The great accuracy test: Part 1
by B.B. Pelletier
I am on the road with Mac today. I will be back on Wednesday, so I’m asking all the old hands to help the new readers with their questions.
Today, I have a huge audience participation test starting up. We’re all going to design a test to prove what are the most beneficial things you can do for accuracy and what doesn’t matter. I envision this as a series of tests to demonstrate what really works and what doesn’t matter.
Before we can do even that, we all have to decide what accuracy is. I’m writing an article for this website and I’m struggling to define accuracy, so this isn’t as straightforward as it seems. One guy measures 50-yard groups with a caliper and another drops field targets. And a third guy is looking for how fast the squirrels fall from the first shot. Yet they all use the same word –accuracy — to describe what’s important to them.
So, what does accuracy really mean? How will we know it if we see it? Remember, somebody, most likely me, will have to actually do this test, so let’s keep it real, okay? This is where you guys with your guns in vises have to be reasonable, because nobody takes a vise to a field target match or into the woods.
Many will say they want to know how accurate the rifle or pistol is, so if they’re off they know for sure that it’s them and not the gun. Please, don’t be so naive! The gun can always be a source of inaccuracy, regardless of how accurate you think it is. So, we have to keep this discussion out in the open and in the real world where we can really conduct a test and believe the results.
To give you an idea of what I mean, let me take a stab at it.
Testing for accuracy
I think the first thing is to select a certain airgun. Then that gun should be tested under realistic conditions and circumstances. That means no 100-yard shooting, and no shooting inside a warehouse where there is no wind. We need to use a realistic range (meaning distance to the target) and a realistic shooting position. I like shooting from a bench, because I can do my best there. And I like shooting at least 25 yards, because it’s easy for me to get that much range (meaning more tests can be conducted), which gives me a greater body of data to examine.
Once a baseline of testing is completed, experimentation may begin. For example, given the most accurate rifle and pellet from the first test, how much improvement can be obtained?
Does sorting the pellets by weight make much difference? How about sorting by size? How would we do the latter?
Are there any other things we should do regarding pellets?
How much of a factor is wind? Should we ignore it, or try to cancel it altogether?
The gun can always be a source of inaccuracy, regardless of how accurate you think it is.
If we use an expensive rifle as our testbed, very few readers will be able to participate. I want this to be a test that almost anyone can enjoy.
If we start out with the most accurate airgun we own, there might not be much room for improvement. Here’s what I mean by that. Two weeks ago, when I showed a group I got with a 10-meter rifle that measured 0.16 inches and compared it to a group measuring 0.24 inches, a couple readers thought that it didn’t look very different. And, we have readers who are convinced that there are rifles that can put five pellets under 0.08 inches repeatedly. A 100 percent improvement over a group of that size would not look very dramatic.
If, on the other hand, I selected a rifle that groups 5 shots into 2.0 inches at 25 yards, it may not be capable of grouping much better. It would then be nothing but a waste of time. I need to pick something that’s reasonably accurate, though not the most accurate rifle known.
The rifle I select should be common enough that any reader should be able to pick something equivalent, even if it isn’t made by the same manufacturer. So, I might choose a Diana 34, but you might do the same test as me but maybe with a Gamo Big Cat. In my rifle, a certain JSB pellet might be the best, while in yours it might be a particular RWS pellet. Understand? I was tempted to choose a TX200 at first, but that isn’t good because there aren’t a lot of rifles that can match it and they would all cost a lot of money. I could choose a Marauder and the same reasoning applies. But a Diana 34 is a plain old breakbarrel that exists in enough quantity that most readers would have a decent chance to run the test right alongside me.
If we do it that way, you can choose whatever model rifle you want and use a different pellet than I do. In fact, I don’t see why you couldn’t choose a different powerplant altogether if we do it this way. However, once you establish your baseline, you have to stick with it throughout the test, or the results become meaningless.
I think 10-shot groups are right for this test, rather than 5. Ten shots are far less capricious than 5. The best groups will tend to be close to the same size. Until we have that, we shouldn’t proceed, because we haven’t found the real baseline yet. Once we get a couple groups of the same size and they’re better than any other pellet/hold/anything else, we have our baseline.
I’m going to use a good scope for this test, because my eyes are not what they used to be. Yes, I can shoot tight groups at 100 yards with the Ballard, but no sporting airgun sights are as good as the ones on the Ballard. A 10-meter rifle has sights just as good, but a 10-meter rifle is at a disadvantage shooting at 25 yards, plus not as many people will be able to participate.
My vision for this test
Here’s what I see happening. In the first test phase, we’ll establish a baseline for accuracy with the test rifle. Hopefully, we’ll find a really accurate pellet and shoot a couple groups that are similar in size. I plan on selecting domed pellets for the baseline test, because in all of my experience, they’ll out-shoot any other pellet shape at 25 yards.
Then, we’ll begin testing things that supposedly improve accuracy. Some of these may be:
And anything else we can agree to test. If you want me to test something, you have to submit a test plan and the reasoning why you think it will work. Just dreaming up things doesn’t cut it; but if you’ve done this and think it works, that might fly.
The expected outcome
I hope to show the things that work and the things that don’t. When anyone wants to improve their accuracy in the future, they can take the recommendations we get and apply them to their own situation.
Will it work?
I have no idea. Right now, I do think there will be a difference in group sizes between weighed and random pellets. Back when I competed in field target, I did weigh all my pellets. Because I shot a PCP at the end of my competitive years, I also lubed all pellets. I believe that does help, too, if the rifle is a PCP, but I want your input into this. In other words, what have I forgotten?
Please give me solid recommendations that I can act upon, and I’ll assemble them for the first test. At this point, everything is open to interpretation and debate, so please let your voice be heard!