Choosing a Casual Plinker/Target Pistol


A Ruger Mark III .22 cal pistol with 6″ barrel – a great choice for developing good shooting skills and enjoying casual plinking fun

So you’d like to have some fun with your new pistol?  You’re looking for something to ‘plink’ with – to do some casual fun shooting with, perhaps outdoors, perhaps in a range?

Great.  Pistols can be tremendous fun to plink with.

If you’re looking for a ‘plinker’ we’d suggest you consider either a 9mm semi-automatic or a .22 LR semi-automatic pistol, and in both cases, give preference to a pistol with a reasonably large capacity magazine.

Of the two calibers, we suggest you give first consideration to a .22 caliber pistol.  It isn’t really a powerful enough caliber for anything other than target and (with a rifle) small varmint type shooting, but for these purposes, it is all you need.

A good thing about .22 is that it is a ‘dual purpose’ caliber, with a good selection of both pistols and rifles available that are chambered to take this round.

.22 LR ammo can be bought for as little as 4c a round (if buying in bulk) and it is also lightweight and easy to carry.  9mm ammo will probably cost you 15-20c a round (and all other pistol calibers will cost even more again).  You can shoot more than five times as much .22 than you can 9mm.  (These prices are approximate and are based on pricing in April 2018 – the actual prices will of course vary over time, but the relativity – the five times lower cost of .22 ammo compared to 9mm ammo – will probably remain about the same, always.)

These two calibers have the lowest cost for ammunition, and also give the least recoil.  They definitely are the most ‘fun’ to shoot, and with the minimal recoil of a .22 pistol in particular, you can both get very accurate (if this is your desire) and can also shoot all day without breaking the budget on ammo, and without getting too sore from too much recoil.

Larger capacity magazines simply mean that you won’t be needing to stop to reload all the time.  You’ve more time to shoot.

One more thing.  Get the heaviest gun you can, and with at least a 4″ barrel (5″ even better, and if you can find something longer, consider that too).  The heavier the gun, the more stable your shooting platform, and the less recoil you’ll feel from each shot, because the weight of the gun will ‘soak’ up more of the recoil.

The longer the barrel, the better the sight picture you’ll get when sighting through the rear sight to the front sight and on to the target, so you’ll be able to shoot more accurately.  And the longer barrel will also help the bullet too – it will leave the barrel at a faster speed and slightly more accurately too.

A number of different companies make pistols chambered for the .22 LR round.  Ruger make a popular range at reasonable prices (pictured above).

This is a Puma brand pistol – looks like a regular 1911 semi-auto but is chambered for the .22 LR round instead of the .45 ACP round

There are also a number of companies who make what look exactly like classic 1911 style semi-auto pistols, but which are chambered for .22 caliber instead of .45 caliber; alternatively, you can buy a ‘proper’ .45 caliber 1911 style semi-auto and then get a .22 conversion kit to place inside it.

The benefit of the .22 caliber versions of the classic .45 1911 semi-auto pistol is that it allows you to practice all the gun handling skills associated with the 1911 without having to pay the price of .45 caliber ammunition (which costs about 25c/round compared to 4c/round for .22).

By the time you’ve shot little more than 1000 rounds through a .22 version of this pistol, you’ll have saved the full price of buying the pistol in the first place (compared to regular .45 ammo through a regular 1911), and the lower recoil and muzzle report makes for an easier gun to shoot as well.

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