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Hunting Rifle Accuracy

Larry Gowdy - Copyright©2011

Accuracy of a Remington 700-PSS hunting rifle at 400 yards

Remington® 700-PSS 400 yard accuracy downhill in high winds.

One of my favorite pastimes in the country was to enjoy the better part of a day shooting targets located at different spots on my land. With 400 yards of sharp hills and valleys between my east and west fences, it took quite a bit of time to walk to a shooting spot, fire 3 shots, walk back to the target, write down the results, tape over the holes, and then walk back to shoot again (maybe I could have taken a scope to see where the shots landed, but nah, that would have been too easy). A full day of shooting for me was one box of Federal® Gold Medal .308 and a good workout.

To me hunting rifle accuracy is very important. It is more than a little dangerous for a hunter to pull the trigger without first being fully confident of where the bullet will land. Becoming familiar with the ballistics of one's favorite round is a good first step, but it is more important to actually practice shooting the round at different distances to ensure that the combination of rifle and round are the same as the ballistics tables. Most high power calibers do not have much drop between 100 to 200 yards, but at 300 to 400 yards bullet drop can quickly result in an unsafe shot if the shooter is not familiar with his equipment.

Superior Hunting Blinds 200 yard target

Remington 700-PSS 200 yard target on a bench with Federal® Classic 150gr .308 and the scope set for 100 yards.

The top graphic shows the first results of my Remington 700-PSS .308 at 400 yards while shooting in various positions in unpredictably gusty winds. The graphic was scanned from a practice where I was located at the 3 o'clock side of a hill while shooting the target that was located on the 9 o'clock side of a small canyon-like drop of elevation where the normal varying wind gusts of 15-30+mph from 3 o'clock increased speed and swirled as they traveled down the cliff. The scope was set for 350 yards, and though I was able to easily compensate for elevation, the unpredictable winds really messed up the group. We might normally change locations or wait until a target is at 6 or 12 with the wind so as to lessen wind drift, but sometimes a shot has to be taken while the target is in sight, and the best way to touch the target is with practice.

Superior Hunting Blinds Remington 700-PSS

Hunting rifle accuracy: Remington 700-PSS.

The rifle and ammo were fully capable of sub-1" groups at 400 yards in an ideal setting on a bench - at 200 yards all shots would be well connected like in the second graphic - but in the country there are no chairs and benches, and rare for my region is a calm day. The first graphic's far left shot was a full 4" from the intended bull's-eye, which was fully unacceptable. Only after more practice was I able to keep all shots in the red.

Perhaps half of the fun of hunting is preparing for the hunt, of gathering the equipment and spending a lot of time at the rifle range. When the hunt does begin, there is a good deal of satisfaction in placing that one shot right where it was intended. In my opinion, other than safety, nothing is more important than hunting rifle accuracy.

A funny hunting rifle accuracy story:

While at the rifle range with my wife we had several individuals around us preparing for the upcoming hunting season. I was shooting a variety of rifles while my wife was shooting her lever-action Winchester® 94 Trapper 30-30 with iron sights. The fellow to our right was shooting a scoped bolt action (likely a 30-06) while his friends were watching his target. The fellow kept looking in his bench scope and bragging about his excellent accuracy while his friends had peculiar looks on their faces. One of his friends finally realized the problem and told the shooter "You're looking at the wrong target! You're looking at the one left of yours, the lady's target!" My wife and I pretended to not notice the fellow's utter embarrassment (his target's groups looked more like a shotgun pattern while my wife's target had lots of nicely placed holes within about 1.5" groups.) In silence and without another shot, the fellow removed the rounds from his rifle, packed up, and left the range.

That's one reason we usually see so few wives hunting; women are often more accurate shooters than men. (My wife used to shoot baby rattlers in half at over 35 yards away while walking with her Trapper: darn woman.)

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