Rifle Accuracy: The Group Of Ten

Rifle Accuracy: The Group Of Ten
To determine how your rifle accuracy really is, a single 10-shot group will tell you everything you need to know.

The modern standard of rifle accuracy is the three-shot group at 100 yards. Fifty years ago, it was the five-shot group, and a century before that it was 10 shots. Are we now getting a better picture of a rifle's capabilities, or is this merely grade inflation, making rifles and ammunition look better than they really are?

This three-shot business generally applies to hunting rifles, and it's rationalized on the grounds that you rarely fire more than three shots at a big-game animal. Well, maybe so. But the odd time that you do- and believe me, I know- you'll be grateful for every bit of accuracy you can get.

In fairness, we have also become much more severe in our definition of accuracy. Fifty years ago, a group of 1.5 inches was good. Then, one inch. Now, the benchmark seems to be a half-inch, or 1/2 MOA.

No matter how good, a single three-shot group proves absolutely nothing. I once put three shots with a new, custom Weatherby bolt-action rifle, using factory-loaded .270 Weatherby Magnum ammunition, into a group that measured 0.249 inch. While the rifle always shot well, it never approached that rarified level again. It was simply a good 1-MOA rifle.


RifleAccuracy2
A 10-shot group (as was the standard 150 years ago) tells much more about a rifle's capability than even the best three-shot group.

Sometimes you see a figure for an average of three, three-shot groups. If you're going to fire nine shots, why not put them all into one group and really find out something? And if you're going to fire nine, why not 10? Ten shots will tell you a lot more about a rifle than whether it can fluke out one or two tiny groups. In fact, it will tell you everything you need to know about that particular rifle with that particular load.


A Case Study

Recently, I got to try out a new Mauser 98. It's an 8x57 JS, which is a great cartridge, but there was one difficulty. There was no top-notch factory ammunition available and shooting ho-hum stuff would tell me nothing.

To get around this, I loaded some of my most meticulous handloads, using the best bullets from Nosler, Hornady, and Sierra. I took "accuracy" loads from three different loading manuals using four different powders and started with brand-new Nosler and Hornady brass. I did everything in my power to give the rifle a chance to shine, just like I would if using gilt-edged factory-loaded match ammunition. But my handloads were generic loads, not worked up just for this rifle.

I then shot a 10-shot group with each load. I took my time and fired a few at a time into each group so there would be no advantage or disadvantage from barrel heating.


RifleAccuracyMauser
Mauser 98, 8x57 JS

What I learned from all this shooting is this is one very accurate hunting rifle. In three trips to the range, for sighting-in and so on, the first shots from a cold, clean barrel all went into the center of the group that followed. The best 10-shot group was 1.37 inches, using Nosler 180-grain Ballistic Tips. Another group using Hornady brass and Hornady 196-grain match bullets delivered a group that was exactly 1.00 inch for nine shots- the 10th shot (a flyer) expanded group size to 2.00 inches. The worst group of the four was also with Ballistic Tips and measured an evenly spread out 2.70 inches. Working up and down, I would expect that last group to tighten up considerably.

Since this is a hunting rifle, I'll start work using hunting bullets, with the knowledge that the rifle is capable of delivering every bit of accuracy that I, as a hunter, am capable of using.

Those 10-shot groups told me everything I need to know about the rifle and gave me several real starting points to develop some tackdrivers with no worries about whether a particularly good group is merely a fluke. All too often, that's exactly what they are.


 
 
 

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

We're taking a look at what the Army's Elite Units are using for service rifles and what the future of SOCOM sniping looks like.

Springfield Armory Saint Victor

Springfield Armory Saint Victor

The SAINT' Victor Rifle delivers a lightweight and agile rifle solution while maintaining effectiveness at extended engagement distances.

The Glock 21

The Glock 21

Frank and Tony from Gallery of Guns spice up the Glock test using their non-dominant hands.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

A half-century in the making, the new DGX Bonded is Hornady's best-ever dangerous-game bullet. Ammo

Danger Tamed: Hornady DGX Bonded Hunting Ammo

Joseph von Benedikt - May 23, 2019

A half-century in the making, the new DGX Bonded is Hornady's best-ever dangerous-game bullet.

The Smith & Wesson Model 19 revolver is back in production after being on ice for nearly two decades. Handguns

Smith & Wesson Model 19 Classic Revolver Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - March 08, 2019

The Smith & Wesson Model 19 revolver is back in production after being on ice for nearly two...

These cheap postwar variants offer perhaps the best value on the vintage-Mauser market. Rifles

Yugoslavian M24/47 Mauser-Pattern Rifle

Joseph von Benedikt - May 13, 2019

These cheap postwar variants offer perhaps the best value on the vintage-Mauser market.

Daniel Defense has blazed a new trail with its first-ever bolt-action rifle, the Daniel Defense Delta 5. Rifles

Daniel Defense Delta 5 Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - May 31, 2019

Daniel Defense has blazed a new trail with its first-ever bolt-action rifle, the Daniel...

See More Trending Articles

More Rifles

Classy, powerful, and accurate, this Turnbull Restoration Winchester Model 1886 is one of the finest lever actions ever built. Rifles

Turnbull Restoration Winchester Model 1886

Joseph von Benedikt - April 22, 2020

Classy, powerful, and accurate, this Turnbull Restoration Winchester Model 1886 is one of the...

The Wilson Combat Ranch Rifle in .300 HAM'R, a round developed by Bill Wilson himself, is just right for hog hunting. Rifles

Wilson Combat Ranch Rifle .300 HAM'R Review

Layne Simpson - December 17, 2019

The Wilson Combat Ranch Rifle in .300 HAM'R, a round developed by Bill Wilson himself, is just...

Since debuting eight years ago, the Ruger American rifle line has expanded to include 17 different chamberings in six configurations. Now, Ruger has chambered the Ranch Compact for the .350 Legend straight-wall cartridge. Rifles

Ruger American Ranch Compact Rifle in .350 Legend

Lane Pearce - May 14, 2020

Since debuting eight years ago, the Ruger American rifle line has expanded to include 17...

See More Rifles

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Shooting Times subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now