Plink- vt. (plink; rhymes with sink) [slang, American]: to shoot informal targets such as tin cans with a small caliber rifle or handgun; the word ‘plink’ is an onomatopoeia of the sharp, metallic sound of a small caliber bullet hitting a tin can; n. the act or practice of plinking
– Definition from North Country Dictionary of Essential Outdoor Vocabulary (Unpublished)
“DO NOT PLINK.”
– Jeff Cooper (1920-2006), firearms instructor, creator of the ‘Modern Technique’ of handgun shooting, and a small arms expert
“Plink as often as you can.”
– Clement Seagrave, dedicated plinker, indifferent handgun marksman, and an expert at finding ejected brass cases
There may be some grandfather-grandson pastime that is more fun and instructive than plinking, but I doubt it.
There comes a time in the grandfather-grandson relationship when plinking is the ultimate sharing and bonding activity. Plinking brings out the adult in a ten-year-old and the child in a sixty-year-old. It is the outdoor sports skill that every grandson loves to learn and every grandfather loves to teach.
Attempts by grandfathers to teach their grandsons the fundamentals of other sports can be risky. Calling up memories of former prowess on the baseball diamond or the football field, Grandpa is likely to overrate his diminished physical abilities. And deceived by the kid’s relatively small size, Grandpa is also likely to underestimate his grandson’s quickness, strength and competitive nature.
When you reach a certain age, playing pitch-and-catch is going to be perilous, and the nurses at the emergency room are not likely to be sympathetic when you tell them you were fooled by the curve ball. They know ten-year-old boys don’t throw the curve ball, and you were just too slow and uncoordinated to catch the fastball.
Tennis? Soccer? Volleyball? Touch football? Check your insurance policy first. And have your cell phone handy with 9-1-1 on speed-dial in readiness for that moment when your grandson asks, “Are you okay, Grandpa?” Despite your advanced years, the manly answer is, “I’m fine. Just help me up.” But the orthopedic surgeon will have a different opinion.
You are wise to seek out an activity that you will both enjoy but is less physically demanding and presents no chance of injury. Computer games are out. They are an insult to someone with five decades of built-up animosity toward electronic-digital technology, and anyway I’m not engaging in any inside activities with grandsons. They get enough of that stuff in the city. When we’re together on the farm, goldarn it, we are going to get wet, cold and muddy (or hot, sweaty and dirty, depending on the weather).
Badminton, croquet, bocce, lawn skittles? Please – we’re talking man sports here. If we don’t have to don cleats, team jerseys or camo shirts to play, it’s not a guy thing.
Fortunately, plinking is exciting, fun and fascinating for both grandfather and grandson, and it meets all the “grandpa safety” criteria. When grandchildren come to visit the farm, I want them to have experiences that will teach them something about the outdoors – the natural world. I also want them to learn respect for the natural world and the responsibilities that go with ventures into that world.
I have three grandsons. As soon as they were big enough to safely handle a bolt-action .22 caliber rifle, I introduced them to plinking. They loved it from the first “plink.” What kid could not love sitting on the deck of the garage, rifle propped on knees or sandbags, aiming at silhouette targets twenty-five yards down range, gently pulling the trigger, hearing the shot and the “plink” of the bullet, and watching the target go tumbling in the sand pit. They even accept, with manners and grace, the close supervision and coaching of grumpy Grandpa.
To be sure, we have a great advantage living in a rural area that offers both a place to safely shoot a .22 rifle and a community that still respects the sports of shooting and hunting and the people who practice them. I fear those blessings are fast-disappearing in most places. A guardian of my dying culture and ethos, I believe this loss is unfortunate because these activities teach children responsible and respectful behavior and self-confidence.
I also want my grandchildren to have hands-on experience with firearms. The way in which the use of firearms is portrayed on television programs and in motion pictures – and in the hideous video games that advocate gun violence – could be dismissed as ridiculous comedy except for the fact that it promotes careless, negligent and dangerous handling of firearms. As part of plinking, my grandchildren learn to unfailingly practice the basic firearm safety precautions:
Treat every gun as though it were loaded.
Always keep the gun muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
When you accept a firearm from someone, or hand a firearm to someone, the action must be open.
Know how the firearm operates.
Shoot on a range that is safe and has a backstop.
No firearm is to be left unattended, ever.
For children, no firearm is to be handled without adult supervision.
Obey the instructions of the range master (Grandpa).
They learn all this in the course of a single afternoon of plinking. The rules are reinforced each session.
There are many shooting instructors, the late Jeff Cooper included, who advise against plinking because as a training practice it can introduce all sorts of bad habits: jerking the trigger, rushing the shot, canting the gun, improper sight alignment, sloppy gun mount… Yes, it is more conducive to good shooting technique to meticulously punch holes in a paper target with precise, well-disciplined rifle firing, but it is not much fun for a ten-year old. Frankly, it’s not much fun for Grandpa, either.
Seeing the steel targets tumble is exciting and rewarding, and that’s what you want to provide in those first shooting experiences with grandkids. If one of them starts to show the talent and desire to shoot small-bore competition someday, we’ll get more serious. Until then, we’re shooting for the joy of it, not for scores.
I’ll end with a piece of practical advice and a confession.
The practical advice: to make some good, long-lasting targets for plinking, get some 2 ½ or 3-inch diameter steel pipe, spray paint it orange, and cut it into 4-inch lengths.
The confession: everything I’ve said about grandsons applies to granddaughters as well, but so far neither of my granddaughters had shown interest in plinking. I’m going to keep encouraging them.