Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Just the Basics - Ammunition Does Matter

This past week I made a range trip to brush off some of the rust in my precision shooting efforts.  The post is entitled “Evaluating Targets” under the “Training” heading.  I used a mix of Aguila ammunition that I had on hand.  I suppose you’d call this “plinking” ammunition.  My primary use is in by introductory handgun classes.  The targets are large, the distance are around 5 yards and the primary thing I am interested in is safe gun handling and very basic marksmanship.  The Aguila works just fine for that.

However, I will confess to some frustration that at 50 yards, 5 rounds per target, my group size was 2”-ish.  To tighten things up I picked the best 3 rounds (smallest group) of the five thus using a rough “average” to tighten up my group size.  With that caveat my group size was right at .5”.  Not bad . . . but the visual of the targets with rounds splattered around bothered be.

When I posted the article to a couple different Facebook shooting groups I received a lot of “why the heck did you use Aguila ammo for precision shooting???” type comments.  Heavy sigh . . . Because I did???  Anyway, I looked through by ammo stash and found 2 boxes of Eley Club ammunition.  I had shot up 8 boxes of a 10-box brick and found I was quite happy with the performance.  So, with a day filled with sun, no wind and mid-30s I thought I’d spend a couple hours at the range just to see how it performed.  I wasn’t disappointed.

First, let’s chat a bit on what goes into making a precise shooting round.  In a word – consistency.  The bullet weights of all rounds are the same.  The Eley Club round is lubricated ensuring consistent loading into chamber.  A precise power load each and every time.  A consistent case size and good application of priming compound inside the rim of the casing.  Do these things, exactly the same, each and every time . . . and you will have a precise cartridge that will perform exactly the same every time it is fired.

Accuracy is the other side of the coin and that is up to you and your rifle.

As a reminder, here is my target from the earlier trip with the Aguila ammunition.  


As you can see, the only way you can begin to detect the accuracy of my rifle and my shooting is by finding the best the shots.  Certainly not ideal and, for me, it was frustrating.  So let’s see how the Ely Club ammunition performed.


As you can see, the difference is stark.  While there are a couple groups that opened up, the precision and accuracy of each round is significantly better.  Other than making myself feel better, what’s the value in this?  Better, more consistent practice sessions.  If I always have to worry about whether it’s just crappy ammunition or a crappy shooter I’m not going to make much progress on all the little nuances of precision shooting.  But, if I have confidence in the performance of the ammunition . . . and I have some thrown rounds . . . I can begin to correct my problems. 

So, about this time my curiosity tickles me a bit . . . how would this stuff shoot at 100 yards?  It turns out that the Eley Club is actually designed to be a 50 yard round.  But surely I can push it out a bit, right.

First things first, the ballistics of the round.  There are any number of ways you can get from here to there – on-line calculators, manufacturer spec sheets, computer software, formulas . . . or how about “there’s an app for that”??

I have an Android phone and have chosen the Strelok Pro.  If memory serves it’s about a $7 app but worth every penny.  It’s rolled through 3 phones with no additional charge and is continually updated.  One of the latest is a Bluetooth link to the Kestrel family of weather meters.  It has a database of 1460 reticles, 3226 cartridges and around 1500 different bullets.  There is a free version that comes with a limited number of reticles, cartridges and bullets though you can define you own if you wish.  It’s enough for you to evaluate the product but for the price it’s a great chunk of software.

It allows you to define different rifles and attach to each their particular scope and the individual cartridge.  Switching between different rifles is simply a drop-down menu choice.  As can see in the image below I’ve selected the Ruger Precision .22 with a Vortex Crossfire II 6x18 44mm scope and it’s reticle.  Also selected is the Eley Club .22 caliber round.  I’ve defined the rifle zero as 50 yards. 

Insert strelok definitions screen here

This yields a couple useful chunks of data.  One a ballistics chart with the hold over required, in this case right at 6 inches.  And it yields an image of what you would see through the scope.  It shows a holdover of 6 MOA or two hash marks.  Since this is not precisely the reticle of the scope I started with a holdover of 2.  


The result looked like this . . .

Notice that the hold over seems to be good but the rounds are about 1.5” right.  That means I need to move the zero 6 “clicks” or 1.5 MOA to the left.  The results of that can be seen on targets 4 and 5.  Each target is 3” with a 1” center.  At this point I had a half box of the Eley Club left so I posted one more target seen below.

This was my first outing with the Ruger PR .22 cal at 100 yards.  The groups the small squares are .25” and I would estimate that all the groups are 2 MOA or smaller with a couple being sub 1 MOA.

Nothing to really write home about for real competitive shooters but I’m not sure I want to invest the time and money getting to a single hole.  I believe I can get to a consistent sub 1 MOA group and will explore some of the competition rounds that Eley makes at the suggestion of a number of very helpful folks on the FB groups.  Other than that, I’ll focus on the fundamentals, do my best to keep the flyers ammunition related . . . not shooter related.

And, I’ll take advantage of this trainer to refine my skill set so I can work with my RPR in .308 and push my range out to 800+ yards with is the limit of a local range.

Bottom line, this little trip again allowed me to learn, grow a bit as a shooter, confirm some of my hardware and software and demonstrated the real difference between the “cheap stuff” and the “good stuff”.  The “excellent stuff” might have to wait until Spring . . .


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