Rifle shooting accuracy is an interesting topic since we all have different opinions on what rifle accuracy is. I know people who fire three shots at a paper target at one hundred yards and if two hit anywhere on the paper they consider the rifle ready to go. I also know individuals who expect every bullet to be touching or overlapping in their one hundred yard groups.
First, we should define rifle accuracy. I am talking real world shooting accuracy in terms that hunters can relate to. Seems in recent years the magic minute of angle that used to be the standard for rifle shooting accuracy has shrunk to “a half inch at one hundred yards”.
Matter of fact I hear a lot of three-eighths and quarter-inch groups being casually mentioned in the gun shops. When I look at gun-test articles at the local magazine vendor I am literally in awe of the rifle shooting accuracy claimed by some writers. Five-shot groups averaging 0.12345” are not uncommon these days!
I shoot a lot. Probably more than most guys I know, including a lot of writers. For some reason I have a tough time achieving rifle accuracy averaging one-inch groups with most factory rifles I test. Matter of fact many groups I shoot average closer to two inches in accuracy. That happens in perfect weather, with a four-hundred dollar rifle rest system, from a concrete shooting bench with a good scope in good mounts. Maybe it’s the Regina water, but I can’t shoot consistent “half-inch” groups for the life of me.
So what kind of shooting accuracy do I get? Most factory rifles, right out of the box, are shooting around two to three inches with factory ammo. Some will not come close to that mark in shooting accuracy despite trying several makes of ammo. Find ammo the rifle likes and this can shrink down to the inch shooting accuracy mark if you are lucky. I am talking sporter-weight bolt rifles primarily since I rarely shoot pumps, lever-actions or semi-autos.
Heavy varmint rifles will shoot better in accuracy but rarely to their potential. Most rifles today suffer from triggers that prevent good shooting. I also doubt that more than seven seconds is spent on the bedding, despite the fact that bedding is so crucial to rifle shooting accuracy. Winchester, Remington, Savage, Sako, Tikka and Weatherby heavy barrels can be incredibly accurate, reliable performers if you happen to get lucky. Seems that Sako and Tikka rifles require less luck than the U.S. brands with the exception of Weatherbys, particularly Vanguards.
What do I mean by getting lucky in shooting accuracy? Some rifles are tack-drivers right out of the box. I believe that the odds are strongly against this degree of shooting accuracy happening with most brands. One exception is the Weatherby Vanguard MOA rifle model. They are amazingly accurate, but then a real live human being has shot each one to ensure standards are met!
So what is good rifle accuracy today? Here are some numbers – they are only numbers but they work for me in defining rifle shooting accuracy. I am talking one hundred yard five shot groups with rifles as described. Quality scopes properly mounted are a given. Factory or handloads as indicated. This is an average of four five-shot groups.
Lightweight bolt action hunting rifles should be shooting inside three inches out of the box with factory ammo. Find the right ammo and this will shrink to two inches or less. Reload for this rifle and you might approach the one to one and one-half inch mark. Glass-bed and have the trigger pull improved to a crisp three or four pounds and you should get into the one inch mark for five shots and the rifle should stay there.