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Are We Too Hyped Up About Accuracy?
Today, other companies, including Kimber, HS Precision, Nosier, Thompson/Center and Savage, all market shotguns. Even the casual economy class sportsman will shoot extremely well, but not every hunter is able to use such superlative accuracy.
Such rifles are first placed in the hands of a tactical survival gun writer, who takes it out to the nearest bench, puts it through its paces, and writes a glowing endorsement of its capabilities. When the gun review appears in the magazine, the entire shooting fraternity will know that the Remchester Model X in a given caliber will hold five shots inside a one-inch circle at 100 yards all day long. The news shows gun nuts running around landing on the moon and running to their local gun store to buy one. Sadly, he is disappointed when his purchase fails to live up to the praise heaped upon it by the reviewer.
He suffers a bout of deep depression and ends up hating the rifle and the recoil the day he bought the damn thing in the first place. He may even write a nasty letter to the gun writer accusing him of falsifying the gun test, which may not be true. Manufacturers of rifles offered with an accuracy warranty are usually honest enough to specify that they will only shoot this well with “select loads.” In other words, you shouldn’t expect them to shoot that well with any old factory feed or sloppily assembled load you want to feed them.
Sadly, many Aussie hunters have come to believe that all manufactured sportsmen must be capable of that mythical corner minute accuracy.
When one doesn’t perform up to scratch, they spend big bucks to restore the rifle and try to shrink groups by trying hundreds of different reloading combinations using premium bullets. When that doesn’t work, they switch the rifle to what they’re sure will do. More often than not, the new rifle is no better than the old one, maybe not as good, and the cycle starts all over again.
“Ultralighters may not be the best 1.5 MoA for three shots, but they can be effective at long range under ideal conditions.”
The accuracy of the rifle depends on a number of factors – the quality of the barrel, the stiffness of the action and the correct locking, the layer of the stock, the quality of the ammunition, rifle scope optics, and equally important, the skill of the shooter himself. The best rifle in the world will not shoot well with poor ammunition, nor will the most carefully assembled ammunition shoot well in a rifle in which any of the above factors are less than perfect. But there’s more involved than corner-minute ability; for given the best rifle and ammunition, accuracy will still be poor if the shooter’s marksmanship is not equal to the task.
Realistically, factory rifles are mass-produced and made for a price, and little or no handwork goes into them. Barrels are either button-rifled or hammer-forged and receivers are CNC machined. Wood stocks are spun by the thousands on multi-finger machines, and synthetic stocks are injection molded, all in the same pattern.
Metalwork is thrown into a stock as fast as they come off the assembly line. Considering the wide tolerances that exist between barreled stocks and mass-produced stocks, a sportsman’s chances of shooting in the corner minute are extremely limited, especially when using mill factory ammunition.
After doing some work with the rifle and finding a handload that agrees with it, a good shooter can probably get near MASH accuracy out of any sportsman. But all this takes time and money and considerable experience in hand-loading. Before you embark on a lengthy and time-consuming endeavor to transform your rifle into a MoA performer, ask yourself if it’s really worth all the expense and trouble. Will improved accuracy really help you get more game play?
Your rifle will not be able to realize its full accuracy potential when you are shooting from a hastily assumed field position.
Before we can answer these questions, we need to know what that new rifle will be used for. If the answer is for deer hunting, then it will certainly benefit from the adjustment, but for use on wild game and deer-sized animals it may not be worth it. Even the smallest of these represents a fairly large target, as the area of the heart and lungs covers at least 30 cm by 30 cm. Let’s see how badly we’re flawed if we shoot this beast with a sportsman that groups three shots with the best load we’ve worked on, at 2 MOA. It sounds really bad, but is it?
At least in theory, this rifle will make three shots at 4 inches at 200 yds., six inches at 300 yds., eight inches at 400 yds. and ten inches at 500 yds. This means that even at 500yds, the rifle is capable of delivering three shots into the vital heart/lung area on any large game animal. In the real world, however, things are not so cut and dried.
Field shots are not taken on a bench like the one we used to shoot those 2-inch groups at the range. A racing heart, oxygen-deprived lungs, and unstable, supposedly hasty positions on the ground all combine to make things that much more difficult. In effect, this means that on the field we can multiply the size of that 100 yd. bench set at least twice. When we press play, then, our bullets are more likely to cluster at 4 inches. in 100 yds., 8 ins. at 200, and 12in. in 300.
It would be logical to assume that if our athlete shot one minute of angle instead of 2 inch groups, we would be more effective on the field, shooting two, four, six, eight and ten inch groups at 100,200, 300, 400, and 500 yds., respectively. This would seem to make the effort necessary to halve the group size.
The average lever action 30-30 rarely groups better than 3 MoA at 100 yds., but can hit a bullet in the vital 30cm zone in game quite easily.
But again things are not so clear! Even if we manage to hit the animal we are hunting, will we kill it cleanly? How many cartridges used for hunting are capable of landing the bullet on target at 400 and 500 yds. with enough velocity and energy left over to achieve the kind of bullet expansion and penetration needed for a surprise one-shot kill? Cursed a bit, in my experience. Beyond 300 yd. mark if the bullet isn’t perfectly placed things get a little weird and the quick one shot kill at 500yd. it takes a lot of luck.
Accurate range estimation used to be a serious problem, as even a guess coming within 50 yd. made all the difference between hitting or missing the bullet in the vital heart/lung area.
Today we have laser rangefinders that tell us exactly how far away the game is. And what’s more, we have cartridges that are flat over 400yd. For example, take a 30 magnum firing a very ballistically efficient 180gn bullet like the Hornady SST at 3200 fps and sighting on point of aim at 300 yds. At 400 yds. the bullet will hit 8.72 inches below the line of sight and at 500 23-1/2 inches low.
Your factory bolt action, which averages MoA accuracy over a bench, may often not be able to duplicate that performance in the field.
Then the issue of wind movement must be considered. A 10 mph headwind will move that 180 gn 5.40 in. bullet at 300 yd., 9.84 in. in 400 and 16 in. at 500. Regardless of which way the wind is blowing, this means that at 400 and 500 yd. the bullet will probably miss vital organs or either miss altogether or score a hit in the gut. Even with a powerful .30 magnum the wounded animal will most likely escape to die a slow death. A mistake with a 2-minute rifle would be worse, but the result would be the same.
The crux of the matter is this. If you own a real WC sportster, well, keep it. However, if your sportsman shoots 1-1/2 or 2 inches. groups at 100 yds., as long as it does it consistently, don’t lose sleep over it. Few hunters have sufficient marksmanship to shoot game over 250 yds. and should always try to jump within safe range of the shot – that’s what hunting is all about anyway.
The fact that your unmodified factory sportsman only shoots 2 inch groups will never be a hindrance on any big game hunt. .
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