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November 21, 2006

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Will It Work? Who The H*** Knows?

Before we get into this rant, I’m compelled to re-state one of the basic rules of this blog (in fact, the only one): No profanity. If you feel compelled to use any of the seven famous words that George Carlin says you can’t use on the air, employ asterisks. And if you don’t know what the f**k an asterisk is, ask someone who’s brighter than you are. Remember that this blog is the property of TimeWarner, a vast media conglomerate that has the power to destroy you, and if you p**s off TimeWarner, you will be shown no mercy.

Anyway, this question goes: I have a such and such rifle in such and such caliber, and can you recommend a bullet/load that will shoot accurately in it?

The answer is no, I can’t, and neither can anyone else. Each rifle, regardless of cost or make or caliber or pedigree, is a law unto itself, and does what it damn well pleases.

A classic example of this is a .270 that was made for me in the late 1980s by Ultra Light Arms. I shot it and shot it and shot it and could get only assemblies rather than groups until I tried some of the original Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bullets. They turned it into a 1-inch gun. ULA rifles are made as carefully as it is possible to make a hunting rifle, so why is this gun weird? I dunno.

I had exactly the same experience with a beautiful .270 sporter made by the great custom gunsmith Joe Balicikie. It sprayed bullets all over the paper until I tried a now-discontinued powder called H205. Is the .270 strange and quirky? Of course not.

Kenny Jarrett once told me that about twice a year, he would build a rifle that could not be made to shoot. They’d change barrels, stocks, even triggers, but the gun would not cooperate. Finally, they’d say the hell with it and cut the receiver in half. Why would the gun not shoot? Kenny doesn’t know.

This is part of the fascination of shooting. I hope the day never arrives when we understand everything about how a rifle works, and are able to alter it if need be. Forrest Gump said that life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. Same with rifles, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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Ralph the Rifleman

The dreaded accuracy question surfaces again...doesn't anyone out there think of "acceptable" accuracy (2 to 3 inch groups)for hunting purposes at a factory produced-priced gun as being OK? I would expect to have better groups from a custom job-that's(in large part) what you are paying for!
I guess I have been fortunate enough to purchase accurate files as is from the factory;my Marlin 1895SS being the most expensive, while the Savage 110 being the cheapest. I do expect better groups from a bolt gun vs the lever, of course, but I don't necessarily expect MOA out of every rifle produced either.
Please tell me that I haven't lost my f**king mind on this subject?

Dave Petzal

To Ralph: Two to 3 inches from a factory sporter may still be perfectly adequate for most hunting, but such a rifle still should be able to do a lot better. I can't even remember how many sub-moa groups I see from factory rifles in a year. And of course for a custom gun you better be able to get at least a moa or much, much better. Lastly, I appreciate your asterisking. You are obviously a person of taste and culture.

Sgt Joseph Gray

Here is a question for all those out there who are avid shooters and have military experience. Before entering the Army, I was already an avid shooter and hunter, so I assumed the Army rifle qual qould be cake. In retrospect , it is not hard and is in fact enjoyable. The things which I found perplexing was one, the Army does not care if you know how to shoot, they insist on their methods. Believe me, when you you are already a nervous young wreck in basic with an ill tempered Drill Sgt sreaming in your ear (yes literally) learning new tricks is tough. Secondly, all soldiers (and I can only assume Marines also)are tought to "mechanically zero" their weapons and then make adjustments as necescary to fire five consecutive shots (we zero with groups of three) into a 10 cm circle. Once our sites are adjusted, we are taught to memorize (and write down) our "battle site zero". The purpose of this excercise is that during battle , should we become seperated from our own weapon (God help you if you do)or anytime we pick up a strange weapon we can set the sites on any strange weapon to mechanical zero and then to our own "battle site zero". This excersize is supposed to bring said strange weapon to a good zero for the particular person who adjusted it, with out checking its zero at a range. My point for all this rambling is two fold. One, I have never went to a range with several M16' and tested this theory, I am skeptical of how well it would work. Im sure it is only meant to give you at least useable accuracy at moderate range but I still wonder how effective it would be. Secondly, in refferance to each weapon being a story unto itself, I am curious about haw the accuracy varies from one M16 to the next. I will admit that I am not the greatest shot in town ( allthough I know im not the worst, I have seen very bad!)but sometimes I dont wonder if the groups we fire in the Army to zero our individual weapon are not greatly affected by the particular weapon we drew at that time or the particular lot of ammo. I say all this nonsense and whining because though I am not any kind of world class shooter, I do try hard to implement my four marksmanship fundamentals (steady position, site picture, breath control, trigger squeeze) and eliminate as much human error as possible ( I said as possible). I know there is something to all this because everytime I draw a weapon with a differant serial number, apply the same shooting techniques and skills, my "battle site zero is oftenn differant. Also, I sometimes zero in six or nine shots, sometimes it takes me fifteen or more because no matter how hard I try, My fifth shot always wanders. I am sure alot of this has to do with limited practice but has anyone else out there been in the service and felt they had eratic weapon performance? Let me know how you feel.


I have been able to make all my guns shoot sub moa. This takes time and effort (which I enjoy). When developing a load I will use two comparable bullets, and three different charge levels. I will make a sample batch of 4 bullets of each. So essentially I end up with 24 cartriges (6 batches of 4) and I go off to the range and shoot each batch at a clean target. In my Sako I have had 3 inch groups at 100 yards and down to 1/2 inch using the same bullet just different charge levels. This is a trick my dad taught me. I have picked up a few guns cheap because people think they have a gun that just won't shoot...........

This can also be applied when shooting muzzleloaders. In my inline shooting loose paowder groups better than the pellets.

Happy thanksgiving to all!!!


I bought a used Savage 110 from a friend who said just getting it to hit paper consistently at 100 yards was hard....after reinstalling the scope bases and rings (they were misaligned) and a new scope, 3" groups with Winchesters resulted. I then tried 150 and 180 grain Remington Corelocts....1" groups are now the norm....I offered to sell it back for double the price after I took my friend to the range to show him....almost ended a friendship!!

Richard A Smith

They say that every once in a while, you get an automobile off an assembly line in which the measurements and tolerances are as near to perfect as can be, and that vehicle simply shines and runs trouble-free forever. While that may be an urban myth, I bet you might get the inverse as well, those that are so close to the be out of tolerance that you are stuck with a lemon. I suspect the same thing happens with firearms.

Isn't English a wonderful language when we can just make up perfectly understandable and acceptable verbs like "asterisking" and "google"?

But, I also wonder, wouldn't a person of true taste and culture have sufficient intelligence and command of the language that he would not have to resort to profanity, the "refuge of the linguistically challenged"? or is that just bulls**t? ;)

Richard A Smith

Of course, if I proofread my posts better, I might be considered a person of taste and culture.

"so close to the be out of tolerance"
should be
"so close to being out of tolerance"

My apologies.


Why not just say no to all profanity rather than allowing profanity-lite? What is the real difference in telling someone, "Go f*ck yourself", just by replacing the letter 'U' with an asterisk. The hateful intent is still there.

If you feel the need to retort with non-profanity with profanity, then you are admitting failure in the argument.

Americans need to totally stop hating other Americans just because of differences in opinion. If you believe in owning guns and someone else doesn't, that doesn't make either side evil or wrong. Those that tell you, 'such-and-such group is evil/traitorous/terrorist just because they think different' are destroying our country (Limbaugh and Coulter come to mind).


Although there’s a lot to be profane and curse about out there, I think profanity should be artistic. What would be artistic profanity and cursing? I have always thought the first 30-minutes of “Full Metal Jacket” should be the model. :-)

Big Ed

Just a side note...

Profanity is a very functional but overused device. When it is overused, it loses it's effectiveness. An example. As a scientist, I frequently come in contact with folks (some drillers come to mind), who, without the f*** word, would be reduced to a language consisting of monosyllabic words such as: it, the, and several proper nouns. Now, I am sure that recording one's opinion on this blog is privilege granted by TW. However, they (TW) should recognize that Americans, in general, are independent sorts and therefore apt to exceed the boundaries of good taste on occasion (amongst other boundaries). And if they (TW) don't like it when this happens, they (TW) can kiss my a**.


Tom, you can get even more consistency out of your muzzleloader by measuring your charges by weight instead of volume. Just measure out whatever charge you want with your black powder measure and then weigh it on your scale. Do this a few times, get an average weight for the charge, and then just use your scale from there on out. I do this and it works great, I can keep 200grs shockwaves in about an inch at 100yds using 80grs (by weight) of Triple 7 FFG.

I also take no responsibility if a person reads this and then loads their rifle with 150grs by weight of Pyrodex or some other idiotic thing.

Dave Petzal

Amazing (or maybe not howwe've gotten from minutes of angle to Anglo-Saxon. I can only add that the plays of Shakespeare are filled with profanity and smut (for the groundlings). We don't recognize it because we are not fluent in Elizabethan English. Mark Twain, who is arguably the greatest American writer, penned a hysterically funny novella called "1601," which was all about farting. Profanity is part of the language; we all use it to some extent; and as long as we keep it within the limits of good taste, why not? Just don't p**s off T/W or you will never be heard from again.

Mike Shickele

I have always considered it odd that perfectly intelligent people try to recommend a single load that will shoot in all rifles. Though some things that are really important, others are not so important.
If a bullet is accurate, it will generally shoot in any accurate rifle. Decide on a good primer, and stick with it; there are other things to worry about. Most brass from American manufacturers, will give hunting level accuracy; including for varminting; if your buying the very expensive stuff for anything other than a benchrest rifle, that money is probably better spent. Though deburring the flash holes, and reaming out the primer pockets has proved to be very beneficial. on top of this, you may also want to weigh cases for varmint rifles. If you throw powder charges, you will want to use a powder that is easily metered; though, a half grain+ - in a 30-06 will not make any difference in most instances. Pick a powder that maximizes velocity while keeping pressure down to reasonable levels, and fills the case as much as possible without creating excessive compression (don't compress ball powders). Any signs of pressure and you back off immediately, NO EXCEPTIONS! most powders, if used in this fashion will work.
Bullet seating depth; probably one of the least understood, and the most important aspects of accurate handloads. This will often turn an inaccurate load into an accurate on without changing the character of any other components. Buy a comparator, and learn to use it. If you need instructions on how to do this, ask Sinclair.

And always clean your barrel completely after you've shot it.


craig curtis

theirs always going to be beginners in our sport , and they will always be asking beginners questions like( what load will make my rifle shoot one inch groups dave ) get a grip davey its your job to awnser these questions as often and as eliquently as possible ! next time your sitting around a camp fire with your whos who in the world of outdoor writers , remember who foots the bill some of the time ! regular shmucks like me and the guys asking those pesky guestions ! and as for time warner who gives a rats behind what they think are you under their thumb????


I thought that a lot of the funny stuff accuracy-wise in guns had to do with the heat treatment process putting all sorts of internal stresses into the various metal parts. As the firearm heats up with shooting, those stresses start making their presence known. I am not saying that heat treatment shouldn't be done, as that would lead to a catastrophic failure very quickly.

Dave Petzal

To Zounds: Stress in a rifle i(particularly in a barrel) is a mjalr factor in determining how it shoots, but I don't think anyone know why two different barrels (or ten, or 100) that are drilled from the same lot of bar stock and receive idential heat treatment will all shoot differently.

To Craig Curtis: Huh?



...just had to get that off my chest.

craig curtis

i dont know did i read into this too much? i thought you were winning about young gunners asking what bullet will fly best out of my brand new 300 WSM ?? yes it must be a bummer hearing stupid questions like this one but come on dave youre the man .besides tell them to buy 5000 rounds and shoot , and shoot more often and you"ll find that special load!!!!!!!

Dave Petzal

To Archerwvu: That's not bad. Glad you feel better.

To Craig Curtis. I think you mean whining, not winning. The only questions that depress me are the ones that go: "My grandfather left me a single-barrel shotgun that his father gave him in 1910, It's rusted out pretty bad, and I'd like to know its complete history and how much it's worth."

As to the 5,000 rounds, sometimes even that doesn't work, and then you total up the tab for powder and bullets and primers, and you say, screw it.


They can be weird. I've got an old 8mm Mauser that I found this with:
Shoots Federal factory loads beautifully.
Shoots Remington factory loads beautifully, but hits about 1" higher than Federal.
Won't shoot Winchester worth a crap, groups both about 4-5 times as large and hit to the right.

And the above holds true with handloads with those cases.

Ricardo Rodríguez

Now it results that I have been reading all these years gun advise directly from the "evil gun-baner liberal media", the same people that publishes "the gun in America" every now and then. Is that ironic or what?


To Ricardo:


Ricardo Rodríguez

To Archerwvu:

Time Magazine.

Bruce Vokes

Here comes anopther stupid quesction..Is there anyone producing a light/reduced *mm rifle load?? Thanks..Sorry if this is going to make you more nutz...

Bruce Vokes

8mm reduced/ light rifle loads..

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