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January 07, 2008

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An Unequal Progress in Accuracy

I can still remember the first minute-of-angle group from a big-game rifle that I ever saw. It was from a 7mm Remington Magnum, was five shots, not three, and it made such an impression that I even remember the handload. (A number of elderly shooters were so shaken on seeing this group that they messed theyselves.) Nowadays, I see big-game rifle moa groups and even sub-moa groups so often that they've become routine.

Not so with factory varmint rifles. Back when I started shooting small furred creatures in the 1960s, a good heavy-barrel factory varminter would give you between .50- and .75-inch. Today, not much seems to have changed. I'm currently shooting a brand-new factory .22/250 that is hanging right around .650, and I don't think it will do better. (If any of you have factory varminters that will beat .500, I'd like to hear about it.)

Such is not the case with custom varmint rifles. With ammo they like, and on a still day, and in the hands of a good shot, they will put five shots into .250--or less. The difference in performance, I think, lies mostly in the barrel. Accuracy is mostly a function of the barrel, and a factory tube has a hard time competing with one that costs $350 after it comes off the rifling machine, before any work is done on it.

I have a .223 built about 15 years ago by Kenny Jarrett that, with benchrest bullets, can put five shots in one slightly elongated hole. This is on a still day, with wind flags, and me not screwing up. The barrel is about the diameter of a freight car axle, and was made by the late Harold Broughton.


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For me accuracy is all in the mind. I have never shot benchrest for varmints but do shot 3 position small bore rifle competitions. I use a WWII surplus Remington 513 MatchMaster from the DCM (Department of Civilian Marksmanship)(what the CMP used to be.) I can count the number of perfect targets (100,10X)I have had on one hand. I know that my rifle can out shoot me even on my best days. For every point that I am down on my targets I know that I have done some thing wrong. Held my breath too long, let too much breath out, did not check my natural point of aim on that shot, dragged wood, did not follow through..ect ect ect. But the point is, I affect the accuracy of my rifle as much as the rifle it's self.


I had a 220 Swift in a Ruger 77 Varmint model that could make your criteria OTB when I fed it Remington Premier Varmint loads. The rifle would cloverleaf that load all day. I could never make a handload to compare with this accuracy although I could boost velocity.

I considered this rifle’s big, flat Ruger action contributed to the accuracy. IMO it aided the bedding. I had a 220 Swift in a M-700 Classic and then played a season with a friend’s custom Mauser in the same caliber. Neither rifle would meet your criteria.

Clay Cooper

DO IT ALL THE TIME their David Crocket!
Back in 73 when I turned 18, my first paycheck from work went towards a Remington 700 BDL from TG&Y in Jacksonville AR, bought my rings and reloading supplies from J.C. Penny and my dies from the BX on Base (Little Rock AFB). After my brother recently ran several boxes factory loaded 45 grain thru it, she’s not shooting 60 grainers no more meaning the barrel is washing out again. I’ll just send it back to Remington for another barrel. Nice thing about a varmint barrel, it doesn’t warm up as fast, but that BDL got to hot to touch a many times jackrabbit busting in New Mexico. Talk about a WAR GAME and the Ranch owners loved it!
Shoots a 3/8’s group with 35 grains of Winchester 748 behind a Hornady 55 grain SPWC with Federal 210 primers works really nice! 36 grains works even better, but the cases crack just above the web on the 3-4 reload. That rifle will stack one bullet on the next it will.
Check you parallax in your scope. Place your rifle on the bench and look thru your scope at 100 yards. Without moving the rifle, move your head up-down and all around while aiming at an object. Chances are, you’ll notice the crosshairs will move a little. I have had some scopes move as much as 4 inches and they are brand name scopes. Also check your bedding and forearm. Perhaps your getting a bet of pressure on the barrel probably around the sling stud.

Del in Kansas


Back in 1973 I bought my first true big game rifle a Rem M700 BDL in 7mm mag. I Mounted a 3x9 Redfield on it. I was stationed at Ft Benning at the time and a friend that gunsmithed for 3rd army marksmanship tuned the trigger. I bought a Lyman press,dies and scale. Next loaded 65 gr IMR4350 in FEd brass w/cci mag primer and speer 110 gr hp bullet. We then went to the range and I put 5 into 1 small oval hole several times. My friend SFC Salzman had a heavy barrel target gun that would not match this gun. I paid $189 new for that rifle and it was a beast to look at with impressed checkering and high gloss finish but man would it shoot. I have owned many more rifles since but none that would shoot like the first one. Havn't seen Salzman since '75 always wonder where he is now.


Here's one to make you heave. Back in 1970 I bought a brand new Browning BAR in '06. Yep a semi-auto made in Belgium, turns out it was built in '68 which I believe was first year of manufacture of this model. Back then it was not uncommon to see a Browning new on the shelf that was a year or two old but just received by the retailer. I never knew why. I put a Leupold Vari-X II 2x-7x on it with Redfield mounts and rings. The rifle would shoot Federal 150 gr. soft points into just under an inch, sometimes less on a good day, each and every time. I discovered this load because it was the cheapest ammo that I could find and never had much money back then. I won several impromptu rifle matches with this piece after being laughed at as I approached the bench. Luck of the draw. By the way I still have the rifle and shot it this past Saturday for the first time in almost 30 years. Gusty wind was a problem but I still got 1.5-2 inch 100 yard groups by waiting until I thought the wind was relatively consistant in velocity. Maybe I will try again this summer on a calm day.


Well sir,from my experiance you have it right. I own a 700BDL Varmiter and have shot many factory rifles of this type. The only factory rifle to really kick butt was my friends Remington 40X. Three of us took turns and shot 5 shot groups that looked no larger than the .224 bullet we shot. We had no micrometor and the rifle was chambered in 22-250. To this day I have never seen a factory rifle in any caliber best this rifle's performance. Have not seen a 40X for sale for twenty years or more-guess they hide em!

Chad Love

This has nothing to do with the blog subject, but Clay's post instantly brought back memories of TG&Y.

It might have been a department store, but man they all had such nice sporting goods departments. The one in my town was a pretty good sized store and when I was a kid I'd walk down there and just hang out, sniffing the packages of grape-colored Mann's Jelly Worms, eyeing the rifles and staring at the mounts on the walls.
My very first baitcaster was bought there in 1979, a silver Ambassadeur 5000C. I still have the box and receipt, as well as my first pump shotgun, a gawdawful ugly 20 gauge Winchester ranger.

I'd like to say my first MOA rifle was bought there as well, but in 1979 I didn't know what MOA meant...

Bernie Kuntz

In chronological order of purchase, I have a Sako .22/250 Deluxe Grade (circa 1970) that never has grouped particularly well although I have shot many red foxes and coyotes with it. If it lays five shots within 1" to 1-1/8", that is the best I can get out of it. The rifle wears a 2-1/2 - 8X Leupold Vari-X-III. One of these days I will have Dan Lilja rebarrel this rifle.

In 1975 I bought a Ruger No. 1 in .22/250 that would group in 3/4" (five shots) I had a Redfield 8X on it. I never cared for the single shot action and sold the rifle 15 years ago.

At the same time I bought a heavy-barreled Ruger Model 77 in .220 Swift, and one time had a group under 1/2" with 48-grain Norma factory loads. Four of the bullet holes are touching one another. It frustrates me to admit that I've never been able to better that with my own handloads. Again, if I can shoot anything under 1" with this rifle I am happy. I have a 12X Leupold mounted on the Swift.

I also own a .222 Rem. Model 700 Classic and have fired a number of five-shot groups with this rifle that measured .5 to .6 inches. This is with only a 6X Leupold scope! This is undoubtedly my my accurate varmint rifle. Interestingly, I have shot groups like this with three different powders and at least as many bullets in 50-grain. Tempermental it is not!

I read a lot of stories about shooters getting 1/4" groups with their varmint rifles. I am unable to do so, but then I am not a benchrest shooter. For field shooting at foxes, coyotes, jackrabbits and prairie dogs, my rifles do just fine.

Bernie Kuntz

I should have mentioned that I am 100 percent in agreement with you Dave, that the barrel is the secret to these 1/4" groups. All the varmint rifles I mentioned in the preceding note are factory models.

I have big game rifles that have barrels made by Shilen (1) Lilja (1), Ackley (1) and Douglas (3) and all will shoot inside 1" if I do my part. One time I fired a three-shot group from a Lilja-barreled .338 that had all three holes touching--a genuine 1/4" group firing 250-grain Nosler Partitions ahead of 70 grs. of IMR-4350! I shot this in front of a witness but chose not to make it a five-shot group as I knew I would ruin it!

Bob Wood

I started deer hunting in my late 40's for the pleasure of the outdoors, the fun of shooting a rifle, and to see my father deer hunt again.
Discussions of accuracy bore me. With a Sauer and Leupold that I sghted in at a local club,it is frankly hard to miss the shots presented in N. Minnesota. Maybe for varmints, but for deer, grab your grandfathers 94 and go to the woods.
Bob Wood


Accuracy is relative and not everything we desire concerning rifles but it certainly accounts for a high percentage why we retain and use one rifle or another. My p-dawg rifles typically yield rather small groups but then so do the .338 and the .375. I am always amazed when I get a 7/8 inch 3 shot group at 100 from the .375 but never blink when my .22-.250 performs identically on a routine basis. Both are old Pre-Garcia Sakos. I don't know why the barrel in the .22-.250 still works as the throat is gone but it certainly will get me by another year.

Ralph the Rifleman

While I was stationed at Minot AFB back in the early 1980's, I purchased a couple of rifles from the local hardware sports shop(Schealls I believe the name was?)that shot pretty darn good for hunting purposes.
My first rifle was a Savage-110 in 7MM Rem mag; 22in BBL with a plane jane stock that could shoot a decent 1.5 to 2in group. Alas, I traded that rifle in for a Winchester 70-"Westerener" model with a medium weight 24" BBL, in 7mm Rem mag, nice american walnut stock and all.
Now this rifle could shoot.I started hand loading in earnst with it and could easily keep MOA in North Dakota weather conditions.Wind never ever stops in ND!
Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat thinking about selling that rifle...I sold it for family income when I returned to Michigan and in time replaced it with my Marlin lever action;YES the Michigan deer/bear gun of choice for woods hunting.
I recently had a scope mounted on my .35 Whelen, so we will see how this 700 CDL will shoot to earn it's keep.


My favorite bolt gun is a Parker-Hale in .270 Win. Right off the shelf it would print three rounds 1 1/2" above the bull in a clover leaf with handloads.
I was sitting at a shooting bench at a public range one day when a gent asked me what I was doing. I showed him a target.
He scoffed and said, "You ain't gotta be that accurate. A 2 or 3 inch group is sufficient to kill deer."
"Yep," I agreed, "but if I can shoot a group that tight, if I miss a deer, I know it will be ME and NOT the rifle!"


Clay Cooper

David, after giving it some thought. Without bench checking your rifle setup and loads, is it the rifle or is it the shooter? I had a Colonel come out one day with a 45 Gold Cup and couldn’t hit the target at 25 feet. After placing 3 rounds in the X-ring and handed it back, all of a sudden he was keeping all the rounds within a 5 inch group! Other shooters just had from bad scope, bad or loose rings, barrel crown damage, muzzle break installed at an angle causing the bullet to clip the side making really wild shots to the loads. I’ve come across those that reload and only measure first and last load to going to the range to check their load with resizing lube still on it saying it was safe to shoot! I wonder what’s going on in your case? So my suggestion to you is, to take to some old crusty old fart that’s been around awhile and Let him check it out. I would be glad to do it for you for free of course. But you’re not in the neighborhood.

Dave in St Pete


I too, have never understood people that are satisfied with "minute of pie plate".

If I have any chance at all of lining up the shot I want to KNOW that the bullet will strike where the gun is aimed. You can make cleaner kills and save meat!

Dr. Ralph

I think we have reached the point of diminishing returns as far as accuracy in rifles is concerned. The varmint rifles guns just beat the big game guns to it out of necessity... on to more important things. Dave is obviously not himself these days and I'm wondering if he hasn't been kidnapped by the Clintonistas or Brady's. The facts: So far this year we have a post about a tiger that may well have been written by PETA. Yet another post complaining about free guns and then something about AR's with exposed hammers which was obviously written by an office flack or worse yet a girl. Oh and where are the superfluous "girls in bikini" pictures? Now this impostor is giving Greek quizzes... you decide. That sixth superlative he missed by .038" was the tip off.


I bought a Ruger #1 .22-250 Standard on a whim from a gun shop owner buddy back in 1973. It came to him unsolicited from his supplier and he was not happy about it. "Hey Breen, wanna buy a rifle real cheap?" It shoots just under half inch at 100yards if I let it cool between shots. I have probably killed a thousand groundhogs with this rifle. 55gr spitzer boattails in front of 32 gr. of BLc2 with a BR2 primer was its fodder of choice for years, could cover 5 of'em with a dime, then it slowly opened its group. Switched to 35.5 of IMR 4895 ond she's back in business. Best 250 bucks I ever spent! Only problem with a standing hog at 500 yards on a still day is that he can hide behind 12x crosshairs.
OK. Out of the box... Remington 700 .222 Varmint Special. 1988 or so. Never tasted a factory round. 24.5 compressed grains of IMR 4895 with a BR4 behind the same bullet shot one ragged hole for three straight 3 shot targets. Used an Outer's adjustable rest off of the dog box in the truck bed. The second target wasn't even a cloverleaf, just one big hole. Needless to say, I was impressed. Used it for shots to 200yds and the #1 for longer range. Makes less noise.
One more point... That #1 made more soybeans than any other single input in 20 years of farming!

Tom Obuhanych

Not to brag...but a friend bought a new Savage Varminter Bolt Action in
.22-250. As I was making a small
business of "accurizing" rifles..he
asked me to "Accurize" his new rifle. My method was to take Veral Smith's bore lapping compound...fire lap about 15-20 soft lead. lap charged bullets through the bore.
They were very light charges with about 5 gr. of W231. Pooped out the bore like a .22. (It was a
chore casting .22 lead bullets!).
Also glass bedded the rifle.
Well, we shot 1 group of his reload & got about 5/8 inch. Then,"fire lapped" the barrel with 15 rounds. 5 shots made about 1 .30 cal. hole after firelapping.
As is said, "worked for me". I
became a firm believer in fire lapping after that display. But barrel is the key...a friend called Savage Arms & asked them point blank why their rifles shot so well right out of the box: concise answer: "better barrels".
Best Regards, Tom


Clay, Right on with the parrallax thing.. All scopes can have a parrallex situation, some are more noticabl than othere.. One shooting bench rest or varmitts really need to look at a good scope with an adj. objective lense, knowing the range, you can adj. the parrallax to work for you..
If that big barrel got that hot, think what it would have done with a rattail barrel.


For me it was a Remington Varmint Synthetic rifle in .308. Plastered a pasture poodle at a measured 748 steps. Used a Speer 125 Gr. TNT with a particular, and back then new, Vihtavuori N140 load. I can't remember the specs on the load off the top of my head, but it was a tack-driving SOB. The Sendero series of rifles are excellent as well. Now men, don't flame me on this because I had a witness...I cut a steel fence post in two at 300 yds. with two shots, on a "you ain't got a hair on your ass" dare with a Sendero .300 Win. Mag. (less than 1" @ 300 Yds.) I had a safe backstop on my own property and a rest to do it so I didn't hesitate to try the shot. I still get a Christmas card each year from the witness. Nice thread, Dave!

Chev Jim

I've read a lot of rifle test articles in which the tested rifle produces abysmal accuracy, but the writer will still say, "It shoots within 'minute-of-deer,' and that's good enough." Well, no, it is not. If a rifle won't shooter better than 2 MOA, it has a problem. My Remington Model 700 Mountain Rifle will shoot three shots into a half-inch group at 100 yards, and that tells me the rifle was made the way it should have been. I had a post-1964 Model 70 in .270 and it wouldn't do better than 2-inch groups at 100 yards with that free-floated barrel. My Weatherby Mark V in .300 Weatherby will shoot barely inside an inch. You can never tell when accuracy is going to play a major part in a shot--even at relatively short range. Just as importantly, you must have confidence in your rifle. If you lack confidence in your rifle, you won't be confident about making a shot, and you'll likely miss. There are too many alternatives to carrying around a lousy-shooting rifle!


To Dr. Ralph: You could be right about the kidnapping part. Dave might be held against his will and forced to write copy for Hillary's speeches. That would explain her poor performance. If you organize a rescue party, wait until after Super Tuesday and let me know if you need or want assistance.

WA Mtnhunter

Since when are 1 1/2 inch groups not acceptable for hunting rifles? If that .300 Weatherby mag will shoot under an inch, it's a keeper. My .35 Whelen will shoot under a half inch year to year with no adjustments required. My Weatherby will also shoot under an inch with certain loads, el cheapo Remington Express 180 grain's included. Drives tacks with Barnes 165 Triple shocks. I certainly am not a benchrest grade shooter!

WA Mtnhunter


"pasture poodle" ! LOL

That's one I had not heard.



I would rather hope it would be the other way around. That way we do not have to hear Her cry on Television about loosing in NH today or any other of the United States which didn't vote her in.

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