Author Topic: Frontier plinking  (Read 1480 times)

Offline Galloway

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Frontier plinking
« on: June 28, 2022, 08:55:14 AM »
Been wondering what kind of targets and distances would have been common back in the day for informal shooting. Given the crude sights on so many antiques i figure it must have been at closer ranges, target guns excluded. Id like to hear others thoughts or any period references just for fun.

Offline DeaconKC

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Re: Frontier plinking
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2022, 10:40:39 PM »
Tin cans and playing cards were both common. Also, bottles were plentiful.
Oh, and I do remember that poker chips could be used.
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Offline Coffinmaker

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Re: Frontier plinking
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2022, 07:27:52 AM »

 :) PLUS ONE for the Deacon  ;)

My reading results are same same.  Primary targets were tin cans on a fence rail and empty bottles.  Paid no attention to broken glass laying around.

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Re: Frontier plinking
« Reply #3 on: Today at 03:24:06 AM »

Offline Mogorilla

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Re: Frontier plinking
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2022, 09:51:50 AM »
Back when life afforded me the time to be involved with the Jesse James Farm, we had pistol shoots.  One of the targets was an Ace of Spades.  This was based on one found at the farm, shot and signed by Frank James.   So, plus 1 to the playing cards as well.

Offline LongWalker

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Re: Frontier plinking
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2022, 09:47:36 PM »
From the stuff I've read, and the old folks I talked with when they were still around, much of the "plinking" involved either some friendly (or not-so-friendly) wagering, or pest control (which also involved some wagers at times).  Bottles, cans, cards, blocks of wood, bottlecaps (when they came along), cobs of corn, and even eggs.

As for pest control, the typical targets (at least on the plains) included jackrabbits, coyotes, foxes, crows, etc.  Starlings weren't as much of a problem then as they weren't introduced to the US until sometime in the 1870s, but over time they have become a serious pest (and frequent target). 


An informal match that involved members of the Army and North's Pawnee Scouts had them shooting at cards stuck in a cleft stick (maybe 25 yards--one guy said his grandfather told him he could see the suits), and shooting jackrabbits.  The Pawnee were running the jackrabbits on horseback and using a pistol, the soldiers shot using a rifle (not a musket) that someone had.  I'm still trying to find documentation of this event, all I have are old stories.  It probably happened sometime around 1864.

One of my great-greats was a blacksmith, market gunner, and (apparently) a betting man.  I heard stories from a number of old-timers about various informal competitions, often involving shots at pests or game.  He had a 22LR volley-gun that figured in a number of his winning shots. 

1880s, Nebraska Sandhills.  Cowboys running coyotes from horseback, shooting pistols.  From the sounds of it, the winner got the most coyotes (ties broken by the fewest shots).  There were similar informal competitions on wagon trips to/from town, shooting birds with shotguns/coyotes or jackrabbits with pistols or rifles. 

1890s, Nebraska Sandhills again.  Informal match one evening during an open-range roundup shooting sunflowers using "Winchesters".  Reading between the lines on this one, it sounds like a few hands from one of the ranches were thinking they could bluff a hand from one of the smaller (family) ranches.  At the end, they understood him to be a fine shot--and their rifles were empty. 

New Year's Day 1903, somewhere probably near Ogallala Nebraska.  A bunch of Spanish-American War vets were plinking at cobs of corn standing in the snow (when you hit them square, they explode--and the chickens do cleanup).  Range was probably 20-30 yards (I don't have documentation on this one, just a photo I saw in a family accumulation). 

One ranch I worked on when I was a kid had a layer of broken glass in front of a dirt bank.  The glass layer was probably 20' long, and maybe 18" deep at the deepest. 
In my book a pioneer is a man who turned all the grass upside down, strung bob-wire over the dust that was left, poisoned the water, cut down the trees, killed the Indian who owned the land and called it progress.  Charles M. Russell

Offline Davem

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Re: Frontier plinking
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2022, 10:01:12 AM »
Making a tin can "dance" was a big thing.


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