Minute of Angst!

This One Need Some Accuracy and Precision Work!

This One Need Some Accuracy and Precision Work!

As general shooters, we sometimes we are caught up in trying to achieve accuracy and precision that it makes an otherwise enjoyable day at the range not so enjoyable. Sometimes when I leave the range, I mentally flagellate myself for my poor performance rather than thinking about how I can improve that performance. What can I do different or what can I do to the firearm to extract better performance from it; a trigger job, change the sights, buy a match-grade barrel, or perhaps add some optics. I am the reason why aftermarket gun part and optics manufactures stay in business. Perhaps, I should say “we” because I feel that some think as I do.

Accuracy Without Precision

Accuracy Without Precision

Precision Without Accuracy

Precision Without Accuracy

We bounce around terms like “accuracy” and “precision” as if they are the Holy Grail. We treat them as commandments to follow and humble ourselves before those shooting results that are seemingly not human; “Thou shall be accurate and precise!” We hear (and sometimes watch) of seemingly impossible shots being made and watch Hickock45 consistently ring a gong at 85 yards with a sub-compact pistol or watch a video of Jerry Mikulek shooting at a target 100 yards away with a sub-compact revolver held upside down – and the bullet that was fired from the gun hits the target.

Looking at the literal definition of “accuracy” we find accuracy defined as, “freedom from mistake or error.” In addition, accuracy is; “the ability to work or perform without making mistakes.” Accuracy, then, is a comparable value and that means that in order for something to be determined as “accurate” it must be compared to a standard; a metric, if you will.

Could this Revolver be Accurate? Why, Yes it Could!

Could this Revolver be Accurate? Why, Yes it Could!

Here is something for you to use that will interrupt the normal flow of any gun shop (in fact, any business); Ask an associate if you can look at a firearm (of your choosing). Upon receiving the firearm, ask the associate if the firearm is accurate. What is the associate going to say? Of course, the associate is going to say yes! In fact, the firearm may be the most accurate in the shop – ever. Then, ask the associate if he or she can prove that. The bottom line is that they cannot truthfully attest to the accuracy of the firearm.

A manufacturer may state that the firearm is the “most inherently accurate firearm ever made.” What was that marketing statement based upon? “The blah, blah firearm was designed and manufactured to produce superior accuracy!” Now, a finely manufactured marketing statement should have every person on the planet clamoring to own that firearm.

I Have Little Tolerance!

This Book Has More Tolerance About Things Than I Do!

This Book Has More Tolerance About Things Than I Do!

The last time that I went revolver shopping, I carried a set of automotive feeler gauges. Not that I needed to check the point gap on my vehicle (which does not have a set of points), but I wanted to check the barrel-to-cylinder gap of the desired revolver that I was going to purchase. I also wanted to measure the cylinder endplay (if any). My Dan Wesson Model 15 revolver spoiled me, as I could select from 3 barrel lengths and adjust the barrel-to-cylinder gap simply by screwing the barrel in or out to achieve the specified .006-inch gap (a .006-inch feeler gauge was provided). From that point on, I considered .006-inch barrel-to-cylinder gap to be the de-facto standard. Since then, I carry a set of feeler gauges with me when I plan to purchase a revolver, but I learned to be a little more tolerant.

I have run across revolvers with barrel-to-cylinder gaps from .002-inch to .012-inches. The tolerance range that I allow for any revolver’s barrel-to-cylinder gap is between .004-inch to .008-inch. Any less than .004-inches or greater than .008-inch means that the revolver remains in the hands of the current owner. That is my standard and I am sticking by it.

The inherent accuracy of any firearm simply reflects the ability of the manufacturer to produce a firearm, part and parcel, to within design specifications. If every part of the firearm is manufactured to meet or exceed the intended specification, then one could say that the “firearm” is accurate “in toto.” Accuracy, in this sense, is not an indicator of how well the firearm will send a bullet downrange or even if it will even do so (insert “exact, non-firing replica” at this point).

I Feel So Accurately Inadequate!
Despite the lack of proof that our selected firearm is indeed “accurate”, we shuffle home with our new and prized possession in hand with high expectations that we will now be able to place a bullet (or bullets) in the center of a target at some distance akin to infinity. We now have an inanimate object that is claimed to be accurate, and place that object in the hands of an accurately inadequate example of Homo sapiens who sometime resorts to Neanderthal behavior during mating season, football season, Black Friday shopping, and when purchasing .22 LR ammunition. From these hands, we are going to wring the most accuracy out of this (allegedly) already accurate accommodation for sending projectiles away from us in a spectacular fashion. Is that not great, or what?

Combat Accuracy?

Combat Accuracy?

Target Accuracy with Preciseness

Target Accuracy with Preciseness

Referring back to the definition of accuracy, the “freedom from mistake or error”, and assuming that the firearm is free from error, accuracy falls into our laps. Accuracy, then, we could sum up as being: Good, Excellent, and oh well (among others that fall into the “expletive deleted” category)! Accuracy, it seems, can also be “target” or “combat.” Target accuracy encompasses hitting a target at a specific place in the target – ideally, the bulls-eye. Combat accuracy; however, means simply hitting your target. In both, it is a matter of degrees. In any case, most firearms can be better shot without your (or my) assistance.

A Highly-Skilled Precision Shooter!

A Highly-Skilled Precision Shooter!

Competition shooters place credence on their ability to operate a firearm on what is happening in the bulls-eye of the target at which they are shooting. I place more credence on my shooting based on what happens to the target based on my sight-picture and according to the distance at which the shot is taken. And, as usual, I am always working at it – a never-ending struggle for that “perfect” shot.

I Am a Little Short Sighted!
With “combat” accuracy essentially meaning simply hitting a target, I would like to be more accurate in what it means to be – hitting a target accurately; placing the sights on a point in the target and expect the bullet to strike within reasonable distance from the point of aim. For the most part, my EDC is zeroed for a distance of 25-yards. In short, this is the distance where I want the point of impact to be equal to the point of aim. At closer distances, I can expect to hold a little higher on the target (about 1” higher than where I want the bullet to strike the target). At longer distances, I know that I will have to compensate for the flight path of the bullet. I consider the weapons system accurate (my EDC and me) if the result of my first shot is within 1” at 7-yards. If I can shoot a 5-round magazine’s worth of bullets in a 3” circle at 7-yards, I consider that precise enough for combat work. I ask no less of the 20-gauge. Is this considered MOA? Not hardly, by the true definition.

I could spend a lifetime trying to achieve MOA with an open-sighted handgun. Put a scope on a handgun meant for hunting, sport, or defense; however, and I step into the MOA, MilDot, and BDC world.

MOA Power to Ya’!

Minute of Arc (MOA) Also Known as Minute of Angle and ArcMinute

Minute of Arc (MOA) Also Known as Minute of Angle and ArcMinute

The Rock River Arms LAR8 rifle is guaranteed by the manufacturer to be a 1 MOA rifle. Remington’s M24 Sniper Weapon System is required to shoot 0.8 MOA or better, or be rejected. It is quite popular to hear shooters talk in MOA and MilDots.

Precision shooting is another world altogether. Not only do our shots need to be accurate, but we need to be able to repeat that accuracy time and time again. As the distance increases, the pocket pistols are returned to the pockets and the long guns come out. Now, just because they are long guns does not mean that they can’t be used for short distances. There are many fine handguns that can reach out and touch someone at long distances if their operator knows what they are doing with them. Long guns, rifles specifically, still rule the roost when it comes to shooting at distance – especially those with magnified optics.

Scopes are Necessary Evils!

Scopes are Necessary Evils!

I find rifle scopes to be evil necessities. I dislike them but I need them to make the rifle shoot as accurate as I can. There is nothing more satisfying than placing the crosshairs of a scope in the center of a 100-yard sight-in target and see a hole appear in the target – especially when it is at 100 yards and especially if the hole appears where the crosshairs of the scope were positioned at before it came off target due to recoil. That’s accuracy. Four more shots were fired and the result was a 3.5” group centered on the bulls-eye. This group was out of a pre-cross bolt safety Marlin 336 .30-30 equipped with a 3-9×40 scope. I still have that rifle. It is now equipped with a rear “ghost” site. Now they tell me that the group would have been a little over MOA at 300 yards. So my shooting was sub-par? Then, I read somewhere that one could only expect 4 MOA out of the gun. Wow! I was really bummed out. It wasn’t until I began to understand what MOA was, and I was able to formulate a come back, did I begin to feel better. To the next person that claims that the Marlin 336 .30-30 is a 4 MOA rifle, I will ask them to walk downrange 100 yards, face me, and then take their shirt off. I will aim at your left nipple and fire a shot. Then, come back and tell me that a shot that lands within three and one-half inches from your left nipple is not an effective shot. I think that I will win my argument without firing a shot to prove it.

To me, firing a MOA group and not hitting what I intend to hit is a useless exercise.
The scope that I was using at the time is not too much different from the scopes that I have today; they all adjust in ¼” increments with each click of the adjustment. At 100 yards, 4-clicks of adjustment yields 1” of movement on the target. Is that so hard to say? “You are 2 inches left and 4 inches down,” my spotter said. Easy enough to work that one; 8 clicks right and 16 clicks up of adjustment and I’m good to go! Telling me that I am 2 MOA left and 4 MOA down does nothing for me; my scope is adjusted in inches! It might be useful if the scope is marked in MOA, but we both have to be on the same page reading the same book!

The arcminute is commonly found in the firearms industry and literature, particularly concerning the accuracy of rifles, though the industry refers to it as minute of angle or MOA. I refer to it as the “Minute of Angst”, as that is usually what I suffer when trying to achieve it.

MilDot Sizes

MilDot Sizes

MOA seems to be the “in thing” these days with MilDots following up close behind for those who like to talk in the “tactical” sense. However, the MOA system is an easy conversion for those of us who think in inches.

One MOA is simply one-inch at 100 yards. If my scope adjustment (clicks) is in fractions of an inch (1 click = 1/4”, my spotter tells me that I need 1MOA right, and I am at 100-yards, I know to dial-in 4-clicks of right windage. In this sense, MOA is relative between the point of aim and point of impact. I know when “accuracy” is achieved as best as the weapons platform can achieve it. Moving to subsequent shots, MOA is a degree of precision. The weapon system can be highly accurate but exhibit poor shot groups, which is matter of MOA. A cluster of hits in a 1” circle at 100 yards is considered MOA.

BARSKA 3-9x42 IR 2nd Generation Sniper Riflescope w/MilDot Reticule - Zeroed @ 100 yards on a Windham Weaponry "SRC"

BARSKA 3-9×42 IR 2nd Generation Sniper Riflescope w/MilDot Reticule – Zeroed @ 100 yards on a Windham Weaponry “SRC”

One hundred yards seems to be a traditional distance on outdoor target ranges. For some, it is a starting point to greater distances; it serves as a baseline into greater distance performance. If one can shoot MOA at 100-yards, there is no reason that they can’t shoot MOA at 200-yards (2-inches) or even MOA at 600-yards (6-inches) – given that everything (no wind, match-grade ammo, clean barrel, and a vise or a benchrest used to eliminate shooter error, etc.) the gun is capable of producing a group of shots whose center points (center-to-center) fit into a circle; the average diameter of circles in several groups can be subtended by that amount of arc) is near perfect in the pursuit of shooting perfection.

In my neck of the woods, the 100-yard zero is optimum as shots (hunting) are largely taken equal to or less than that distance. In more unrestricted areas, zeroing at greater distances may be more common. Where shots are determined to be taken within 100-yards, a scope that is variable from 2-7 magnification is usually more than adequate with the use of a good red dot sight becoming more popular because the shooter can easily transition to CQB distances quite easily.

Rifle manufacturers and gun magazines often refer to this capability as sub-MOA, meaning it shoots under 1 MOA. This means that a single group of 3 to 5 shots at 100 yards, or the average of several groups, will measure less than 1 MOA between the two furthest shots in the group, i.e. all shots fall within 1 MOA. If larger samples are taken (i.e., more shots per group) then group size typically increases, however this will ultimately average out. If a rifle was truly a 1 MOA rifle, it would be just as likely that two consecutive shots land exactly on top of each other as that they land 1 MOA apart. For 5 shot groups, based on 95% confidence a rifle that normally shoots 1 MOA can be expected to shoot groups between 0.58 MOA and 1.47 MOA, although the majority of these groups will be under 1 MOA. What this means in practice is if a rifle that shoots 1″ groups on average at 100 yards shoots a group measuring .7″ followed by a group that is 1.3″ this is not statistically abnormal. – source: http://www.nssf.org/video/facts/MOA.cfm

MOA is based on the “imperial” system of measurement. Of course, we can’t let that rest when we are talking “tactical” so we revert to its metric counterpart, the MilDot.

That’s so Radical, Dude! (Milling Around the MilDot?)
The Metric System counterpart of the MOA is the MilRad, being equal to one 1000th of the target range, laid out on a circle that has the observer as centre and the target range as radius. The number of MilRads on a full such circle therefore always is equal to 2 x π x 1000, regardless the target range. Therefore 1 MOA = 0.2908 MilRad. This means that an object which spans 1 MilRad on the reticle is at a range that is in meters equal to the object’s size in millimeters (e.g. an object of 100 mm @ 1 Milrad is 100 meters away). So there is no conversion factor required, contrary to the MOA system. The markings on a reticle that mark MilRads are called MilDots. Such reticles are called a MilDot Reticles.

I Deserve Some Compensation!

The BDC on a Coyote 5-14x40 Scope

The BDC on a Coyote 5-14×40 Scope

More common these days is the use of BDC scopes and sights. BDC simply means “Bullet Drop Compensator.” You can purchase a sight with BDC for calibers like .223/5.56x45mm NATO, 7.62x39mm, and .308/7.62.51mm and even the lowly .22 caliber. In fact, scopes with BDC capabilities may have different turrets for different bullet weights. In short, the scope can be calibrated to whatever ammunition you are firing.

BSA Sweet Sixteen 22

BSA Sweet Sixteen 22

I have a BSA Sweet 22 and it works well on a marlin Model 60. I use the 38 grain turret and run 38 grain ammo with it. I sighted the scope in for dead on at 50 yards. Then, I can adjust the range feature and the BDC corrects for the distance. I can (on a good day) put 5 shots in a quarter at 100 yards with the Marlin Model 60 with no holdover. Simply adjust the BDC for 100 yards and shoot dead on. The Marlin Model 60 is the only rifle equipment with a BDC scope and was more of an experiment than anything.

Aimsport Scope with MilDot Reticule

Aimsport Scope with MilDot Reticule

I recently installed an Aim Sports 2-7X32 Dual III. Long Eye Relief Scope on the Ruger Gunsite Scout rifle as another experiment in cheap scopes. The scope has horizontal range finding marks out to 500 yards. That is all that I need.

The Sum of it All is!
I try not to get myself too involved with MOA. I am more concerned with accuracy on the first cold-barrel shot. I doubt that I will be able to get off one let alone multiple shots under ideal conditions – it is very hard to do when everything is moving – including me.

A lot of people will spend a lot of money to achieve MOA on a firearm and probably that may include me. When it comes down to it, a manufacturer can claim anything that they wish, but it’s what you can achieve that is important. First of all, if you have an accurate firearm, learn to shoot it accurately and with as much precision as possible. “Aim small, miss small”, as Mel Gibson said in the movie “The Patriot.”

Now, go out and practice “Aim small – miss small!”

Resources:
BSA 3-9X40 Sweet 22 Rifle Scope with Side Parallax Adjustment and Multi-Grain Turret (http://www.amazon.com/BSA-3-9X40-Parallax-Adjustment-Multi-Grain/dp/B002AK7KMO/ref=pd_sbs_sg_4?ie=UTF8&refRID=0TBGJQH6B028G9B0ACA5)

Aim Sports 2-7X32 Dual III. Long Eye Relief Scope with Rings (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003BRB1PM/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1)

BARSKA 3-9×42 IR 2nd Generation Sniper Riflescope (http://www.amazon.com/BARSKA-3-9×42-Generation-Sniper-Riflescope/dp/B007QEUWSI/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1417896712&sr=8-6&keywords=barska)

“Minute of Arc” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minute_of_arc)

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About Taurian

Taurian is an Oath Keeper, veteran, former LEO and Defensive Tactics Instructor. Until retirement, Taurian had over forty-seven years of experience as a Technical Writer and Training Program Developer. After leaving home at the age of ten without any shoes, Taurian continues on with many years devoted to the keeping and bearing of arms.

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