Getting Started In Pin Shooting

The first step is to do an online search and find pin shoots, and clubs that shoot pins, close enough to travel there.

OK, you’ve heard about it, and you want to start. The first step is to do an online search and find pin shoots, and clubs that shoot pins, close enough to travel there. It doesn’t do any good to find a pin shoot that is 1,000 miles away. Unless, of course, it is The Pin Shoot, the Big Leagues in Central Lake. But to get started, find some place close.

What do you need?

Let’s begin with the Main Event. To start with, you need a handgun (revolver or pistol) and enough magazines or speedloaders to manage a “set” of pin tables. A set, in the classic, original sense, and the way things are done at The Pin Shoot, is three tables of five pins each. So you basically need a pistol and four magazines (you’re going to have to reload, trust me). A lot of shooters plan on six magazines, a back-up for each table, just because why not? If you are a revolver shooter, you’ll need that wheelgun and three or four speedloaders.

Local clubs might run things a bit different, because of the number of tables they have. The classic process is to arrive at the line when your name is called, and once the line is hot, load your handgun. On the start, shoot the first table. Once you are done (or time runs out) reload and step to the second table. Repeat. And so-on with the third.

Once you have fired three tables, unload and show clear. The pinsetters will re-set the tables, and while they do so you can reload your magazines or speedloaders, catch your breath, and figure out how to do the next set better.

A full score for an entry in the Main Event is two sets of three tables.


Scoring is simple in the Main Event: you are timed from the start signal, to the last pin hitting the ground. No scoring rings, no alibis, just you and the pins. You are allowed to use any load, in any handgun that fits the category rules, that doesn’t damage the tables.

If the ammo in the gun to start hasn’t been enough to clear the table, you can reload and keep going. Pins left on the table keep the clock ticking, up to fifteen seconds.

Each table is scored and recorded. Your five fastest of your six tables are totaled for your final score. Your worst score is not added to the total, but held as the tie-breaker. If you and another shooter have the same totals, then your worst scores are used to break the tie.

You will “time out” in fifteen seconds per table, just because there are other shooters waiting. So the maximum time would be 75 seconds. At fifteen seconds, the timers will tell you to stop, so everyone can move on to the next table.

But wait, there’s more.

Up at The Pin Shoot, there are four categories in the Main Event. They are: Pin Gun, Stock Gun, Space Gun and Concealed Carry gun. A local club might have all, one or two, or other categories that are in favor there. The category rules can be found here on The Pin Shoot web page. You do not have to enter all of them.

You can, if you enter them, shoot all four categories. You can shoot them all in one day, in any order, or one or two each day of The Pin Shoot. Local pin shoots are likely to be one-day affairs, so you’d better be hopping to get them all in.

Here are a few tips to make the experience easier, more fun, and increase your returning.

You can “Shoot up”

Let’s say you have an entirely suitable Stock Gun, but not one of the other three. So what? You can always shoot up. A Stock Gun is kosher in Pin and space, but not the Concealed Carry gun Event. Yes, you will be at an equipment disadvantage, using a Stock Gun in the Pin Gun event. So what? The idea is to have fun. If you find you like it and really want to do more pin shooting, you have a year to buy/build/trade into a Pin gun, or a Space gun, or both.

Bring ammo. A lot of it.

Yes, five pins should not require more than five shots. In fact, the mantra among pin shooters, is “one shot, one pin.” In a perfect world, we’d all show up with 30 rounds for each set of six tables. A fifty-round box of ammo for each six-table Main Event is a good idea, and the standard most shooters plan on.

Bring your usual gear.

Eye and ear protection are a must. In this day and age, no-one will let you shoot otherwise. A hand towel is a good idea, because you will be sweating. Unless it is a bitterly cold day, the stress will have you sweating.

More magazines

And speed-loaders, if you use a revolver, are a good idea. You have time to reload between tables, but as long as your magazines work, more is better.

If you use a revolver, a block that holds ammo in sets of six will make reloading a lot less stressful.

Move out

Once you are done, pick up your gear and get off the line. Others want to shoot, and they need the time to get set up. Be sure and collect your scorecard once the recorders are done with it.


The Optional Events run a bit differently. OK, there are the same three tables in front of you, but the number and array of pins will be different. They will be arrayed in the specific layout for that particular Optional you’ve entered.

You will shoot them in sets of three, but you can shoot more than two sets if you wish. In fact, you can shoot pretty much as many Optionals as your wallet, hands/shoulder or ammo supply can take. That, and daylight.

Scoring on Optionals is done one of two ways: cleared, or tipped.

The Optional Events that require a cleared table are scored the same as the Main Events: all of the pins have to hit the ground, time stops on the last one. These would be the Shotgun, 8-Pin, Two and Three-man events.

The tip-over events only require that all the pins be tipped over. This would be the 9×12 event and the PCC. You only have to tip the pins over, but there is one catch: you must shoot the bottom row first.

Why? Shooters learned early-on that by tipping over the top pins, those pins could fall down to the bottom, and tip over some of the pins on the bottom row. Since this is a shooting contest, and not a lucky-roll event, you now have to shoot the bottom row first.