Plinking: recreational shooting, often at “action targets” such as empty cans, that react when hit

Target practice: shooting in which there is a measurable result, e.g. a paper target with a ringed bulls eye placed at a measured distance.

As used around the shooting fraternity, plinking typically implies a lot of shooting. Action targets (an empty can) are good because they tend to maintain interest; the beginner can see/hear their “successes”, and a puff of dust initiates another try. Actually, plinking can be considered a subset of training. It is building enthusiasm and reinforcing the muscle memory discussed in some of our other articles.

But at this stage a new, and very large, consideration enters the picture: COST. Since you only get one chance at making your favorite novice’s first experience with shooting a pleasant one, we would strenuously argue that you cannot afford to skip the 4-Sigma Bullets low noise/low recoil ammo. That being said, most family budgets can’t maintain a steady diet of that particular ammo. So when (and only when) muscle memory is firmly fixed, its time to move on to the much cheaper “reduced loads”.

Before you move on though, we suggest that you read our article, Reduced Load Ammo. The table in that article illustrates a useful succession of “reduced loads” that can be used to gradually increase the noise and recoil from the 4-Sigma Bullets level to full throttle factory loads. It involves changes in both bullet weights and powder charges.

Let’s summarize the steps that should be taken before you start your favorite novice plinking:

  • The blackboard stuff includes what a proper sight picture looks like (see our article Training Muscle Memory);
  • A slow and steady trigger squeeze is taught by using a rubber ball;
  • The first shot is fired in a relaxed environment, with as few distractions as possible, and with dad or granddad calmly talking to the shooter. The objective is to separate muscle memory from the brain.

When you are confident that the bicycle effect is in control, map out your series of loads that gradually increase the noise and recoil, being careful not to rush the process. Spend lots of time plinking at each level. Carefully watch for any sign of flinching. At the first sign of any such behavior, drop back as many levels as needed for the student to again become comfortable and have no flinch. Then gradually begin again to increase the loads. Our experience is that if you increase gradually, it is seldom necessary to move back.

Be aware of the additional values of plinking at a dynamic target. Much of the time in the field, that first shot is at a stationary target. If successful, there is no second shot. But if a second shot is needed, the target is essentially always moving and you don’t have time to think. You want to work your action and get back on target in the same way your foot automatically goes to the brake were a child to jump into the road in front of you. Plinking develops that skill.

Target practice is quite different than plinking. We’ll talk about that in another article.

If you are reading this you might also be interested in our other articles: “Flinch”, “Reduced Load Ammo”, and “Training Muscle Memory”.

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