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Bowling Pins: Caliber? Other tips?

beantownshootahbeantownshootah Member Posts: 12,776 ✭✭✭
edited June 2014 in Ask the Experts
In practice, I know most people use 45acp for bowling pin type contests (which means 44 special and 45LC should also work fine).

The question is, what's the minimum handgun caliber/load that will reliably knock a standard wooden bowling pin off a hard surface like a tabletop?

Which cartridges have you actually seen used for this?

I ask the question because a local range just had one of these contests. Didn't get to play, but I was curious what I could get away with for next time.

In the past I've seen standard pins knocked over consistently with just a center-hit from a .22LR on a casual basis at the range, though this was on dirt. I sort of suspect .22s would just bounce off pins on a table.

Any other tips for shooting these? (We'll assume "practice" and "use a compensator/special gun" are given).

Thanks in advance for answers here.

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    dcs shootersdcs shooters Member Posts: 10,969
    edited November -1
    Haven't shot them since the '70'sbut I used a S&W 29 with 44spl SWC,s. Some used 45lc back then[;)] The bigger, flat nose bullet the better to push then of the table [;)][^]
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    tsr1965tsr1965 Member Posts: 8,682 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    beantownshootah,

    Got the itch, huh?[:D][:D][:D]

    I have played that game, and it depends on the size of the table. 9mm, and 38 special are marginal, and 40 S&W with 180 grain loads, 357 with 158's, 45LC, 44 special,45 ACP,41 Magnum, and 44 magnum mid range loads are preferred. The 10mm FBI load works well, as you don't really need full power 10's. However, the full power 10's are impressive.
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    perry shooterperry shooter Member Posts: 17,390
    edited November -1
    Be aware we tried this for a short time at our range The Bowling pins we got were from local ALLEY and were coated with a thick coating of Plastic We had to build a special containment system out of 3 inch thick oak Top back and both sides of the shooting table. These 3 inch thick lumber only lasted 3 or 4 month I could not believe some damage
    too the sides were at such an angle it was actually in front of where the pins were placed BE CAREFUL
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    brier-49brier-49 Member Posts: 7,058 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I've seen 9MM on up used. Best bet was 45 ACP reloads using a Saeco 058 bullet.
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    CapnMidnightCapnMidnight Member Posts: 8,520
    edited November -1
    Our club has a bowling pin match almost every month, during good weather. Tables are 4X8' sheets of plywood, at 35'. Five pins per table, space 16" apart. The tables have wood frame, with a piece of heavy angle steel protecting the leading edge. Our tables set at a slight angle, the rear being slightly lower than the front. This helps protect the tops of the tables. That being said, we generally have to replace the tables every other year.
    We shoot 3 stages, 22, with the pins at the rear of the table. Mid range, which is 9mm 38 special, 357, 40 S&W. I shoot a 38 Super in this class, the pins are set in the middle of the table. Open class, the pins are set at the front of the table, you can shoot what you brung. The 45 ACP 1911 is probably the most common gun used in this class. When we started, I bought a Desert Eagle 50AE, it was not the answer. Now, after several years, I generally shoot my Smith model 57.
    The 41 mag will knock a pin as far as a 44 mag, and I can get back on target quicker.
    We do not draw and fire from a holster, we start with the muzzle of the gun toughing the bench in front of us.
    This is a progressive match, two shooters heads up, winner progresses.
    I have found that velocity trumps bullet weight in this event, and a flat nosed bullet is an advantage over round nosed.
    Hope this has helped answer your questions.
    W.D.
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    rongrong Member Posts: 8,459
    edited November -1
    We had to stop using 38 spl (bounce-back hit a woman in the face)
    but we had tires as a back stop.
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    dcs shootersdcs shooters Member Posts: 10,969
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by rong
    We had to stop using 38 spl (bounce-back hit a woman in the face)
    but we had tires as a back stop.


    Still have the marks on shins form bounce back form 45 bullets [B)]
    Used to shoot matches at a police range up north that had tires laid flat, tread out, for the back stop [:0][xx(]
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    badchrisbadchris Member Posts: 1,668 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Yep, expect ricochet when hitting the pins. I can't count how many I've taken to various areas of my body (and they all hurt).

    Where I shoot bowling pins, if you run the 22 rimfire class, they will stand the pins on the back edge of the table so all you have to do is topple them over although it is not quite that easy! A really solid "high & center" hit on the top part pin will topple it. Or you can try to hit the lower fat side of the pin and try to spin it off the table.
    Enemies of armed self-defense focus on the gun. They ignore the person protected with that gun.
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    rongrong Member Posts: 8,459
    edited November -1
    If you're a spectator to the bowling pin event,
    there are only 2 positions you can "safely watch":
    straight on and back to the event. This way ones'
    safety glasses will block a front hit to the face and
    back to,your back will take the hit,
    which is the best you could wish for other than
    no hit.
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    beantownshootahbeantownshootah Member Posts: 12,776 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Thanks for the advice. I was deliberately not responding here to not use up comments, but I'll make #10 to close this out.

    In a nutshell, I think everyone is saying that if you could get away with .38s and 9mms for this type of match, people wouldn't be using .45s and such. Makes sense.

    On richochet risk. at a range I used to frequent, one of the competitors at one of these pin matches was hit in the lip by a bouncing .45ACP (or fragment) and it actually opened up a small cut which promptly started bleeding on his shirt! Guy was a total trooper and barely missed a beat finishing his round. He said later that he was always taught that in a gunfight, you don't stop shooting just because you've been hit yourself!

    So yeah, I'm aware of this risk. Range that holds these now has a back wall with thick glass windows for visitors/customers to look inside. So in this case you could actually watch safely, effectively from outside the range, if you wanted to.

    Also, FWIW older range used to hold "pin top" contests for .22s. This was the top part of the bowling pin sawed off and placed on the table, and you'd shoot it with your .22 pistol. Presumably bounce risk was low there.

    Anyway, if I ever get around to doing one of these, I'll post some followup.
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