THERE ISNT A HUNTER alive who doesnt think they can shoot the wings off a fly at 100 yards, with open sites, in a stiff breeze, with one eye closed, left-handed, with a BB gun. We all believe that we can shoot. Heck, this is Texas; the land of cowboys and deer hunters. We learn to shoot rifles before we learn to walk.
Admit it, you watched Season 3 of Top Shot on the History Channel and every time one of the shooters pulled the trigger you knew that should have been you. When Texas Fish & Games own Dustin Ellerman made a remarkably impossible shot, like hitting a golf ball at 100 yard with a .22, you thought to yourself "I can do that."
I hate to break it to you, but no, you cant.
In your current form, youre not a world class shooter (when I use the word "you," I include myself in that group). Im not saying you are a horrible shot, just not as good as you think you are. Thats my theory anyway, and I figured that if I was going to spout off about your shooting abilities, I might as well test that theory.
In order to do this testing, I enlisted the help of a few friends of mine and asked them to send a few rounds down range with the main goal being to measure the size of the groups they shot. The shooters for this test were Lindsey and Cindy Miller---yes, they are married, yes, they were talking smack to each other---and Robert Miley. I consider these folks to be your average hunter. Their hunting experience ranges from just a single year to about a decade. They all have families, jobs and various other commitments so they cant spend hours at the shooting range practicing or nights on end making handloads. They shoot factory ammunition out of standard off the shelf rifles just like the majority of the hunters in Texas.
To begin the test, I gathered the shooters at Best Price Guns Shooting and Paint Ball Range (thebestpriceguns.com) and after a few warm up rounds I asked each hunter to shoot a three shot group at 100 yards to get a base-line accuracy level for each person and their rifle, but this didnt work out as planned. A 100 yard shot isnt exactly a chip shot so I moved the target into around 75 yards to ensure the shooters could make a decent three shot group. It might have just been a trick our mind was playing on us but the target at 75 yards looked exponentially closer than it did at 100.
All shots were taken from a seated position, with the rifle supported only by a table to mimic a shot taken from a standard box stand. Also, for these base-line shots the shooters could take as long as they wanted. There was no pressure at all, other than the pressure of having three people watch them shoot and ridicule their accuracy.
For the base-line shots there was one constant that I noticed right away. All three shooters had no trouble putting two shots within an inch of each other but all three had a flier (a shot that went somewhere other than expected) and it was usually the second shot in the string.
Cindy shot the smallest control group with an overall group size of 1.75inches. She put two shots within .25 inches of each other, center to center, with her flier landing 1.75 inches above the other two. This is easily accurate enough to kill a deer and a good reason why she took two deer this year with two shots.
The second smallest control group was shot by Robert who put two shots within .375 inches, and had a flier 2.375 inches away. Its not a MOA grouping but still well within the accuracy needed to quickly kill a deer.
The largest control group of the day came from Lindsey. His first two shots were separated by only .4375 inches with his last shot hitting 3.25 higher than the other two.
I just want to point out that all three shooters put two shots within half an inch of each other---which surprised and impressed me---showing that they and their rifles have the ability to shoot very accurately with just a little practice.
Now that we had established each shooters accuracy level it was time to put them under pressure to see if they would crack. The next test involved shooting another three shot group, but this time each person only had 15 seconds to do it. This really sounds a lot shorter than it is but I figured the added pressure or shooting within a certain time period would stress them enough to affect their shooting, and it did, just not the way I was expecting.
The smallest group on the timed section was again shot by Cindy, but you should know that she went over the allotted time. Instead of 3 shots in 15 seconds she took 20 seconds. So technically she was disqualified on this round but she shot so well I had to include the results. Her three shot group measured 1.1875, with the closest two shots just half an inch apart. If you look back earlier in the article youll notice that her group size actually shrank when placed under pressure.
The second smallest group on this part of the test was shot by Lindsey. His three shot group measured 2.25 inches and he shot it in an amazingly fast six seconds. Thats right, six seconds for three shots with a bolt action rifle and they all landed inside a 2.25 inch circle. Lindsey improved on his earlier group by an inch. Maybe he should shoot fast all the time.
Watch TF&Gs Dustin Ellermann demonstrate his "golf ball" shooting at www.FishGame.com/video Photo: Texas Fish & Game
The largest group of this round was shot by Robert, and while it wasnt an improvement over his control group, it was so close that the difference is negligible. For this group Robert put two shots within .625 inches of each other, with one shot landing 2.5 inches higher than the others. This 2.5 inch group was shot in 12 seconds and was only .125 inches larger than Roberts control group. It seems my theory about people shooting worse under pressure was ill conceived.
The final test was a single shot by each hunter at 150 yards, which had to be taken within five seconds of shouldering the rifle. Closest to the bulls-eye wins. All three hunters hit above the bulls-eye (possible over compensating for the distance) and Ill let you guess who was closest. Cindy hit 2.375 inches from the center, Lindsey hit 4.125 away, and Roberts shot was 4.375 off the target.
So what do we conclude from this less than scientific study of a small group of shooters? First, if they just have to shoot once, maybe twice, the average shooter can almost shoot as well as they think they can but doing it consistently is an issue. Second, adding pressure to a shooting situation actually makes the shooter better, or at the very least, just as good as they were without pressure. Last, never ever go against your wife in a shooting competition.