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January 09, 2008

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What Makes a Good Shot - the Shooter or the Gun?

I'm indebted to one of you for giving me this idea but I can't remember who it is. In any event thanks, and don't expect a small-frame 28-gauge in the mail.
Mostly, it's the shooter. If you'd like an illustration of this, go to a benchrest match where everyone's rifle can send five shots into .12245-inch (or something of that size) under ideal conditions. Yet if one of these  guns is put in the hands of a non-benchrest competitor, you'll get half-inch or one-inch groups. The reason? Tiny groups come not only from the rifle, but from a shooter's ability to dope wind and mirage at a supernatural level.
A bad rifle in the hands of a good shooter will produce bad groups, but a good rifle fired by a poor shot will also turn in poor groups.
For shotguns, it's somewhat different. A really skillful hand can shoot just about anything well, but to turn in his best shooting, he has to have a gun that fits him perfectly and whose balance works for him.  Uncle Robert Brister, who was the best I ever saw with a scattergun, could take anything and outshoot anyone (almost), but if he had his druthers, he would always go to a gun that particularly suited him.
A fellow named Dave Crosby, who worked for various gun publications and was a wonderful shotgunner, never used anything but a 30-inch-barreled Parker (I think) for everything. Skeet, trap, birds, it didn't matter. How he would have done with something else I do not know, but he was a wizard with that old side-by-side.


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I remember I couldn't shoot worth a damn until I spent almost a full day at the range and got advice to not let the barrel heat up. Who knew?? That and the unbelievable trigger control it takes...


Sounds like everyone's in agreement here. So I'll not try rocking the blog. Definitely the shooter and mostly not the rifle... When Ruger came out with those stainless steel 77 mkII rifles with the horrible synthetic stock, you remember the Ruger logo emblazoned on the butt stock...I got one in 7mm Rem. Mag. and thought it would be the ultimate go anywhere rifle. Sadly, I couldn't hit the side of the barn with that thing. Never could get the groove on it. By rights it should have been perfect. So I traded it to a buddy who promptly made 1" groups with it. To this day I still don't know how that happened. I went back to beloved Remington and never looked back. "This above all to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."

Trae B.

The main thing about shooting good is you have to know where your bullet is goin.I mean you have to feel it if you concentrait on that bulls eye and your scope is good enough you will hit the bulls eye.

Del in Kansas


You might want to try Nosler 100 gr partitions in your 2506. My fav load gets 3330 fps (according to Ohler). It shoots flat as Rosie's chest and kills like 20,000 volts. It also will penetrate a big Kansas buck from end to end. My longest shot so far was 355 yds measured with a lazer rangefinder. My "25" is a Kimber and it was money well spent.


Tight chokes and long barrels usually do not upland guns make. Nevertheless after my adopted son of 15 years took up trap shooting in the youth division he also started shooting chukar and pheasant with his new Winchester Select. Of course he had full and extra full tubes in the barrels. The kid is a natural and won every tourniment he entered the first year. He did receive some expert tutoring from one of the locals who has placed pretty well at the Grand several times. The first day in the bird fields he had shot several of each species allowing them to fly out probably 30 to 40 yards before shooting as those of us who are older and certainly wiser had agreed to hold fire for the kid. We finally decided that the kid's last bird should fly as far as possible if it was going directly away from him before he would shoot. As if by magic that bird jumped up from the point and away he went. After waiting for what seemed to be an eternity the kid fired and the rooster fell. We walked 76 long steps to pick him up after calling the dog back a couple times. The next weekend the kid duplicated the shot yardage wise and has several times since. He rarely takes his Beretta 20 ga open choked O/U any more as he finds the trap gun more satisfying. I wish I could say my game bag was as heavy as his but in reality I remain just one of the unwashed, feble minded old farts that still is overcoming the incorrect self taught shotgunning errors acquired in my youth. I wonder if I should take my old Daly trapgun next time instead of the 28....naw

Del in Kansas

Several years ago while deer hunting in KS I bumped into a pilgrim that had just wounded a big buck just before dark. He and his partner had lost the blood trail. I offered to help. Next morning I tracked the deer until we jumped him out of his bed. The pilgrim shot 5 times with his 3006 before I killed the deer with my muzzleloader (he was stiff and unable to move very fast). It was a nice 12 pointer with double brow tines. The night before that idiot had shot over a large hay bale and broke the deer's left front leg at 80 yds. He then missed 4 more times. When he shot the next morning he hit the left rear hoof at 40 yds with 5 more shots. I told the guy he needed to learn to shoot.

Dennis L. Crabtrey II

My personal favorite thing to do at the range is outshoot someone with their own gun. However this could not be done on 2 occasions.

1. Kimber 45 pistol. 5 people shot it, 2 were good shots, would not PATTERN less than 6 inches at 10 yards. It went back to Kimber and shoots 2 inches now.

2. Remington 710 in 30-06,i was asked to sight in for the owner. i couldn't get a group better than 6 inches, the owner could get 2 inches. I felt so embarrased i pulled out my Savage 30-06 to confirm I could shoot 3/4 inch groups to win back my pride. Weird. That's the only rifle i've ever shot, that i couldn't shoot well, HOW EMBARASSING. I guess me and Remington don't get along. (This was shortly after a 3 day PD shoot in Wyoming 1800 rounds, man i could shoot really tight groups after that practice,practice,practice.)

Also, when i decided to shoot steel plates my wife gave me $1000. I bought a $200 Llama Max-I Gov't 45 ACP and $800 (5000rds) of WOLF ammo. 2 months later i was a steel plate shootin' fool, i loved beating those STI and SIG toters at the local match w/ my cheap gun. Sadly, the llama finally gave up the ghost and i upgraded to a Springfield.


A good trigger is the first thing to help a poor shooting rifle or shooter. A crisp 3 pounds helped my M700 tremendously. If a shooter is not confident in himself or his gun he ain't going to shoot well. Practice, practice, practice. Flinch is another booger boo. Practice a lot with a good .22 at a reasonable range to build shooting skills and confidence before pulling out the big guns. My dad used to "load the stock" with BB's or lead fishing weights to help with recoil on his rifle. Don't shoot more than 1/2 a box at a time. In my younger days(read skinny), I'd shoot 40 or 50 rounds at the bench, then try to shoot my pistol at targets. I couldn't stop my hands from shaking. Less is sometimes more.


Relatively, a gunner has all the time in the world to take time shooting pheasants. The 15-year old with a long barrel, full-choke trap gun case-in-point., and I’ve seen a number of seasoned pheasant hunters like armed [oddly, all these old guys shot Winchester 97’s]. That same gun would be a handicap on Huns, quail, and ruff grouse.

Some of the long-barrel full-choke guns I’ve seen are ancient, and the guns were “elderly”. I suspect the guns had the choke shot out.

God! I wish was able to shoot so much at birds I shot the choke out my gun.

Bob Wood

This relates to my earlier concerns about the importance of extreme accuracy. Certainly it is the shooter not the gun.
The men that taught me how to hunt had a shotgun for ducks , pheasants and grouse(usually fixed full choke) and a rifle for everthing else( 30/30,30.06) With these two guns much game was put on the table and I don't recall wasting meat because of poor accuracy.
It is the care with which we shoot that matters; shots well in range,placed clearly seeing the target.

Bernie Kuntz

I'll stick to shotguns on this subject. Yeah, it would be great to have a shotgun professionally fitted to one's body. I own nine shotguns and never have had a shotgun specifically fitted to me. I believe that if you know how to shoot a shotgun, you can shoot almost any damned thing passably well. Twenty years ago my wife took me out to a turkey shoot at the makeshift range in Juneau, AK where we were living at the time. I didn't own a 12 gauge, only four 16 gauges, and the rules were 12-gauge only. So I borrowed three different guns to shoot--a wonderful Super-X-1 12 gauge trap (which I unsuccessfully tried to buy), a Perrazi, and then a cut-down Rem. M-1100 girl's gun. I won several turkeys and went home. I am a very good shotgunner, but not a champion. I don't have the ability to concentrate like the great shooters do. But if you know how to shoot a shotgun, 1/8" here or there in stock dimensions is inconsequential. That's my opinion.

I should also tell an old story. In the mid-1970s I was working as a reporter/columnist at the Grand Forks (ND) Herald. The editorial workers were a lot of anti-gun, non-hunting jerks, but the press guys were nice fellows. They invited me to shoot trap with them. I broke 98 X 100 at 16 yards with a Model 12 Win. field gun in 16 gauge (I still own it). This was in practice. The guys were excited and impressed. They loaned me a Browning BT-99 12 gauge trap gun for the Grand Forks City Shoot. I broke a pathetic 17 X 25. Sob! I choked! Shotguns are shotguns, but it is the guy behind them that matters most, and I obviously was not up to it!

Ralph the Rifleman

I agree it's probably the shooter when it comes to poor shooting, but I guess this discussion helps prove my point about factory grade rifles;Most should be able to keep a acceptable grouping out of the box.
We need to define "acceptable" since some hunters I know may fire a few shells thru their rifles the day before deer hunting and get a deer every year.If they can hit the pie plate at 100yds they are content.
You can make a point of how accurate a rifle is,or has the potential to be, but you can't argue with a successful hunter using the PIE PLATE METHOD!


6 inch spread at 100 yds is Good?
I shoot better than that with my 30-30 Marlin.
If you can't keep it around or under 1 inch at 100 yds I'd say practice alot more! Cause if you can't do 1 inch at the target range you won't do under 6 while hunting!


Del in Kansas,
Was that guy from PA? Cause I've seen alot just like him around here! You can have 3-5 guys unload at a deer at under 100 yds and the deer is still unhurt, sad, just plain sad.

Jim in Mo.

How come I get your blogs a day after these other guys have already posted theirs, is there another site I ahould be using or do they still deliver e-mail by hand in Missouri?


Clay Cooper

Del in Kansas
That 100 grain Nosler Partition I would have loaded when I recently bought but my second 25-06 Remington 700CDL replacing my old worn out Ruger M77 25-06 wouldn’t shoot 117 grain so I had several boxes laying around so that’s what I loaded for it. I shot the barrel out of the Ruger with both Hornady and Nosler Solid Base 100 grain bullets with 55 grains of IMR 4831, Federal 215 Magnum Primer in a necked down 30-06 Lake City Match case with 3550 fps across my chronograph. My 117 Hornady SST’s and Nosler 120 Partitions with 54 grains of IMR4831 is pushing at 3280fps. That’s 80fps faster than the max load of the 257 Weatherby Magnums! Weatherby are you listening!!! Weatherby performance at fraction of the cost!!!!! My new 25-06 is digesting every load right out of the box topped with Burris rings and Sightron Scope 42x3x9 scope at ½ MOA and how sweat it is! By the way, My CDL has a match cut crown! O’YES!

Dr. Ralph

Jim in Mo and everyone else complaining lately about not receiving their e-mail until hours after others have posted... I don't get this in my mail, I just have it listed in favorites with a bunch of other sites I frequent and when I get up go there.


I learned a lot from Uncle Robert, (not all of it about shotgunning) and I agree. Even though he experimented tirelessly with shotguns, loads, etc. Bob could take just about any scattergun and beat your ass.
He told me once that there were only two ways to really miss a target: stop your swing, or raise your head from the stock. If you lose concentration, you will do one or the other. Uncle Bob had unbelieveable concentration.

Chev Jim

Fancy guns and expensive scopes do not a good shooter make, but a really great shot can be hampered by inaccurate rifles and poor quality scopes. I remember getting a "new" Weaver scope on Ebay and mounting it on a Winchester Model 100 in .308. The scope wouldn't hold adjustments, and shooting any kind of group was impossible. If I hadn't known from previous experience that it was a scope problem, I would have gotten really discouraged. Looks like our "Dave P" gets rid of "discouraging rifles" rather quickly. Could it be that if he kept them, he would begin to doubt his shooting skills? I have an idea that may be the case! None of us needs constant "negative feedback" from any source--be it a rifle, a boss, or a spouse!

Black Rifle Addict

The BEST cure for poor shotgun shooting is to remove the front bead/and or sight.
Shotgun shooting is a pointing affair. Of course one could justify good optics for a slug gun, but for all around small game and turkey I will take a smooth barrel beaded scatter gun to get the job done every time!

Ralph the Rifleman

Touche'--Chev Jim


I heard it as: "It's not the weapon; it's the nutt behind the butt".


It’s true a good wing shot will hit “OK” with just about any shotgun, but it’s an overly simplified reply when a wing shooter is in competition [clay targets, live pigeons]. IMHO fit does becomes a major equation in the scheme.

i.e. I added two-birds to my average when I spent the extra bucks having my Beretta O/U fitted to me. The pull was too long which made me miss more crossing shots than I should. The two additional points to my average doesn’t sound much, but I won trophies afterwards instead of tying with 20-other shooters in the also-shot-categories.

Rifles are strange individuals to me. I’ve yet to see a rifle that would shoot like another even in the same caliber and make. I must confess the last rifle I acquired was back in 1994. My rifles are excellent, but old purchases. However, I’ve used that time to fuss with them and have learned their quirky natures, and have used them in the field under some incredible conditions…and they serve me better for it. So, DP isn’t FOS afterall.

Chad Love

OK, while we're on the subject of Bob Brister, someone please help me out here.

I remember reading a Brister or what I swear i remember as a Brister book way back in (I'm guessing here) '83 or '84 and I cannot for the life of me remember the title.

It was basically a collection of short fiction stories that were at times connected to hunting, fishing or shooting only in the most ancillary of ways.

I was only about 12 at the time and I remember the book primarily because (and don't make fun of me, damnit, I was only an innocent kid...) in one of the stories it had a pretty steamy love scene between (if I recall correctly) a young Mexican couple.
I think the story may have revolved around wingshooting in Mexico or maybe bass fishing or something, I can't remember.
All I know is I checked the book out at the library along with an Elmer Keith book and I ended up learning a whole lot more from Bob Brister than I ever did Elmer Keith...

Anyway, am I simply on crack for thinking Bob Brister wrote a book like that? I don't think it was "Golden Crescent" but then again maybe it was.
I'd like to read it again, whatever it was. The thirty-seven-year-old me would probably appreciate it a little more than the 12-year-old me did, even though the 12-year-old me certainly appreciative of at least one story in the book...

Some of you more literate older guys help me out here. Anyone know what I'm talking about?


Fifty years ago Clayton Sanders taught me how to reload. He died this week. Concerning shooting at big game I always remember his advise: "One shot well aimed is worth a box full just fired in the general direction". He was an outstanding shot with rifle and handguns.

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