Posts Tagged ‘Calling shots’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
I thought this was going to be a one-time report. I would show how the hold affects the accuracy of a spring-piston rifle and that would be it. Well, the best-laid plans…
Blog reader Slinging Lead said he thought that lower-powered breakbarrels shoot just as accurately when rested directly on a bag as they do when shot with the artillery hold. I had to admit that the TX200 does shoot well off a bag, although that rifle is an underlever — not a breakbarrel. And it’s certainly not lower-powered. Then, blog reader BG_Farmer entered the conversation and requested this test.
While all this was transpiring, blog reader Kevin Lentz sent me 2 tins of Air Arms Falcon pellets to try in my R8. He said his R8 shot them slightly better than it shot the JSB Exact RS pellets that I normally use in my R8.
Now, we had a multivariate discussion going on! On one hand we wondered which pellets were the most accurate in my R8; and on the other hand, we wondered if the gun was as accurate when rested directly on the bag as it was when held with the artillery hold.
How do you test all that? Do you start by testing one of the 2 pellets, or do you first find the best hold? My approach in situations like this has always been to just start testing and let the methodology work itself out as I progress.
This time, I started by shooting the gun with both pellets. I shot them with the artillery hold the way I always had, then I rested the gun directly on the sandbag and shot both pellets again. The first day’s results were not very good, but they did illuminate something that helped me structure the second day’s shooting. It turns out that, although the R8 is a very accurate springer, it’s still ultra-sensitive to hold. I guess I’d forgotten that, but on the first day’s shooting it slapped me in the face. I found that even the slightest variation in hold would throw the pellet sideways with a vengeance, and that held true for both the Falcon pellets and the JSB Exact RS pellets.
Ten-shot groups are the way to go
Once again, I must sing the praises of 10-shot groups over 5-shot groups. When you shoot 10 shots, you allow the gun to do its thing; and that tells you what the real accuracy is. People say they don’t shoot 10 shots because something can go wrong — that it’s easy to hold the rifle steady for 5 shots, but close to impossible to hold it right 10 times in a row. I say that’s just a lie we tell ourselves because 5-shot groups look so much better. Yes, it’s hard to hold a gun correctly 10 times in a row; and yes, you’ll make mistakes. I make them all the time. But if you get into the habit of shooting 10-shot groups, you’ll also KNOW when you make those mistakes; and in time, you’ll make fewer of them.
The first results — JSB Exact RS pellets
The rest of this report will be mostly the photos of the groups. I’ll start with the JSB Exact RS pellets.
On the second day, my artillery hold was more precise shot-to-shot, and I got groups that were smaller and rounder. Here are 10 JSB RS pellets from the artillery hold at 25 yards. Group measures 0.503 inches.
Resting directly on the bag on day 2 also beat the handheld group on that day.Ten JSB RS pellets rested on a bag went into 0.379 inches between centers at 25 yards. This is the smallest group of this test.
Clearly, these results show that the groups of JSB Exact RS pellets fired off the bag are smaller than the handheld groups on both days. The day 1 groups are larger than the day 2 groups, but the relationships of the group sizes between bag-rested and handheld remained constant on both days.
Air Arms Falcon pellets
Now, let’s see what happened with the Air Arms Falcon pellets. These were also shot on both days and using both resting methods.
On the first day, 10 Air Arms Falcon pellets at 25 yards shot with the rifle rested directly on the sandbag went into 0.627 inches. It’s slightly better than the handheld Falcon group shot on the same day.
On the second day, 10 Air Arms Falcon pellets at 25 yards shot with the rifle rested directly on the sandbag went into 0.603 inches. It’s much worse than the handheld Falcon group shot on the same day. I know this group APPEARS larger than the group above, but I measured it several times and it really is slightly smaller.
I conclude that these 2 pellets perform so close to each other that there’s no measurable difference — at least not in my Beeman R8. The group sizes do slightly favor the JSB pellets over the Falcons, but it’s too close to call.
But this test does demonstrate one thing very clearly. This rifle is capable of shooting groups just as tight when rested directly on a sandbag as when held with the artillery hold. That’s big news, I think. I’ll remind you that this test required the utmost in precision holding — whether in the hands or on the bag. There could be absolutely no tension on the rifle, and the gun had to be settled in properly before firing. It, therefore, took nearly as long to get each shot ready on the bag as it did holding the gun.
Don’t try to go too far
This is all well and good, but don’t sit in judgement of these results. It would be far too easy to get sucked into a destructive discussion of how much better you think this rifle can really shoot.
Many years ago, I worked for an engineering firm that developed specialized telecommunications systems. Our client was always pushing past the edge of technological possibility, so we were, too. That’s admirable except it sometimes gets you into problem areas. Let’s look at one example. The client wanted a mass storage device that stored a huge amount of data. They also wanted the data to be retrievable within a very short time. You can do one thing or the other; but when you try to do both simultaneously, there are problems.
Our problems can be seen in the movie Patriot Games, when the main character is attempting to do voice recognition in real time from a cell phone intercept. There’s a glass wall behind him, and the mass storage device behind the wall is very much like the one we were asked to design. As you watch the film, you’ll see robot arms moving fast to retrieve digital storage devices and plug them into readers. The arms move very fast! But they’re slow compared to the speed our robots had to move. Our arms had to move faster than the speed of sound, yet stop at precisely the right spot for the storage devices to be inserted into the readers. That is a physical impossibility just due to the physics of the problem. You cannot decelerate a mass from fast to zero without some consequences.
We had a problem that was unsolvable at the time we were attempting to do it. Today, however, it can be done, and the footprint of the system that does it is a fraction the size of what we were working on. Mass storage technology caught up with our technological requirement and then surpassed it.
You run into the same problem when you attempt to test something like the rifle we’re looking at today. You can get a spring-piston gun to a remarkable level of precision, and then the technology and physical limitations stop all further progress.
Put another way, you can take a $500 spring gun and invest another $500 to get it shooting 10 times better than before. But after you do, maybe no amount of additional money can get that more accurate airgun to shoot another 10 times better!
I could probably continue to test this rifle and get different results. Some would be better than what is seen here, and others would be worse. I believe this test does show the relationship quite well of the gun to the 2 pellets and 2 different holds.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today’s report is one of those serendipitous events that happen when I think I’m investigating something simple and it turns out to be a treasure trove of shooting information. I thought today’s test was a demonstration of how settling into a firing position and following through would give a better group from an air rifle of proven accuracy. What I got was that and more!
I chose the .177-caliber Beeman R8 air rifle and JSB Exact RS pellet for this test because, in the past, this has proved to be a great combination. I shot 10-shot groups at 25 yards, which should show any differences if they really exist. Initially, I’d thought to shoot the rifle in a deer-hunter hold (meaning that I grasped the stock and pulled it firmly into my shoulder), an artillery hold without the tension being taken out of my hold (in other words, holding the rifle lightly, but held on target by muscle power and not by relaxing and adjusting the hold) and finally by settling in properly with an artillery hold. However, as I started this test, I thought that I’d also shoot the rifle directly off the sandbag to show how that affected the group size.
As I started the test, I realized that one group would have to be shot last, which would be at the time I was getting tired. I didn’t want to bias the results, so I put the neutral hold (the potentially best hold) at the end of the test.
Directly rested on sandbags
The first shot off the bag went through the center of the bull, and shot 2 went through the same hole. At that point, I thought this test was going to prove that I was wrong and that this gun really could be shot directly off a bag. Because of that, I knew that bias could creep in at this point. So, shot 3 was taken with the greatest care; yet, shot 3 went way to the right, and I knew the wisdom of not resting directly on sandbags was holding true.
This hold is one where you grasp the rifle tightly, pulling it into the shoulder the way a hunter might hold a powerful rifle. This was the most difficult hold to execute because the rifle was twitching around from the tight muscles. I didn’t have a death grip on it — just a firm hold; but through the scope, the movement was disconcerting.
Artillery hold without settling-in
This hold just felt wrong with every shot because I knew I hadn’t settled in. Were I to relax before the shot while using this hold, the crosshairs would invariable move to the right. And see what kind of group I got? There’s one large hole surrounded by 4 wild shots. This is the kind of group that will drive a shooter nuts because it looks so good in general but still has those few wild shots. You wonder what’s wrong and want to blame the rifle, the barrel crown and the pellet. But in actuality, it all came down to the hold.
Now comes the big lesson!
Here is where the test turned around and taught me more than I anticipated. By the time I got to this point, I’d already fired 30 good shots without a single called flier. The dispersion you see on the targets above is entirely due to the holds that were used to create them. But taking 30 good shots is very tiring. And it showed on my next attempt to shoot a good 10-shot group.
What happened was I didn’t relax as completely as I should have. There was still a bit of tension in my muscles. Part of that is because my R8 has a Tyrolean stock whose high cupped cheekpiece is horrible for shooting off a bench rest because it forces you to put your cheek against the stock. But knowing that these shots were fired with a bit of tension in this case turned out to be a wonderful thing because I got 2 distinct groups!
Four JSB Exact RS pellets went onto 2 distinct groups at 25 yards when the rifle was held using the artillery hold, but I still didn’t settle in as completely as I should have. The “group” on the left looks like a single shot, but I know for a fact that it contains 2 pellets. The group on the right is very obviously two pellets. The distance between the centers of these 4 shots is 0.574 inches.
Why is this bad target such a good thing? Because it clearly shows a phenomenon that happens to all shooters. A small change in the hold sends the pellets/bullets to 2 distinctly different places. How many times have I seen this on the rifle range and blamed my ammunition or rifle? Here’s the proof that it can be caused by just a small change in the hold.
But the learning wasn’t over! The next target I shot was with a fully relaxed artillery hold, but it’s still larger than I would like. What went wrong? Well, perhaps, where I’d my off-hand was the problem. It was back, touching the triggerguard. Maybe, it needs to be more forward with this rifle.
Ten JSB Exact RS pellets went into 0.475 inches at 25 yards when the right artillery hold was combined with the correct settling in. This is the best of the 5 groups fired thus far, but I felt the rifle had more to give.
I slid my hand forward to almost the end of the stock. Then, I shot the final group, which was the best one of the day. Fifty-four shots had been fired before this group was started; yet, when I settled in correctly and used the artillery hold as I was supposed to, this hold produced the best group of the session — 10 shots into 0.405 inches between centers.
This little test turned out to be one of the most important things I’ve done in months because it demonstrates not just the importance of the right hold and settling in but also what can happen when even one of those things isn’t done exactly as it should be.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today’s report is in response to a comment that came in yesterday from a blog reader named David. He asked me to explain what I meant by the terms, “calling the shot” and “follow-through.” I think we have a number of new shooters who may not know what these two terms mean; and if they don’t, then they certainly aren’t doing them. That makes all the difference in the world when it comes to accuracy. I’ll explain both terms, then I’ll tell you how you can determine that you definitely are neither calling the shot nor following through with a handgun.
Calling the shot
When you align open sights on the target, your focus is supposed to be on the front sight element. The rear sight and the target will both be blurry when you do it right. Novice shooters think this is wrong…how can you hit the target unless you focus on it? But the truth is that this is the only way to be extremely accurate.
When you’re really concentrating on the front sight, you’ll be able to see the alignment of the front and rear sights against the target as the gun fires. This works best when the gun is a lower-powered one — something I want to talk about later.
Let me illustrate the importance of proper sight alignment with the following graphic.
In the top image, the front and rear sights are properly aligned and also aligned correctly with the target. In the center, we see what happens when the front sight is not aligned with the rear sight. The bottom graphic shows what happens when the sights are properly aligned, but they are not aligned with the target.
Which is worse: Not aligning the sights with each other or not aligning the sights with the target? Obviously it’s not aligning the sights with each other, because that throws the impact of the pellet farther off the target than simply not being lined up with the target.
Here’s the proof
Matt61 — this is for you and your father. If your father is right-handed and shooting his pistol one-handed, I guarantee that he is throwing all his 1911 .45 ACP shots low and to the left. How do I know that? Because it’s what everybody does. He’s not squeezing the trigger so it releases unexpectedly. He is pulling it with a quick jerk of his trigger finger; and if you hold a 1911 pistol and do the same thing, you’ll see the muzzle dip low and to the left. If he’s a lefty, the shots are landing low and to the right for the same reason. It works the same for revolvers.
It’s harder to say what will happen with a rifle because there are so many ways to hold a rifle. Also, some of the 2-hand pistol holds can change where the bullets land a bit, but this still holds true more often than not. A shooter with experience can look at the holes in a target and spot this kind of thing immediately.
Not following through
The cause of throwing a shot this way is because the shooter is not following through. They pull the trigger and immediately take their eyes off the sights. Then they start taking their eyes off the sights an instant before they pull the trigger.
Following through means that you continue to hold your aim after the shot has fired. It takes discipline to do it, but it’s the only way that you will ever be able to tell where the sights were when the shot fired. It’s the only way you will ever be able to call where the shot went.
Calling the shot is nothing more than noting the alignment of the front and rear sight at the instant the shot fired and also noting where the sights were in relation to the target. If you follow through, you should be able to do this most of the time — as long as you don’t blink when the shot fires. And, yes, that does happen to even the best shooters.
Impossible shots become possible
Matt61 mentioned yesterday that I’d made some incredibly long shots with a short-barreled handgun. In fact, what I did was hit a football-sized dirt clod repeatedly at 80 yards with a Colt Detective Special snub-nosed revolver that had a 2-inch barrel. You aren’t supposed to be able to do things like that with a snub-nosed revolver, but let me tell you how I did it.
I was sitting on the edge of a plowed field in Germany in the mid-1970s. The field had not been disked yet, so the dirt clods were still large. I sat resting my back against a tree and held the revolver with both hands between my knees for bracing. I asked a friend to tell me where the bullets went. He could see the puffs of dirt when the .38 Special bullets impacted the ground.
The fixed sights on a Detective Special are large and very close together because of the short barrel, so the sight picture was easy to see. But even the slightest misalignment threw the bullet off-course by several feet at 80 yards. It probably took 2 full cylinders before I got the range on that clod; but once I did, all I had to do was align the sights the same every time and put the clod on top of the front blade. After that, I hit the clod repeatedly.
Colt Detective Special is a typical snub-nosed .38 Special revolver. The rear sight is not obvious in this photo. It’s a notch in the top rear of the frame ahead of the hammer.
Elmer Keith wrote about the way to make that shot, and I believed him. I did what he said and it turned out to be true.
This is the sight picture I used on the dirt-clod shot. I’ve enlarged the dirt clod many times for clarity here. It was actually much smaller than the width of the front sight.
You have to follow through to be able to call your shots. And now you know what calling your shots means. It means knowing how the sights were aligned and how they related to the target at the instant the gun fired. Don’t try to do this with a large-caliber gun the first time. A pellet gun is the best to start with because the noise and recoil are minimal. A .22 rimfire is another wonderful way to do this.
Once you get enough skill, you can graduate to progressively larger calibers and calling your shots will become almost second nature. I can call mine with a Desert Eagle .44 Magnum pistol now, when I want to. But it still takes concentration, and I don’t think that will ever change.