Rifle Shooting Myth 1: Damaged Bullet Points Hinder Accuracy
by Tom Tabor, contributing writer
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.
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.