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June 23, 2008

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Too Much Accuracy?

The other day I re-read "Old Betsy," Warren Page's love song to his 7mm Mashburn Magnum, in the 1959 Gun Digest for the 2,105th time. Warren had more and more varied hunting experience than all of us have dreamed of, and he remains a voice of sanity in a world gone batty.

Old Betsy killed 475 head of big game during her 20-year career, all sizes, all ranges.  She wore a straight 4X scope with a medium crosshair and would put five shots in 1 1/2 inches. If Old Betsy were delivered new today she would have a 2X-16X  scope with a rangefinder reticle, and her groups would get her sent back to the Mashburn shop with a note to Art Mashburn to please get the damned gun shooting.

I think accuracy is a good thing, but we should not go any nuttier about it than we already have. One of my correspondents is an ammo maker who specializes in loads designed for use on very big game at close range. The first batch of ammo he sent me turned in freakishly small groups on the order of 3/4-inch at 100 yards. Two subsequent batches of ammo have grouped in 1/ 1/2 - 1/3/4 inches, and their maker is in despair because he can't match the accuracy of that first batch.

I've tried to tell him that his cartridges are still twice as accurate as they need to be for their intended purpose, and that I would use them with sublime confidence, but my words fall on deaf ears.

In a similar vein, or artery as the case may be, a friend of mine just got a .270 WSM from Mark Bansner, and with it came a test target whose 3-shot group could be covered with a dime and give back change. I will be working up a handload for this rifle, and will ignore the test group, because I think the load that produced it gives only about 3,000 fps, which is a nice velocity for a standard .270, but is about 200 fps too slow for a .270 WSM.

I don't care if the loads I work up shoot into a half inch or an inch or an inch and a quarter, because it won't make any difference in the number of critters the rifle takes over its career. As I explained to the Bansner rifle's owner, the most important quality in a hunting rifle is not accuracy, but consistency.

Of that you can never have too much.


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Just got my copy of this month's mag., read your article on the new factory rifles, weatherby et.al., it was fascinating to me, as I am just getting into shooting and hunting, I never before concerned myself with the accuracy of a rifle,...I thought they all shot straight. My confidence in shooting has gone up abit with some practice, and my Tikka hits the mark consistently @ 100yds when I use my sled, when I shoot off hand I can stay in the zone but the shots are a bit wider. i know that you talk about certain guns that "prefer " certain ammo, what causes this? I've only used one type of ammo, Federal, in the 130 grain ballistic tip, and the 150 grain sierra, both shoot the same in the same location and similar groups at 100yds. Is it the gun or the ammo?

Bill Boyd

Dave: Is there any way you could copy Warren's article and send me a copy?



Me too, or is it digital and an you provide a link (wishful thinking)


The younger crowd of shooters today take MOA rifles for granted. I did a lot of reloading and bench rest shooting back in the late 50s to mid 60s and getting an off-the-shelf rifle that could put a 3 shot group into and inch & a quarter was pretty respectable. Now I would expect most factory rifles to shoot within the inch or better. So much for the good old days.


Younger Gen taking MOA for granted my butt. When I was younger I shot on a Junior Small Bore Rifle team and 90% of us were using WWII DCM (Department of Civilian Marksmanship) surplus Remington 513 Matchmaster rifles. We knew we had old and outdated equipment but we could out shoot and out score the other teams with the Anshutz's with the butt hooks and palm rest's and weighted barrels. And took pride in doing it. It took a lot of work and discipline to shoot consistently. To us MOA meant Movement of A** because that was what you moved if you were off target. In the prone position you move your hips a fraction of a inch forward, back, left or right after you check you natural point of aim. Get on target, close your eyes and slowly count to 10 open them and you will be off target. Depending on were your sights are when you open them is which way you move your hips. If you did your job the rifle would do it's.

Tom the Troll

Mike Reeder

I think some of the fixation with sub-MOA accuracy is due to the promotion of irresponsible, long-range shooting. I just watched a television show called "Best of the West" that routinely advocates 500-1,000 yard shots at big game. I guess I'm a fuddy-duddy, but I still think 400-yards is the outside distance for most big game hunting, and anything over 250 is getting on out there for most shooters, given how few people have access to long-range practice facilities, not to mention all the variables that go into any field shot. Given a rock-solid bench rest, calm conditions and the right load all my rifles are capable of occasional sub-MOA, three-shot groups. That basically means the rifles shoot a lot better than I do, because I have yet to figure out how to carry a bench rest with me while hunting or to guarantee the wind won't be howling along at 30-40 mph. The fact remains that any rifle that consistenly shoots a 2 inch group at 100 yards is more than accurate enough for about any hunting conditions you'll ever encounter. All things being equal, I'll take an extra 200 fps load that delivers 2-inch groups any day of the week over a slower load that groups inside an inch.


One of the most interesting aspects of the article in question is the accuracy of the new Marlin XL7.

It's best group was .668 and the avg group size was.907.

All for a street price of $279.00!

I don't see how Marlin is gonna be able to make enough of them!



I agree with everything Mike Reeder wrote. Can't wait to have the 1000 yard shooters come in and protest, however. They will tell us how they got the wind figured out and all at those incredible distances. I say BS! They may show us that one video of a kill at 1000 yards, but surely won't show us the many misses and cripples that occured before that one spectacular kill! If these people want to shoot at such distances they need to shoot at paper and NOT live game. Too many things can go wrong shooting at game even at shorter distance, nevermind the distances they attempt to shoot at.


with these new super accurate guns, what causes a gun to "prefer" certain ammo vs. some other ammo?, and I have to ask,...is ther such a thing as "too much" accuracy?..."like a girl too pretty, or a car to fast,...or too much money in the bank" is there such a thing?

WA Mtnhunter

My son gets asked at his gun counter almost daily, "I'm looking for a 500 yard big game rifle, what do you have?" Of course, he has to be PC and customer service oriented and dance around the issue and show them all the big magnums. If it were me, I'd ask him to show me a 500 yard shooter!

Just judging by the likes of the folks asking those questions and the responses to gun counter sales folks, I'd say that most of them are full of beans and would whimper at the recoil of the rifles they always tout as what they think is adequate. If they are so darn savvy, why do they need to ask.

The way to kill game at 500 yards is to close the distance to inside 300 yards and make a clean shot!


SL is correct. I watched a team of snipers (meaning 2 people) dope out a 1000 yard shot on Nat Geo the other night. The cold bore shot was certainly not a bulleye! It took them several shots to get in the black. On the last shot a puff of wind knocked the bullet out of the group. I don't think the "elk" wounded by the first cold bore shot would have stood around waitng for the a second or third...

While what they did was definitely remarkable shooting. It was done under very controlled circumstances and on a perfactly flat 1000 yard range.

jim davis

I personally think that if any hunting rifle I own can put it's first shot in an 8 inch bullseye from point blank range on out to about 350 yards then why do I even need a second shot much less any more. I know I could blow that first shot and might possibly need those extra ones but if I do my part it won't happen. It's been at least 5 years since I needed a second round on a hunt.

Dr. Ralph

Accuracy is highly overrated in my world. I hunt thick woods, try to find Oaks transitioning into conifers and look for rub lines. Put up your tree stand in the dark and sit without moving for hours... they will appear as silently as ghosts and your heart rate will skyrocket if big antlers are involved.

Shots are 50 yards and under 90% of the time and yet people who can put three shots under an inch at 100 yards on a bench with sandbags routinely miss an eight inch kill zone from 25. All that really matters is the six inches between your ears. A Winchester 94 30-30 is as good as a Jarrett under these circumstances.

Dr. Ralph

Buddy how you doing? Sorry about that crying yourself to sleep thing, and I'm glad to see you doing your part to keep the American dream alive... even if it is sick, twisted and perverted beyond even my wildest expectations.


Same here Dr. Ralph. Most of my shots in the woods are 50 yards or less. I do hunt the edge of a field occasionally and my last deer was at approximately 130 yards. For me that's a long shot (I use a peep sight). There are opportunities for longer shots (up to 300 yards), but shooting from a climbing tree stand with any wind can often be challenging, and I prefer not to risk wounding a deer and having it run off. I do like an accurate rifle, but minute of deer neck is plenty.

Will Becker

A one and a half group is ok for hunting big game,but it's a challenge to load for tighter groups.Sometimes it's as much fun to shoot paper.

Dr. Ralph

Yeah Will, paper is just as much fun for me and more so for my kids. Unfortunately when shooting 1,000 rounds my Ruger heavy barrel tricked out 10/22 is all I can afford to shoot, but it shows a man what he is made of because the gun is more accurate than whomever is squeezing the trigger.

Jim in Mo.

I think the guns themselves are picky. I can handload Sierra's in my '06 and it shoots fine, but try factory Fed. Premium with Sierra's and it goes to hell, yet plain jane Super X or Core Loks shoot fantastic. Who knows. Also I don't think theres such a thing as too much accuracy, the gun writers would go broke so they won't allow it.

Jim in Mo.

Dave, you better be careful and consider your friendship with this guy. Everything I've read of the Short Mags., has been dismal. Simply a new product to knock out the tried and true. And failed. Especially the 270 WSM.
An article I read (I believe from Lane Simpson, perhaps not) stated the best they achieved was 70-120 fps better and many times less.

Bill in VA

Hey Buddy, that link of yours is pretty sick. Go troll on another board. We don't want you racist hatemongering types here.

Dave, please block that guy's IP.

Bernie Kuntz

I wish modern American riflemen would worry less about whether their rifles are grouping into 3/4" or 1-1/2", and more about their ability, or lack thereof, to effectively shoot from conventional shooting positions. There is a terrible lack of ability out there, probably always has been.

Dr. Ralph

I'm late to the game as my F&S with Vanguard cover and "Petzal Shoots 11 Tack-Driving Rifles" cover story just came today...
Surprise, surprise, surprise, the Weatherby's best group was .177", .385" better than any other rifle and the average Vanguard group was better than any other rifle's best group.

I have been extolling the virtues of the Vanguard and catching flack for it since I found this site. Mine is a pre sub moa .257 Wby. and shoots 3/4" groups @ 100. Dave you made one mistake they test the barreled action and it must shoot .75" and then it is put into a special stock before it becomes a sub moa. Great test, great shooting, that's why your circulation is over 1,500,000 and your magazine reaches 1 in 10 adult males.

Jim in Mo.

Bernie K.
Your right

Jim in Mo.

Once again snail mail comes to Mo. by horse, no FS mag for me.


SL I may not be a 1000 yard Hunter. but have shot 1000 yards at Camp Perry, for fun. And your right it takes a few shots to get it in the black. Everything under the sun affects your shots. Sun, Moon, Wind, Air density, humidity, and the Beef Bean Burrito you had for lunch.
But in all seriousness a 1000 yard shot is not impossible. It is just one I wouldn't make on four legged animals. Talk to the boys in the Sand Box and I am sure they would make the shot on the two legged ones.

Tom the Troll

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