What Are Sustainable Accuracy Standards

Lightweight rifle for better performance

Too often people, especially new to the shooting world will perceive a short cut towards developing accuracy in high dollar equipment. The thought process begins with this widget is capable of producing “x-level” performance and therefore I should see something similar.

The Cart Before the Horse

Before you can truly appreciate any piece of gear or equipment, you need to be skilled enough to see the benefit…literally. Think of it like having a high performance racing machine, but you’ve never felt g-force going into a turn. You will not be able to exploit the higher end attributes. You can still drive the racing machine on the streets, but that’s about as far as it goes. However, when you take the time to develop your driving skill, say through an advanced vehicle dynamics course now you have been exposed to what the machine’s capability are under your control. We can see the same thing in the shooting world when it comes to levels of precision for your equipment.

Rifle System

Repeatable Performance Is the Goal

During our rifle classes I get the chance to really expand on this subject. I talk in depth about the system you are employing. The system being the environment, rifle, optic, ammunition and the most important part of the system…you. What are you capable of repeatedly performing. That is the key, repeatability. Another way to look at it is consistency is accuracy and accuracy is nothing more than being consistent. I like to start by exploring the means to measure your accuracy and the most common method is through measuring the overall spread of your shot group in inches then converting that into another measurement referenced minute of angle.

Defining a Minute

Minute of angle is nothing more than angular measurements. There are plenty of other resources that do a great job of diving deep into the subject. For our purposes we want to understand what is commonly referenced as a “shooter’s minute”. Since a precise minute of angle measures 1.047 inches at 100 yards we round down to an even inch. So, one inch equals one minute of angle at 100 yards. This measurement is proportionate so as the distance increases so to does the measurement. For example, at 200 yards one minute of angle (1MOA) equals 2 inches and at 400 yards it equals 4 inches and at 800 yards it equals 8 inches. The precision of a rifle is usually measured in the shot group spread at 100 yards expressed in MOA. If your rifle is capable of shooting a shot group that is 1 inch, it is said to be a 1MOA rifle.

50yd. 4MOA shot group

The Relevancy of Accuracy Standards

This might be the true potential of the rifle, but what are you capable of doing on command consistently. The standard of accuracy for both the student and equipment in our classes is 4MOA. What that means is I’m asking the student to consistently and on command shoot to within a 4MOA shot group when demonstrating their accuracy such as when zeroing the rifle. Going back to our earlier formula, we know that at 100 yards, 1 inch equals 1MOA, but what is it at the 50 yard line? If you are good at math, you would’ve calculated ½ inch. So, at 50 yards, trying to shoot to a 4MOA group means your shot group is no more than 2 inches. If you are capable of achieving this level of performance then theoretically you should be able to hold this shot group at various distances.

The 4MOA Factors

At the 100 yard line, the shot group size would be 4 inches and at the 200 yard line the shot group would be 8 inches. That to me is the best distance to evaluate performance. If you can maintain an 8 inch group or better at 200 yards then your understanding of the marksmanship fundamentals are pretty solid. I know what you are thinking, at this point in the article why am I content with 4MOA. To be honest, I’m not. However, what my experience has shown me is most shooters are not skilled enough to repeatedly shoot a tighter group. The goal, therefore slightly shifts to more about repeatability rather than precision. If they can repeatedly produce groups at the 3MOA that is great, if they can do it at 2MOA, even better. The 4MOA standard gives everyone a start point as they work towards refining their marksmanship fundamentals.

Adding Maintenance to the Equation

This again is where consistency comes into the equation. When you can consistently demonstrate a 4MOA shot group at various yard lines you start to understand what it takes to accomplish this task. You realize it is definitely the indian and not as much the arrow. I love seeing students repeatedly meet this standard. It is a huge confidence builder. It also paves the way for improvements. Because when the shooter is consistent, they start to see their shot group get tighter and there is where precision comes into the equation. It becomes easier and easier for them to maintain this standard. If you are not on the rifle as often as you want, but you can still deliver the 4MOA group in my opinion you are good to go.

Careful Investment into the Art

The other benefit to the 4MOA accuracy standard is it allows new shooters to wade into the game at a more reasonable upfront investment. An off the shelf rifle from a reputable manufacture with a decent optic properly mounted and zeroed firing reliable ammunition can accomplish this task with relative ease. We have seen this demonstrated in our Rifle 3 classes on a pretty regular basis. I even have had my doubts about some rifles, but the shooter steps up to the plate and delivers the 4MOA group. It is only when they consistently perform to this accuracy standard they can see the value of “upgrades”. Upgrades like rifles built for precision. Ammunition made to match standards and optics that are ultra fine in their adjustments.

Start With a Basic Rifle and Go From There

What I see in classes oftentimes the reverse of the process described above. The idea high end upgraded equipment can substitute for lack of skill has been costly to many. I mean costly in the literal terms. Instead, take the equipment you have and invest in quality training and regular practice. You will see far greater return on your investment. There is also a better appreciation for the process of developing the skill and how to exploit said skill. Don’t mistake what I’m saying for meaning you won’t see any improvements with high end upgraded gear, the problem is you probably won’t see it for a while.

I love shooting rifles, I love the precision they allow me to demonstrate. I love the discipline needed to demonstrate said precision. I invested in a quality rifle, then use the most precise ammunition I can afford in bulk and practice, practice a lot. That is the secret to really being a rifleman.

Low Powered Variable Optics

Evolution is a great thing. It produces success out of failure. What I mean, you either adapt or you get left behind. Such is the nature in the tactical market and in particular the low powered variable optic world. Before you jump down a rather expensive road, you need to know some things. The first thing you need to know is can you define the optic as a need or a want. Genuinely is there a need, of do you just want to keep up with all the cool kids. The reason I start with this has to do with your investment in truly understanding how best to exploit the new purchase.

What Plane Do I Choose

The first thing you need to consider is what focal plane, first or second. I could go into detail about the benefits of each, but suffice it to say you want a first focal plane scope. The biggest reason has to do with shooting holds. If you are using a low powered optic it is implied you will be doing work probably in a dynamic environment where the scenario may not provide you time to adjust your scope to the target distance. Instead, you use a predetermined “hold” to place a portion of your reticle on the target. Thus, compensating for the distance that differs from your zero. As you adjust the magnification up or down, your reticle increases or decreases, but your holdover values will remain the same. This simplifies your firing solution and reduces the computations you would have to do otherwise.

All The Magnification

1-8x is the newer and more popular scops

The next big question is magnification and how much. There is such a thing as too much magnification. What it translate to is weight. Yes, cost will increase as you go up in magnification, but it is really about weight. In today’s market you can find LPVO’s in the 1:8 range. These are great force multipliers, but the weight can turn them into a con. Again, it is implied your use will be in an urban defensive rifle setting and as such you will probably not be in a prone position. While you may obtain a supported position, you cannot count on it so holding the rifle to make a long shot will be a requirement. If the weight starts to become a hinderance it doesn’t matter how much magnification. Optimally, you should try to keep the scope under 22 ounces; which includes the mount.

Double Duty In Daytime

Since we will be employing the scope in an urban setting, the range to target may be close. The scope will need to double as a red dot or reflex sight. Those that come with day time viewable illumination are preferred. A word of caution though, if you are in very bright daylight such as mid day with no cloud cover many of the illuminated reticles are washed out by the sun. If you are going down this road, you want the dot to be bright. An observation I’ve made over the years is if the scope doesn’t have at least six or more intensity settings it probably will not be bright enough. As a reflex sight option you want it to be fast, the contrast of the illuminated dot or reticle is what makes that happen, but only if it is visible in all lighting conditions

Don’t Forget A Good Mount

Whatever your scope choice, it will only be as good as the mount. If you spend a lot of money on your scope, but try to cut corners on your mount you will see poor performance. Think of a mount like tires for a sports car. If you put crappy tires on your super fast car, how much speed will you really be able to exploit. The real question is quick release or no quick release. That depends on your backup sight system. If you are using foldable iron sights then you will want a quick release. If you are mounting a mini-red dot sight to the scope or rifle then it doesn’t matter. If you run the MRDS remember it will add weight overall. Once you pick a good mount, the next issue is to properly mount the scope to your rifle. You will want to make sure you it is installed properly to the best image for performance. When I say properly it means secure, but also level. Take the time to ensure the diopter adjustment is properly set to ensure the reticle is in sharp focus. Most LPVO’s do not have adjustable parallax. They are typically fixed at a set distance. The diopter adjustment basically focuses your eye to the reticle. If you scope has a diopter locking ring, make sure it is secure and if not consider using a witness line. This is a very common mistake for newer shooters; using a blurry sight picture because the diopter is out of focus.

Read The Users Manual

Once you have the scope properly installed you next need to learn how to use it and that means being familiar with all the features. The most common features in an LPVO are magnification, illumination, reticle turrets and the reticle. There may be a few other features, but these are the big ones, so break out the user manual and study. The magnification and illumination are the easiest to learn. They are often marked on the scope itself. Know how your power ring works and if it has a device for rapidly adjusting magnification. Those can be a knob, fin or an extrusion from the scope itself. You will want to get in the practice of always resting your magnification to 1x. Make this a habit, so if you ever have to snap a shot at close range you are not fighting your magnification. Depending on your situation, I recommend leaving the illumination set to a day time view for the same reason. Where things get really complicated is learning your scope turrets and reticle.

Pay Close Attention To The Turrets

When it comes to scope turrets, you will either have capped or exposed. Don’t get wrapped up in which is better, know how to use which ever you have. The one benefit to a capped turret is not worrying about the settings. With capped turrets they cannot accidentally be turned throwing off your scope settings. The bad news, if you want to make adjustments quickly you still have to remove the caps. It is not often you have to do this and for an urban rifle the possibly is infantile. You will really see this when learning your scope on the firing line and dealing with wind. While you will use holds for the majority of engagements, you may find yourself dialing in for some specific situations such as shooting in high winds. It is much easier to eliminate one variable such as your elevation and focus on making the best wind calls. You do want to know the unit of measurement for your scope. Are you using a MIL, MOA or BDC based scope.

What Type of Reticle Is Best

What type of reticle should you go with

Referencing MIL, MOA or BDC is related to the type of reticle. There was a time when I only shot BDC scopes. They were the best in that setting, but things changed. Better ammunition that differed from the BDC rendering it less effective. BDC stands for bullet drop compensator. As the bullet travels in flight, gravity is pulling it to the ground. To hit targets at distance we aim high, how high depends on many factors. The BDC scope eliminated the need to do math and know most of the factors. All you had to know was the distance to the target. Great if you are shooing on a known distance range, not so much in the real world. Now a days, MOA is seeing less and less popularity. If you are using a MOA scope you are not at a disadvantage, but you will have to work a tad harder. MIL version reticles are the most popular and for good reason, they are easier to use. I know easier is subjective, but I find them to be easier these days and I have a lot of hours under my belt with MOA scopes. The big thing here is knowing the unit of measurement. Are you running a 0.1 or 0.2 MIL scope or do you have a ½ or ¼ MOA scope. This references what I call the corrective value. Part of your formula for making corrections. Yes, the smaller measures will be more precise, but they will also be more expensive. Again, as a LPVO do you really need the ultra precise. Only you will know the answer.

Traditional Vs. Technical Reticles

The last and probably the most important thing to consider is your reticle. There are so many, but the new crop of technical reticles are awesome. Think of a technical reticle as a Christmas tree like pattern below your crosshairs. Traditional crosshairs are minimalist. Usually having subtends for holding elevation and windage only. While these are very valuable, they also get really challenging fast. If you have no reason to shoot past 500 yards then maybe you can stay with a traditional crosshair type reticle. If you are going beyond 500, then they are almost required. Even still, the technical reticle excels at close ranges. For me, the biggest advantage to a technical reticle is wind. If I’m at a distance different from my zero, then I will be holding. Add wind and now I’m holding for elevation and wind. With a traditional crosshair scope I’m literally holding in space, using a guess to be as precise as possible. With the technical reticle, I scroll down to the proper hold for elevation, then scroll over to the proper hold for wind and I have a precise aiming point. I’ve made shots out to 1,000 yards using this method and the only reason was because of the technical reticle.

At the end of the day, choosing a scope is a challenge. You first want to identify your budget. how much are you willing to spend. Then, decide on the features such as first or second focal plane. How much magnification I want. The type of measurement and how precise I need along with capped or uncapped turrets. Traditional crosshairs or the newer technical reticles that will most likely be illuminated. All this in the smallest and lightest package possible. You are probably seeing the challenge, but I promise you it will be worth the effort when you push out side normal close ranges. A rifleman is someone who can willfully and repeatedly place a projectile where they want. This includes the mid ranges, what I consider to be 0-500 yards.

Rifle Weight & Performance

Lightweight Rifle

A Heavy Rifle Gets Old Fast

Fatigue is a result of mental and physical exertion. It affects us in a variety of ways, but a lightweight rifle will lead to better shooting performance in the long run.

Performance On Demand No Matter How Fatigued

Any type of psychical activity or sport will be taxing on your body. As a culture, we reward those who are better equipped to perform. Being better equipped usually comes in the form of strength, fitness and power. If these traits are in abundance they usually result in a positive outcome. No matter how fit or strong, we are all subject to fatigue. The funny thing about fatigue is how difficult it is to combat. Once you enter that zone, very few remedies outside of rest will truly overcome the negative results. We cannot always stop what we are doing to grab a quick power nap, though naps are great when we can. What we have to do is learn coping strategies that help us perform to standard regardless of our mental or physical state.

When Cognitive Functions Goes

Porting a rifle for two days is fatiguing. There is no way to get around the fact carrying and shouldering a ten pound plus weight takes it’s toll when immersed in a class format. Most students want to do the very best they can in class, learn as much as they can. When fatigue sets in, it will require more effort to fight the negative effects. I find before the body goes, the mind and in this case the cognitive function starts waning. You can stay hydrated, eat well and even rest before the class all of which are proven strategies. They still cannot do much when you are in such a high deficit because you are physically exerting yourself.

Streamline Down To The Lightest Possible

Lifestyle choices and genetics play a big role in fatigue. When we are operating at peak conditions we are able to stave off the effects somewhat. So, what can you do to mitigate the effects when you’ve done all you can do or are limited in what you can do. The single greatest suggestion is to come to class with the lightest rifle possible. Streamline it down to what you absolutely need for the class. While it might seem like a good idea to “train like you fight”. If the weight of the extra gear causes you to fatigue sooner or quicker then it is less than ideal. Instead, consider the objective of the class. In this case, to improve your shooting performance with a rifle from zero to fifty yards in day time hours from a static position. If I were new to the art of rifle shooting, I’d get the lightest rifle that meets those objectives.

Lightweight rifle for better performanceLight Is Right

Nothing is free. There is always a cost associated with our choices. I talk about pro’s & con’s a lot in our classes. Yes, you may get some perceived advantage by selecting a certain piece of gear, but at what cost. If I had to detail the ideal rifle for a basic or intermediate class, I would start with a lightweight rifle below 8.5 pound for better shooting performance. Obviously, lighter would be better, but again nothing is free. The lighter rifle will produce more pronounced recoil impulse. You have to work harder for your shot to shot recovery time. Again, you will pay the man in some way. If you can keep your rifle to below 8.5 pounds and still have all the equipment you need for the class then you are stacking the deck in your favor. You may not appreciate your decision early in the morning on day one, but I promise you when it comes time to perform at the end of the class you will have the best chance for success.

It has always been my goal to use the lightest gear possible to complete the mission. Whether you like to admit it or not, it does make a difference.

Trident Concepts
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