It's one of the most favorite pastimes for Americans that live out in the country, and it's called plinking.
Here's the thing:
When you are a kid in the country, there is nothing more fun starting out than getting your very first BB gun. You end up taking it almost everywhere and experimenting with what you can shoot at.
As you get a little bit older, you feel the yearning to shoot the type of guns that the big boys shoot. You want more. And that's when you get your first 22.
Why does it matter?
Because it's a right of passage. Your first 22 is your first major step into improving your shooting skills and hunting small game.
But what to do when starting out?
That's when Dad, Uncle, or Grandpa puts an old can on a fence post and starts showing us more advanced shooting techniques.
We have moved on since then, but still, even as young or old adults, we can't quite shake the fun involved in this activity. It holds a certain kind of magic to it that makes it worthwhile.
Even if you didn't have that traditional path through shooting or growing up, you can still feel and capture this magic through this activity.
Not only that...
It allows us as fathers, uncles, or grandpa's to pass on the skill to the next generation. And ladies, if you are the one filling that role in a young person's life, we salute you.
In this guide, I'm going to walk you through everything you ever wanted to know about the topic, and give you some tried and true tips on how to have the most amazing fun.
If you don't have some land where you can safely shoot, then consider taking your gear for a day at the gun range.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, where Trek Warrior makes a small commission at no extra cost to you.
What Is Plinking?
The best plinking definition is that it is an onomatopoeia suggesting the sound of a small caliber bullet hitting a metallic can. It makes the characteristic sound of "plink".
Typically, it is a rusted can found in some field and set up along the top of a fence post.
Traditionally, it is thought of as an informal shooting sport. It is usually done with a small caliber rifle and ammo with enough grain and powder to barely reach out and touch seventy-five yards flat.
There is nothing wrong with adhering to traditions, but we also want to make clear in this article that there are more options to take your outings to the next level.
As we stated, it involves a small caliber rimfire rifle, an abundance of cheap ammunition, target shooting between twenty five and one hundred yards (good luck), and cleaning out a lot of bore soot.
Why Do It?
So, what it comes down to is why you should be interested in it or allowing your children, who have been properly educated in firearm safety and are under your supervision, take part in this sport?
There are several reasons worth mentioning:
It helps your hand-eye coordination. It is also helpful regarding shooting, ejecting, and repositioning for another shot.
It is a great stress reducer. A tough day at the office or some unpaid bills laying around affect us all.
Nothing burns away the stress as efficiently as several dozen rounds sent downrange.
It is fun! You can take my word for it, but I hope after finishing this article you experience it for yourself.
It is a fantastic method of getting friends and family members interested in hunting and shooting without costing thousands of dollars.
Large caliber rifles can be intimidating and long distance shots can be difficult and lead to frustration. Fun shooting introduces those close to you to firearms.
It improves your use of sights or a scope. It is a fantastic starting point before moving up to the large calibers and high power scopes.
Learning how to adjust scopes, especially elevation and windage at this level, is a great jumping point to becoming efficient with shooting optics.
There are some factors to consider when heading out into the field. We will outline and discuss each one in detail next.
Best Plinking Gun
So, what makes a good firearm for this type of activity? You obviously do not want anything high in the price range, but you might want a firearm that serves a bigger purpose than simply target practice.
And of course, the rifle does not have to be cheap to be considered a great rifle. In the firearms community, any gun that is great for this activity is usually called a plinker.
Any rimfire rifle is perfect, so the options are vast. Single shot, tube magazines, bolt action, lever action, or whatever are all great plinkers.
The specific gun does not matter as long as it shoots and you are happy.
Tactical rimfire firearms have gained popularity and are becoming a mainstay. They offer many enjoyable shooting opportunities and are all around fun guns.
The .22 rifle is without a doubt the most popular and for a good reason. If you are shopping around for one of these, we rounded up the top 5 for you in this article.
These rifles can be found relatively cheap and the ammo is inexpensive. Also, the lack of recoil and low sound helps keep from unsettling the neighbors.
Another rifle that is gaining popularity in this realm includes the .17 caliber rifle. Having a rifle chambered for this round gives you a little more distance to play with than a standard .22LR or .22short.
The .17 has higher velocity and a flatter trajectory. More importantly, the cost of the ammo is not too much higher than the .22.
Low caliber pistols are also common. We will take a look at the best 22 pistol.
So, if you do not have a rimfire in your arsenal or are looking to add another one, here are some models that you can bet you will be happy owning:
The Model 60 is possibly the most popular .22 in America. It is chambered for .22LR and can shoot the head off matches.
Rifles that are this accurate and durable usually run high in the price, but the Model 60 is very affordable.
This is a great rimfire rifle for practice as well as small game hunting if you want some versatility. It is an autoloader and holds 14+1 cartridges. The grooved receiver also makes it no problem to mount a scope.
We mentioned the growing popularity of tactical rimfires on the range. The Mossberg International 715T made the cut for our tactical pick.
This autoloader is one of the more affordable tactical rimfires and has a 25 round magazine. The length of pull is also adjustable for comfortable shooting for both you and friends.
This is my selfish pick. The Henry lever action is the rimfire I grew up with and spent time shooting at rusted cans and Chevy hoods propped up in the woods.
Luckily, my selfish pick belongs on this list. This is a beautiful rimfire that can drive tacks with tight groupings.
It is reasonably priced and with care will be with the family for years. It has a tube magazine and holds 14+1 rounds. I may be biased, but this is the type of rimfire I imagined during the process of writing this article.
We have mentioned several times that it is a great opportunity to introduce your kids to the art of shooting.
We would be remiss not to list a great rimfire to have them break into the sport. The Rascal Youth by Savage is a light weight at just less than three pounds.
It is a single shot bolt action perfect for youth and beginner marksmen still learning the ins and outs of firearm use and safety.
The CZ 455 American can be purchased chambered for either .22LR or .17HMR cartridges.
The .17HMR chambering can hold 5+1 rounds with a ventral detachable magazine. This is a bolt action rimfire that is known for its accuracy and reliability perfect for both practice and small game hunting.
Scope mounting is easy with dovetail notches already cut by the manufacturer. If you are looking for some longer range practice, this rimfire chambered for .17HMR will give you the range you are looking for.
Browning rimfire pistols have been the top handguns for decades because of their bullseye accuracy.
The Buck Mark Plus UDX models offer several options in barrel and handle finishes, but all have the ultra grip deluxe (UDX) technology, optics rail for easy installation of your choice of sights, and single stack 10 round magazines.
These pistols are extremely popular. Many accessories are available to personalize your pistol.
Having the right scope mounted to your rimfire can take your practice shooting to another level of enjoyment. This is not shooting at 500 yards or more.
You do not need a $1,000 scope. However, some thought should go into selecting a scope. Now, the type of scope that you pick is going to depend on the range you have in mind.
Most of the time, there is no reason you are going to need anything higher than a 5X magnification on your scope unless you are thinking 100 yard shots or further and small targets.
If you are planning on being from twenty five to fifty yards, you might not even want to spend the money on a scope.
If you are determined to have a scope, you will only need a 2.5 to 3X fixed scope. This will also help keep the price down compared to variable scopes with magnification adjustments.
For those that need a refresher on what to look for when buying a scope, we've got a great guide for you.
If you are going to be shooting at shorter and longer ranges for other uses besides practice shooting, you might invest in a higher power variable scope.
Depending on the hunting you are doing, you might choose a scope such as a 3-9X. Be sure the magnification is low enough for the range.
Best Plinking Ammo
Like the firearm, you want ammo that is not going to take huge chunks out of your paycheck. You also want ammo that comes in bulk, as you will most likely go through several hundred rounds within a couple of sessions.
If you are just looking to pass some time, you probably just want to go with quantity over quality and deal with a few misfires or jams from shooting low-quality rimfire cartridges.
If you are looking for some precise and longer distance shooting, you should check out several of our favorite ammo brands that will not break the bank.
Regarding grain, you do not need a very heavy bullet as you are not going to need much knockdown power. Lighter bullets also tend to cost a little less than the higher grain rounds.
The .22LR, .22 short, and .17HMR are all going to be the ideal caliber to match the rifles and pistols that were mentioned earlier. In general, the .22LR ammo is going to be cheaper than the .17HMR.
Regardless of how serious you get, you are going to be burning through ammo.
If you want it to be enjoyable and light on the wallet, let's look at some of the most popular loads up ahead.
Most of these ammo types come in sets of fifty up to a thousand rounds. They are not high-grain or high-quality brass, but they also will not foul up your barrel.
Here are several of our favorite picks for ammo:
- Federal Champion .22LR
- CCI Standard Velocity .22LR
- Hornady .17HMR Varmit Express
- CCI .17HMR TNT GREEN
While it can take place just about anywhere outside of the city limits, there are some aspects of your setup that you should consider before sending rounds downrange.
You need some structure to hang or set your targets on. This can be just about anything from tree branches, fence posts, stumps, or commercially available stands.
You need a backdrop downrange of the target to stop any bullets that miss the target. A .22LR or .17HMR are not going to travel very far, but it is still good practice. Heavy woods or a rise in terrain is the perfect backstop.
There should be absolutely no houses or roads downrange of your target. Remember that gun safety is your responsibility. Safety first!
You want clear and relatively even terrain from your shooting position downrange to the target. This is especially important when introducing someone to shooting.
While changes in elevation can add some increased difficulty to the shot, you might lose some visibility from draws or brush. This can be a safety concern.
While not necessary for casual shooting, a gun rest or shooting bench can be beneficial especially if you are trying to hone your marksmanship with difficult targets at further distances.
Keep these tips in mind when setting up an area for your day of shooting and you should have a successful, productive, and safe day.
In addition to the setup, always practice muzzle and trigger safety, especially if out in the field with multiple rifles and people.
Best Plinking Targets
We obviously need something to shoot at in order to improve our skill.
The number of targets available to be bought or lying around the house is too numerous to list.
We will list some of the best commercially available targets.
Then we'll go over some common targets most people have stashed away at the house.
Commercially available targets:
Homemade plinking targets:
- Golf Balls
- Charcoal bits
- Aluminum or Tin cans
- Clay targets
- 2 Liters
It might be a way to pass the time for some shooters or a cure for boredom, but it also has a lot of benefits for both the novice or expert marksman or hunter.
It familiarizes novices with rifle shooting and is great for learning proper shooting techniques and scope use.
While traditionally thought of as just an informal hobby, it has been emerging as a large shooting market with firearms, scopes, ammo, and targets being manufactured with no decline in sight.
I do not want to make it seem like some new marketing scheme to bleed you of money because that is not in the spirit of it.
The bottom line is—you have many options available to outfit yourself for the level of practice that suits you.
Plinking has been a part of American shooting culture for a hundred years or more.
We hope that this article has provided you a detailed, informative guide to the sport of it and that it will motivate you to enjoy all that it has to offer.
Huston has spent over 18 years chasing trout, deer, turkey, and game birds across the Southeast and Midwest United States.
As the founder of Discovery & Learning Writing Service, he enjoys helping businesses generate trustworthy and quality material in the outdoor, science, and education fields.
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