10 Rifle Shooting Myths Exposed

Some shooters are under the mistaken impression that their rifles shoot better at long range than they do at closer range. This simply is not, can not be true.

Some shooters are under the mistaken impression that their rifles shoot better at long range than they do at closer range. This simply is not, can not be true.

Rifle Shooting Myth 1: Damaged Bullet Points Hinder Accuracy

Down through the years, many gun writers have warned shooters that flattened and damaged bullet points can severely affect shooting accuracy. The issue is one primarily a product of cartridges having been stored inside the magazine of a heavy-recoiling rifle.

In such a case, when the rifle is fired, the cartridges sometimes are forced forward, causing the bullet points to impact the front of the magazine, thereby resulting in the flattening of the soft lead points. Over the years, it seems that many shooters have accepted the pretense that such imperfections can cause a bullet to go astray in flight. Until a few years back, I had no way of either validating or discrediting those claims, so, I decided to find out for myself how large a problem this really was.

I began by severely damaging the bullet points of a diverse variety of cartridges. Those cartridges were then shot along with an equal number of pristine, undamaged cartridges at 100 yards. Test rifles were sandbagged front and back to ensure the maximum degree of steadiness.

Without getting into a great deal of detail, I will only say that, at 100 yards, the amount of accuracy deterioration was so slight that I don’t believe any shooter under normal field conditions would notice the slightest degree of difference between the damaged and undamaged bullets.

In order to determine what effect damaged bullet points would have on shooting accuracy, the author purposely battered the soft lead tips, possibly deforming them more than would occur naturally inside a magazine under heavy recoil.

In order to determine what effect damaged bullet points would have on shooting accuracy, the author purposely battered the soft lead tips, possibly deforming them more than would occur naturally inside a magazine under heavy recoil.

Of course, whenever the aerodynamic lines are disrupted, a decrease in the bullet’s ballistic coefficient would result, and that would translate into slightly poorer trajectories and a reduction in the bullet’s ability to resist the effects of the wind. But, in most cases, and with the exception of shooting at extremely long range, I feel the consequences would be minimal.

What I believe to be a larger potential problem is the fact that the same heavy recoil could result in driving the bullets deeper into their cases. If this should occur, it could result in elevating chamber pressures. The best way to prevent this from occurring would be to tightly crimp the case mouths around the bullets.

Rifle Shooting Myth 2: My Bullet Hit a Twig!

I’ve often heard hunters attempt to justify a missed shot because the bullet clipped a small limb or twig on its way to the target. Even the legendary Jack O’Connor occasionally used this as an excuse for a failed shot. It’s certainly logical that a bullet encountering an obstacle could be disrupted, but I was at a loss to as to how serious a problem this could be.

In an effort to find out, I constructed a type of wooden manifold, wherein I inserted a series of hardwood dowels to simulate limbs. The dowels were positioned close enough together to ensure that a bullet traveling to a paper target on the other side would be sure to contact at least one.

Three calibers were selected for testing, the .300 Win. Mag., .30-30 Winchester, and .22-250 Remington. Because of the current variety of .308-caliber bullets, three different bullet weights and styles were shot in the .300, with one style for each of the .30-30 and .22-250.

I began with doweling measuring 3⁄16-inch and placed the obstruction 10 feet in front of the target. In my first rounds of testing, and in all calibers, the amount of deflection was nearly indistinguishable. So, next, I increased the dowels to ¼-inch and moved the obstruction 30 feet from the target.

This increased group sizes, but still not substantially. Of course, as the size of the object struck increases or the distance between the obstruction and the target is increased, you should expect a greater degree of deviation. The important thing here is that shooting through grasses and fairly light vegetation should not be problematic for a hunter, as long as the game is a reasonable distance behind the interfering obstacle.

13 thoughts on “10 Rifle Shooting Myths Exposed

  1. roysha

    I have rifles that don’t require a fouling shot and some that do, especially when shooting cast bullets.

    In regard to the yawing never stablizing, I disagree. In 1968 my best friend built a 25-284. He was shooting the 117-120 grain bullets and typically getting 3″ +/- groups at 100 yards with indications of the bullet tipping as it went through the target. The lighter bullets would barely hit the target. We tried all the little tricks we knew but to no avail.

    Bill Prator was one of our gunsmith instructors at Trinidad so we went to him for advice. He suggested that we try shooting at 200 or 300 yards then get back to him.

    Long story short, the groups at 300 yards were nearly identical in size to the groups at 100 yards. Prator’s explanation was that it was similar to a toy top when first spun, will wobble around then settle into smooth steady spin. He said that bullets react similarly since that is the purpose of rifling, to impose stability to the projectile, and if the projectile is pushed too hard for the existing situation the yaw can become quite extreme.

    I have since then encountered this situation only once more with a 240 Weatherby and it was not quite as extreme but definitely the same situation. In this case we just down loaded a bit and ended up with a very high dollar 6mm REM.

  2. bhp0

    I must disagree with you about the need to always foul the bore so the other shots will land in the same group. Over the last 60 years I have often oiled my bore after rigorous cleaning and then stored the gun muzzle down allowing the excess oil to run off. In most of my guns the first shot landed dead center in all the rest of the following shots.

  3. Spacegunner

    I completely agree with Mr. Tabor’s assessments on all but the “Twig” myth. Especially Myths 6 & 7.

    Good to see that someone actually tested and/or analyzed these myths, and presented them in easily understood explanations.

  4. Spacegunner

    This statement, “Of course, as the size of the object struck increases or the distance between the obstruction and the target is increased, you should expect a greater degree of deviation. The important thing here is that shooting through grasses and fairly light vegetation should not be problematic for a hunter, as long as the game is a reasonable distance behind the interfering obstacle.”, contradicts itself: “… or the distance between the obstruction and the target is increased, you should expect greater degree of deviation.” versus “shooting through grasses and fairly light vegetation should not be problematic …, as long as the game is a reasonable distance behind the interfering obstacle.” Which is it, and what is Mr. Tabor’s definition of “reasonable distance”?

  5. Spacegunner

    I disagree about the effect on the trajectory of a bullet after it hits an object based on my experience.

    My most recent “flyer” was caused by the bullet hitting a stout blade of grass inches from the muzzle of my Match Rifle, and “throwing” my shot into the 7-ring (as much as 10-15 inches, or 3-5 MoA) on an NRA SR3 target at 300 yards. The other 19 shots were well within the 10- & 9-rings.

    I was shooting a 68-grain BTHP Match bullet with MV of 3,100 fps.

    This article could encourage hunters/shooters to disregard obstacles, and possibly wound an animal with a deflected bullet.

  6. davey ditzer

    Regarding factory ammo vs. handloaded ammo accuracy; I found that generally, the runout of bullets in factory ammo is much larger than careful handloaders will accept and this can affect accuracy, especially beyond 100 yards. Careful handloaders strive for RO of less than .005″ with benchresters routinely getting .001″. The factory ammo I have measured ofter exceeds 010″ and this will show up on the target from a good rifle.

    Dave

  7. G Man Gunsmith

    The article is a collection of unscientific, vague, general conclusions that in the end mean absolutely nothing. There are plenty of articles written by ballisticians that either scientifically confirm or refute these findings. As far as the military still believing the “myths” regarding the .45 ACP; as a combat veteran with over 22 years of service, I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that this is NOT a belief held by “the US military”.

  8. ltcjwb

    No, the .45 ACP will not knock a man down or spin him around like a top. When fired at close range, however, it will break bone and do serious damage to internal tissue. Been there, done that. And noone who knows what he is doing will use it at long range. It was designed for one purpose, and when used for that purpose, is an excellent cartridge.

  9. bhp0

    I will have to disagree with you on the statement that a gun will always impact differently if the bore is clean rather than fouled. Sixty some years of shooting has taught me that this is not always true as I have some varmint rifles in .220 Swift and 22-250 that impact exactly the same, regards as to whether the bore is clean or fouled

  10. bhp0

    In the early 1900′s came the greatest woman hunter that perhaps ever lived, Agnes Herbert, who wrote three fascinating books about her 3 continent safaris. She stated that the gun writers of the time did not know what they were talking about (sound familiar?). She was one of the first people who taught people to shoot with both eyes open to the howls of protest from the then current gun writers.

    She emphatically stated that large diameter elephant guns (which she used) killed no better than her small 6.5 mm Mannlicher rifle. And with legions of dangerous animals dispatched she certainly had enough experienced to know what she was talking about.

  11. CarvinX

    I prefer Leather. One of the least expensive leather IWB holsters I have for my concealed carry is very accessible and comfortable. Accessibility in my requirements for a cc holster is very high. Some of the more exotic style synthetics are great, especially for concealment but I have yet to find one that allows comfort and accessibility that my most inexpensive leather IWB holster provides.

  12. Blacklion66

    I hope no one paid the author for these so called myths? Several of which I’ve never heard of in the sixty five years I’ve been sending 22cal thru 90mm rounds down range.

    If the author was to take twenty rounds of 223 tracer and on a wet day fire them through the brush he would see just how full of holes his dowel theroy is. brush and twigs have a bad habit of growing at all angles :-)

  13. bhp0

    Quite a few years ago one gun writer finally got around to setting up a real life brush test along with a wooden dowel test. What he found out was the exact opposite of the previous long running myth that slow moving large caliber bullets got through brush better than high velocity small diameter bullets.

    Of course lets not forget the greatest gun writer myth of all time and that was that the .45acp knocks a man down or spins him around like a top or makes him disappear in a red puff of mist. It is still believed by the U.S. military.

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