How many shots does it take to evaluate a rifle’s performance?
by Paul Mazan
I’m sure we have all heard the arguments and seen the stories. Most gunwriters these days stick with three shot groups to evaluate a rifle. Others use five and, years ago, ten shot groups were commonly used to demonstrate what a rifle is capable of. I recently read one article by a statistical expert insisting that six shots would tell you everything you needed to analyze a rifle’s performance. That was about the only part of the article I understood as I am certainly not a statistical analyst. Recently, a friend and I spent some time discussing the subject and came to the conclusion that the number of rounds necessary should be more dependent on your need and intended use than any other factor. As it turned out the conclusion we drew was that everyone was right in some circumstances and everyone missed the point in others.
I have been a firm believer that one shot won’t tell you anything except where that bullet hit. I had always felt I had to put three bullets on target before it told me where the gun was shooting. My normal procedure is to shoot three, adjust the scope or sights, shoot three more, and continue until I have the group centered in the bull. Now I’ve pretty well convinced myself I was wrong! Two shots lying next to each other will tell me as much as three and three shots several inches apart don’t tell me enough. Consistency is the key and without it you need more data before you can draw a valid conclusion.
Read more in our July 2012 issue. Back issues are available.
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