Thursday, June 14, 2018

Accuracy Standards- Rifles

Thinking in groups of people can kind of move in cycles. This is true in meat space social networks as well as internet ones. Internet ones are different because we tend to be reading things instead of having conversations. So while Bob, Jim and Jill might have a conversation here Harry, Sally and Frank can hear the same thing the next day. Anyway.....

The American Partisan folks and I seem to be thinking a lot alike lately. American Partisan wrote a good post on practical carbine accuracy. Their points about practical field shooting being different from a nice day on the range with a rest being different are totally valid but that isn't where I am going.

I am reminded of the old construction saying that there is fast, good and cheap but you only get to pick two. (So you can have fast and good but it won't be cheap, or cheap and good but it won't be fast, etc) In this context we would have accurate, reliable and affordable. Admittedly that is an over simplification. With rifles we also have the variable of weight but then we are getting pretty far down into the weeds with concept of use and such.

The important question at hand is how much accuracy do we need. I suppose we would have to categorize rifles into a couple concepts of use. Categories need to be defined.

Fighting rifle. A magazine fed semi automatic rifle used for personal combat. Ranges will vary but in a non military context 3-50 meters are most common with occasional shots closer to 100m.

(Seriously cases where a civilian or cop is shooting past100m or so are at best rare. Off hand I can not think of any though admittedly I haven't proactively looked. If you know of any please shoot me breakdowns of the stories.)

Precision rifle. Scoped rifle used for shooting at longer distances or situations where a high degree of accuracy is needed. Call it a sniper rifle or a hunting rifle, whatever.

Accuracy Standards:

Fighting rifle- 4 MOA

Precision rifle- 2 MOA

Discussion:

Fighting rifle- 4 MOA. Why 4 MOA? That is a solid head shot at 100 meters. At 300 meters its a 12 inch circle which is a very good chest shot. At 600 meters it is a 24 inch circle which probably puts the round in someone's torso.

4 MOA is also, if I recall, the contract standard for the Colt M4 rifles we carry at work. Someone probably did the same kind of thinking I did in the previous paragraph.

I would argue that a 4 MOA rifle will do anything you can reasonably expect out of a fighting rifle.

Pretty much any serviceable rifle will shoot this. If an AR can't shoot 4 MOA something is wrong with it. (though typically AR issues manifest themselves more in reliability than accuracy). Most AK's can shoot under 4 MOA. Every AK I have personally fired can meet or exceed this.

Precision rifle: What just 2 MOA? That is a shot on a partially concealed head at 100 meters or a full head at 200. That keeps you in good torso shots (12" is a pretty vital circle when centered on the sternum) out to 600. Honestly unless you are a legitimate military sniper or some sort of championship high power guy an honest 2 MOA rifle will out shoot you.

Reliability- For fighting weapons reliability is obviously important. Nothing is absolute and mechanical devices sometimes fail. However if your gun is failing regularly then you need to address the issue.

In firearms (at least in the modern era, I can't speak to before that) there is traditionally an inverse relationship between reliability and accuracy. To make a gun more reliable you increase clearances between parts to allow for dirt/ sand/ carbon build up/ etc. Bigger clearances mean movement between parts which ultimately means less predictability in where the bullet goes AKA wider shot group. Think about say an AKM. On the other hand especially with precision machining capabilities now available it is easy to make for really tight clearances which means less movement and more accuracy. However the gun is less reliable because those tight spaces between parts offer little room for dirt/ sand/ carbon build up.

1911's are a good case for this. A mil spec 1911, even a new one, has some play between parts, that in part makes them reasonably reliable. I probably make fun of 1911's sometimes but a Colt or Springfield will work fine if you have reasonable expectations. Even those shot out WWII guns will typically run. However accuracy is nothing to write home about. On the other hand a target model 1911will be a lot more accurate. The modern ability to make parts accurate to a tiny fraction of an inch allows this. However the same super tight build that makes the gun accurate means it is a lot less reliable. This brings us back to the good fast and cheap. You can have accurate, reliable and affordable but you only get to pick 2. A $700 1911 can be accurate or reliable. Now a $3,000 super fancy boutique production Ed Brown/ Nighthawk/ Wilson Combat will be accurate and reliable but cheap is out the window.

It is easy to exceed both of these numbers. Finding standard production AR's that shoot 2 MOA is easy. These days really accurate bolt action rifles are out there also. There is a pretty good chance that the Hunters Special Rem/ Sav/ Moss package with a scope on sale at Wally World is a 1 MOA rifle. There are a lot of reliable options at a variety of different price points.

The point I am striving for here is that the odds are high whatever guns you have are accurate enough so quit worrying about that. Put the time/ energy/ money into worrying if the meatsack behind the gun can do its part.

Thoughts?





 

14 comments:

Aesop said...

That 4 MOA accuracy needs to be defined as "when fired offhand and unsupported".
If you can't hit an 8" pie plate offhand at 100m/y consistently, you shouldn't be carrying a rifle, you should be driving a truck or manning a radio.

Otherwise, between spaz firing and buck fever, that 4 MOA benchrest/prone supported accuracy becomes 24 MOA offhand, and you're just converting ammunition into noise at the semi-auto rate of missing.

That said, most modern production rifles are more accurate than their owners, and most inaccuracy results from a loose nut behind the trigger.

Also, don't put too much stock in lack of encounters beyond 100m as indicative of anything but peacetime reality.
1) Most crooks want to be stealthy.
2) Cops and good guys have to be able to explain in court afterwards how shooting at someone waaaaay over there was "self defense". Against most average shooters at 400m, the best defense is to find something big enough to stop bullets, and sit down behind it.

You try that with a trained shooter, and you likely won't hear the second shot. Or the first one.
Against a trained shooter with an accurate rifle, that range moves to 600m.

People planning to only engage with a battle rifle at 100m or less are going to get eaten for lunch by people that can sit out at 300-500m and shoot accurately all day long, the minute no one is worried about having to explain anything in court afterwards.

Should that day ever come, the second guy to realize that will be loaded into a body bag.

The only thing keeping things respectable now is that while most civilians are better shots than most cops, most cops are better shots than most crooks, because shooting accurately at any distance, even as little as 20m, requires practice and discipline, skills not normally found in abundance in the criminal element.

When those skills, even someone with even a bare modicum of training and/or mindset, make an appearance against typical law enforcement, Dallas PD loses 5 cops in 10 minutes, or the Miami FBI loses two carloads of agents in about 20.

And the media doesn't help things when it refers to a couple of schmucks potting clueless people, with a rifle fired always from inside 100m, as "snipers".

Commander_Zero said...

When I taught hunter safety, we'd get this question from the kids all the time - how far should I be willing to shoot? Our answer was that they should go to the range, staple a paper plate to the tartget stand, go back 50 yards, and fire five shots. If all the shots stayed on the paper plate, move back another 50 yards. When you couldnt keep all the shots on the plate, your effective accuracy range was wherever you last were.

Pretty much any rifle will keep it on a plate out to 200 yards. It would be pretty telling to try it a little further than that.

Theother Ryan said...

1- I am talking about the mechanical accuracy of the gun. The shooter is another issue entirely.

2- I would say for the vast majority of even semi realistic scenarios engagements would be really close. Across the living room or porch to driveway ranges.

2- The ‘retreat sniper’ myth has been debunked by smarter men than us.

Aesop said...

1) Any rifle made since 1950 that won't shoot a mechanical accuracy of 4MOA or better is one you should sell, quickly, and to strangers, or else refer to service warranty departments if you're patient and forgiving, and it's new.
I have WWI bolt actions than are better than that, a hundred years on, with hammer-simple iron sights. As I said, most* production rifles are more accurate out of the box than most production rifle purchasers, in about 12 out of 10 cases.
*(there is always the very occasional lemon; sell it.)

2) If you're engaging targets with a rifle at pistol ranges, you probably screwed up somewhere else.
Yes, currently there are times when a guy grabs an AR to repel boarders in a home invasion; good for him. But despite how those tend to turn out for the home invaders, the perimeter security component was obviously a no-go long before that point, wasn't it? Perimeter fence, much? Dogs? Outside lights? Motion lights and alarm (you can buy a buzzer that screws into a light fixture, and if the light fixture is a "Y" and is triggered by a standard motion sensor, you get light and noise alerts at the same time)? Better deadbolts? That you locked? Actual exterior-grade doors? Like I said, tactical win, but so much strategic fail.

My idea of a fair fight is clubbing baby harp seals. And anyone inside of 100m in frisky times is way too close, and such a scenario should be avoided at all costs. For everyday current events, there are pistols and CCW classes. Guys carrying ARs to the mall under current ROE has been debunked by smarter guys than us too.

3) I'm not talking about "retreat sniping". How much retreat sniping was going on in Afghanistan and Iraq? What about Bosnia? If you're only imagining a minor civil inconvenience, ROWYBS. Any time things have gotten to the rifle-toting stage regularly and outside of deer season, you're in a low-intensity conflict. (Nota bene I'm sure it likely won't seem "low-intensity" at the receiving end of any incoming fire.)
People who can't hit with a rifle at rifle ranges shouldn't be carrying one, or else should be doing enough training so that they can do so, for the same reason you don't use a driving wood to get out of a sand trap, or use sledge hammers to swat flies.
(cont.)

Aesop said...

(cont.)
A rifle is a tool, but at least half the battle is understanding which tool is for which job. If someone is planning on shooting rifles only at rock-throwing ranges, they're doing it wrong.
Someone living in an apartment building is already behind a tactical eight-ball, and should be well aware of that beforehand.

If I can see to the property line some hundreds of feet to yards off, and circumstances are such that I need to carry a rifle regularly in the first place, anything demonstrating hostile intent (defined as crossing over fences, past plainly visible "No trespassing" warnings) is going to be engaged in some manner at battle rifle distances when coming through the fence, not greeted at the front porch. Whimsy alone at that point will determine whether that's a warning shot into a block of tannerite nearby, to get their attention, or simply to drop them where they stand.

If you're talking about someone in suburbia who thinks they're going to manage by letting people get close enough to be inside the lot set-back provisions of the local building code, and then sort things out, they may as well practice starting from a position of having their pants down around their ankles as well, unless they live in an actual castle with stone walls 20' tall.

Zulu was a great flick. But if you're thinking of taking on hordes right outside the building walls, you'd better have a handy couple hundred guys with rifles, ammo, bayonets, and the will to use them all, or you're just going to be roadkill. And in any sort of major unpleasantness, those signs at the property line saying "We can shoot you to here" won't just be decorative.

That's the huge difference between when you're relying on 9-1-1, versus 5.56.

So I think the question is whether you're thinking about this in terms of something going bump in the night in the front yard tomorrow, or something going bump in the night two months after the dollar has collapsed, and government or phone service is a mythical creature.

Theother Ryan said...

1- Yeah. I agree. In the instances of an issue something like a loose scope mount is usually the culprit.

2- I would certainly rather be fighting at any distance with a rifle than a pistol. However I would say if you are in ANY gunfight you probably made a mistake somewhere.

3- You are speaking about the same lack of tactics im going to stay at home and shoot anyone who crosses x line plan as the “retreat sniper” bubbas.

Aesop said...

Not a lack of tactics, as such.

It's just that at some point, you have to be tucked in inside your wire.
You can't spend every day out on patrol, nor would anyone want to do so.

This is the reason militaries invented gabions, motte and bailey, castles, barbed wire, and now hescoes (vs. just calling them gabions, because everything old is new again). You've gotta sleep sometime.

At some point, you will be inside your own enclave, and you will have a perimeter that demarcates "my house" from "not my house".
If anyone is planning on engaging trespassers at pistol range with anything at that point, they're already 90% of the way to screwed.

Castle Anthrax, with 60' granite-block walls, crenellations, drawbridge, and a barrier moat, is slightly out of my budget (but a man can dream).
By contrast, 200-300+Y of flat open space around the homestead is eminently doable on even a modest homestead that's not in suburbia, AKA Youregonnadieland.

A fellow with a Bobcat skidsteer and a free weekend can throw a good berm around that modest homestead, sod it over into a landscape feature, and turn the surrounding open space into Youregonnadieifyoutrespasshereland.

Given the choice, I chose Option B.

I'm not looking to stand off a heavy brigade combat team from such a place, but I like my odds there against the average mutant zombie biker horde, or any lesser threat.

Especially if they're hard-pressed to hit a pie plate beyond 100m, and think such ranges are the sole province of "snipers".

If I could find a rock precipice commanding the surrounding quarter section of real estate, and stock a Barrett .50BMG and pallets of rounds for it, I'd do that instead.

But in any event, the fellow shooting to his limits at minute of pie plate at 100m is going to be meat for the guy shooting soda-can-sized groups at 5x that far.

This is why the late Col. Cooper remarked that "Only accurate rifles are interesting."

Theother Ryan said...

That quote was Col Wheland.

Aesop said...

Cooper never sourced it IIRC, but I wouldn't be surprised at all.

Theother Ryan said...

If you have oodles of money to prepare for an incredibly unlikely scenario and have already prepared for the likely ones then rock on.

I would submit to you that the guys who no shit kill people for a living spend a whole lot of time doing short range marksmanship with rifles.

viagrajakarta said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aesop said...

That's true enough, but if you can hit a pie plate at 300-500m, hitting a 20-inch torso at 50m isn't the same sort of challenge it is compared to the guy who's still struggling to hit a barn from inside it.

Also at that point, the guys you're referring to are mainly just building muscle memory and whittling down reaction times, not so much honing basic marksmanship. They're also building skill sets for doing things intentionally (like door-kicking CQB) that Joe Average shouldn't be doing in any event except a surplus of stupidity, or airsoft/cosplay adventure training.

They spend a lot of time practicing calls for fire support too, but as I don't have artillery or CAS on call (more's the pity), I don't expect to be doing much of those either. Kind of like those Russian Spetsnaz guys practicing to throw tomahawks into bullseyes while bouncing off trampolines upside down: it looks cool, and it's badass if you ever find yourself upside down and armed only with a tomahawk, but it's not a particularly high-demand skill set for most folks.

But any schmuck with normal eye-hand coordination and iron sights should be able to drop bullets onto the black of an A-target bullseye at 300m all the live-long day with about any decent rifle and ammo younger than his grandpa. On average, guys with just GEDs and a few supervised hours can usually manage that feat in under 200 rounds of practice. Call it about $86 worth of ammo from Walmart.
That's about 6 hours work at McDonald's wages, at least in Seattle, or three days' pay for a boot PFC buying his own ammunition. (Why we'd pay burger flippers 4-6x more than we pay PFCs is a topic for another day.)

Anyone can always choose to use a modern battle rifle at crossbow and slingshot ranges, and there may even be times where you don't have a choice, but at that point, I still maintain you're negating all the subsequent advantages of 800-2000 years of subsequent weapons development and improvement through either really bad luck, or piss-poor planning.

From 50m-max effective range, the rifle is the first-choice battle weapon for civilians, since we generally lack access to miniguns and grenade launchers. (Once again, more's the pity.)
(cont.)

Aesop said...

(cont.)
Inside that 50m range, the first choice should probably be hitting the effing deck or getting behind actual cover to minimize your vulnerability. And at that point, shooting back from the prone or behind solid cover, if you've spent sufficient (say a thousand rounds, spitballing it) to practice, it shouldn't make a helluva lot of difference whether you're shooting pistols or rifles. It mainly matters whether you're hitting your target, how much ammunition you have on hand, and if you can end the fight or get out of it before you either get shot or run out of rounds.
If deploying the Two Feet Moving @12MPH Defense works better, then I'd go with that too.

There's a pretty good YouTube Knife Defense video that makes that point pretty well in about 12 seconds.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bM45bTN4Vnc
I kid, but the reality is, when you think you've got this, because pride and stupidity and a whole lot of bad ideas combine, and you bite off more than you can chew, you can get mauled.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMuFyzvv9Xw

As a wise man with a lot of stripes once put it to me, "if you can't hit your target from 50m son, you don't need a rifle or a pistol, you need a tank."

If I'm doing "sniping" it won't be picking a fight on random passers-by, it will be initiating one that's coming at me already, and from as far out as I can hit targets on it's on.
In sportier times, there's no pride involved, and if surviving means I elect to GTFO, I don't have to participate in someone else's ambush.

If I don't have that choice, my best choice is returning accurate fire until I run out of targets, or ammo, and it won't really matter what I'm shooting them with at that stage, just whether I'm getting hits, and not getting hit back.

That's why everyone from fighters to artillery to tanks to grunts trains to engage hostiles at max range.

If life has reached the EDC-Rifle stage, going places where you know going in that you're taking the choice to disengage away from yourself, is deliberately putting yourself in that place, and that's just dumb.

Most people don't need to train to be dumb, they do it just fine on their own.
If they're going to train, it should be to go the other way along the spectrum.

Theother Ryan said...

Aesop, My point is this. Focus on things that could realistically happen. If you have built and are maintaining those skills then want to expand to other things rock on.

If you are choosing to put energy into very unlikely events when you haven’t covered the likely ones, well that is pretty silly.

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