10 Rifle Shooting Myths Exposed

Is factory ammo really better than reloads?

Is factory ammo really better than reloads?

Rifle Shooting Myth 9: My Rifle Shoots Better at Long Range

I have occasionally heard shooters purport that their rifle shoots more accurately at long range than at close range. This is simply untrue and cannot be.

One of the major factors in accuracy has to do with the yawing of the bullet. Yawing is when the back of the bullet begins to wobble in flight. This eventually results in the entire bullet moving about in a circular manner, as it makes its way to the target.

The theory is that the yawing eventually begins to settles down, resulting in a lessening of the size of the bullet’s circular movement. Nevertheless, whether the yawing is lessened in flight or not, when the bullet initially starts to oscillate, its destiny is then cast.

Having begun these movements, it is impossible for the bullet to lessen the size of its rotation and get itself back on a straight-line track. In reality, if your rifle is capable of shooting, say, a two-inch group at 100 yards, it won’t be capable of one-inch at 300 yards—in fact, under the best conditions, that same rifle will most likely shoot a six-inch group at that range.

Rifle Shooting Myth 10: You Can’t Beat Factory Ammo with Handloads

Without a doubt, factory loaded ammunition has never been better than it is today. A shooter has more choices in bullets styles and weights than were ever available in the past. But mass production can never equal attention to detail—and that is why factory loaded ammunition virtually always falls short in the area of accuracy and performance, when compared to handloads.

For years, it puzzled me why that was the case. The factory frequently loads the same bullets that handloaders use, using the same primers and cartridge cases, and, while the factory seldom divulges what types of powders they’re loading, I feel their choices are of equal quality to what handloaders use. I eventually decided to investigate the situation a little closer and began pulling the bullets from a wide variety of factory-loaded cartridges to check the weight of the powder charges.

I took five cartridges from each manufacturer and each load type, weighed the charges, and what I found shocked me. While most handloaders attempt to hold their charges to within plus or minus 0.1-grain or less, apparently the ammo factories aren’t so critical. To my surprise, the factory-load charge weights varied from a low of 0.5-grains all the way up to a whopping 1.7-grains! In most cases, I found the cartridges containing the heavier powder charges usually possessed the largest amount of deviation in their charge weights.

Also, it was the larger cartridges that typically contained the coarsest grained powders, which can pose a problems when it comes to metering accuracy. I wondered how such a slack standard could take place, so I followed up by contacting several mainstream ammo manufacturers and was told by each one that their powder charges are metered out in volumetric form, rather than being measured by weight.

Of course, the factories usually run their own in-house checks to make sure they fall within their own preset standards. But my issue is with what those standards are, when it comes to fluctuations in powder charge weight. I am quite sure that, if my own handloads contained powder charges that varied that much, my loads would be shooting on par with those of the factories.

This article appeared in the 2013 Annual Gun Digest book. Click here to get your copy.

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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.


  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.