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Kids, .22s, and Tin Cans

by Dan Johnson   |  July 7th, 2011 15

Kids are strange and wonderful creatures that present adults with many challenges. I suppose the three basic challenges are keeping them safe, keeping them fed, and keeping them entertained. Kids are reckless eating machines with short attention spans. It is usually easy to get them interested in some activity: shooting for example. Keeping them interested can be a lot tougher.

Shooting at paper under the necessarily strict rules of most gun clubs and public ranges can get boring in a hurry, even for many adults. A great way to stoke kids’ enthusiasm for the sport is to take them plinking. An accurate .22 handgun and a few tin cans will keep most youngsters entertained for hours and have them nagging to go again.

Ruger Single-Six with tin canThe most difficult aspect of putting together a tin can safari may be finding a safe place to shoot. Urban development and ever-sprawling suburbs have eaten up many of the places where casual shooting used to be commonplace. If you live in the West, there is plenty of public land and natural backstops where you can safely take the kids for an afternoon of shooting. In the East it may take more planning.

Perhaps you have relatives or friends who own a farm or other sizable acreage of open land. Maybe you do not know who owns a large tract of undeveloped land nearby but it might be worth finding out and asking permission to take your kids plinking there. With today’s sue-happy society, they may understandably turn you down, but you won’t know until you ask. It is surprising what most people will do to accommodate children.

It may be you have to drive some distance to find a suitable place. It is worth the effort. Make a day of it. Bring chairs and other items to make the outing more comfortable and, of course, plenty of food. Wherever you find to plink, do not shoot bottles or other things you cannot easily clean up when you finish.

The effort expended in taking your kids plinking will pay big dividends in the long run. Not only will you strengthen the bond between parent and child and make some memories, but you will also help strengthen your child’s desire to shoot and get them through those fickle years when kids’ tend to easily lose interest in all sorts of endeavors. Plinking will help keep them motivated.


Editor’s Note: An article on a Ruger SP101 in .22 LR by Wayne VanZwoll  appeared in the August issue of Guns & Ammo magazine, which is currently on newsstand. This article was inadvertently run as Ruger is not producing an SP101 in .22 LR at this time, and this model is not currently available for sale.. Guns & Ammo prematurely released this story; Ruger hopes  to begin shipping this model by August 1, Ruger will make the official announcement.

Both Ruger and Guns & Ammo apologize for any confusion or inconvenience from the article being published.

  • BPSniper

    Excellent, Dan. I agree fully.

  • ericb

    Good stuff Dan

    If I might add, if you are taking kids onto public land to target shoot, consider using natural targets instead of bottles or cans. I come across impromptu ranges a lot in my hiking and many are littered with broken glass and pork and bean cans.

    I have found that Ritz crackers make great little reactive targets.

  • NN

    A sawed off piece of a dead tree branch about the size of a pop can works well and in the right place may be easier to clean up. Another tgt could be a naturally fallen pine cone.

  • tennmike

    Good article! .22 ammo is cheap, so a lot of shooting can be done for just a few dollars. And there are so many good .22 pistols to choose from now. Along with Ritz crackers, a box of regular saltine crackers are fun shooting targets. Pack your cans and plastic bottles in, and be sure to pack them out. The more kids introduced to shooting, the better. Get 'em off the couch and out shooting.

  • wolf049

    A lot of area's where you could take kids out and shoot have been closed down to shooting because of people not cleaning up after themselves. That's a shame because now you have to take the kids to a range that will not let you use "Fun" targets and that's if they even allow kids on the range.

  • Alex Krysa

    I recently purchased a nicely stocked Ruger 1022 at a Walmart of all places because they were selling out their stock at this Western Pennsylvania store and the price was great. Little did I know what I was getting into. After I looked over the rifle and decided to purchase it, the clerk could not handle paperwork and had to call an assistant mgr to do the FFL paperwork. After I completed the paperwork, he reviewed it all then called it in for an instant background check. After the background check was completed and approved, he call the Department mgr, who reviewed all the paperwork and checked the serial number on the rifle. The Department mgr then called the store mgr. Once the store mgr arrived, he also reviewed all the paperwork, checked the serial number on the rifle, then told the clerk to box it up and seal it. The clerk had to place a special seal on the box, which sealed it from being opened. Then the store mgr said, follow me, and he carried the boxed rifle to the front of the store, walked out into the parking lot and handed the boxed rifle to me. He thanked me and apologized for the time it took, but said this is the Walmart policy on gun sales. This entire process involved 4 Walmart employees, took over an hour to complete and I never felt so embarassed and angry in my life over a purchase I made at a retail store. I felt as if each clerk and manager was treating me as a criminal. Needless to say, I no longer have good feelings for Walmart stores and wanted to share this with other Guns and Ammo enthusiasts so they would not have to go through the agony that I did.

    • Joe Six-pack

      I formerly bought my can-plinking ammunition at WalMart. (My grandchildren are definitely hooked on shooting at cans swinging from a stand I made, that I put up at the local [country] dump. But, I stopped buying my ammo at WalMart because of:

      1. the difficulty I always have finding someone with the key to the ammo shelves

      2. having to justify my "none of your business" answer to their question "is this for a rifle or handgun?" (I'm pushing 60 years old and definitely look it!)

      3. their refusal to "double-bag" my ammo purchased

      WalMart has definitely lost my business.

  • Scott E. Mayer

    Dan, I took Anna (age 7) and Dangerous Dave (age 10) plinking today with a .22 conversion on my .45. Would load only one cartridge, and then when they got better with handling the gun would load two, and up to five in the gun at a time. They loved it. David put all 50 of his shots in a 10" circle at 7 yds off-hand. Anna put 13 of her shots in that same circle at 7 yards off-hand. She was pretty put off by her shooting, but when I told her that she had a 26% hit rate, and that was better than most police, she felt much better!

  • Mike Berry

    Alex, Just be glad you don't live in Illinois,the most gun unfriendly of any State. 24 hr. wait to take home your long gun,48hrs. for handguns.There is only 1 outdoor range that is open to the public/non members in the entire northern half of the state.

  • Guido

    Excellent Article, my kids loved to shoot also. Try using balloons tied to tree limbs.

  • Orlando La Rosa

    Hey Mike, don't worry about Illinois, be glad you don't live in The Peoples Republik of Kalifornia. Here we have a ten day wait for pistols, rifles, and shotguns. All you can get without a ten day wait are rifles and shotguns that are over 50 years old, and then only from a private dealer. If you want to buy a 100 tear old Russian Mosin-Nagant from a place like Big Five, you still have a ten day wait. Also, you can only get magazines with a 10 round capacity, although if people seriously want high capacity magazines, all they have to do is go to Oregon, Nevada, or Arizona, and they can get all they want. California is bad enough, but I understand there are a few states worse than California. You can't even buy The Judge in this state. the state considers it a short shotgun.

  • Britt

    When I was stationed in Colorado it was easy to go plinking; a bit more difficult here in Texas as I don't know any big land owners (yet). Some more ideas for impromptu targets, find the cheap no-name brand cream filled cookies, they can usually be found for a couple of dollars for a package of 300 or more. Get the ones with the chocolate cookie on one side and vanilla on the other. These are great because you can push the small branches into the cream to put them on bushes and trees and you can choose whichever side best contrasts the background. Or separate the two halves and the cream makes a natural paste for sticking on logs, or other surfaces. While you’re shopping get some of the cheap no-name/store brand sodas in cans. These are great reactive targets if you shake up the full soda then set it out as a target. They will “explode” when hit even with the smallest caliber, even air rifles. Any of these “targets” not used can still be drunk or eaten. Please be sure to pick up the can pieces. Better yet pack out more trash than you packed in! We always brought a couple extra trash bags for this very purpose. And don’t forget to police up your brass as well.

  • Jeremiah

    Something I recently discovered that might help those in the East- Airsoft. They are essentially plastic BB guns with a spring mechanism (bypassing pneumatic regulations). The more expensive ones are fairly accurate and can teach the basics (trigger squeeze, sight picture). As a plus, you can hit paper/plastic cups with the same general effect as a .22/can combo. Ammo is exceptionally cheap (5,000 rounds for about $15). And if you are in an especially skittish region (read North East), you can do this indoors safely. My kids love to shoot this way, and they are getting plenty of practice without worrying about the neighbors in suburbia.

  • ntrudr_800

    Hello all, I just want to highlight safety. I heard about a father who went talking about this or that to someone and left his child unattended for a short time. I heard the child shot themselves & died. I'm not sure if this is true, but it certainly would be tragic and horrid, not just for the family but also for the shooting sports. Be sure to watch your young ones at all times when they are near firearms, and be at their side while they are shooting.

    On another note, I'd love to find some land to plink on. The author wrote that shooting bottles was a bad idea–I disagree. Shooting GLASS BOTTLES is a bad idea as they break apart into such itty-bitty pieces that they become litter. A tin can or plastic bottle would be fine–just be sure & clean up after yourself. I'd hate to see the classic tin can & bottle missing from a day's plinking session in the good ol' USA.

    I recently acquired a Marlin .22WMR rifle that I'd be more than happy to plink with. My dream is to have land nearby to plink on, however I do not know where to go to shoot. When I buy my firearms I imagine myself plinking or hunting, not just shooting paper. I need to find a place to shoot other than the gun range that is safe & has no people/property nearby that may get shot. I know I'll find a place one of these days… :)

  • Army of Dad

    You can still have plenty of fun at a typical paper target only public range. Shoot N C and all other 'splatter' targets are great for kids. They can see a direct impact from their shot every time they hit the paper and they don't have to be very accurate to see results.

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