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.
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.
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.