16 August 2023
Aim Small, Miss Small...
More Gun Gospel according to Cope. This is my .02 worth on "accuracy." An opinion that no one asked for, but it's free, so...
There are two major categories of firearm accuracy. The first is mechanical accuracy. This category has no sub-categories. The mechanical or inherent accuracy of a firearm demonstrates what a certain gun is capable of doing with a specific type of ammunition after removing all human error such as breathing, pulse, poor follow-through, inconsistent trigger break, etc. This is generally accomplished by installing the gun in a mechanical rest of some type.
The second category I'll call human accuracy, which is the degree of accuracy that any given shooter can achieve with a particular firearm, under particular conditions, with a particular type of ammunition. This will vary from shooter to shooter and will apply to long guns, hand guns and shotguns, each within their own capabilities.
Human accuracy has 4 sub-categories, each having one or more purposes or goals but all ultimately relying upon the shooter. The primary factors, among several, are the shooter's physical capability, attitude and goals.
In some semblance of order, from best to worst, we'll start with precision accuracy. As the name implies, precise shot placement is the name of the game. Precise is not subjective. It is the best accuracy that a human can wring out of a particular gun and load without the assistance of a mechanical rest.
Not all people, nor all guns, are capable of precision accuracy. People can be hampered by impatience, failing eyesight, poor physical condition, poor hand-to-eye coordination, physical ailments such as arthritis; bone, muscle or nerve conditions, etc.
Precision accuracy is not totally reliant on the shooter's abilities, there are certain factors concerning the firearm itself that play a huge part in it as well. Things like the condition and quality of the barrel and its crown, the relationship between the barrel and the stock, the trigger, lock time, sights and the rigidity of the action. There are also outside factors that can affect either the gun or the bullet in flight or both. These things include wind, humidity, temperature, direct sunlight on the barrel and, in extreme cases, even the curvature of the earth.
Precision accuracy is also somewhat dependent upon the shooter's patience and determination.
The 2nd sub-category of human accuracy is target accuracy. Target accuracy is similar to and related to hunting accuracy. The only difference is one involves one of God's creations and a poor shot can cause suffering and an inhumane kill. Target accuracy will include both competition shooting, hunting and informal, recreational target shooting. Target accuracy will vary from shooter to shooter. The long-range varmint hunter will demand precision accuracy while the southern whitetail hunter may be happy with being able to hit a paper plate at 100 yards
Unlike precision accuracy, target/hunting accuracy is subjective. It depends on the size of the target, the distance to the target and the desired results. In this type of accuracy, a shot somewhere in the kill-zone of an animal or a group of shots within the confines of the bullseye that may vary in size, is "good enough." Good enough to bring home the bacon or good enough to win the contest. A 2" group inside a 3" bullseye, at whatever range, is good shooting. Good enough.
Our next sub-category of human accuracy is referred to as combat accuracy. Combat accuracy is also subjective. On occasion, it may require some degree of precision and other times, hitting an 8" circle will suffice but in almost all cases, speed and adequate accuracy must be combined to achieve the desired results. Excessive stress and fear will likely play a part in the success of the shot placement. Oftentimes, rapid successive shots may be required, also with acceptable accuracy.
This brings us to our 4th and final sub-category of human accuracy... Hallucinatory. Hallucinatory accuracy is achieved only by the Wannabe marksman. The Wannabe considers himself good enough to bring out the intrinsic accuracy of a gun without the use of mechanical aids.
The Wannabe achieves precision accuracy with his M44 Mosin-Nagant while leaning over the hood of his pickup, using his lunchbox for a rest. If he misses, and he will, he will blame it on the wind, his rest, he must have bumped his scope, the sun was in his eyes, he grabbed the wrong ammo, he has a lot on his mind, he hasn't shot this gun since last year... ad nauseum.
The Wannabe will lead you to believe that, whatever the outcome, it was intentional. Wherever the bullet hit, that's what he was aiming at. In all seriousness, the Wannabe is frequently unsafe and should probably not even have access to firearms.
So, there you have it. My explanation of accuracy to the up-and-coming gun owner. Maybe it will help a few folks figure out just what is meant when that term comes up in conversation at the barbershop.