Are You Serious About Rifle Accuracy? Updated

If you are then you should be hand loading your ammo if you have the time. Let us assume you do have the time and you do reload and that your rifles, screw, and nuts are tight (better yet torqued) and that you have little in the way of temperamental barrel harmonics to throw your bullets off. Ok how do you know that your rifle doesn’t have any issues?  Purchase my African Safari e-book which details these issues in two chapters where I experienced rifle/ trigger/recoil problems and corrected them. I have owned only 2 rifles that had very minor barrel harmonic issues that I could not correct.  I just did not want to deal with those unpredictable variables as they would have become issues at very long ranges. Color them sold… Most folks that target shoot at long range are sticklers for details.

Choosing a bullet, a powder, a case, a primer and putting that together for an experienced hand loader is a straight forward task of trial and error, preferably less error. I won’t get into the specifics here but most occasional shooters are unaware of what goes into a custom cartridge that is mated to just one rifle and for a particular task. Take for example my .375 Ruger which can be loaded for Cape Buffalo or loaded down for Whitetail Deer or even Coyote. If you had to purchase over the counter ammo for it, there are no deer loads available at your retailer, you the shooter have to make them yourself. If you have a reloading press and components such as primers, powder and heads then you can just put them together as you need them thus you don’t have to be disappointed for months  waiting for your loads to make to a retail shelf.

reloading table

Purchasing components such the RCBS Rockchucker press above and powder, primers and bullet heads and Brass cases need to be stocked for your rifles so you don’t have to panic. In my case I did have to search for new cases this month as mine were getting old and shot many times. Last year I found that some of my bullet heads were in short supply so I stocked up a bit last year. Next I chose loads that were noted as best accuracy, not the hottest load per se. Next was to Chronograph them and average the groups, then choose a distance to zero them at say 100 or 200 yards. You can buy a chronograph for $120 dollars. Most shoot for group at 100 yards which is fine to establish  an accuracy benchmark in terms of MOA. For hunting, two inch groups at 100 yards is just fine as long as you stay within your capabilities and yardage out to say 200-300 yards. Beyond that you want a rifle that shoots tighter groups at 1 inch (Minute of Angle) but then the wind begins to dominate the accuracy issue. I expect today’s rifles to shoot MOA out of the box pretty much or after a little break in period.

A 10 mph wind across the shot at 200 yards will blow that bullet off course by say 3 inches, but at 500 yards the bullet can be blown as much as 12 inches off target. Right off the kill zone. How can you predict and account for that? It is easy to predict with a Ballistic Calculator but it takes training to account for the wind by using a wind meter and skill in doping the wind! Here are some wind hints:

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Use and become familiar with the JMB Ballistic Calculator in the header of this website. Click where it says trajectory and enter all the parameters you know. Here is a typical chart for a .270 Winchester and amply demonstrates superior Ballistics using the Nosler AccuBond in 130 grain. There is a drop down menu for known bullet selection data. Here it is sighted in at 200 yards but if sighted in at 255 yards the Maximum Point blank range would be essentially 300 yards if the vital zone radius was 4 inches. The energy needed to kill a deer is said to be 1000 ft-lbs but the bullet needs to be 1800 fps or faster to mushroom. Here 400 yards is the farthest that a killing shot is recommended provide you compensate for the 14.4 inches of 10 mph cross wind drift where there is a gentle breeze and small branches sway. You can wait for a wind lull to shoot or pass on the shot and get closer.

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Enter Bullet Manufacturer Type of Bullet, BC, Caliber, temperature, humidity, vital zone radius 3 for deer maybe 4 inches for Elk, the muzzle velocity averaged from your Chronograph shots. This is just the beginning of your learning curve. If you want to shoot say 600 to 1000 yards in competition then you need to pick up a copy of Applied Ballistics by Brian Litz. Brian has a ballistics program as well that is a CD as part of the book. I am an advanced novice and still learning. Go for it! © 2104



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About Ed Hale

I am an avid hunter with rifle and Bow and have been hunting for more than 50 years. I have taken big game such as whitetail deer, red deer, elk, Moose and African Plains game such as Kudu, Gemsbok, Springbok, Blesbok, and Impala and wrote an ebook entitled African Safari -Rifle and Bow and Arrow on how to prepare for a first safari. Ed is a serious cartridge reloader and ballistics student. He has earned two degrees in science and has written hundreds of outdoor article on hunting with both bow and rifle.