Plinking Practice Makes Perfect

Best plinking targets and teaching kids to shoot

Plinking, named for the sound a bullet makes when hitting metal, has been popular since the invention of the gun. It's a good bet most of us got our start shooting a BB or pellet gun at a row of cans and bottles with the ever-present "Don't shoot your eye out" ringing in our ears. From there, we likely moved up to a .22 LR with its relatively inexpensive rounds and low recoil.

The sound of hitting a target – or seeing a puff of dust from hitting dirt – gives young and novice shooters immediate feedback without having to walk downrange. They can adjust their grip, stance, steadiness, breath control and aiming to improve shooting skills. The relaxed, calm setting also lends itself to teaching and practicing proper gun safety.

For experienced hunters, plinking helps keep you sharp and focused in the off-season. No matter which firearm you use, plinking helps you practice your shooting techniques for hunting. You'll hit the ground running on opening day.

Minimal preparation and expense make plinking perfect for practicing marksmanship skills. It's an activity the whole family can enjoy together. It can be a great time of friendly competition and bonding. For safety, make sure everyone is fitted with the proper firearm for their size, age and experience level.

After finding a safe place to plink, many things can become a target – cans, bottles, milk jugs filled with water, charcoal briquettes, eggs, dishes, pizza boxes, junk mail, sister's diary (nope, wouldn't do that) or any number of manufactured targets. There are many targets made specifically for plinking that add variety and difficulty, sharpening skills while keeping plinking exciting. Always wear eye and ear protection, and make sure children are supervised. Common sense keeps plinking safe and fun. Now, plink away!

Remember lining up tin cans, old bottles or, heaven help you, Grandma's Mason jars to get in some target practice? Nothing topped competing against friends in plinking games. Winning bragging rights was priceless, and it was all fun and games – until you ran out of cans and bottles (or Grandma showed up).

As society becomes more environmentally minded and recycling conscious, it may be harder to find and less desirable to use good ol' cans and bottles to practice on. This is where reusable targets come in handy. There are shaped targets, noise-making targets, automatic-resetting targets and even self-healing targets. Yep, self-healing. Your cans and bottles won't do that. No matter which you choose, they're fun, many are reusable, and all keep young plinkers interested and focused.

What a world it would be if only we could heal ourselves like these targets do. Self-healing targets are made of a technologically advanced material that reseals after bullet impact. Designed for military and law-enforcement training, these targets can often handle more than 1,000 rounds. Self-sealing targets can be attached to stands or made into free-moving shapes and animals. They fly, bounce and roll every time they're hit, and offer an unpredictable challenge for any shooter.

If making a racket is your thing and the sound of gunfire just isn't enough, consider targets that make extra noise. Noise-making targets give you the feedback of sounds like cowbells, gongs and even musical instruments so you know you've hit your mark. These sounds are especially helpful for long-range shooting when it's harder to see if you've hit the target. No more walking back and forth to be sure.

Auto-reset targets are fun, convenient, and come in various shapes and sizes. Shoot to knock them down, then hit a master target to set them back up. No more walking downrange to reset.

Clay pigeons are a mainstay of trapshooting, but did you know there are also stands that can hold clay pigeons to shoot with your handguns? Seeing the shattering of a clay pigeon as you nail it is still pretty awesome.

If you still like tried-and-true paper targets, there are plenty of options. Usually printed with shapes and colors to gauge accuracy, they're great for competitive shooting and personal practice. Plus, you can take notes on the paper for reference or send it to a friend with a "Top this!" challenge written on it.

Always make safety the No. 1 rule for handling and shooting your gun. By shooting reusable targets, not only will cleaning up your area be quicker and easier, in the long run, you'll save money.

Now, get out there, stay safe and have fun. Practice safety, practice shooting and practice responsibility. Grandma would be proud!