More Pin Shooting

So, I am going to buy a gun for pin shooting, but because I’m kind of anal retentive, I want it to be a gun that can pull double duty doing other things.

I’m leaning towards getting a .40 S&W, even though I promised myself I’d never get a .40, it seems like a pretty good choice. If a 158 grain .357 round at 1200 fps will clear pins off a table, shouldn’t a 165 grain .40 at 1100 fps or a 180 grain round at 1000 fps clean the tables right up?

The best part about this is that it gives me a semi-legitimate reason to buy another Beretta auto-chucker, and since I can get a 96D police trade-in for dirt cheap, I might actually be able to justify the purchase to Mrs. Ahab.  An additional side benefit is that .40 S&W ammo is almost as cheap as 9mm ammo.

I know some of my readers (I’m looking at you, Mr. Completely) are dedicated pin shooters, so are there any thoughts on using the .40 S&W for pins?


  1. Why don’t you use that .45 ACP wheel-gun of yours?

    Lots of people say .45 is optimal for pin shooting (I’ve never shot myself, but I hear heavy and slow rounds are the way to go)

    Plus with moon clips reloads are faster…

  2. I really like my Walther P99 in .40 S&W.

    I really like my Beretta PX4 in 9mm, and they have them in .40 S&W and .45 ACP.

    But then my recently purchased Stoeger Cougar (previously made by Beretta) was inexpensive @ $329 brand new, in .40 S&W. And I’m liking it a great deal.

    Whatever you decide on, practice practice practice your reloading. Or get something with a 100 round magazine.

  3. It all depends on if you want to get competitive or not. The problem with .40 is that it’s right below the bottom edge of the acceptable envelope when using full power loads. It is all about momentum, and the easiest yardstick for that is Power Factor (weight in grains x velocity in fps divided by 1000 for convenience). Here’s the relative Power Factors:

    .357, 6″bbl, 158gr@1250fps= 197pf
    .357, 6″bbl, 180gr@1150fps= 207pf
    .40, 4″bbl, 135gr@1350fps= 178pf
    .40, 4″bbl, 165gr@1100fps= 181pf
    .40, 4″bbl, 180gr@1000fps= 180pf
    .40+p (unsafe in many guns, damaging to most), 4″bbl, 180gr@1100fps= 198
    .44spl 4″bbl, 240gr@900fps= 216pf
    .45acp, 5″bbl, 230gr@850fps= 195pf
    .45acp+p (safe in almost all .45’s), 5″bbl, 230gr@950fps= 218pf

    My standard was always 190pf to 220pf, and I want the ability to choose or switch as the day progresses and the conditions change. All of the .40 loads are below the bottom edge, except the +p factory loads (which you do not want to try to duplicate on your own, nor buy in large quantity for competition, nor shoot a steady diet of through almost any .40 on the market). Even the +p loads just bring it up to the minimum for consistently clearing good pins from clean tables. When the pins have gained close to another lb or so (30rds of .45 is about a lb of lead) and are bumpy and lumpy from all the hits, and are trying to roll off of shot up tables with divots and speed bumps, you’re not going to consistently get them off with anything less than perfect shot placement, and maybe not then.

    I’ve shot a couple hundred thousand rounds in practice and competition for pin shooting, shot about a hundred pin matches, won a bunch of them including a couple of state championships, and I’m telling you that a power factor below 190 is not going to be competitive. My preference is to start the day with 190-200pf, then switch to my heavy ammo of 215-225pf when the circumstances call for it. I tried using .357’s, and wasn’t happy with the ability to ramp up to the momentum I needed, although with 8shot .357’s available today I might have to rethink that if I were to try again.

    I think you should focus on either a 10mm, a .45, or in a revolver either your existing .45, or get a .44spl/mag or .45lc. That is, if you really want to be competitive. My local range is thinking about starting pin shooting, and I’m thinking about picking up a Glock .45 or 10mm. They’re less than $600 at my local stores and they’ll clear pins with no problems.

    On the other hand, if you’re just interested in pin shooting for fun and practice, then have a ball with your current setup. Guys with 9mm’s loaded with heavy bullets seem to have a grand time, and get plenty of practice in rapid fire and speed-reloading, and that may be why you want to shoot pins. My house gun is a 9mm loaded with heavy +p, and I don’t think it’s insufficient for the task. It just doesn’t work well for shooting pins.

  4. While offering no knowledgeable commentary on pin shooting (I haven’t knocked one off a table in over ten years) I’ll say that the DAO Berettas are have fantastic DA triggers, especially if you’re used to a good S&W DA.

    I used a 96D as a bedside companion for years because to my trigger finger it felt just like shooting a 10-shot .40 S&W revolver with a good trigger job.

  5. I agree, one of my regular carry guns is a 92D 9mm – the only gun I own with a better out-of-the-box DA trigger is my ’37 Brazilian S&W.

  6. My generic pin medicine prescription: A 1911 stoked with 6.5 g V-n340 behind 230 grain plated bullets (Ranier or Berry’s) …..

    I’ll be trying the 9mm class this year at our local shoots with my carry gun, just for the practice………

  7. I’ve shot pins several times with my Sig P229 in .40, mostly with red box American Eagle 155 and 165-grain bullets, and finished in the money often enough to cover my entry fees and ammo. While I am shooting stock class, not pin gun, and and my range hasn’t had the world’s stiffest competition, I like the .40, and since I carry my 229 more than a little bit, it’s nice to be extra comfy with it.

  8. You can find a lot of police-trade guns on – local PDs will sell them to gunshops and that sort of thing, who then put them up for sale. Usually, the guns will have a very low round-count but a lot of holster wear from being carried on a daily basis.

  9. It sounds like you’ve got a lot of folks who know a lot about pin shooting!

    Not all clubs follow the same rules, so the rules themselves will have a lot to do with what you need to be successful. Some clubs put the pins 3 feet from the rear of the table, and the pins need a pretty good push to get then off the table. Others set them farther back.

    It is a misconception to equate power factor with successful pin shooting, though, as it is only part of the equation. It’s not just the amount of energy delivered to the pin, but how that energy is expended when it hits the pin. For example, a hot .357 with a light and fast bullet will punch a hole through the pin, or even split the pin in half, but leave it on the table. A big heavy blunt bullet with lower velocity and the same power factor will send the pin flying, since it transfers its energy into moving the pin, rather than tearing up the wood. I’d load up the heaviest truncated cone or hollow point bullets you can find and do a little testing. Just barely enough energy to the pin, properly and accurately applied, will usually beat poorly placed shots from a more powerful gun. Although it’s a “Speed-Power-Accuracy” event, without good accuracy, the other two don’t matter……

    …… Mr. C.

  10. Mr. Completely makes a great point, one I should have mentioned. PF only counts when it is deposited ENTIRELY in the pin. High velocity bullets with high sectional densities can punch through pins with edge hits or damaged pins. This is made worse by using bullets that don’t deform or grab. Also, the farther you get from the center of the pin, the more likely you are to give a pin a glancing blow and have the bullet fly off with little momentum transfer. For a while, there was a company marketing “pin grabber” bullets, which were hollow points with serrated edges that were supposed to grab on to a pin even when they hit at a glancing angle.

    In the .357, you really want hollow or soft points to avoid the “sailing through” issue. In auto-loaders, there was constant debate about Truncated Cone vs Round Nose, but when black talons came out lots of folks started using them. I used to use the Speer 200gr “flying ashcan” hollowpoint in my .45 with good results, and semi-wadcutters with large meplats (Keith style) in my revolvers.

    YMMV, and have a ball. I miss pin shooting a whole lot.

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