Copyright 2004 by Dennis Dezendorf
Author's note: This essay is a response to a friend's email. He was concerned and frustrated about the groups his cast bullet loads were showing. Fliers, or that one shot in five that went outside the group were ruining his efforts. In honesty and fairness, he was turning in groups that most scope shooters would be happy to have.
Yeah, fliers will make a good man cuss. There might be any number of things that cause fliers. There is something that makes a flier leave the muzzle in a different attitude than all the other bullets. Something we can't see, but which nevertheless causes the loss of accuracy. It might be your very own heartbeat. If normally when you shoot, your heart is on the downbeat, the bullets go one way. If that one time you shoot, your heart is on the upbeat, the bullet goes somewhere else.
There is a certain amount of Zen in shooting arrows. There is also, I am convinced, a certain amount of Zen in shooting bullets. Because we decide to handicap ourselves with shooting cast bullets, and casting our own bullets, and putting so much of ourselves into the ammo we shoot, we tend to make tiny little mistakes that generally cancel out over the long run, but which we find in one out of every four or five cartridges. We're not machines, we are people. The reason that factory ammo is so uniform is because it is made on machines that replicate every procedure exactly. We are humans and have trouble replicating any two procedures exactly. The little imperfections tend to cancel each other out in most ammo batches, but sometimes those imperfections accumulate.
Now, there is no doubt that I can make better ammo than I can buy, and can do it a whole lot cheaper than buying ammo, but with cast bullets, every fifth bullet is going to whiz off at a weird angle. I accept that as a part of my shooting. I had a rifle once that shot exceptionally well with factory ammo. The cheap green box ammo would stay inside an inch at 100 yards. And not shooting from the bench. If I did my part by taking a good rest, and squeezing the trigger, and watching my breathing and all the things that riflemen do, then that rifle would plunk a bullet down within an inch of where I aimed it. I didn't have to reload for it. It became boring, uninteresting. That rifle got sold when a time came that I needed money. I don't miss it. The rifles I own now are much more interesting and challenging.
The best part of shooting the way we do is that we understand that and we practice more than the normal gunner. The vast majority of shooters would be pleased, hell, thrilled with a 3 1/2 inch iron sight group at 100 yards. 95% of scope shooters would be happy with that group. That kind of shooting would get you through the Rifle Course at Gunsite. And who knows, you might accidentally learn something, but I suspect that the Rifle Course at Gunsite couldn't teach you and I a whole lot about rifle shooting.
I am convinced that rifle marksmanship improves exponentially with the number of rounds expended, if you learn from each shot. A guy that shoots 100 rounds a year is 100 times better than the guy who shoots 10 shots a year. The guy who shoots 1000 rounds a year is a million times better than the guy who shoots ten rounds a year, if he learns from every round fired.
Who are we competing against? Not the guy who fires ten rounds per year! He is so far behind us that he might never catch up. No, we are competing against other 1000 round shooters, but more importantly, we are competing against perfection.
Keep searching for that magical, one hole group. But don't expect to ever find it.
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