American Rifleman - August 2017 - 72
EXPECTATIONS AND MEASUREMENTS
If you take the first option, there are procedures
you can try. The search for accuracy can be extensive,
exhaustive and protracted, and you have to accept going
in that you may never get there. All rifles are not created equal; some shoot better than others, and a few
will never shoot well. To a degree, however, it depends
on what you want.
Today, we have more accurate rifles, more consistent ammunition and better bullets than ever before.
A generation ago, any sporting rifle that consistently
produced minute-of-angle (m.o.a.) accuracy, usually
expressed as 1" groups at 100 yds., was a rare gem. If
you read the gun magazines today you might gather that
most factory rifles will do this. Many will, more than
ever before, but on a consistent basis this is still not the
case. Half-minute accuracy also exists, and is more common than it used to be, but you aren't likely to get it off
a dealer's shelf. I emphasize "factory" and "consistent"
for a reason. Here's why. Modern manufacturing has
resulted in sound rifles being available at comparatively
lower prices than ever before. Many of them produce
astonishing accuracy, especially when you consider this:
The primary source of potential accuracy is the barrel.
If I wanted a super-accurate rifle I would start with
the best-quality match-grade barrel I could find. Such
a barrel will cost $500 or more. There are many entire
production rifles that cost less than this. And yet some
of the barrels on these lower-cost rifles will shoot almost
as well as a top-quality barrel costing 10 times as much.
Again, I stress "some" because, generally speaking, you
get what you pay for.
Then there's the matter of consistency. In the search
At 0.052" this is the tightest group the author has ever shot. But
while this custom Model 700 in 8 mm Rem. Mag. is very accurate,
it never came close to duplicating this group. Flukes can be good
or bad, so consistent, average accuracy is what you're looking for.
for accuracy, it's important to seek the average. Human
nature being as it is, this can be challenging. The best
three-shot group I've ever fired measured 0.052" from a
Model 700 action re-barreled to 8 mm Rem. Mag. with a
Pac-Nor barrel. That's a "bragging rights" group I will never
forget. It's harder to remember that I could never again come
close! Hey, that rifle is very accurate, easily sub-m.o.a.-but
there is a vast gulf between 0.05" and 0.50".
So, how do you measure? This particular magazine
has a tough protocol for published accuracy results: the
average of five, five-shot groups. That's a good measure, but it must be understood that rifles with slender
barrels may not be capable of firing five shots without
barrel heat causing the last couple of shots to "walk."
Fast cartridges and hot weather exacerbate this-as does
bullet construction. You can establish your own testing
criteria, and it's okay to throw out groups with "called
fliers"-bad shots that you know were your fault.
LOOK IN THE MIRROR
Shooting for accuracy takes time and concentration. Some
days will be better than others, and you must allow time for
barrel cooling and frequent cleaning. In shooting for accuracy,
the idea is to remove as much of the human element as possible, so be certain your benchrest technique is sound and the
crosshairs are dead-steady when the trigger breaks.
It's true that some cartridges tend to be more accurate-that rigidity of action is conducive to accuracy-and
that match bullets are, on average, more accurate than
hunting bullets. But the most important things in accuracy
are good barrels mated concentrically to their actions, both
bedded soundly into their stocks, and fed ammunition that
the barrel likes. Beyond these things all other bets are off,
and individual rifles will make lies of all other assumptions.
It is important to note that sights and triggers have
nothing to do with accuracy. That said, magnifying sights
and crisp, light triggers have much to do with allowing you
to realize accuracy. A rifle with open sights and a creepy,
heavy trigger may be a spectacular tack-driver, but you'll
probably never know it. Recoil can also be a limiting factor.
Large-caliber cartridges are often extremely accurate, but
Secure bedding is important to accuracy, and the rifle's receiver must
fit into the stock securely. Any play in the area of the recoil lug and
tang is almost certain to adversely affect how well a rifle groups.
it's difficult to recognize this when you're getting kicked
into next week. So, if accuracy is a goal, think about a
trigger job before you give up. For accuracy testing, think
about mounting a scope with higher magnification. Finally,
do whatever you need to do to attenuate recoil. The Lead
Sled from Caldwell (btibrands.com) is a marvelous tool,
and I regularly use a PAST Recoil Shield. Or just put a
folded towel over your shoulder. Get comfortable, and you'll