Accuracy Tests: Initial Observations

We shot eight (8) brands of .22 ammunition at 50 yards yesterday before packing up around Noon when the temperature passed 105. Some recurrent problems were observed that will get followup attention but, nonetheless, the core of the results are reliable and what we were hoping to get.

First, the problems.

  • In two different Ransom Rests with two different Smith and Wesson Model 41s, we saw several instances of “first round flyers.” That is, after fouling the barrels with the ammunition to be tested (with 10 rounds), and shooting multiple 10 round groups, quite often the first round of the group would land as far outside of the group as the overall group diameter. For example, shooting CCI Green Tag, target #5 shows a vertical oval group with a maximum dimension of about 1.2″ for rounds 2-10, but round 1 is off to the left by more than an inch. The first round flyers are seen in all four directions over the morning’s groups and the distance from group center appears to be related to group size. When we first observed this, we started paying attention to that first round’s location in the target so it could be marked. There will be two “group size” measurements, one with and one without that first round. [Speculation is that readying a magazine, and in particular the dropping of the slide, is moving the gun slightly in the Ransom Rest and that the first round leaves the test bench on a different track but also serves to re-settle the gun for subsequent rounds. One ammunition — Federal Gold Match — produced fliers on rounds #1 and #2 in both of its groups: round #1 went 3-4″ right of group center, round #2 landed 2″ up and left, and the remainder formed a 1.2″ and 1.5″ diameter round grouping.]
  • Lining up iron sights in the Ransom Rest with an 8×8″ target 50 yards away is amazingly difficult, much more so than when hand-holding the gun and shooting Slow Fire. We put up four targets intending to re-aim the rest for each group — see next item in this list — but getting our first shot after re-aiming the rest missed the intended piece of paper as often as it found it (often barely in the edge). [Speculation is this is the same effect as happens in competition at the long line in Slow Fire — there’s too much time for consideration and the conscious brain messes up the alignment by adding doubt, confusion and second guessing. The one gun we tested that had a red dot was a snap to put on target; shots landed where intended, but those with iron sights were repeatedly difficult to line up. For testing, the addition of a red dot or a magnifying scope to iron sighted guns would be a major help.]
  • Moving the rest (using the windage base and height adjustment) between groups is no doubt the source of some error in the subsequent group. We hoped to use that technique to minimize stops and target replacement but, in hindsight, it just has too many opportunities for error. [The aforementioned “first round flyers” could be due to the re-aiming we did after each group but, notably, Remington T-22 did not exhibit that phenomenon in either of its 1.5″ and 2.5″ round groups.]
  • It was clear we needed to pay more attention to “Quality Control” in procedural areas. For example, after firing a shot, the toe of the Ransom Rest is sometimes elevated and sometimes not. We pushed down on the toe before each shot but, when the toe actually went down, there was a slight impact at the bottom whereas if it hadn’t risen, then there was no motion. Whether this is significant or not we don’t know, but it was something that varied from shot to shot. Procedurally, and for the precision we were seeing in the groups, it might be best to raise and then re-lower the toe for each shot. [Speculation is the gun may be moving ever so slightly in the rest on that impact, or that positioning in the shaft about which the Rest rotates when the toe is raised and lowered may be contributing an error.]

Although not a “problem” per se, there was a gut feeling that the 1-2″ groups being produced at 50 yards might be approaching the limits of what we could produce consistently no matter what our procedures and equipment might be. In other words, the guns and at least some of the ammunition brands are shooting better than the test equipment and methods. The errors and group sizes sometimes had significant “contributions” from our procedures and test environment that were not inherent in the guns or ammunition.

More results will be reported later and we plan more tests to iron out some of the above issues.

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