Main Entry: ac·cu·ra·cy
Pronunciation: 'a-ky&-r&-sE, 'a-k(&-)r&-
Inflected Form(s): plural -cies
1 : freedom from mistake or error : CORRECTNESS
2 a : conformity to truth or to a standard or model : EXACTNESS b : degree of conformity of a measure to a standard or a true value.
I got that definition from a dictionary, had you asked me I would have just said accuracy is shooting at what you're aiming at. To be honest it doesn’t take a hunter a long time to figure out how to line up the back sights and the front sights. Plus the knowledge that if you do this the bullet should go where you are aiming at. But if that’s all there is to shooting straight you folks could just scurry on down to Wal-Mart and buy one of them 99 dollars specials and use it to hunt. But we all know that ain’t true. If it was, I wouldn’t be in the gunsmith business. But I am going to let someone who writes much better than I can explain to you good folks about accuracy.
by Richard Mann
How should you determine the accuracy potential of a rifle? Or maybe a better question, when discussing rifle accuracy, is what test method can be used that will offer the most reliable level of expected performance with the least effort. Obviously, if you shot a 100 round group you would have a pretty good idea how well a rifle might shoot. But even then you have to make some assumptions. Assumptions like:
All of the ammunition used was put together exactly the same. That there were on outside or environmental influences on the bullet between barrel and target. That the scope maintained exact alignment with the bore through out all of the shooting.
The list goes on and we have not even considered the biggest influence in how a rifle shoots: human error. We have all had that one shot that spoiled an otherwise good group. The list of things to blame that one bad shot on are endless. All variables aside, is it even reasonable to assume that any rifle / bullet combination is capable of putting bullet after bullet into the same exact spot over and over? If not, what is reasonable?
With that same 100 round group you would also have to decide which shots to discount, if any, for reasons like wind, pressure variations and shooter error.
Jeff Cooper once wrote, “If one hole in a piece of paper is the entire purpose of marksmanship, anyone can achieve it simply by only shooting once.” Is there any real world advantage in being able to put bullet after bullet into an area so small we can not discern it with the unaided human eye?
True intrinsic accuracy of a particular rifle is just a part of the much more important practical accuracy a hunter hopes to actually achieve with that rifle. The ability to place bullets with precision is the goal and product of practice and, ultimately the responsibility of the hunter. Cooper also wrote that: “What the man can’t do, the rifle can’t either.”
Then there is yet another question: What is more important, that all bullets land within one inch of each other or that they all land within one inch of the point of aim.
For a big game hunting rifle many generally accept that a “One inch” rifle is more than adequate. But again, another question begs to answered: What is a one inch rifle? Will a “one inch” rifle put three shots inside an inch at 100 yards or meters every time? Or should it be five, seven or ten shots, all of the time or most of the time? And, should they be fired on the same day at the same time with no cooling between shots or on different days in different atmospheric conditions with one hour between shots?
For most big game hunting, a rifle that will consistently (predictably or with regularity) group three bullets, none of which land more than one inch from the point of aim, at one hundred yards, fired one right after the other, will more than suffice. Performance more precise than that, more than anything else, only helps build confidence. So maybe a few more relevant questions would be: How much confidence do you want? Do you want it with factory ammunition? Do you want it with handloads you can cook up in the basement or with precision tuned handloads where each powder charge, bullet and case is weighed and sorted for uniformity?
One goal and obligation of a custom rifle builder should be to provide the customer with a reasonable level of confidence encouraged by intrinsic accuracy and the data to reproduce the ammunition that will insure that accuracy. The customer’s goal and obligation should be to step away from the bench and let that confidence help him achieve a reasonable level of practical accuracy that will insure his hunt is a success. The customer must be the one to define reasonable as it applies in all cases.
After all, it is his money, his rifle and his hunt.