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History Lesson: 1906 ‘Plinky’ Topperwein

History Lesson: 1906 ‘Plinky’ Topperwein

At NRA’s annual matches at Sea Girt in 1906, a new National Marksman’s Reserve match was open to all who wanted to compete for the Marksman’s Medal. One of the competitors was none other than Mrs. Adolf “Plinky” Topperwein (née Servaty), one of the most famous exhibition shooters of her era. Plinky fired a 61 out of 75, beating out many of her male competitors, and received her medal before a cheering crowd.

The National Marksmen’s Reserve qualification match was fired with the hard-kicking Krag rifle, which hindered some competitors’ efforts, but not for Topperwein’s performance. And, a scant few months prior to her triumph at Sea Girt, Topperwein set a trapshooting record at the Texas Gun Club.

The Fabulous Topperweins

Elizabeth “Plinky” Topperwein, along with her husband Adolf, worked as exhibition shooters for Winchester, billing themselves as “The Fabulous Topperweins.” The pair would set many exhibition shooting records during their tours across the U.S., including one instance where Adolf performed a 10-day shooting marathon. Using a .22 LR rimfire rifle, he only missed nine 2-inch wooden blocks (out of 72,000!) hurled in the air.

“The Fabulous Topperweins”
Plinky had never fired a gun prior to marrying Adolf Topperwein.


It was at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair that “The Fabulous Topperweins” made their initial appearance, and also where Mrs. Topperwein gained the nickname she ended up using the rest of her life. While shooting a tin can, Plinky was uncharacteristically missing her shots. When she finally made her target, she would say “I plinked it,” and the rest is history.

Plinky would continue to be a formidable pistol, rifle and shotgun shooter until her death in 1945 at the age of 63. In 1969, she was inducted into the Trap Hall of Fame. A pioneering woman shooter, Plinky continued the trailblazing tradition originally forged by Annie Oakley, and cemented her legend. Women continue to excel in the shooting sports to this day.

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