Things we can learn from shooting firearms

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

I’ve written about firearms in this blog from time to time. Even though it’s about airguns, there are so many lessons we can learn from firearms that it’s a shame to turn our backs on them — as if by using explosive gas instead of compressed air they’re somehow different. Once the projectile gets out of the barrel, it acts the same regardless of what starts it on its way.

Many of you understand why I do this. Blog readers Kevin and BG_Farmer, for example, know that a precharged gun acts the same as a black powder arm, in that they both require a long barrel for optimum performance. The longer the barrel, the greater the velocity you can expect — all other things remaining equal. That was demonstrated clearly in the test of the Talon SS, when I switched from a 12-inch barrel to a 24-inch barrel. Velocity increased dramatically and the shot count remained the same — proving that a longer barrel gives greater performance in a PCP.

Today, I want to discuss another similarity I’ve discovered. I didn’t really “discover” it. I more or less tripped over it, cursed a bit; then, as I was picking myself up and brushing myself off, I happened to reflect on what had happened and was enlightened.

The idea first crossed my path in the book Yours Truly, Harvey Donaldson, by the author of the same name. He noticed that some of the shells he reloaded grouped their bullets very well, while others that had the same headstamp and were purchased at the same time, threw their shots wide of the mark. That phenomenon is so common in my experience that I thought it was the way things always were, but old Harvey had a different idea. He started setting aside the cartridge cases that threw the wild shots, keeping only those that tended to group their shots together. In time he was left with a smaller batch of shells that all wanted to put their bullets into the same hole — as long as everything else (powder type and weight, bullet weight, seating depth, primer type, etc.) stayed the same.

In the end, Donaldson wound up with a batch of shells he could count on to group their shots together and others that couldn’t. He then shot groups with cartridges made from the good shells and from those that were not as good and demonstrated that the good shells grouped much better.

My shooting buddy, with whom I recently commiserated about the lack of success we were having with some firearms, pointed out that we were both shooting cartridges with mixed headstamps, and we weren’t paying attention to the things that were staring us in the face. That was a wakeup call for me!

So, I’ve just begun doing the same thing as Donaldson with a couple of my firearms — but I don’t have any real results to show, yet. However, the initial examination does look promising. I say that because within any group of 10 shots with certain rifles there’s usually a smaller group that hints that there may be a difference between the shells, since everything else is exactly the same.

Shot group within a group 250 Savage
Ten shots from a 250-3000 Savage at 100 yards. If you were sorting these shells for reloading, which three would you exclude from the good pile? The x-ring is 0.90 inches in diameter.

Shot group within a group 22 Hornet
Ten shots from a .22 Hornet at 50 yards. Can you tell which 6 cartridges are of interest?

But how can this information help me as an airgunner? Edith pointed out that once the trigger is pulled, the pellet goes downrange and there is nothing left to be sorted for the next time.

But what if I could sort BEFORE the shot? And, of course I can! If I weigh and visually inspect each pellet, I’ll have the most uniform group of pellets possible. I can then shoot them against a random selection of pellets straight from the tin and also against a group of pellets that were specifically rejected during the selection process. There should be a noticeable difference between those three groups — no?

Oh, I can hear the gears turning, now! In your analytical minds, you’re creating universes in which all pellets go in the same hole at a ridiculously long distance. Well, cut it out! It often doesn’t work as simply as that. It may sound good when you read it in print; but when you attempt to test it, the results may not be what you expected. There are many reasons for this.

The gun
If you’re doing this with an accurate airgun, there’s a chance you’ll succeed. But if you’re doing it with a gun that vibrates like a jackhammer and kicks like a mule, any difference in accuracy may be overwhelmed by the slop of the test instrument (the gun).

Your shooting technique
I was at the range last week and observed a man who couldn’t hit a 12-inch paper plate at 100 yards every time with an M1 Garand. Was that the rifle’s fault? No, it wasn’t. The guy closed his non-sighting eye by squinting and refused to try holding it open. So, the round peep hole his sighting eye looked through was scrunched up into a deformed hole that nobody could hope to sight through. He could not be convinced to try holding both eyes open, and I bet this is a person who blames “old eyes” on his inaccuracy when it is nothing more than technique. If you don’t have good shooting technique, you’ll never be able to see subtle differences in accuracy in a test like this.

Range conditions
I’ve seen shooters complain because their rifles were not giving them one-inch groups at 100 yards. But they were shooting on a windy day and disregarding the wind entirely. As if a bullet isn’t affected by wind! Granted, bullets shot from firearms buck the wind much better than pellets — but, even so, there are limits. And a 15-mile-per-hour crosswind is not the time to be expecting one-hole groups. On a day like that, you either wait out the wind and shoot during the quiet times, or you do something else. But don’t expect to set records.

Distance
You need to shoot at a distance at which the groups start to open. I like small groups like everyone, but you don’t learn anything from them in a test like this. So, the 22-foot range in your basement is out. You need to get some distance between you and the target. For me, that distance is 50 yards. That’s where I have to do all of the things mentioned above correctly on every shot, and any mistake I make gets magnified greatly, to my embarrassment.

And why do you need open groups? What you really need is to clearly see the smallest deviations your pellets are making. The farther you shoot, the more visible they become.

So, Grasshopper, before you can benefit from today’s lesson, you must first prove that you can shoot tight groups to begin with. This is the reason I push so hard for new shooters to acquire certain models of airguns — because I know those models will give them a modicum of accuracy. What kind of Formula One racer would you be if all your driving experience was on a tractor?

I have done this test — once
I actually did do this test one time — twice if you count once with target sights and once with a scope. Some of you may remember that I was goaded into shooting groups at 50 yards with an FWB 300S target rifle. I did get better results from weight-sorted pellets than from random pellets taken straight from a tin. None of the groups were especially small, but those shot with weight-sorted pellets were the smallest in both the test with open sights and again with a scope.

But I haven’t done a test specifically to evaluate the benefits of sorting the pellets. That would be new.

I’m going to do it, so please give me your thoughts.

73 Responses to “Things we can learn from shooting firearms”

  • kevin Says:

    The lessons of shooting firearms accurately from Harvey Donaldson’s experience and shooting airguns accurately are remarkably similar in that the attention to detail is what shrinks groups.

    Tom mentions cases that are set aside that shoot best but the overall message to me in Yours Truly Harvey Donaldson is the unending attention to detail not only in reloading but in shooting techinique. His settling in regimen is a must read. Although current production techniques make it less important, Harvey Donaldson has two separate topics on just the importance of primers in reloading! Seating and type in general but the detail of his analytical process in every aspect of shooting must be respected and followed IF you want to achieve ultimate accuracy. If you’re a plinker disregard and have fun with my envious blessing. I’m cursed with the desire to know what many of my guns are capable of.

    Everyone wants to know the secrets to shooting small groups at great distances. There are many tips to shrink groups but no shortcuts to being a decent shooter.

    I’ve posted many times on many forums of the shoots I host. Airgun and powder burners. Many of these guys are good shots. Many are better offhand shots at 10 meters than me. A few are better off a bench than me. I still hold the record for smallest, witnessed, group at 100 yards with an airgun benched.

    Here’s my shooting tips for most of my shooting buddies that want to shoot small groups with an airgun at long (50 yards or more) distances:

    1-If you want ultimate accuracy from a spring gun accept that a spring gun will require the perfect hold every time. Even with no wind, the ideal pellet, perfect follow through and good trigger pull the slightest change in hold can open a group up a half inch or more at these distances. Springer guys with tunes from the best don’t want to accept this but it’s the truth.

    2-Since your pcp won’t group maybe it’s your technique. You have your eye closed? You jerk a trigger? You don’t know what follow through is? You don’t know how to settle in to a shot? Here’s my favorite…Your scope has parallax. At 50 yards I can see 1/4″ (or more) of movement on the target through your scope. The quick way to remedy this on someone elses gun is to have them back their heads slightly away from the scope so that there’s a black ring around the inside of their scope picture that minimizes parallax. Their groups shrink by at least a 1/4″ immediately. The long term fix is of course to dial parallax out of the scope.

    Here’s my secret. I always believe the gun is more accurate than me and I try to fix me.

    Tom,

    You asked for input on sorting pellets. Here’s mine.

    Weighing pellets is 101. You’ve done that.

    Here’s what I found when I was shooting weekly for 100 yard groups:

    1-I shot without any wind since I didn’t want to introduce this variable
    2-I didn’t weigh pellets
    3-I didn’t lube pellets
    4-I sized skirts using the largest beeman pellet sizer for .22 cal (0.2190)
    5-I then rolled pellets on clean, unmarred glass for uniformity (with markings this confirmed weight and head size)

    I then loaded the pellets one at a time. At 100 yards the groups shrunk by almost a 1/4″. Was it because of my sizing and rolling? Candidly I don’t think so. Frankly, because I valued those pellets like gold after all that effort that I took more effort to aim, pull the trigger correctly and follow through that gave me those results.

    Do I think it was wasted effort? NO, because it reinforced the importance of shooting technique that I get sloppy about sometimes.

    kevin

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Kevin,

      Now THAT is a comment! I have asked you in the past to write guest blogs, but when you write comments like this, you don’t need to do anything more. I hope everyone will read what you have said.

      B.B.

    • Matt61 Says:

      Yes, very informative indeed.

      Matt61

    • Victor Says:

      Kevin,

      Excellent stuff, as always! I don’t think that I can get into sorting, unless a very good reason comes along, like some formal competition, but I still like shooting for accuracy. Your recommendation regarding hold IS critical to excellent shooting, and especially when shooting out to 50 yards, or even beyond.

      Finding the right hold for a particular gun is the thing that takes me the longest. I can get pretty much everything else resolved quickly, but the correct grip (i.e., hand placement), cheek-weld, and rest spot (under the rifle) require fine tuning.

      It’s also critical that your right forearm not touch the table because otherwise muscle twitch will affect your whole trigger finger hand.

      Thanks,
      Victor

  • Lee Says:

    BB, first if all I would like to thank you for sharing your knowledge. This also my first post after stalking your blog for months.

    Regarding sorting pellet, it seems not only weight but also shape (very slightly deformed skirt or head) would affect your grouping. And it is more difficult to sort good shaped pellet from bad because eyeballing is not really a precise method.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Lee,

      Welcome to the blog! I hope you will continue to post.

      You’re right about eyeballing. That’s where Kevin’s rolling on glass comes in. But I will still look carefully at every pellet I shoot when I test this concept. Can’t get away from the old habit, I guess.

      B.B.

  • dangerdongle Says:

    This is the one I’ve been waiting for!
    Two questions:
    Will you be shooting wadcutters, considering the distance? And, how do you define ‘tight group?’ (ie, all rounds within a certain measurable area, or a group with absolutely NO fliers?)

    Thank you!

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      dangerdongle,

      I could write a whole blog on the type of pellet I will use for my long-range test. Let me answer you now by saying I will not use a wadcutter. Back when I was on “American Airgunner,” I had Paul run a test of wadcutters against domed pellets. At 10 meters they were neck and neck. And at 35 meters the wadcutters were all over the place. That was the day Paul hit a fly on the backer board at 35 meters on camera — with Kodiak domes.

      B.B.

      • B.B. Pelletier Says:

        dangerdongle,

        How do I define “tight group?” I measure the distance across the two pellet holes farthest apart and subtract one pellet diameter to get the distance between the centers of those two shots. The smallest number is the smallest group.

        I’m not sure I understand the comment about no fliers. I measure all the shots, wherever they land. The smallest group has its shots closest together.

        B.B.

  • BG_Farmer Says:

    BB,
    That’s a lot of wisdom there for people who are looking for it. Everyone should try shooting the tightest groups they can at least occasionally, as it will give you a different perspective on your technique and highlight problem areas, as well as point out “accurizing” techniques. I don’t like bench shooting that much, but I do it sometimes to work on my trigger pull in particular, which tends to go out of whack sometimes (flint-ching). My only reservation is that for the OCD-prone (as I can be), you need to set a clear goal for the exercise (e.g. one MOA at 100 yards), as it can and does become a full-time occupation if you leave the goal nebulous. Those unhappy people are called BR shooters :) ! Of course, if most of your shooting is shooting for groups, that could be an appropriate hobby (but expensive if taken to the logical end!).

    I have to laugh about the M1, as a friend of mine proudly announced he’d bought (but not shot) some “accurate” (and rather pricey) .30-06 ammo from a local shyster/gunshop and now he “could hit what he was aiming at (and I sadly suspect it was at 50 yards), not like that cheap stuff from Walmart”. The previous week, I had been bored numb by MOA groups at 100 using the useless cheap stuff! Not saying there isn’t better, but most people (including me) aren’t limited by the ammunition in most cases!

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      BG_Farmer,

      Speaking of the cheap stuff, the shooting buddy who prompted this blog told me of all the commercial ammo in the world, he cannot create a load that shoots better than Federal Premium ammo. And that stuff is affordable.

      B.B.

  • Barrika Says:

    I’ve studied all the pellets I’ve bought through the past 10 years, and made a spreadsheet out of the data, listing among other things weight*, cost, and “weight uniformity*” via %relative standard deviation (*based on weight data of ~40-50 pellets accurately weighed out to .1 grains). While I DO use weight-sorted pellets for best performance, I don’t always shoot those only, but the lowest RSD pellets are the preferred buy, along with accuracy (which I’m sure goes somewhat hand-in-hand with the RSDs). I’ve seen the RSDs range from 0.5% to as high as 4%. Rather surprised they weren’t even higher.

    AND, any pellets that seem to fit the chamber differently are shot aside, off-target, to help improve my benchrest accuracy results.

  • TunnelEngineer Says:

    B.B
    I tested weighed versus non weighed pellets two months ago. I used Croaman Premier Light pellets in the TX200 and in the CZ 200S pcp rifle. Tests were conducted at 35 yd. No difference, zippo. Groups were all about .3 inch. I will test at 50yd next time
    I would therefore stick to a pcp and heavier pellets for your tests. That’s my suggestion

    TE

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      TE,

      That’s interesting. But it’s also why I said 50 yards is the distance I will test at. 35 yards isn’t far enough to see small differences, I guess.

      At the range I now shoot I don’t have convenient access to 35 yard targets. Years ago I did, and I always shot remarkably better at 35 yards, and even 40 yards, than at 50.

      But I will still run the test, because I want to see it for myself.

      B.B.

      • TunnelEngineer Says:

        B.B.

        I neglected to mention that I weighed pellets to 0.1 gr and that the CP light pellets did not seem to have much of a variation. The weight distribution was roughly as follows:

        7.75-7.85 gr: 25%
        7.85-7.95 gr: 55%
        7.95-8.05 gr: 20%

        I sorted the pellets and took the midrange pellets and did five, 5-shot groups. Then shot three 5-shot groups with the heavier range pellets , and three 5-shot groups with the lighter range pellets. I also shot three (besides the hundreds orf groups I have shot before) 5-shot groups wiht randome pellets from box. I did this with the CZ 200S, which sends them at 795 +/- 6 fps.

        I did a similar test with the TX200 but tested a lower number of groups but I was not shooting that rifle as well as I usually can, so I stopped. I will repeat it later.

        As I said, I did not detect any measurable difference between the sizes of the groups I made with sorted and unsorted pellets. My conclusion was that weight dsitribution does not have a significant incidence on group size compared to other factors out to 35 yd.

        So, please find a calm day and test that theory out to 50 yd. I would also suggest that you do a separate, benchmark test during that session with a rifle and pellet combination that you already know how well you can shoot. I think it is important to make sure you do heavy pellets with a PCP.

        TE

        • B.B. Pelletier Says:

          TE,

          I have a very special rifle selected for this test. It’s one you guys have never seen.

          B.B.

          • Wulfraed Says:

            A five foot barrel blank mated to an industrial super-high-pressure compressed air tank, all bolted to the bed of a deuce and half truck…

            {Yes, I’m feeling whimsical today}

  • David Enoch Says:

    There is a poster on the Yellow that post as Yrrah. He does the most complicated pellet sorting I have seen including weighing the pellets, measuring head and waist size, and a roll test to measure ratio of head to waist size. He does other things that impress me such as shooting each shot over the chronograph and indexing his pellets based on the die mark.

    With those sorted pellets he probably has the best results at long distance shooting with airguns that is done on the planet. If you want the absolute best from your airgun, you have to put the time into it.

    But for me, all this sorting is not worth it. I just do my best with unsorted pellets. If I hit the target I am happy, if not, I try again.

    David Enoch

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      David,

      I agree that life is too short to sort every pellet. But I want to know what the absolute best can be, so I have to do it just this once.

      B.B.

  • derrick Says:

    BG_Farmer,

    Can you elaborate on your use of Van’s cold blue to get a darker color?
    Thanks,

    Derrick

    • BG_Farmer Says:

      Derrick,
      Here it is if you want to try it. Degrease (e.g. acetone or better), then soak in (or keep wet with) white vinegar for (typically) 10-30 minutes (it starts to etch the steel noticeably a bit if longer, which may or may not be what I want — I’ve gone longer, even overnight in tests), boil in clean water for 10 minutes (not critical, just make sure part is hot), then remove part (it should flash dry; wipe off anything that doesn’t) and –while still hot– immerse in Van’s or keep soaked (e.g. wiping with rag) for 10-20 minutes until it goes black and may even start to rust; boil for ten minutes in clean water. At that point, it should be jet black, and you can oil/smooth it (I use scotchbrite green pad with 30W motor oil) or repeat the process (i.e. Van’s then boil) a couple of times before oiling, but smoothing it with an unoiled green pad between applications. You’ll get to black quicker if you use a rougher grit to polish initially or soak in vinegar longer, but obviously it depends on what type of finish you want. If you polish beyond 180, the process gets slower very quickly. I’d be interested to see how it works for you if you try it — I found that the extra steps (esp. heat) made a big difference in the depth, durability, and darkness of the finish, although I’m not satisfied that it is quite “rust bluing” at that, but it is much quicker. Even if you ignore my tedious instructions, I think you might want to try the Van’s, as it gives the most consistent results and best color (tinted grey/blue rather than brownish like PermaBlue) I’ve found with a “cold blue”.

      • derrick Says:

        BG,
        Thanks for the tips! I’ll try your technique next time around. I’ve been a Van’s user for a couple years now but can’t always get the color as dark as I’d like. Figured it was just that particular alloy of steel. Usually order 3 bottles or so at a time to make it worthwhile on the shipping. Met the owner of the company at a gun show a while back and couldn’t believe the results he was getting. Esp. when he was rubbing the freshly blued finish with steel wool and didn’t burn right through.
        The complete lack of sulfur smell (compared to using something like birchwood casey) is also nice.
        Derrick

        • BG_Farmer Says:

          Oh, just in case — keep vinegar and bluing solution out of bore, etc. Probably wouldn’t do any harm within reason (i.e. if not trying to create visual etched effect on the metal), but better safe than sorry. The boiling water is safe for anything. Alloy definitely makes a difference in the reaction, and sometimes even more or less generic mild or low-carbon steel has significant contamination (which won’t affect its function), not only in terms of carbon content (which can vary, but doesn’t make that much difference I don’t think) but also in terms of elements like chromium, vandadium, molybdenum, etc.. You can play with polish level (coarser grit=darker/flatter) and pickling time to equalize the tones, esp. if you have what appears to be parts of differing alloys.

        • BG_Farmer Says:

          I lost a previous response to cyberspace, so I hope this isn’t redundant. Just for the record and to be safe, keep vinegar and bluing out of bore, etc. Alloys (even differences in composition of the same nominal alloy due to contaminants) definitely makes a difference in the reaction — one thing you can play with is polish level (coarser = darker and more satin/matte/flat) and pickling (vinegar) time.

          Yes, the Van’s smells much less bad than BC!

  • Mr B. Says:

    David,

    The following is a link to Yrrah’s pellet sorting regimen. http://www.network54.com/Forum/79537/message/1189430606/Pellet+sorting+-+inspection+-+batching+-+my+present+ultimate+strategies+for+long+ranging+- It’s an interesting read. The results he gets are phenomenal and if my brain is semi functioning this morning he does some of his shooting at 200 yards.

    I’ve been reading and not posting for way too long. It’s feeling good to be getting back in the game.

    Bruce

  • chuckj Says:

    For today’s exercise I shot 30 pellets at an NRA 10m pistol target with my IZH-46M from 10m. I am following Tom’s advice of keeping both eyes open and un-obstructed.

    The black bull on that target is approx 2″ in diameter. I concentrated on follow through (which I always TRY to do) and shot with both eyes open while looking down range, unobstructed. The follow through part was very easy compared to keeping a sight picture with both eyes open.

    Usually, when I shoot with both eyes open, I block my non-sighting eye to prevent double images. This time I did not block the non-sighting eye. Needless to say, I did a lot of blinking to keep my dominant eye in control. Those times I had double images I just concentrated on one of them for taking the shot. After several shots, aiming became easier and surprisingly effective. It will take many more shots before the two eyes are trained to do what they should but I can tell that it will be doable.

    I’ve noticed that shooting with both eyes open with a pistol is much more difficult than with a rifle because of the position and distance to the sights, I suppose.

    My result with the pistol was 24 out of 30 shots were in the 2″ black. I’d estimate 18 of the 24 in the black were in the 8, 9, and 10 ring. Hard to be accurate on the count because 24 shots makes a mess of a bull.

    Again, I was very surprised by how accurate I was using both eyes in earnest and how effective picking one of the double images was. I merely resolved that I would pick one and trust it – and it worked so well. I believe over time one image will become dominant and I will no longer notice the other one. I hope so because it is distracting to block the non-sighting eye without the proper glasses and not only that but I think there are rules against those in some venues, such as Sporter Class, isn’t there?

    At any rate, I believe practicing this with my 46M will improve my firearm accuracy as well.

    -Chuckj

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      chuckj,

      Next you’ll want to put a blinder over your open eye. That will end the double images.

      18 of 24 in the black is good for starters. Soon you’ll have to replace your targets every five shots because of scoring difficulties. In competition, each target gets but one shot.

      B.B.

      • chuckj Says:

        Tom,
        I have simulated a blinder by putting my off hand over my off eye. This make it very comfortable on my off open eye, but is it better to learn to shoot without a blinder or is a blinder a must have?
        -Chuck

        • B.B. Pelletier Says:

          chuckj,

          I shoot my Ballard with my left hand shielding my left eye — exactly as you describe. It works.

          B.B.

          • chuckj Says:

            OK, I just put a post-it note on my shooting glasses over my off eye. I shot two five shot groups.
            The first group I hit the 7, 8, 9, 9 ,10. I was elated! I’m on the right track.
            My second group I hit the 3, 4, 6, 8, 8. Uh…did I just hear someone say: “pride goeth before the fall”?
            -Chuckj

    • Wulfraed Says:

      Now you are ready for the science lab…

      Sketching what you see through a microscope!

      It does work easier when using the non-dominant (hand-side) on the microscopy eyepiece as it leaves the dominant hand for the sketching.

      Look through the scope with one eye while the other eye looks at the sketch pad… You then sketch 1:1 — the sketch image “looks” the same size as the view through the scope, and ideally would “merge” with it…

      NO! I have not achieved such — not given my confusing prescription. I also can not fuse those 3-D jumbled images that were a fad a few decades ago [the normal instruction is to relax the eyes -- essentially focusing at infinity -- but with my prisms, infinity is a different vertical alignment than nearby], and old photo-geology stereo-pairs required me to hold the viewer at a 30deg angle to the images.

    • Victor Says:

      Chuckj,
      If I may, regarding a blinder, use something opaque (i.e., almost clear). You want both eyes to experience lighting.
      Victor

      • chuckj Says:

        Victor,
        Thanks. Maybe Scotch Tape over the lens would allow light in?
        -Chuckj

      • chuckj Says:

        Victor,

        I used Scotch tape on the lens this session and it works. It does feel better to my eye than the darker post-it note. The tape is blurry enough that my eye doesn’t try to take over and it lets in plenty of light.

        I’m not sure about the rest of my technique. It’s kind of a culmination of what I’ve gotten from this blog. I start with my arm relaxed and the barrel pointing down. I take a couple breaths and on the third I let out about a third and hold it. I then raise the pistol about a foot or so above the bull and while lowering slowly I get the sights lined up so that when the bull is finally in the picture everything is in line. As soon as I see the center of the bull and everything else looks OK, I fire and hold that picture for a couple seconds then lower my arm back to a relaxed position. Sometimes I wait until I have the pistol raised above the bull before I take that third breath.

        I’ve also tried starting the sequence with my elbow bent and the barrel pointing up to the ceiling like a Bond girl in the opening of the movie. I wish I could have seen the Olympiads technique but was never able to capture them on TV.

        -Chuckj

  • kevin Says:

    Here’s some additional bits for long range shooting if using a scope and wanting ultimate accuracy.

    Match your target to your scope.

    If your target is a 6 inch bull at 100 yards it’s going to be tough to consistently have a correct target picture with a typical scope reticle.

    If your scope has a target dot reticle use/make a target with a bright 1″ dot at 100 yards. Center your target dot inside the bright 1″ dot.

    If your scope has typical crosshairs use a target that is a grid (intersecting lines, no bullseyes). Your aimpoint is matching/overlaying your crosshairs onto these intersections. If you have a scope with a thick reticle make sure the intersecting lines on your target are fat enough and a light enough color to allow your reticle to be placed inside these intersecting target lines. This not only minimizes cant but gives a better aimpoint than most bullseyes printed on targets when using a scope.

    kevin

  • cowboystar dad Says:

    This past weekend I had it brought home how very little it takes to make a marked difference in shooting.
    Now I haven’t had a chance to try this with my springers yet…in truth I’ve been spending so much time with the powderburners that the airguns have been sadly a bit neglected for the summer.
    (the newest addition to the stable is the Mossberg 715T tactical…their little AR .22)
    Anyhoo…I’ve got the Savage .22WMR shooting right around an inch or an inch and a quarter.
    Pretty happy with that actually.
    But last weekend I was invited to attend a local LE sniper practice. One thing I noticed was that none of them wrapped their thumb around the top of the wrist of the stock…they all lay their thumb out along the stock on the same side as their trigger finger (hopefully you can visualize what I’m saying).
    When I asked they said this was standard for precision shooting.
    Well, the next day I tried it…and maybe it was co-incidental but my groups did shrink by 1/4 inch.
    Eight 5 shot groups went from my normal average of a bit over an inch to a bit over .75″

    • J-F Says:

      I always do that with the RedRyder and Marlin Cowboy Rifle and I did notice an improvement in the resulting accuracy. Now I don’t know if it’s recoiling differently or if I have a better hold or maybe a more consistent hold that improves it but I confirm it works for me too. I also use it on some other rifles but haven’t taken time to compare it to a “regular” hold, I just tought since it works for the RedRyders it must work even better on higher powered rifles…

      J-F

    • Mr B. Says:

      cowboystar dad,

      just tried holding my Disco and RWS 350 with my thumb the way you described and could actually feel the muscles in my right forearm relax. Wish I could shoot them now and see the difference, but we’re have a wind storm, steady at 15 with gusts to 35, and are under a tornado watch until 7p. Thanks for sharing that tip with us.

      Chuckj, I’ve got a level on my Talon SS that I can sometimes watch with my left eye while shooting with my right eye, but only when shooting from the bench and not very often more the pity cause it’s kinda a neat experience when it happens–maybe it’s a Zen type thing.

      B.B. and Kevin, Thank you both for the kind words. Yes all is well!

      Bruce

  • Mike Says:

    The FWB 124 is on it’s way back from Pyramyd with a new main spring, resealed, and lubed. I expect that it will now last longer than I will! It will be interesting to see how it shoots.

    Mike

  • Fred DPRoNJ Says:

    BB,

    I had also done some experimentation on pellet sorting back in 2010 (http://airgun-academy.pyramydair.com/blog/2010/07/sorting-pellets-and-what-to-expect/) but also paid attention to pellet orientation when inserting the pellet into the breech. Just wanted to remind you of that blog and also that I found orientation didn’t make much of a difference compared to weight sorting.

    By the way, I ordered a Bushnell Trophy Propoint red dot with 4 different reticles – it has a choice of a 3 moa dot and one with a 10 moa (at 100 yards, the dot covers 10″). I thought I needed the smaller red dot for the precision Bullseye shooting competition. I’ll start practicing Victor’s suggestions iro grip and set up of stance and see if I don’t improve. Heck, I can’t get too much worse. I’ll also let you know how the sight works out. PA does sell a lower end version of this sight with a 6 MOA dot and no choice of dots or reticles. http://www.pyramydair.com/s/a/Bushnell_Trophy_1x28_Red_Dot_Sight_30mm_Tube_6_MOA_Weaver_Rings/3859

    Fred DPRoNJ

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Fred,

      Am I still bending your 124 barrel at Roanoke? I need to know to bring the fixture and a backstop we can shoot into.

      B.B.

      • Fred DPRoNJ Says:

        BB,

        if I can get the air filter boots back over the intakes of my carburetors on my Triumph motorcycle, I will then attempt to bend the FWB barrel. If not, I’d love to see you do this. Can we wait until the beginning of October before we make a decision? I would bring a backstop to save you the trouble (.22 cal. bullet trap with no sound deadening material).

        FRed DPRoNJ

    • Victor Says:

      Fred,
      Let me know if you want some long distance coaching. I haven’t shot much in the past year and a half, and especially not pistol, but I still know the fundamentals. You can reach me at vector@collector.org .
      Victor

  • Alan in MI Says:

    Man, I love this topic . . . .

    Like Kevin, I’ve been bit by the accuracy bug. So I have been playing around with sorting for improved accuracy. I’m working with JSB 18.1 grain pellets and shooting through an LW barreled .22 cal Marauder.

    My first attempt was at using weight as the main sorting criteria, and I had high hopes for it – mostly because sorting for weight is relatively easy. But I found it not to be of statistical significance (at least for me and my gun) even at 50 yards when I tested with multiple ten shot groups.

    There was a light but variable breeze the day I shot my test groups, and I’m sure that this opened up a few of the groups. I did use a good proven magazine for shooting. At the end of the test, the weight sorted pellets did no better than unsorted. I shot 6 different ten shot groups of both sorted and unsorted pellets, as well as a “special” group of ten (thus the use of the mag for all that testing). But the most telling result was the one ten shot “special” group that I shot with the 5 lightest and 5 heaviest pellets from the 500 that I sorted – it ended up as just a typical group, definately on the large side of the normal distribution, but a long way from the worst.

    Here is what the weight sorting results looked like: http://i1209.photobucket.com/albums/cc389/hkydad/Testofweighedpellets2.jpg

    I found sorting by rolling on glass far more beneficial. Without the sizer, I was only able to group based on the relative size of the pellets. I will add that in addition to the ratio results from the rolling, it is important to also listen to the sound the pellets make too, as you can really hear the difference between pellets that are very round vs. those with offset die marks.

    I don’t have a good visual report like with weight, as I never really hit a clear cut repeatable result for me – the truth is that while it clearly led to smaller groups (I had four sub-MOA ten shot groups at 50 yards in my tests), the process was not “sustainable” for me. This is because when I opened up a new tin of pellets, they rolled very differently than the first tin – indicating different dies. I did not want to go through the pain-in-the-butt process of figuring everything out again for a new tin. It was so much work that I threw in the towel.

    I’m probably done with the roll testing, at least until I can get a sizer that can make the skirts a uniform size but leave the heads untouched – that way rolling will be a true sort on head size rather than on a ratio. As I said, I did not do a “visual report” like with weight, but here is the best 10 shot group I have ever shot, and I believe it was clearly enabled by the roll sorting (I had three others that were close to this, with 4 ten shot groups that were under a half inch ctc, and I never did that even once before regardless of effort or conditions – and the tesing was brocken up over two days). I measured this one at 0.42” ctc in the duct seal itself:

    http://i1209.photobucket.com/albums/cc389/hkydad/Roll-SortedJSB181at50yards.jpg

    While I do enjoy going out and trying to get the best benchrest groups I can on occasion, my real goal is just to eliminate the uncalled flyers that I believe to be caused by the pellet itself. If I were to shoot a whole tin of pellets at 50 yards benched, 60% of them will group under 0.4”ctc, and 80% will be under 0.6”, but then moving to about 95% will open it up to an inch, and the last few might move it out to 1.25” to 1.5” – and that is with a visual inspection of the skirt before loading. What I want is an easy way to sort to keep them under 0.75” or so – then I know it is always me and never the gun or ammo . . . so I’ll keep testing.

    And I apologize for the length of this post . . . . but as I said, I love this topic!

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Alan,

      You said the key — a magazine! I don’t use magazines with airguns when I’m going for the best accuracy. I haven’t published everything I have done, but I have proven that a magazine ruins accuracy — at least when I am shooting.

      By “ruin” I mean opens the group by 1/2-inch or so at 50 yards. It isn’t much, but it is noticeable to me.

      I just had to say that.

      B.B.

      • Matt61 Says:

        B.B., you should watch the film Zulu where the British are reloading their single-shot Martini-Henry rifles while thousands of Zulus are howling down on them. :-)

        Matt61

      • Alan in MI Says:

        BB,

        I understand that magzines CAN ruin accuracy. They can not make the gun more accurate, but they certainly can make it worse – but that is not guaranteed.

        I have four, all of which have been dissasembled, debured / polished, spring tension lightened, and lightly lubed (and cleaned regularily). I have tested them against a single shot tray, and with two of them I found no measurable or statistical indication of any affect (the other two were less conclusive, so they don’t get much use).

        That said, I’ll probably retest at some point with sorted pellets to see if there is difference with the new system – but first I want to get to the point I have a repeatable new system (I need that sizer!).

        I’ll offer up that if the magazine is known to be benign (no harm), then it is possible that it could make the shooter either better, or worse, depending on how they shoot with it. I find it helps me minimize the movement of both me and the gun between shots, but I can see how some people might do better with the ritual of a single loading routine.

        Anyways, I would sure like to take a bit more off those sub MOA groups, so I will definately try the tray again when I get another good batch of pellets to try.

        Alan in MI

        • kevin Says:

          Alan in MI,

          Understand where you’re coming from regarding magazines. Nonetheless, a magazine is a variable that can be removed from the accuracy shooting equation. In addition, a magazine will not allow you to orient the seams on your pellets uniformly when inserting them into the breech.

          BTW, indexing pellets prior to insertion into the breech is the only evidence needed to know you’re in the company of a really obsessive compulsive airgunner ;-)

          kevin

  • Matt61 Says:

    So, it sounds like buying reloaded ammo is out the window.

    Also, it looks like you not only have to keep track of each case but also the shot made by each case as you’re shooting. Sounds like a hassle. And more to the point, wouldn’t this interrupt your concentration? I know each shot is supposed to be self-contained. But it seems to help if you read the impressions of one shot to help you correct for the next one and that would be disrupted by matching your brass to the shot and keeping it all organized in the right groups.

    Matt61

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Matt,

      I never “adjust” anything from one shot to the next. Certainly not my aim point. Is that what you are saying?

      As far as keeping the brass organized, with a single-shot all I do is put the case into the good pile or the bad. I don’t have to remember where each shot went. Granted this is a hassle with a semiautomatic, but no semiautomatic is capable of shooting the kind of groups Im talking about. I even shoot a bolt-action gun as a single-shot when I do this.

      B.B.

    • Wulfraed Says:

      The OCD not only keep track of the cases, but do neck-size only (don’t want to change the fit of the shell in the chamber by squeezing down the base), AND mark the orientation of the case head so they are consistent.

  • TunnelEngineer Says:

    B.B.

    I truly think we should move away from overall group sizes. After all, it is not the same to get 10 shots scattered in a one-inch diameter area, than 8 shots within 0.3 inches and two within 1 inch. We should determine average, spread, and standard deviation in the same way we do with velocity values or with any other physical quantity. There are established procedures to do this in certain engineering or scientific areas that are directly applicable to impacts os a bullet or a pellet.

    Are you aware of this being tried before and, for some reason, abandoned? or are we just following a long-established custom?

    T.E.

    • Wulfraed Says:

      I think we’re getting back to that multi-variate statistical analysis I sort-of proposed last year.

      As it is, if I don’t forget in the next 8 months, I’m considering a nasty test case.

      My parent’s are moving into an apartment late October; that gives October/November to move them out, and December/January to move me into their old house (with delayed payments)… So by summer I should have a 10m air-gun station in the basement.

      I’m thinking of using a typical 10/12 bull target in the trap, and my Daisy USST 953 (lousy trigger, but the peep sights are my most accurate system at that distance — the alternatives are two pistols with good triggers but shorter sighting radius, or the Marauder that shoots the back out of the trap on three shots at the same target).

      I’m (read all the following with the caveat “proposing to”) going to shoot just 5 pellets at each bull.

      Then… SCAN the target at, say, 50 pixels per inch. Load the image into Photoshop and use a locator pointer to obtain the pixel coordinates for each bull center, and (to the best of my ability) the center of each pellet hit. Building up a spreadsheet categorizing each bull, and the impact points.

      I can then “zero” the pattern of each bull (pellet_coord – bull_coord). Theoretically, the sum of all those targets should be equivalent of one very big group (10*5 => 50 shot group).

      Then, figure out how to load the data into the “R” statistics program and start coding statistical tests: group size for individual bulls, size for sums of bulls, offset evaluation for top row vs bottom row, left column vs right column, and maybe run an automated “shoot” in which the entire set is available for candidate shots, in which each shoot randomly selects /n/ shots from the overall set (no duplicates)… Report on group sizes by shoot size, then figure out significance tests based on “shoot” size comparison (are 10-shot groups significantly larger than 5-shot groups).

      Going to be a long effort — besides trying for a “best effort” shooting series, there is the time to measure coordinates from the scan into excel, Importing into R, formulating the data transforms for the tests…

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      TE,

      Yes, what you suggest has been done before. 100 years ago we had string measurements, then mean averages per shot and a couple others that were less popular, like boxing the group. As far as I’m concerned, none of that works as well as the average size. Having eight in a tight group and two apart is a symptom to me.

      B.B.

      • kevin Says:

        “Having eight in a tight group and two apart is a symptom to me.”

        What a great comment and observation. Spot on.

        Wanting to devise a measurement technique that ignores or downplays the “fliers” in a group is counterproductive to the goal of accuracy IMHO. It’s those holes outside of the main group that must be focused on and eliminated. Tape works best for me.

        kevin

  • Desertdweller Says:

    I took the Hornet back to the range today. I’m convinced my problem with POI was caused by detonation in the compression chamber. My plan was to shoot it until the Dieseling settled down.

    I set my usual targets at 25 yards. Because of the nature of the test, I chose the cheapest pellets I had on hand: Daisy 7.9gr. wadcutters.

    Putting a point of aim on the target box, I shot twenty rounds, four at a time, to adjust my scope. When I was satisfied, I moved on to a scored target. 30 rounds were shot at each of five targets.

    The gun was still Dieseling, but not on every shot. My first target scored 264/300. Not so good, but at least it was keeping on the target.

    The next target scored 278/300. Getting better. I tried to concentrate on keeping both eyes open wide, and not getting too close to the scope.

    Third target scored 282/300. The gun had settled down considerably.

    Encouraged by that, I tried a fourth target. Again, 282/300. That was as good as it was going to be today.

    I shot a fifth target, but fell back to 267/300. I was starting to get tired by then, and noticed the front lens of the scope was unscrewing itself. Time to call it a day.

    I think as this gun burns its excess lube out, it will settle down more and become more accurate. Also, a little better pellet choice would not hurt.

    Some of the reviews I have read on this gun have panned the factory scope, but mine is holding up well to the recoil. I think the front lens was probably not very tight to start with. Both my Crosman XT and my Beeman RS2 broke their factory scopes. The Gamo makes a lot of noise when it Diesels, but it does not recoil violently.

    Les

  • Herb Says:

    Re: “You need to shoot at a distance at which the groups start to open….”

    Interesting point, but there is fuzziness in how to define that distance. Certainly if you’re shoot at 1 yard, then the error in measuring the group size (group-to-group) will be larger that the fundamental error in the group itself.

    Going to 100 yards is too long for most since the pellet will drop by feet. Also at that distance pellets tend to fly weird unless you have very carefully matched pellets and rifle.

    So kind of like Goldilocks we need to find a distance that is “just right.” Overall it would seem to be a distance at which the pellet would still be following a linear geometric relationship between distance and group size. In other words double distance and double group size.

    The other wrinkle in all of this is flyers. If you shoot at a distance great enough to see at least most of the shots you can look at the group itself to judge flyers. This is why shooting 10 shot groups pays off. The difference between group size of 9 shots and 10 is small, but the difference between having a flyer and not having a flyer can be substantial. So you don’t really need to be able to determine where every shot hits, but you need to be able to measure group size accurately if you throw out a shot or two out of the 10.

    This is obviously something that you picked up from years of experience shooting Tom. Odd how difficult it is to really define this in terms of a mathematical formula.

    So would a group size at least five times diameter of the pellet be reasonable rule of thumb?

    • kevin Says:

      Herb,

      Good to see you here.

      I don’t have any formula’s to confirm my experience but I think your assumption of group sizes doubling at distances has some merit. A decent 10 meter gun at 10 meters can usually keep groups in less than a doubling size at 20 meters (if you substitute domed pellets for wadcutters) but when you get to 30 meters it’s a rare 10 meter gun that can group in less than triple a group size.

      As you alluded to, a more powerful gun like a 30+ fpe pcp stretches these distances. Up to 30 yards it’s difficult to ascertain accuracy differances. At 50 yards groups can double vs. 25 yard groups (10 shot groups). However, in my experience, at 100 yards the exponential factor goes out the window. Just doubling group size from 50 yards to 100 yards is an exceptional gun. Rare.

      kevin

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Herb,

      Welcome back!

      When I think of the “right” distance to shoot , to see the effects of scattering, I don’t think of the group sizes, but just the distance, itself. I guess in this respect I am more of a chef who throws salt into a pot, rather than a cook who measures how much salt.

      I suppose the experience of seeing the effects of distance against group size is what led me to this solution.

      B.B.

  • john Says:

    B.B.

    “…I push so hard for new shooters to acquire certain models of airguns — because I know those models will give them a modicum of accuracy…”

    Would you list them, please, if it’s practical?

    john

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