Fifty (50) Years of Plinkin’

Somewhere around 14 years of age — 50 years ago — I acquired a 22 revolver, a High Standard Double Nine. If I remember right, I bought it at a Western Auto store and the price had to have been less than $50 or I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. Even though there were some differences between it and a sho ’nuff cowboy gun, i.e. double-action instead of single action and swing-out cylinder rather than a loading gate, it was close enough for me to be satisfied. And nine shots without reloading lead to some serious plinkin’.

For you city folks, plinkin’ is shooting at tin cans or bottles or other items found in a junk pile, just for fun. I think the name comes from the sound of a bullet hitting a tin can, which is always a favorite plinkn’ target. It’s a fascinating pastime, even more fun than shooting at bullseye targets. Tin cans tumble. Bottles chatter. Jugs full of water go “thunk.” Cans shot at as they pass under a bridge sink. I know, many of us don’t live where we can do that kind of shooting anymore, but we can always hope for someone to invite us to the farm every now and then.

When I had my double-nine it was always with me, at least in my truck. But somewhere along the way, I traded it off for something. I think it was a stereo. Dumb move. I’ve missed that pistol for years. Trying to buy one like it now is not easy. You can find listings for Double Nines at some of the online auctions, but the good ones are gone before I even discover them. The ones that remain always leave something to be desired.

It’s not that I have a lot of plinkin’ opportunities. I get to the shooting range fairly often, but roaming the countryside looking for plinkin’ targets just isn’t something I’m readily able to do. Still, I can dream.

That dreaming, plus a number of upcoming NRA Basic Pistol classes to teach, lead me to acquire a modern-day counterpart to the old Double 9. My new gun is a Ruger’s Single 10. It’s the classic Single Six, but with a 10-round cylinder instead of 6. It’s a very pretty gun, reflective of Ruger’s quality workmanship.

Ruger Single 10That the Single 10 is a single-action makes absolutely no difference to me. The best I remember I always cocked the High Standard before pulling the trigger. I’m a much better shot that way. A couple of added features really make the Single 10 a better gun. Walnut gunfighter grips fit the hand easily and the Hi-Viz target sights really suit my 64 year-old eyes.

One of the joys of using this revolver to introduce new shooters to the art of pistolcraft is that it’s very accurate. If we properly teach them sight alignment and sight picture plus how to stand, grip, breath and pull the trigger, they will be rewarded with holes in the target where they want them. And they’ll have the added benefit of experiencing a finely-crafted firearm for their initial shooting experience.

I don’t know that I’ll ever throw this gun in the truck and haul it around the country, but you can bet I’ll be on the lookout for plinkin’ opportunities!

Going Retro

I grew up playing Cowboys and Indians, watching Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey movies on TV and viewing westerns at the theater with stars like John Wayne, Randolph Scott and later Clint Eastwood. It’s natural for me to be attracted to old cowboy guns like the Colt 45 Single Action Army and it’s variants. Colt knows people like their guns and they’re priced accordingly. A genuine Colt SAA is way out of range of my gun budget.Ruger Blackhawk - 357 Maximum

That doesn’t meant I have to do without, however. In a previous article I’ve described my Ruger Blackhawk 357 Maximum. This is a gun I honestly purchased because of the way it looked and the price. It was $300. I didn’t know at the time that Ruger had recalled and discontinued it’s line of 357 Maximums, supposedly because of top-strap burning due to the heavy loads of the 357 Maximum cartridge. Evidence later emerged that the only incidents of the top-strap buring were the result of reloaders loading excessive charges. My gun  has absolutely no evidence of any damage whatsoever. In fact, it’s nearly pristine.

Even with the Ruger, I’ve had a hankering for a true SAA clone for sometime and last year decided on a beautiful stainless steel Beretta Stampede. I was debating between a Ruger Vaquero and the Stampede and settled on the Stampede for two reasons:  I’ve already got a Ruger revolver and the Stampede was available for less money than the particular Vaquero I would have wanted. It turns out the Stampede is made by the Italian Company Uberti, known for its authentic clones of Old West guns. The action was smoothed at the factory and this is one pistol I’m proud to own.

You’d think I’d have been satisfied, and I guess I was until cruising by the gun counter at Outdoor World and seeing an under $300 price tag on a new Uberti Hombre in 45 Colt. In fact, with a little inquiry I learned that I could apply a discount and get this particualar 45 Colt Cowboy pistol for $270. So I did. Then I went shooting.

It was a fun day at the range with a box of 45 Colt cartridges from Black Hills ammo and some Winchester 38 Specials for the Ruger Blackhawk. First I shot the Uberti. I’m going to show you the targets below, but I’ll be honest, this gun really surprised me. I had the targets out about 15 feet. I took a steady aim and the first shot went almost dead center of the target. I fired another one that touched the first one, and honestly the third shot went into one of the first two holes so that I was three shots in with only two holes in the target. I was impressed. The action was smooth, the gun well balanced. Nothing wrong with the workmanship. Wow. I fired a couple of cylinders full, then put up another target for the Beretta.

The Beretta Stampede grouped well, but slighlty left of point of aim. Recoil on either of these two guns was minimal. I found myself curling my right pinky under the grip for support. I didn’t think much about it, until later at another gun range I heard an old Cowboy Action Shooter tell his buddy that was his secret for shooting Cowboy guns accurately. Interesting. I’d just stumbled across something that worked for me and later found out it’s a secret of the experts.

I had recently adjusted the sights on the Blackhawk and boresighted it at the office. This was its first trip to the range after that adjustment. I fired part of a box of 38 specials and was pleased with the results. Experience has proven the Blackhawk is just as accurate with 357 or 357 Maximums as with the 38 Specials, just a lot louder.

Here are the targets for all three guns. You can see for yourself, the old Six Shooters are pretty darn accurate, even with their minimal iron sights.

Time constraints and bum knees may prevent me from it, but I’m getting a hankering for some Cowboy Action Shooting as sponsored by the Single Action Shooters Society (SSAS.org). Even if I don’t do the SASS thing, I’ll enjoy plinking with these guns and someday they’ll get passed along to the kids and/or grandkids. I’ll probably add a couple of .22 caliber models to the collection within the next year. Both Ruger and Uberti are making 10 shot 22’s. Ubertis can be converted to 22 Magnum. Now that’s really cool!