Range Bowling!

It's different, it's fresh, it's definitively Redneck, and it's very, very cool! Range Bowling combines the skill and hand-eye coordination of marksmanship with the excitement and satisfaction of watching bowling pins careen off of each other.

Some friends and I invented this game in my home in Union, SC in 1995. It's been up on my old website forever, but I decided to move it here with the more recent stuff.

  • Plastic set of ten pins, obtainable from Toys-R-Us or any other good toy store. This set from Play-Day is available at Wal-Mart and is ideal.
They probably didn't expect
us to use them for this.
  • A gun. Here's what I've found to give the best results.
    • One .38 caliber revolver (you can't do this with an automatic). It must be a pistol. The crayon won't easily clear the barrel of a rifle. And yes... this is a real gun. Mine is a Charter Arms .38 Goldfinger snub-nosed revolver. A .357 magnum revolver would work just as well.
Charter Arms probably didn't either.
  • At least one large box of crayons. Any brand would work, provided they're of same size as a standard Crayola crayon.
Crayola would NOT approve!
  • Empty cartridges (of the type used to pack your own ammunition.  DO NOT play this game with live ammo!!!). You can get pre-primed brass on Etsy for under $9/box of 100.
But I'm pretty sure these guys
would be all for it.
  • Place a crayon in each cartridge and snap it off so that the crayon does not extend beyond the casing. Load the cartridges into the revolver and you're ready to go! DO NOT put gunpowder in the cartridge! The primer is already in it and that's all you need! (In fact, if you try to use powder it will just vaporize the crayon wax.) The maximum number of cartridges you'll need per player per game is 21. The minimum is 12 (that's a 300 game! Good Luck!)
Part of the fun of this game is the sheer audacity of using a real gun (even in a safe way such as we're doing here) However, If you can't take the thought of using a potentially lethal weapon to play a safe and educational game, then a decent plastic pellet gun of some sort will do nicely. Don't use BB guns, as the BBs will damage the pins. If you cannot even take the thought of a toy gun, then try throwing hackysacks. And if that is way too violent for you, then maybe you'd like to play a nice game of tic-tac-toe. 
  • Folding card table
  • Bedsheet and some apparatus to hang it. This is technically most useful to keep from marking up a wall or door if you're playing indoors. However, it's also useful outside if you'd rather not lose or have to chase down spent crayons. Catching them in a sheet allows you to re-use them. It's very easy to build a frame using PVC or wood.

Safety and Education
Standard gun safety rules apply. By treating this game as if it's played at a firing range, you practice and educate proper gun safety and etiquette:

  • Always treat a gun as though it is loaded with live ammunition, whether you think it's loaded or not.
  • Always keep firearms pointed in a safe direction.
  • Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  • Always keep your gun unloaded until you are at the firing line and the range is declared "HOT."
  • If your gun has a safety, use it.
  • Never fire when someone is downrange. All players and pinsetters must stand behind the firing line during play.
  • A gun must be supervised or secured. No exceptions.


Hang the bedsheet up behind the card table.  When we first invented this, we normally played indoors, and I had an old house with  a nice, long hallway, I just hung it up over the back door (I clipped it to the curtain rod with wooden clothespins) and place the card table in front of the sheet.  The bottom of the sheet is secured under the back legs of the table, which is pulled forward so the sheet angles away from the wall.  This is important if you want to prevent crayon marks in the wall, or in my case, broken glass.  Outdoors the sheet is still useful because it makes it easier to retrieve ammunition and because it helps block out distractions behind the pins. Securing the bottom of the sheet prevents the sheet itself from becoming a distraction.


The rules are simple.  Actually, they're the same as if you're bowling with a ball (download the USBC rules if you don't know them. They're in Adobe Acrobat format).  Here's a summary, adapted for Range Bowling:
Setup for Tenpins, with the 1-pin
(headpin) nearest the bowler
  • Set the plastic pins up on the card table as in 10-pin bowling.  Just in the event you've never seen bowling (doubtful) they should be set out in an inverted triangle, with the 1-pin closest to you, then the 2-3, then the 4-5-6, then 7-8-9-10.
  • Shots are taken from a distance of 10 paces (about 30 feet).  You may have to adjust this distance based on the strength of your pellet gun.  My hallway just happened to be this long, and it's about the maximum effective range of a crayon-loaded pistol.
  • All shots must be taken with the player's feet behind the line.  The player's arm and pistol may extend over the line.  Shots are taken in the standing, not seated or prone, position. The player may choose any standing position that is comfortable.
  • Each player takes two shots per frame, except in the last frame, where a strike or spare earns an extra shot, as in standard bowling.
  • Scoring is as in standard bowling.  To keep with the spirit of the game, you should keep score on standard bowling scorecards, and be sure to observe bowling terminology... "strike", "spare", "turkey", etc.
    • If a player knocks down all 10 pins on his first shot, then that frame is a "strike" and the player doesn't take a second shot.  This frame scores 10 plus the next two shots.
    • If the player knocks down all 10 pins with two shots, then the frame is a "spare". This frame scores 10 pins plus the next shot.
    • If the player doesn't knock down all 10 pins with 2 shots, then the frame is "open" .  This frame scores the total number of pins knocked down.
    • Three or more strikes in a row is a "turkey".  Of course, an advantage of Range Bowling is that if you really suck at the game you can always head for the woods and try your luck against real turkeys.
    • A perfect score is 300.  This can be done with 12 shots.
A blank bowling scoresheet from sampletemplates.com


Duckpins, Ninepins, Candlepins, etc... Basically, you can substitute the rules of any other type of pin bowling.


Handicaps are used to give weaker players a better chance of winning against stronger players.  You may choose any method of handicapping that is acceptable to all players.  Here are some suggestions:
  • (300-player's average)*20%  the base handicap is 60.  This gives only small differences in the handicap and is best suited when you have strong players that are fairly close in skill.
    • Example 1: Your average for 3 games is 120.  (300-120)=180 :  180 * .8 = 36.  Added to a 120 game your score is 156.
    • Example 2: Your average for 3 games is 180.  (300-180)=120 : 120 * .2 = 24.  Added to a 180 game your score is 204.
In these examples you can see that, given a 60 pin difference in averages, the weak player only gets a relative handicap advantage of 12 pins and has to make up the remaining 48 pins with skill.
  • (200-player's average)*80%  Preferred for mixed play.  Players with an average of over 200 have no handicap.  Handicaps are higher, but they peter out faster. The base handicap is 160. You can see that this method leads to closer scores and give a very weak player a definite chance against a very strong player if the weak player plays well above average.
    • Example1:  Your average for 3 games is 120.  (200-120)=80 : 80 * .8 = 64.  Added to a 120 game your score is 184.
    • Example 2: Your average for 3 games is 180.  (200-180)=20 : 20 * .8 = 16.  Added to a 180 game your score is 196.
In these examples you can see that with the same 60 pin difference, the weak player has only to make up 12 pins with skill.  Above 200 the handicaps disappear entirely.

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