Warning: Rant Ahead
I’ve pretty much had it with accuracy claims. It’s not just that some of them are extreme examples of cherry picking. It’s exceedingly rare for anyone to even define the basic variables that one would need to get an idea of what is going on. In an age where anyone has the opportunity to better their own skills through a small amount of diligence and study, continuing on in ignorance for the sake of feeling good about oneself is silly.
First of all, and I’m pretty sure I’ve beaten this one to death already, the ubiquitous 3 round group extreme spread measurement doesn’t tell anyone anything. When I see a three round group I immediately skip it because delving any further would be a waste of time, energy, and would leave me dumber for having looked. It just doesn’t have relevance to the point that the shooter is trying to make. I don’t see 5 round groups as much better.
Secondly, I have noticed a phenomenon of willful perceptual blindness. It goes like this: “These 4 were all in a tight cluster. That’s ¾ MOA! I don’t know what happened to that fifth one over there. I probably pulled that shot.” Here’s the problem: YOU DON’T GET TO PRETEND THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN!!! It did happen, and it actually means something. If you actually know what happened when the shot broke, it may mean something else. If you were in a shooting and that magical mystery bullet hit the wrong person it would be a little harder to pretend it didn’t happen.
I expect this to happen on the internet. Where I have been really frustrated is when I see it after shelling out $8.99 for a magazine. Example: “Sniper” magazine, 2011, “Nighthawk Custom” by J. Guthrie, page 48. 5 group sizes are listed to the thousandths place. He then gives an average of the five group sizes. The load is listed as Federal Gold Medal Match 175 grain. The distance is listed as 100 yards. All that is fine. What I want to know, but can’t tell is how many rounds went into each group? That’s kind of important. With 10 shot groups, it might be absolutely stupendous. With a 3 round group, it might be something an average shooter with an average gun could do all damn diddley day long (yes, I said “all damn diddley day long).
It would also be nice to know whether Mr. Guthrie is giving the measurement in inches or minutes, although I can see that’s splitting hairs. He did give us the measurement to the thousandths place, so I think splitting hairs is justified. I know that he is capable of giving a full report, as he did in the 2011 Guns & Ammo Book of the AR15 article on the Les Baer .264 LBC AR, p. 36, which was perfectly adequate.
In Issue 12 of “Recoil” magazine Erik Lund tests the Lancer L30 .308 Winchester AR. Here’s all we get: “168-grain Federal Gold Medal Match turned in .75-MOA groups—and that accuracy could be likely tightened up with handloads.” While we have no distance for the groups, at least he gives it to us in MOA. The big question, again, is how many shots made up each group? It makes a big difference.
Probably the best example I could find in the magazines I had on hand was in Iain Harrison’s review of the POF Gen 4 carbine in issue 12 of “Recoil”. It is as follows: “After being passed around like a cheap hooker and fed like a stray dog, the gun just kept running no matter what was stuffed in the mag or how fast it was emptied. And it got emptied a lot. Figuring that was enough abuse, with smoke still curling off the barrel’s exterior, I sat down at a bench with a few rounds of 77 grain OTM ammo to learn of the gun could still group. Yep. Still sub-MOA.” Wow. I loved you in Top Shot Iain, but that was not fit to be published. How hard would it have been to be slightly more specific and at least a little classy? I know the season 1 winner could handle that. Someone shopping for a $2600 rifle should probably know more about the piece than how it compares with a prostitute. I would think that for many of us it’s not even a comparison we could understand.
There is a lot of information to be had in the world right now. There is no reason for shooters to settle for anything less than accurate and complete reporting, especially from media sources who act as de-facto leaders in the shooting community. These guys could do a lot even by picking up the free version of On Target and listing some mean radius numbers, which actually allow an easy apples to apples comparison. With just a little more work it could be possible for a consumer of information to actually have an idea how a rifle really shoots, rather than hyperbole leading to unrealistic expectations.