First shot: Yes or no? Part 1
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Before we begin, our Russian reader, duskwight, posted a link to the recoilless spring-piston rifle he has made from scratch. We have watched him work on this project for the past three years, and it is finally coming together.
The gun in the picture is missing the stock and the barrel shroud, but that allows you to see the action parts better. This level of ingenuity puts me in mind of the New Zealand motorcyclist, Bert Munroe, who built his 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle into a bike that broke the 200 m.p.h. barrier at Bonneville! We will get a full report on this incredible airgun, as soon as duskwight has time to stock it and test it a bit. I can’t wait!
This is the first look at the dual-opposed piston duscombe air rifle, designed and hand made by reader duskwight.
Today I have a single topic to address. I happened to shoot a pretty good group last week, and Edith wanted me to share it with you.
I was at the range with several guns, including the Rogue, whose next report is coming this week. One of the firearms was my 1920 Savage in .250-3000 (.250 Savage) caliber. I was testing a new load and wanted to see how good it was for the very first shot from a cold gun; because when you’re hunting, that’s the shot that counts the most. Usually, when I shoot groups at the range, the gun barrel is warm; but when I hunt, the rifle has to put the first shot where I want it from a cold barrel, or it doesn’t count.
The Savage model 1920 is a bolt-action rifle made on the Mauser action. It’s both slim and lightweight and has a steel buttplate, but the cartridge it’s chambered for is a real pussycat, so I don’t mind one bit.
The .250 Savage round (center), flanked by a 5.56mm on the left and a 30-06 on the right. The .250 Savage was also called the 250-3000, because it was the first commercial cartridge to achieve 3,000 f.p.s. (with an 87-grain bullet).
So, I shot this rifle about every 10 minutes or longer — leaving enough time between each shot that the barrel never had a chance to heat up. As the day progressed, the breeze picked up, so the final 5 shots were in a 20 m.p.h. wind! The target was at 100 yards. There was no fouling shot. The first shot came from a clean barrel — I think! Maybe it wasn’t clean — I just don’t remember.
The first shot went off before I was ready, and the crosshairs in the scope were not where I wanted them to be — I hadn’t settled in. I was unable to call this shot because the dot at the center of the fine reticle was still moving around. It had been four months since I last fired this rifle, and I forgot what a light trigger it has. After that, though, I was able to release every shot when I wanted to, until the final one that went off too soon, with the rifle too far to the right. That shot was called to the right, and it landed where I called it.
The 10-shot group measures 1.509 inches between centers, but the 8 shots that I had good control over grouped in 0.959 inches. Any of these 10 shots would be a minute-of-deer-or-antelope out to 200 yards. I’m quite pleased with this group, as it does represent where the first shot from the rifle will go. Because this is a hunting rifle, that’s very important. And it got me thinking about airguns. Do you know where the first shot from your air rifles goes?
This is the group of first shots from the .250 Savage. Given that the wind was blowing up to 20 mph part of the time, I would say this is an accurate representation of what this rifle will do in the field.
How does this apply to us?
Last week, after showing you some pretty bad groups from my Beeman R1, I received advice that I needed to either warm it up or wake it up by shooting for a while to achieve the optimum accuracy. But that’s not how a hunting rifle works, is it? A hunting rifle has to hit with the first shot from a cold barrel. Yes, I realize that airgun barrels don’t actually heat up when the guns are fired — it’s just a euphemism we use for getting the lubricants in the powerplant flowing or distributed correctly for optimum performance. Or whatever!
The point is — and there really is a point to this — where does your air rifle hit on the first shot? Have you ever tested your gun that way?
Time to walk the walk?
We do a lot of talking about shooting on this blog. Maybe it’s time for us to get up out of our recliners and try something real for a change — a first-shot accuracy test. Take your favorite air rifle and shoot a group of 10, with each shot you fire being a first shot. To do that, you need to wait a long time between each shot. How long should you wait? Longer than you think, probably. Each air rifle will be different, but I would say to wait at least 30 minutes between shots and longer would be better. A day would be ideal. Yes, I said a day!
The goal would be the same one I was after with my Savage. You’re trying to see if you can count on the first shot from that rifle going where you expect. You may not shoot the tightest group the rifle is capable of — in fact I doubt very much that you will. But if it’s a good rifle, you should still do okay. This time, though, it’s important where the pellets land, because you want to know where your rifle is shooting.
I’m going to test two air rifles this way. I’ll allow no less than a day between shots, and perhaps more. When I’m done, I’ll publish both groups for all to see. I’d like it if some of you could join me in this small experiment.