By Massad Ayoob
Photos: Gail Pepin
Old gunnies remember — and younger shooters have heard the stories — of the Second Chance Shoot that ran from the mid-1970s to 1998. It was resurrected as The Pin Shoot in 2017, and has more rifle and shotgun side events than ever, plus SMG.
But the handgun remains the core element. Founder Richard Davis originally designed it for cops with service sidearms, but being a staunch Second Amendment advocate, soon opened it to the general public, leading to something of an arms race. Richard coped with it by creating different handgun categories.
In all but the event that used to be called the “Nine-Pin Tipover,” the heavy regulation bowling pin targets have to be blown as much as three feet back off a steel table. And this calls for powerful loads and heavy bullets with lots of momentum.
The STI Edge was popular in the 9mm event, used here by veteran pin blaster Sam Young.
Expensive guns overrated? Archie Silkworth cleans a “12×12” table with his Ruger P95 9mm.
The Main Events
In the early days you just had to shoot five pins off a wooden table. Then it went to 2-tier steel tables. Since 2017 there have been 3-level tables, and blue “hostage pins” adding five seconds apiece to your time if they fall. The white “target pins” have to all be blown completely off the table and to the ground before your time stops. Your best five out of six 5-pin tables comprise your score, with the worst one taken off (but retained as a tie-breaker, which often makes a difference).
The most popular is the Stock Category. In it, a 5″ auto barrel and an 8-3/8″ revolver barrel are the max allowed. Barrels may be ported, but no extended compensators or optical sights are allowed. And the guns can have no more than an 8-round capacity.
The .45 auto is the most popular here, normally in 1911 format. The most popular revolvers are .357 and .44 Magnum as well as those in .45 ACP. Two other popular autos are the 10mm and the .50 GI with FN or HP bullets — the heavier the better — to take the best bite into the convex target surface to move the pins away decisively. The 2018 winner was Vance Schmid, a seasoned competitor shooting the same Colt Government .45 with Hybrid-ported barrel he carried on duty before he retired.
The Pin Gun Class evolved out of Jim Clark’s original barrel weight for 1911 .45’s, the expansion chamber compensators that followed and — to a lesser extent — heavy custom barrels on revolvers. Here we’re still looking at iron sights and an 8-round capacity. This year’s winner was Felipe Campos, who came with his daughter, also an excellent shot. Yes, there are now multiple generations of the same families shooting here. Phil used a comped Colt belonging to his wife Sue, crafted in 1992 by Ned Christiansen.
The Space Gun Division was created for optical sights and additional tricked-out stuff. Winner Richard Hupp used a revolver — an 8-shot S&W M627 .357 Mag with C-More dot sight.
Concealed Carry started in 2017 and allows only six rounds in a 3.5″ (maximum) barreled gun. Another wheelgun won here, a 2.5″ S&W M686 stuffed with 235-gr. .357 handloads wielded by Jess Christiansen.
The family that shoots together: The Hausermans win the 3-Person Team event —
Dan on the Caspian 1911, Dakota and Levi on the shotguns.
Mas shooting stock: His choice? A Springfield TGO-II .45 ACP with Federal HST 230-gr. +P ammo.
9X12 is the event geared for high-cap 9mms. Since the caliber won’t reliably blow heavy pins back three feet, the shooter only has to knock the dozen target pins over without disturbing a bunch of hostage pins. GLOCKs and such were much in evidence, but the winning guns were double-stack 1911s like the STI Custom Greg Blough used to win.
The Big Push requires the shooter to blast three pins 14.5 feet back off a steel trough. The .454 Casull can do it with perfect center hits, but the .44 Magnum generally can’t. The X-Frame S&Ws in .460 and particularly the .500 Magnum rule here. Wheelgun maestro Richard Hupp won this one too, with an 8 3/8″ S&W .500 loaded with 500-gr. bullets at 1,200 fps.
8-Pin Revolver demands a sixgun and mandatory reload. So .45 ACP S&Ws with full-moon clips obviously dominate, and Barney Niner won with a heavy-barreled Smith M625.
Team Events don’t allow optics, so pin guns are the choice here. In Two-Person, the winning team was master gunsmith Ned Christiansen and his brother Jess, both shooting Guncrafter 1911s in .50 GI with massive aluminum compensators. Three-Person Team has one handgunner alongside two shotgunners. The winning squad was the Hauserman family, with Dakota and Levi running the shotguns while Dan shot a Caspian 1911 .45 ACP.
Next year the shoot will go back to the old Master Blaster and Ordinary Standard Shooter categories. This will keep the sharks separate from the rest of the fish and give new shooters a better chance to win the 60 or 70 prize guns.
A final note: I’ve shot over 40 world and national handgun championship matches in my life, and I’ve never had more fun than at this one.