Performance Evaluation: Hits vs. Groups

So far I have posted a number of my shooting results in the format of 10 shot groups.  I chose to use groups because it’s somewhat of a universal standard in the shooting world.  I chose to use 10 shot groups because I didn’t want to be a wuss and use a 5 shot group, or even a (GASP!) 3 shot group.  Using 10 shot groups has been humbling.  It has also been expensive.  The real question is: Is group shooting relevant?

There are 2 ways to gauge how well our shots are landing: accuracy and precision.  Accuracy is the measure of how well we are hitting the target.  Precision measures how small the group is, regardless of its location on the target.  Ideally, we would have a good showing with both of these measures.

Since I made field shooting the focus of this inquiry, it follows that accuracy is the more important criteria to test.  So why have I been shooting groups?  It seems like a group of a larger sample will be more indicative of what I am able to do consistently than just a hit on a clay or a steel target.  It also gives a snapshot of what my ability to hold looks like, regardless of how well my rifle is zeroed at that particular range.  It also serves to establish a baseline of my precision, something I can objectively refer back to see if I have improved.

Most shooters instinctively understand the significance of group size.  That’s how gunrags sell stuff- by posting the results of 3 round groups.  Soon they’ll be down to one shot groups and everyone will want a .17HMR.

To use accuracy as a measure rather than precision, a couple of different methods come to mind.  One would be a point system like what Highpower uses.  The closer to the center, the better.  A more practical system in my mind would be an IPSC style system.  What’s the difference?

The circular ringed target, the “dog” target, and any other type of target I can think of encourages the best hold possible on a single shape.  That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not necessarily a practical goal for practical shooting (by practical I’m not inferring you need an IPSC open gun and a holster that looks like it’s made of dental floss- I mean the dictionary definition).

In practical terms, you want to get a hit on your target as quickly as possible.  In IPSC, who cares if you hit the dead center of the “A” zone?  A hit on the edge is worth the same amount of points.  A perfect sight picture is no more valuable than an acceptable sight picture.  Imagine your target is a bird.  How long is it going to sit and wait for your perfect shot?  If you can get a good shot in a significantly shorter time, wouldn’t that be better than the bird flying away?

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve discovered a way to objectively evaluate hits.  I would imagine that something like IPSC or silhouette would be perfectly valid.  Percentage of hits on steel under time (rifle Steel Challenge anyone?) also seems like a good way to go.

I still find group shooting useful.  I think it shows what size of target one could reasonably expect to hit over a number of shots.  I won’t stop posting groups any time soon, but as I make record of my abilities, testing hits will be more useful.

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