What about shooting from a vice?

by B.B. Pelletier

Several months ago, a reader asked about using a vice to test the accuracy of different pellets in an airgun. In the comment sections of our posts, this question has come up many times over the years. Let’s talk a little about using vices.

First, let me say that I’m not an expert on this subject. What I know has come from my readings and talking to airgun testers rather than actual experiments.

Even with a vice, there’s vibration
A vice does not cancel all vibration. Depending on how the barrel is held by the vice, it’ll still vibrate a lot or maybe significantly less than when it was not in a vice. You can’t stop vibration completely. Many people believe a vice cancels all possible error. While a vice will cancel human error, there are other errors that the vice will not address.

Let’s start with a vice-like product that’s been in use for many decades…the Ransom rest. A Ransom rest is for handguns and is made to hold the grip of a handgun in a vice-like fixture. In some cases, this is identical to shooting from a vice because the barrel is rigid in the frame. With other guns, such as the 1911 Colt, the barrel moves during the firing cycle. All the Ransom rest does is guarantee the same starting point, shot after shot.

The Ransom rest is free to move when the gun recoils. After each shot, the gun is moved back to an indexed starting position for the next shot. So each shot starts from the same place. However, because the gun is free to move in recoil, the rest isn’t exactly the same as a vice that never moves. It’s more like a perefect artillery hold than like a vice.

Not perfect
Gun writers use Ransom rests because they save a lot of time when testing handguns, but they don’t make the guns more accurate. In numerous gun tests, it has been demonstrated that a good shooter can out-shoot a pistol held in a Ransom rest.

I know that last comment is going to stir up a controversy, so it’s time for me to tell you that several fine German airgun manufacturers test their airguns with human beings and not with vices. It’s faster, and they’ve found no difference in accuracy. That’s right, all those super-small shot groups that come with target guns were fired by a human being!

The biggest proof of all!
You’ve heard me quote many times in the blog from F.W. Mann’s The Bullet’s Flight From Powder to Target. Dr. Mann spent nine straight years and the better part of 37 years in total gathering information for this book, which was published in 1914. One of his test instruments was a concrete pier sunk 40″ into the ground. Atop this pier was a fixture that held a cylindrical receiver, into which Dr. Mann threaded all of his test barrels. He called this fixture his “shooting Gibraltar.” It was his belief that the vice would free him from any human error and make his test results as pure as possible. However, what he discovered was extremely interesting. He had guns in his personal collection that could out-shoot the Pope-made barrels mounted to the action on his shooting Gibraltar. The only explanation for this is that a vice, while seemingly rigid, does not solve all the problems that cause inaccuracy.

If you really want to read the definitive work on exterior ballistics, locate and buy a copy of Dr. Mann’s book. His tests will open your eyes!

During the Civil War, there were several snipers armed with rifles that weighed 50-60 lbs. These guns had built-in rests because they were too heavy to be held and had to be shot from a specially made bench. In the finest recorded shot in history, a Union captain killed a Confederate general at a measured distance of one mile. The range was determined by artillery surveyors through triangulation before the shot was taken. The rifle used was not held in a vice, but the nature of its extreme mass undoubtedly added to the accuracy it achieved.

What I’m saying is that, while vices sound like a good way to test pellets, they may not be. OR, they may not be as good as some other method that is easier and more convenient.

Please remember that I am not an expert on shooting with a vice. All that I’ve told you here are things I’ve read or things that have been told to me by those who test airguns for a living.

35 thoughts on “What about shooting from a vice?


  1. i dont see why people would bother with vices. i mean human error is why there can be comptitions. if everyone shot exactly the same it would not be fun. accuracy from a vice is a bad way of measuring accuracy because who will ever shoot from a vice? you should test your gun with you holding it. then you know that you can shoot as welll as the gun.

    Nate in Mass


  2. I consider myself still a novice, but I agree with you Nate. I’ve yet to experience a squirrel that would give me the time to roll a vice or bench rest up to my sliding glass doors, get everything set, and then ask him to say “cheese” as I take a shot at him. I’m never more than 1/4″ off from point of aim, within 25 yards.

    I usually try to just become proficient with the gun. As BB mentioned in his article, some gun manufacturers still use “humans” to test accuracy, without any negative results.



  3. “It was his belief that the vice would free him from any human error and make his test results as pure as possible. However, what he discovered was extremely interesting. He had guns in his personal collection that could out-shoot the Pope-made barrels mounted to the action on his shooting Gibraltar. The only explanation for this is that a vice, while seemingly rigid, does not solve all the problems that cause inaccuracy.”


  4. bb,

    last night i ordered a crosman 1077 after reading your review, and all 70-something comments that followed it. you spoke in the comments section about just having the magazine box on your hand and cycling through it while watching tv, and that helped to smooth out the gun. my question here is, will the magazine box ever break? also, im assuming you either used gamo match pellets, or crosman premier super match, right? not that im expecting you to remember from your exact test, but im pretty sure youve told ppl recently to use match pellets, and not cp domed lights.

    Dave


  5. in this physical world there are seen and unseen forces of physics. for the most part, there is nothing that is truely rigid, or containable. if you change one variable, like increasing rigidity, you open up and increase other unseen forces (vibration, etc). these unknown forces do not always act consitently. everything is meant to move, and move freely, especially explosive forces and the objects they act upon. just learn how to shoot the gun, and finding the best pellet can be gleaned from that.


  6. …”I know that last comment is going to stir up a controversy, so it’s time for me to tell you that several fine German airgun manufacturers test their airguns with human beings and not with vices. It’s faster, and they’ve found no difference in accuracy. That’s right, all those super-small shot groups that come with target guns were fired by a human being!”

    i always excelled in reading comprehension, but you guys out there,….keep using your VISES like a VICE…


  7. BB,i have a theoben rapid 7 in .20 cal,i have tried to zero the gun in with two different scopes,and useing H&N fied & target trouphys,and H&N barracudas,the gun will group 3or4 pellets and then they fly left low or high,or low or high right,i have cleaned the barrle,put the gun over the crono & no probs there,iam not a bad shot,i have tried to zero over 20 yards have you any ideas wye the accuracy is so bad ,the barrles not bent,some pellets fly as much as 3ins out of the group,have you some ideas wye this is,the monts on the gun are fine,i just am at alossto fix the problem .


  8. Dave,

    I cycled only the boxes that were tight. Some of the newer ones seemed to be already broken in.

    I suppose there are plastic parts inside the box that can wear out, but I’ve never seen one that was worn out.

    Yes, I recommend target pellets for this gun. Both Crosman and Gamo are a very good fit.

    B.B.



  9. Nathan,

    There are a couple of things to look for. The first would be the quality of the barrel crown. Is it gouged or is the inside of the muzzle nicked in any way?

    Next, I would look at the barrel. Is it tight in the action?

    A Rapid 7 should have a free-floated barrel. You don’t have a sling on it, do you? I assume that the air reservoir is not in contact with the barrel at any place.

    What about the pellets you’re shooting? Have you visually inspected them for bent skirts? Have you sorted them by weight?

    Finally, here’s something I want you to do. Push a pellet from the muzzle until it pops out in the breech. I realize this isn’t easy in a Rapid 7, cause you’ll have to remove the magazine. When it does pop out, let it fall onto a soft, padded surface. Then, examine the skirt with a magnifying glass. You’re looking for an area that looks deeply gouged. This would indicate a burr at the transfer port.

    Any of these things could cause your problem. It could also be a combination of several.

    B.B.


  10. lol…i was playfully using VISE and VICE as a comparison to people missing your points in today’s blog. i don’t always use correct grammar or spelling myself. i copied your text to affirm that a vise doesn’t really give you an edge or accuracy…just like how we can err in spelling.


  11. is this a good point to ask my question from earlier?

    “can anyone suggest a “reasonably” priced, but dependable scale for measuring pellet weights?”


  12. i have ordered a Condor and am to receive it shortly. I have since read just how loud they are when fired!!! Would attaching a .22 rimfire silencer actually make any difference to the report?
    Im hoping for a ‘yes’ answer here lol


  13. I want to help you stay at a low price, but don’t buy a mechanical scale. They take so long to damp their movement that you’ll become frustrated. You DO need an electronic scale. Search eBay for electronic powder scales. You want one that measures both grains and grams, if you also plan to weigh airsoft BBs.

    I paid $100 for my scale from Midway USA. You should be able to get a good used one for $50 or so.

    B.B.


  14. I believe it will. And, Dennis Quackenbush will make an adapter for the muzzle of your Condor if you can tell him the diameter of the muzzle to the thousandths of an inch and which thread pattern your silencer has.

    B.B.


  15. bb,

    i was going to buy a dewey rod for my rifles in .177, but it seems like they were taken off of the website…any idea if and when they are coming back?

    Dave


  16. Hey BB

    When buying a powder scale, how accurate does it have to be? I know that you usually separate by tenth grains and I see many scales saying accurate to + or – a tenth grain. Will this be accurate enough?

    Thanks, Kyle.




  17. what brand and model do you have,…$100 is “reasonable” and I trust your opinion. if its good enough for BB, its definitely great for me…



  18. 1 Mile very nice, not record tho.

    A guy by the name Cpl. Rob Furlong from Newfoundland, Canada. Killed the enemy from 2,430 meters, or 1.51 miles, in Afghanistan’s Shahikot Valley.

    Which surpasses Carlos Hathcock, American Vietnam sniper. He got a guy at 2,286 meters or 1.42 miles.



  19. But it is very sad to see what the Canadian government did to Cpl. Rob Furlong after his return from Afghanistan.

    All you have to do is google “Cpl. Rob Furlong” and there are tons of links.


  20. Looks like Pyramid Air brought back the RWS46 in .22. That price (plus 10% discount) almost makes me want to buy another. I overpaid by $100 recently from somewhere else. Anybody looking for a beautiful, easy/safe to load, and highly accurate .22 should check it out.


  21. just their opinion,…guys at midwayusa tell me in regards to scales: RCBS normally better than Lyman, and Lyman normally better than Pact within the same price range


  22. BB i have read your great posts about silencers before (the US law doesnt affect me as i live in Europe) but i thought the bottom line was they they wouldnt help Pre charged guns? In the post above you said that one would quiet a Condor? Could you explain how this might work?


  23. Electronic scale from Midway USA, mfg by Frankford Arsenal… pd $39 on sale a few months ago. I find it very accurate.. compared it to my apothecary weights. Excellent.


  24. Silencer,

    I don’t know how effective a firearm silencer will be on a PCP, but they work on the same physics as an airgun silencer, so they should work to at least a limited extent.

    B.B.


  25. I saw the scale by Frankford Arsenal of which you speak when it went on sale for $29 recently. I don’t “always” pay attention to reviews, but the reviews on that one has scared me away from buying it. I’m not rich enough to throw good money after bad…



  26. One important point…..”Bill Edwards in “Civil War Guns” (Stackpole, 1962) proved that Metcalf did not receive his medal for sharpshooting. Second, there was no General Lainhardt and the Mr. Edwards traces the story to Charles Sawyers who started the fiction.”


  27. BB,

    I was the one who posted this question some months ago. I did so because that was how I was taught in order to find out the best pellets for my rifle, with minimal “human” intervention on my part as much as possible. Besides, it offered a ready doable solution as I already own a vice firmly mounted on a heavy work bench in a shed with an open 17 yard frontage.

    The vice’s role was simply to hold the rifle steady in the same position as much as possible shot after shot. Of course I have to reference with the scope to the aiming point at the target.

    Again, just to find the best pellets for my rifle.

    Dave


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