Pin Shoot’s 30th Anniversary

By Massad Ayoob
Posted in #Skills
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Pin Shoot’s 30th Anniversary

September 24th, 2023

5 minute read

Retired physician Jeff Sourbeer loads the maximum allowed eight rounds of .45 ACP +P into his Springfield Armory XD-45 and holds it on the rail before him, flanked by another shooter on either side. At the start signal, he raises the gun, aligns the Tactical Advantage sights, and, with five shots, blasts five bowling pins off a three-tiered steel table 25 feet away. As he lowers the XD, he realizes his competitors are still shooting.

massad ayoob at 30th anniversary pin shoot
Armed with his Springfield Prodigy, Massad Ayoob runs a 9×12 at the 2023 Pin Shoot. Image: Gail Pepin

He has won his first heat in the morning shoot-off, his first gunfire at his first Pin Match. It is an experience countless shooters have shared since founder Richard Davis began the event in 1975, known as the Second Chance Shoot from then until 1998, and revitalized in 2017 and continued through today as The Pin Shoot. It is among the most iconic events in the shooting sports.

[Be sure to read Massad Ayoob’s Guide to Pin Shooting.]

massad ayoob shoots a springfield 1911a1
Massad Ayoob’s primary Pin Gun is a Plaxco-compensated Springfield Armory 1911-A1 in .45. Image: Gail Pepin

The Pin Shoot encompasses pistol and revolver, service sidearm and target gun. Pump shotgun or auto, buck or slugs. Pistol caliber carbine or .223, and even events for .22. Two- and three-person team events. And, to fill in downtime when pin-setters are putting the targets in place, a Trivia Quiz for prizes.

springfield xd45 at bowling pin shoot
Competitor Jeff Sourbeer fires his first shot at his first Pin Shoot with his Springfield Armory XD45. Image: Gail Pepin

The serious prizes, of course, are in the shooting. A total of 150 or so shooters in 2023, which marked the 30th Anniversary of the event, vied for more than 80 guns in the prize table displays along with ammo and other goodies. The lion’s share of the guns were Springfield Armory products, that company being the much-appreciated lead sponsor of late.

A Beginner’s Guide

If it’s your first time, it’s helpful but not necessary to go with someone who has already been there. Don’t worry about stories of people waiting too long to shoot. That was in the distant past.

shooting a sterling smg in a bowlin pin competition
You never know what you may see at a competition. Ned Christiansen wins a Pistol Caliber Carbine shoot-off with customized 9mm Sterling he won at a previous Pin Shoot. Image: Gail Pepin

This year, founder Richard Davis’ son Matt, who runs it today along with his now 80-year-old dad, put in computerized scoring and scheduling. The few glitches were quickly squared away, and despite a rainstorm that cost several hours of shooting, things were soon running smoothly with strategically placed computer monitors announcing each shooter’s scheduled times. 

The first thing you want to do is to spend some time on the website,  You’ll see the different pin arrays. Read the rules carefully for what is and is not allowed for hardware in the many matches you’ll have the option of shooting over the several days.

If you don’t have a past pin-shooter as a mentor, they’re easy to find once you get there. The website also has scores posted in each event from 2017 to 2023. As you go over them, note the names that appear each year. I think of those men and women as the OGG’s — the Original Guys and Gals who have shot there for years and are happy to show new shooters the ropes.

You’ll be able to identify us: We shooters all wear our names on the back of our hats or shirts so the time-keepers know who they’re scoring. (Just don’t grab them right before or right after they’re scheduled to shoot.)

shooters at the pin shoot
Young folks are well represented at the shoot: meet Valo Christiansen and his girlfriend Kaitlyn Williamson. Image: Gail Pepin

You’ll meet Deb and Pam Higgins, the official historians of the shoot. You’ll see Jeff and Kim Chudwin, whom I consider the “power couple” of AR-15 riflery. Jeff was a winner here before he won the National Patrol Rifle Championship so many times I hear they have a trophy named after him, and Kim won that same title before she became a first place winner at the Pin Shoot. 

springfield armory pavilion at pin shoot
The Springfield Armory Pavilion is a gathering place during the Pin Shoot. The company is the primary sponsor of the shoot. Image: Gail Pepin

And you’ll meet a helluva lot of other fine men and women who share your passion. What is now the Springfield Armory Pavilion is, like the bleachers above the range itself, a place to socialize. The shoot is held in Central Lake, Michigan, a wonderful lakes region resort community that you’ll be visiting at a perfect time of year.

massad ayoob with johnny robbins
Massad Ayoob reconnected with Johnny Robbins, right, who won the shoot overall when he was just 13 years old. Image: Gail Pepin

The community supports the shoot: the local Lions Club comes out every day to fix the excellent lunch that is included with your entry fee. The area abounds with lakeside cabins and comfortable resort apartments. Many attendees camp out. It has all the makings of a family vacation.

A Wonderful Opportunity

This is the place where some giants in the gun world first came to fame. Bill Wilson made his bones here when he won as a young man; ditto Jerry Miculek. Men like Jerry Barnhart were already champions when they won here, and their pin-shooting victory proved their versatility. But sometimes, the winner comes by surprise from nowhere.

If you had been there this year you could have met Johnny Robbins, who was 13 years old when he came here with his father Jack and won overall high shooter in the mid-1970s.

The 2024 winner could be … you.

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Massad Ayoob

Massad Ayoob

Massad Ayoob is a renowned firearms expert with decades of experience in the firearms community. He's the author of more than a dozen books and hundreds of articles and has extensive experience as a law enforcement officer, competitive shooter and expert witness.

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