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Here's a useful way to determine the accuracy of your rimfire .22 under field conditions.
Ed Matunas, writing on accuracy, takes to the field for a practical look at this subject. The field is the realm of exterior ballistics where wind, temperature, and light conditions make a world of difference along with firearm mechanics and shooter errors.
The machine-rest in the tunnel is not bothered by a lousy trigger pull, poor sights, a badly fitting stock or a shaky rest on a tree limb.
Matunas stresses Schiffelbein’s point of the need for adequate practice firing, stating: “Having fired countless tens of thousands of groups during more than forty-five years of extensive shooting has proven that a few groups can, in fact, be very misleading.”
Matunas proposes the use of a target overlay system at a distance commonly fired. He uses 100 yards. Depending on the quality of your rimfire rifle, you may wish to use 75 or 50 yards. The preferable distance is the one you use, or wish to use for hunting or target shooting. After selecting your load/ammunition for testing, precisely overlay two commercial, printed targets.
Shooting should be done at the pace normally used in the field or at a match. If you wish, 10-shot groups may be used. Fire your group. Next, overlay a new target on the first in precise alignment. After the barrel has cooled, fire a second group. Mark the bottom “master target” and preserve all. Testing is over for the day.
On another day, bring back the “master target,” overlay a new target and fire one group. Preserve both. Repeat this operation on different days until at least 25 shots have been fired. The greater the number of test-fires the more reliable your data. More data is always better. Fire at different times of day with varying light, breeze, humidity and so on to cover the variety of conditions under which you will shoot. Mark each new target with time of day and other relevant data. Save everything.
When you finish you will have in your master target a composite group of at least five, five-shot groups from different days under “field” conditions.
This will give you a good idea of what to expect from a particular rifle and ammunition with your original sight setting. Individual targets reveal shifts of groups over the point of original impact. These may be caused by humidity warping a stock, lighting conditions affecting aim (most common with iron sights), or temperature variations.
On the issue of barrel cleaning, Matunas recommends doing or not doing what you would do under your normal shooting conditions. On the first shot from a cool barrel, that shot may strike higher. You may mark it on your individual targets. Check for average differences if they exist.
This is an excerpt from the Gun Digest Book of the .22 Rifle.
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