Index Home About Blog
From: (Toby Bradshaw)
Subject: Re: What makes a rifle accurate?
Organization: University of Washington, Seattle

In article <> (Brent Smiley) writes:

#Lately there has been some talk regarding "varmit" rifles, such as
#the Remington model 700VS and the Ruger model 77, and the accuracy
#of these rifles.  My question is, why are these rifles more (or less)
#accurate than other rifles.

In my judgement, accurate rifles need good barrels, good bullets,
good optics, decent bedding, a decent trigger, decent loads, and
a shooter who knows where to point.  None of the factories makes
a barrel capable of winning a benchrest match (at least, none has
in the last twenty years or so), but at least Remington and Winchester
factory barrels will shoot sub-half MOA when other circumstances
are right.  They are a bitch to clean compared to a good custom
barrel, though.  Large diameter, hence stiff, barrels shoot better
than small diameter barrels of equal quality.  The next time you
read that varmint rifles have heavy barrels "just to take the heat
of repeated firing" and that a sporter will "shoot just as well
as a heavy-barreled rifle for the first three shots", I suggest
you skip to the next article, as the writer is ignorant of
what makes a rifle shoot to top accuracy standards.  A heavier
rifle is easier to hold, but the 10.5 pound light varmint rifles
shoot about as well as 13.5 heavy varminters these days.

Good bullets, i.e. handmade benchrest bullets, are available
for .224, 6mm, and .308.  I've shot Nosler Ballistic Tips
in my benchrest rifle, and they're easily capable of .250 inch
groups at 100 yards.  That's not exactly benchrest quality, but
most rifles will never know the difference.

Good optics boil down to the Leupold 36X or boosted versions
thereof in benchrest (with a very few exceptions).

Decent bedding requires a decent action.  The best factory bedding I have
seen is the Winchester thermoplastic and the Remington/H-S bedding blocks.
The absolute worst is Ruger, with their ridiculous angled bedding screw.
Anytime you bed a rifle with a magazine cut, it will not be as easy to get
good results as when solid- bottom actions are bedded.  Most benchrest
rifles have the actions epoxied into the stock.  Glue-ins are easier to
make shoot than screw-ins.  The best screw-ins will shoot, though.

The trigger should not require a come-along to operate.  Remington
is ahead of Winchester, and both are several leagues ahead of
Ruger (so, what's new?) in this department.  The Brownings I
have shot varied in their trigger quality, but adjustability is
limited and replacement triggers uncommon.  Jewell makes replacement
triggers for Rem and Win actions, but putting one on a factory
rifle is a little pricey.

Good loads made in good dies are necessary, but way overrated compared
to the other aspects of rifle accuracy.  My benchrest rifle will
shoot under half-inch groups with any load from 24-28gr and any
seating depth from jammed to jumping.  To stay under a quarter
inch requires a little care.  If the rifle is made right, it will
shoot any load with any decent bullet to reasonable standards, and
will shoot its preferred load to unreasonable standards.

# Also, what steps could be taken to improve the accuracy of a rifle.

Sell it and buy a used benchrest rifle :), if you don't mind lugging
10.5 pounds and shooting in the 3200-3500fps speed range with
.224 and 6mm bullets.  For less than $1000, its pretty easy to
find a BR rifle that will outshoot anything the factories have
made, including specialty items like the Rem 40X.  A good benchrest
rifle will have everything square and true, with a good barrel,
beddable action, 2oz. trigger, etc.  I own several factory rifles,
including varminters.  They are adequate for their task, shooting
under 0.5 MOA for the most part using commercial bullets, but
look pretty sad when shot alongside my benchrest rifle.

Try "The Ultimate in Rifle Accuracy" by Glen Newick and "The
Accurate Rifle" by Warren Page (out of print).  Also, you
could subscribe to Precision Shooting (email me if you need
the address).

Toby Bradshaw
Department of Biochemistry and College of Forest Resources
University of Washington, Seattle

Index Home About Blog