If you look back at the last year of the blog, it stands out from the previous writing and shooting. I really got stuck on something that’s not very practical. I developed an obsession with my grouping, which seemed to be getting worse and worse (both the groups and the obsession). Most every shot was fired from prone with a bipod using a rear bag. I could have chosen to pursue something more practical when my efforts to shoot one hole groups didn’t pan out, but I didn’t. I just kept chasing something that never seemed to get any closer.
I see other people’s tight groups all the time on the internet. I’m a decent shooter. I’ve even shot a few of the sub-half minute groups myself. It really bugged me that for some reason I couldn’t do it with my rifle.
I was also thinking of shooting tight groups as sort of a prerequisite for doing other stuff that was more interesting. How am I going to get feedback on my wind reading if I can’t ensure that the bullet is even going to go where I tell it to? How am I going to hit a 2 MOA target at 600 yards in a complex wind pattern if I can’t shoot a 2 MOA group at 100 yards in a predictable wind pattern? It’s a very sequential development of skill, and it became somewhat of an obsession to “fix” whatever was keeping me from shooting well.
One quirk about me is that I tend to blame myself first whenever there is a problem. I’ve seen a lot of shooters that couldn’t shoot, and when confronted with evidence to that effect, would immediately resort to messing with equipment. This scenario is what led me to come up with what I called “Rifleslinger’s Razor”, which says, “Do not blame equipment for deficiencies in performance that could otherwise be explained by faulty technique.” I certainly did not want to become that shooter, so the overriding tendency is to blame myself instead of my equipment.
Another one of my quirks is that I have always thought it’s possible to make due with lesser equipment if the skill level is worked hard enough to overcome the deficiency. It’s really cool to show up with an average piece of equipment and by virtue of skill overcome those with better equipment and lesser skill. Then after the fact it always strokes the ego to talk about those fools with the high dollar equipment that don’t know how to use it (despite the obvious fact that talking trash is never a way to improve one’s own game). That didn’t always happen, but it’s easy enough to pick out the things you want to remember and disregard the things you don’t.
Being more accurate as a shooter than your rifle is capable of is a very frustrating thing. The bad part is, I was convinced that I was getting worse. Way back in 2011, when I was just getting started as a blogger, I went through my prone results and proved that I was more accurate than my Sako 75. I was still shooting 10 shot groups for the blog back then, and I was able to beat the Sako’s 1.6 MOA bipod and rear bag group by using a shooting sling in unsupported prone with the Remington and shooting a 1.3 MOA group. A third group using the Remington with a bipod and bag was a modestly accurate 0.8 MOA ten shot group. All of these groups were fired in less than a minute. Knowing that the Sako was obviously not as intrinsically accurate as I was did not help my confidence in that system, but at least I was able to figure out that it wasn’t me.
A 10 shot bipod group with my old blog rifle, a Sako 75 30-06. Approximately 1.6 MOA. The pace was approximately 10 seconds per round. I knew that I was more accurate than this rifle was capable of shooting.
A 10 shot group using the accurized Remington 700, shot from unsupported prone using a sling. 1.3 MOA. Quite a bit better than the above bipod group from the Sako, and shaped like a normally distributed group.
I had learned a lot in the year and a half that passed from the time I shot those groups. I don’t know why I thought I had gotten so much worse. I think it was just the gradual changes slowly over time and I got used to seeing what I was seeing. Sometimes I would see the FN print 2 or 3 shots right on top of each other, then it would throw something completely wild. How could it be something fundamental, like a bad barrel, if it would put 2 or 3 right on top of each other?
Here’s how I got to that point from the beginning. Here’s the very first group I shot with the FN:
Here is a good representation of what kind of groups I got shooting from bipod prone over the next 9 months or so with the rifle. The captions aren’t intended to be sane, but are meant to convey what I might have been thinking at the time:
“Sure, it’s a little big, but that’s 10 shots and I’m sure the fliers must have been me.” Maybe it just seemed big after I’d been shooting 5 shot groups for a while. Compare it to the 10 shots from the Sako 75 that I thought were horrible just a year or so earlier.
I don’t know how I might have rationalized this. But looking back on shooting at the Sportsman’s challenge and some of the “tricky wind conditions” makes me wonder about how tricky that wind really was.
She loves me not. It went like this, the four shots on the left were four shots of an intended 5 shot group. One of the shots on the right was the 5th. I decided to shoot that stray bullet hole and basically did. That will pretty much throw you for a loop.
The last experiment I tried was ball and dummy. Every time I shot for the next couple months, it included ball and dummy. Guess what. I did not see anything that would lead me to believe I could be causing any of the extreme deviation in the above photos. Just about every time I clicked on a dummy in the chamber it was rock solid. This finally got me to admit that it might not be me. Sometimes it’s alright to admit that your equipment is not up to snuff. I think one of the main reasons I didn’t want to admit it is that I had been dreading the cost of fixing it. In the end it’s just what needs to be done.
I called up the gunsmith that did the work on the Remington that I used to shoot two of the groups at the top of the article. I was asking about getting the rifle bedded, trued, and some trigger work done. I thought this would help if the barrel was maybe still alright. He said sure. Then he started describing what a barrel will look like when it goes bad. He said something like this, “You might see 3 or 4 shots grouping real nicely, then you’ll shoot another, and it will be way off. You start wondering if you’re doing something wrong.” I wondered to myself if he’d been standing over my shoulder the entire time.
I took the rifle in and he slugged the muzzle end. The bore was not concentric and the smallest part was 0.309. Too bad I couldn’t afford a new barrel. I hope to provide more uplifting information when the rifle gets back to me.