part by Ayoob and there was a section that discussed pin shooting briefly in Cirillo's book (in the bullet design section I believe when he talked about Pin Grabbers and what they did to the human body.)

January 17, 2007, 03:14 PM
>>Pin matches were a major attraction to the handgun crowd for many years

What do you mean ' were ' ? They still are!!!


Scroll to the bottom of the page, enjoy the pins!!!

January 24, 2007, 10:52 PM
Ah, my old arch nemesis, the bowling pin.

It's amazing how much punishment they can take. They are almost the perfect target.

The only problems I've had is when using a shotgun with #8 birdshot. It was like the pins were shooting back! Switched to 00 buck shot and I was back on track.

January 25, 2007, 01:13 AM
There's a pin shooting seminar this Sat. at my range - I'm going to go see what it's all about.

January 25, 2007, 09:11 PM

I shoot a weekly match indoors all year round and, from March to November I shoot a second match outdoors most weeks as well. (I can quit anytime!)(really!). DO check it out. Way fun with a handgun (or a carbine, or even a shottie with 00 buck)! Keeps the "shootin' eye" sharp.
Here are some pix from the weekly.

February 19, 2007, 11:27 AM
What do you mean ' were ' ? They still are!!!
Scroll to the bottom of the page, enjoy the pins!!!Mike, Please tell us more about your local pin matches. Particularly the .22LR.

How are the matches organized, pins set up, etc.?

February 19, 2007, 11:48 AM

for the centerfire rounds they use full pins, for the .22LR rounds they use the top 6" of the pins for targets. Autos and revolvers are seperate.

5 pins set up on a steel table at 30 feet. The clock starts with your first shot and ends when the last pin falls over the edge of the table. knocking them down isn't good enough - they have to actually fall off the edge of the table.

Each shooter get two tries and his times are averaged for a raw time/ rank.

Then the head to head shooting starts:

The shooter with the lowest average time goes head to head against the shooter with the highest average time. single elimination - just like the NCAA tournament.

After the first round one half of the competitiors are eliminated.

Depending on the number of shooters left there are either single elimination head to head shootoffs or a round robin style that is head to head and timed.

At the end the top revolver competitor goes against the head auto for bragging rights for the day.

Believe it or not, sometimes a revolver guy wins top gun for the night.

.40 s&w, and 45 ACP rule the auto class and .357 and .45 acp smith revolvers are just about right for the revlover class.

February 19, 2007, 11:52 AM
Mike, Thanks for the fast response. Your club is about 110 miles from me, can guests come to shoot?

I'd love to get something like that going here at our club.

The 22LR cut down pins is a cool idea, in that the "bodies" of the pins used for centerfire are probably used up before the tops.

How do you cut the pins squarely?

February 19, 2007, 12:16 PM

If you want to come you are more than welcome. The pin league runs in the summer and the indoor rimfire target league runs in the winter. There are a few phone numbers on the website that you can call for more info. or you can email them at their ' contact us ' email address. In the past they ran them on wed nights but have switched to thurdays and I work on thursday night so I haven't gone in a while...:(

They are great guys and gals at out club and more than helpful.

I think they just use a sawzall to cut the tops off, I'm not sure how they keep them square when they cut.

Pins are fun and frustrating. Enjoy!!!

safety note: DO not shoot full pins with a .22. There is a good chance you'll catch fragments as they tend to bounce off. Not that I am speaking from personal experience or anything....:o