Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

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Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by willnewton on Fri Jan 13, 2017 12:50 pm

So, I have been doing some very unscientific sandbag tests on the 25-yard line.  I was inspired by this article about how often you can reload a .45 case.  http://massreloading.com/loading45ACP.html  If you haven't read it, you should as it is the base that I started from.

The author shows how much the case dimensions change as you reload it over and over.  I was a bit surprised at how much the cases changed over time.  I checked my most reloaded cases against new Starline cases and can verify that they do indeed change dimension.  The pics in the article look just like what I observed.  There is some shortening going on!

So after observing this, I wanted to know if/how these changes affect accuracy, which is something not addressed in the article.  I was also able to get some answers to several other questions during my test.

QUESTIONS:

1.  How do unshot vs. dozens of times shot/reloaded cases compare?
2.  Just what the heck will a stock RO shoot at the 25 off a bag?
3.  How do my best reloads stack up against the some of the best commercial target ammo-- ASYM 185gr NM JHP?
4.  JHP vs. LSWC, how much does it matter @25?

For the tests, I kept it informal and simple.  I did not test hundreds of rounds of every ammo type.  I did not fire fifty 10-shot grouping of each.  I did not use a Ransom rest.  I am not going to post a hundred target pics and try to justify flyers and measure groups with a Mitutoyo.  I just loaded up some ammo and went out for an afternoon of fun at the range I go to weekly for 25-yard League shooting.  If you don't like my informal methods, then pay me more for my time. Smile

These are the contenders:

Ammo #1  S&B cases, 185gr Zero LSWC, 3.8 gr BE, #reloadings-LOTS ---These cases are from the cheapest ammo in the store.  I bought some crappy hardball ammo with the gun so I could just go shoot my new toy and make sure it functioned correctly at the time of purchase.  I saved those 100 cases and use them for practice and have reloaded many of them 12+ times, none less than 8 times.  I just had my first split case appear from this batch.  They are dented, scratched, shortened, abused, and look just like the ugly cases in the article.

Ammo #2  Starline cases, 185gr Zero LSWC, 3.8 gr BE, #reloadings-none ---  All new components


Ammo #3  Starline cases, 185gr Nosler JHP, 4 gr BE, #reloadings-none ---  All new components


Ammo #4  ASYM 185gr NM JHP ---  New from the box

RESULTS:
1.  The groupings I measured showed a 1" (best group) to 1.5" (worst group) size increase in the 12x reloads vs. new cases @25 yards.
2.  Me shooting a stock RO with a slide mounted red dot (Aimpoint 2MOA that has a nasty flare due to my eyeball shape) off a sandbag in multiple strings of five shot groups will group as follows @ 25 yards:
      -All shots will fit inside a 2.5-3" circle measured from hole centers with my 12x reloaded cases.
      -All shots will fit inside a 1.5-2" circle measured from hole centers with new cases.
3.   All new case ammo, regardless of commercial vs. handloads shot 1.5"-2" groups.
4.   All new case ammo, regardless of LSWC vs. JHP shot 1.5"-2" groups.

CONCLUSIONS
1.  The more often you reload a case and the dimensions change, the less accurate the ammo is.
2.  At 25 yards, my stock RO can group 3" with the worst ammo+poor trigger handling and 1.5" with the best ammo+best trigger handling off a sandbag. 
      -I found that good/poor trigger handling on the sandbag can change a grouping at least .5" EASILY, imagine what is happening shooting offhand!
3.  You can reload ammo at home on a Lee turret press/dies that will match ASYM @ 25 yards off a sandbag (This made me pretty happy)
4.  At 25 yards, LSWC vs. JHP does not matter, groupings are equivalent

The takeaway for me was that you don't need to over analyze your ammo for the short line.  You may as well shoot 100% LSWC instead of JHP @25 yards.  You won't lose any accuracy in SF and will get the benefit of softer recoil for TF and RF.  Also, if you are shooting absolute, crappy range trash reloads at League Night, you might want to rethink your ammo choice, especially for Slow Fire.  As for practice days, shoot'em till they split. Twisted Evil

Expect to see a follow up (sometime in the future) to this where I jump to 50-yards and retest the same ammo.  Time to see how things shape up on the long line!


Last edited by willnewton on Wed Feb 01, 2017 5:33 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : change title)
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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by desben on Fri Jan 13, 2017 3:19 pm

Thank you! That was very informative. The article you linked to was also a good read
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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by bdas on Fri Jan 13, 2017 3:38 pm

willnewton wrote:RESULTS:
1.  The groupings I measured showed a 1" (best group) to 1.5" (worst group) size increase in the 12x reloads vs. new cases @25 yards.
2.  Me shooting a stock RO with a slide mounted red dot (Aimpoint 2MOA that has a nasty flare due to my eyeball shape) off a sandbag in multiple strings of five shot groups will group as follows @ 25 yards:
      -All shots will fit inside a 2.5-3" circle measured from hole centers with my 12x reloaded cases.
      -All shots will fit inside a 1.5-2" circle measured from hole centers with new cases.
3.   All new case ammo, regardless of commercial vs. handloads shot 1.5"-2" groups.
4.   All new case ammo, regardless of LSWC vs. JHP shot 1.5"-2" groups.

First... willnewton, thank you for doing the testing and reporting the results.  I, for one, am anxious to see your 50 yard results.

Second, let me add some perspective on how that could affect your scores... Let's say that, for example, you're shooting Expert-level scores (90-94), at 25 yards with a 45 caliber.  By my calculations, over 90 shots (30 at B-16 slow-fire targets and 60 at B-8 timed & rapid fire targets), the difference between equipment that shoots 1.5" groups and 2.5" groups is about 11 - 13 points, and the difference between 2.0" groups and 3.0" groups is about 12 - 15 points.  

For someone shooting higher Marksman-level scores (73 - 82) in the same scenario, the difference between equipment that shoots 1.5" groups and 2.5" groups is about 5 - 6 points, and the difference between 2.0" groups and 3.0" groups is about 6 - 8 points.

You'll have to decide for yourself whether that justifies the expense of buying new cases.

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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by Aprilian on Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:39 pm

Will, great testing and I'm glad to see you build on that interesting Mass Reloading article.  Thanks
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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by willnewton on Sat Jan 14, 2017 2:07 am

Thanks guys.  

This testing was also done to get a baseline for the RO.  I am also going to rerun the 25 and 50 yard test to track improvements after accurizing with new barrel, bushing, and slide tightening.

I hope nobody takes anything I wrote as gospel, but maybe it will get you thinking about your ammo or help confirm what you already know.  There are tons of possibilities, I only tried four.  Your tests, ammo, gun, and conditions may give you a different results.

  You don't need the BEST ammo at the 25, but if you shoot pure crap at the target, expect to pay some points for it, especially on the smaller SF target.
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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by Wobbley on Sat Jan 14, 2017 8:29 am

Not to turn this into a tinkerer's effort, but I wonder if the drop off in grouping is linear with shots fired or is there a step.

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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by willnewton on Sat Jan 14, 2017 10:41 am

Yes and no Wobbley.  I did not want to get all into the process because nitpicking details gets beyond my purpose.  The more I explain, the more folks can find exception or try to tear down my results, which is totally valid and expected.  But those folks need to keep in mind, I did not do this for rigorous pursuit of the end all be all of ammo testing, I did it for me.  I don't need 1000 rounds to know which way the wind blows.  Smile

There is some warming up and there is a spot where you have shot a lot and start to lose focus on why you are there.  There is also some deviation expected because of variation in technique and sighting.  I decided that it was foolish to expect to measure groups in .25" increments shooting by hand from the bag with the .45.  Personally, my gun, shooting skill, eyesight, and ammo could not expect to hold a tighter tolerance.  I don't shoot off a bag at League Night, so I didn't sweat the small stuff.

I broke this down into three sessions, with some disregarded warm up targets to get ready and kept sessions under an hour, so I did not get bored or fatigued.  I know from past experience that after an 1.5hr of sandbag shooting, I get bored and tired, so I avoided that state.

I shot the most groups with abused case ammo, as it was for warmup and bit harder to feel where the groupings were headed as it had the least expectation of consistency.  I pulled 10 5-shot groupings

Next was the LSWC.  3 5-shot groupings and a 10-shot group because I was running out of target.  I have to say that 10-shot group was the one that made me decide JHP were not necessary at 25.  If only I could shoot that good offhand. I also know that the best shooters with the right gun/ammo can make that same group offhand that I shot off the bag.  Very humbling.

Then JHP. 4 5-shot groupings.  I stopped because these were grouping well and consistent.  I was already well warmed up.  I mostly cut it short, because I personally do not like shooting JHP.  These rounds pack a smack.  These were shot last in the series and once I saw they were grouping no better or worse than the others, I stopped.

I shot the least groups with the ASYM. 3 5-shot groupings. Mostly because it was self-evident that it was grouping well and consistently.  You have certain expectations of consistency with that ammo.  I liked the feel of shooting it vs. my Nosler reloads, as it was a bit softer feeling, but not as easy shooting as the LSWC. Mostly though, I wanted to save that ammo for the 50 where it really matters.

So, not tons of ammo involved.  I am sure someone may say my results are invalid because I did not shoot 1000 rounds of each.  I told you it was informal.  Initially, I did not measure groups at all, just put them in order by how they looked from six feet away.  The results were obvious enough from that far away.  Some quick verifying with a ruler was all it took.

As I stated, you just don't NEED to get crazy with analysis at the 25 off a bag.  I did not need better info to reach conclusions that were becoming self-evident.  If step into the ocean and it is wet and looks wet further out, do you have to drown to verify it?  Smile

I will be working to a higher standard at the 50, where variations should really start to appear.
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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by Wobbley on Sat Jan 14, 2017 11:01 am

I was wondering if the BRASS had a step in loss of accuracy.  I.E. does the brass contribution to group size last for 4, 5 or ? shots.  This is so we can "shoot 'em at 50 for X times then they go in the practice bin" kind of thinking.  Hmmm, time to setup the ransom me thinks.

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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by Magload on Sat Jan 14, 2017 1:13 pm

Thank you for this info it easily proved to point.  I love doing research like this and enjoy shooting off a modified Hyshore rest.  I have a Ransom Rest but due to the shooting benches at the BE range the pistol rest does almost as well.  I am looking forward to your 50yd test as i had bullets, Hy Tech coated SWC that were Ransom Rest testing under a inch at 25yds with my Les Baer WC gun that at 50 were all over a sheet of typing paper.  Zero JHP would shoot 2" so it was the SWCs.
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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by willnewton on Sat Jan 14, 2017 1:48 pm

Wobbley, I'm not 100% sure on the direction of your question, but will take a guess.  Point me in the right direction if I still don't get it.  I hope my previous post did not sound defensive, I guess I did not grasp your question correctly and I wanted to add some more info about the testing process anyway.

So in response, I have thought about how there could likely be a relationship in group size increase in proportion to the number of times a case has been reloaded and that it could be tested and measured, but do not have my cases sorted in a fashion that would allow that testing.

Is it linear?  My guess is that it may start that way, but I would think the groups would reach a large enough point that it just gets crappy and stays there or the case splits.  Example:  Where should you start to care about reloading count for the short line?  Reloading #2, #6, or #12?

Is there an initial plateau then a rapid falloff as reloadings increase?  Example: Maybe for the 25-yd line you can reload a case 3 times for SF and feel OK, and 8 times for TF or RF and be good with it.  After 10 reloadings, maybe its time for the practice bin?

What if you are shooting hardball vs. powder puff?  Then what does the reloading count trendline look like?

I would guess there have been individuals, ammo companies, military, or professional groups that have performed those tests and have some of those answers AND with better methodology than I used farting around.

In the end, the number of times you choose to reload may not align with another tester's number, even if you had the same groups.  Each individual will likely decide their own "# of reloadings compromise point" according to ability, equipment, finances, and desire to chase points, etc.

Hope that was close to what you were thinking about.  You can see why I decided to achieve a certain level of precision and just stop.  The analysis of rabbit holes can get deep!
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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by willnewton on Wed Feb 01, 2017 4:07 pm

So, I did some 50-yard testing.  It was interesting.  I am not 100% sure on the results.  In some ways I think I conducted the testing under adverse conditions that did not generate very clean data.
 Do you think trying to shoot 100+ clean shots next to a concrete wall on your left reflecting the bombast of the ten high powered rifles shooting on the right side of you (one of which is three feet from your ear shooting rapid bursts AGAIN despite the RO reprimands) make for a good testing environment?  You might be cool as a cucumber under fire, but I had a helluva time maintaining focus shooting 50 yards next to the rifle lineup.
 Also, due to time limits from hot/cold range changeovers and the range providing only single aiming point targets, I opted to shoot 15 shot groups.  I would have been there for hours shooting and waiting otherwise.  This was my fault for not being prepared with my own targets and being at a range that I have never been at during regular hours (only for a couple of Bullseye only League nights (if you read this Willie, I'll be back!)).
 They have an indoor 50 yard line, so not having to deal with weather distractions seemed like a good idea at the time.  It was the other distractions, forty full range positions of rifle folks, the pistol folks, the 100 yard rifle folks, the Shotgun class, the Orientation class, it was a huge day for the range, but not for more focused shooting like I was able to manage for the previous test.

 Then again, when is the world ever under ideal conditions?  I certainly learned something from the testing, so let's talk about that.

Six ammo cartridge combos, a non-accurized Range Officer, sandbag, Aimpoint dot, and a jumpy trigger finger. 15 shot groups@50 yards
Target1- Zero 185 LSWC- 8-12 reloads per case, 3.8gr Bullseye
Target2- Zero 185 LSWC- New case, 3.8gr BE
Target3- ASYM 185 NM JHP- factory ammo
Target4- Nosler 185 JHP- New case, 4.3gr BE
Target5- Nosler 185 JHP- 1st reloading, 4.3gr BE- was losing focus and realized it about halfway through this string.
Target6- Zero 185 LSWC- 1st reloading, 3.8gr BE- got my mind back, but also knew this was the last string and ready to be done.

The following picture is a computer composite taken from photos of the targets.  The photos were scaled to an exact size match in Photoshop, then carried over into my CAD software.  I used that to place .45-sized markers over the shots,  then created a set of rings centered around each shot group.  I could then center the ringed groups from ALL the targets over each other to get an idea of how all the shooting ended up.

Note these are minus the worst flyer from each target, which was my nod to the conditions.  Would you feel comfortable marking a small group of ASYM into a 20" group because you were firing while the guy next to you suddenly dumped every bullet in his rifle in five seconds or less?  I swear that guy was watching me and timing his shots to match mine to mess with my head.  Rolling Eyes
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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by LenV on Wed Feb 01, 2017 5:00 pm

So, what you learned is that it didn't make any difference? I would assume (yes, I know what assume stands for) that if one of those loads shot a 2" group you would have singled it out. Even one with a 4" group.

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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by willnewton on Wed Feb 01, 2017 5:27 pm

"But what about the loads?", you ask.
Then I would quote Mark Twain quoting Disraeli as "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

I computered up all those targets and came to the conclusion that my results were not as conclusive as I wanted them to be, but here they are nonetheless.

The initial results of individual target loads in a best 14 of 15 grouping is:
• LSWC and JHP perform nearly the same
• ASYM and handloaded JHP and LSWC perform nearly the same.
•When you get tired, your groups are gonna open up
• 8-12x reloaded cases of LSWC and ASYM and new cased LSWC and JHP handloads perform nearly the same

WHAT?

That's right.  I had a four way tie for first place in group sizes of targets 1-4. Second and third place were the two final groups I shot for the day and they tied as well.

This really upset me, because it was not making much sense.  I should be seeing larger differences than I saw before at 25 yards.  I must needed finer grained information! It was time to put on my statistician hat and get these groups to get themselves good and ranked like they were supposed to be.

--Essentially, I had to start cheating in earnest.  I took those best 14 of 15 groups and made best 10 of 15 groups out of them.  Surely, that will work!  But no, I still had a tie for first, second, AND third! These groups show my 8-12x reloads beating ASYM?!?!?!? What madness is this?

----Still in denial, I had to enter the dark realm of political statistics to generate a big enough lie to set these targets in order without a tie.  I cherry-picked the best 10 of 15 shots and discarded half to get the best 5 of 15 shots from.  This is ridiculous, but I wanted to see where it lead.

INSANELY MANIPULATED RANKING RESULTS-
1st- My JHP new case
2nd-MY LSWC new case
3rd- My LSWC 8-12x cases
4th- ASYM
5th- LSWC 1st reloading
6th- JHP 1st reloading

So great, you manipulate this stuff to read whatever you want, but what was interesting to me is that even with manipulation, the general order of things did not change much.  The groups that I was tired while shooting stayed in last and the others only jumped small amounts in improvement when I deliberately manipulated the results.  I had to cheat my results to get a lineup that was barely worth cheating for.

No matter the data or methods or environment, I saw what I needed to see.  My takeaway from testing is this:

•My stock RO at worst, will probably hold the 8-ring at the 50 with about anything in the chamber all day off a sandbag.
•My stock RO at best, will probably hold close to the 9-ring at the 50 with a nice target load in the chamber and a good trigger/red dot off a sandbag.
•As in the 25 yard test, at this point in the game, JHP vs. LSWC vs. ASYM is not something I should be concerned about, the gun and the shooter are not well tuned enough to take advantage of the ammo differences. I like shooting LSWC, so I am going to keep at it.


Last edited by willnewton on Wed Feb 01, 2017 5:42 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : clarified a statement)
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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by willnewton on Wed Feb 01, 2017 5:32 pm

Sorry Len, it took me a while to construct that last post and I was working on it when you replied, but I think it will answer your question. You are correct in your assumption that it was not much difference.

If I had to just pick a group that was prettiest, it would be the 185 LSWC in new cases for 25 and 50 yard tests, but it would not have scored any higher.
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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by Aprilian on Wed Feb 01, 2017 5:34 pm

willnewton wrote:the gun and the shooter are not well tuned enough to take advantage of the  any ammo differences. I like shooting LSWC, so I am going to keep at it.

That is a reasonable conclusion.    But it took you quite a few words to get there. lol!

As my statistics teacher said, "If you torture the data hard enough, it will tell you anything you want to hear!"
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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by willnewton on Wed Feb 01, 2017 5:44 pm

Hey man, the truth hurts. It takes a while to work your self up to swallowing that medicine!
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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by dronning on Wed Feb 01, 2017 6:27 pm

This is for what it's worth.  
I've done a ton of RR testing and I've seen a gun that was known to be able to shoot near 1" groups @ 50 yards shoot 5" 10 shot groups with 3 different loads.  Then after the same gun was remounted in the RR, the same 3 different loads and we got what we expected 1 1/2", 2" & 3 1/2" groups.

You would expect the groups the first time would have been different but they weren't, all due to set up (operator induced variation).

All I am saying is your gun may actually shoot better than your testing indicates.

- Dave


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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by davekp on Thu Feb 02, 2017 10:39 am

The 8 ring is 8"
The 9 ring is 5-1/2"
The 10 ring is 3-5/8"
Looks like the stock RO is not too good.

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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by willnewton on Thu Feb 02, 2017 11:55 am

... double post


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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by willnewton on Thu Feb 02, 2017 12:14 pm

I am not a Ransom Rest either.  I also err on the side of too large than too small.  I also used 15 shot groups rather than the traditional ten.  I also think I conducted testing under terrible conditions.  I also said I do not trust my results. 

If I showed you a ten shot group in a five inch circle, would that change your mind?  Because I can show you four from this test.

How about a five shot group,all touching a ONE inch ring?  Because  I can show you two from this test.

You are absolutely entitled to your opinion, but I would not base it upon my test. I have sat on this info for a few days, trying to figure out how to report a test that I consider a bit of a failure, mostly from the concern that a post such as yours would follow.

In the end I decided to report what happened, not how I feel like it woulda,coulda,shoulda done.

Don't forget,  I didn't pick the best 10 shot target of the day and say "It groups 5". I showed a composite 84-shot target of 15 shot groups that grouped 7.5" on center, that is not the usual way to determine a pistol's group by any stretch.  If anything, you should treat my results as a worst case scenario with some very broad generalizations.
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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by Wobbley on Thu Feb 02, 2017 12:46 pm

Willnewton:  Did any of your groups using the same ammo shoot different Group centers?  I ask because that is one of the pitfalls of handheld testing.  There are slight shifts in the center of impact caused by different gripping and sometimes mags. Which is why some smiths shoot with ten round mags even when ransom testing.

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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by dronning on Thu Feb 02, 2017 1:01 pm

davekp wrote:The 8 ring is 8"
The 9 ring is 5-1/2"
The 10 ring is 3-5/8"
Looks like the stock RO is not too good.

davekpNo offense to willnewton, but his 50 yard test results were most likely more about technique/conditions than the RO's or the ammo's capabilities.  I'd only judge the guns capabilities based on tests from a ransom rest anchored on a concrete bench or a steel base set in concrete in the ground and only after running several different known accurate loads through it. 

willnewton, if you had five shots touching and they were fired one after the other I'd take that into consideration but 5 shots touching randomly fired in a 15 shot group would mean less to me.  

- Dave
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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by willnewton on Thu Feb 02, 2017 3:02 pm

dronning- you are 100% grasping the issue with my testing, no offense taken.  I am sure that I got some measurement of the the gun at the worst end of its performance, but it is 100 miles from defining the maximum capabilities of the RO that davekp addressed in his post.

wobbley- I could not test that because I had to shoot all the ammo of one type at one target due to time and target limits.  This was also another ding against my testing.

 An obvious example of a human shooting and not a machine is on Targets 5 and 6, which I mentioned as shooting fatigued and with waning technique. I did not shoot a circle, as much as a horizontal rectangle-a sure sign of drifting focus and poor triggering.  I don't think many folks would have included those groups, but I did, because life is not a Ransom Rest and I am not a champion shooter.  That is my group and I am gonna own it, even if it cost me 1-1.5" in group size for that composited target shot pictured earlier.

BUT if T5 and T6 are disregarded then that picture would show 70 shots made with a max 5.5" center to center.
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willnewton

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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

Post by Ghillieman on Thu Feb 02, 2017 6:16 pm

I think this proves what we thought we already knew.

That the Springfield RO is a great beginner's gun. Reasonably priced, reasonably accurate, a great start for someone to learn the fundamentals and save up for a real bullseye gun.

Thanks Willnewton.
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Ghillieman

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Re: Testing ammo groupings in a stock Range Officer at 25 yards (now with 50 yd update)

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