All guns are not accurate.
Could It Be?
I've been shooting for more than half a century, so I know the score, but is it possible some people believe every gun is accurate? To those people, would the other features like velocity (I'm talking airguns now) and styling be important, because accuracy is a given? Is that why marketing departments concentrate on the things that really don't matter--colors, camouflage, accessories etc.--because they can't stand behind the accuracy?
Several things shape a person's knowledge of accuracy. The first is television and the movies. These forms of entertainment exaggerate the accuracy of guns. Seldom do they show what is true, because the story plays better if every shot is fantastic. So, superspook Jason Bourne falls down a five-story stairwell and shoots the bad guy between the eyes with a handgun as he passes on his way down. And Matthew Quigley can hit an oaken bucket a quartermile away, shooting a 12-pound Sharps rifle offhand. Give me a break!
But most people either haven't shot a gun, or if they have, it was so long ago they don't remember much. So they buy into the Hollywood fiction of infinite accuracy.
Why then, in real life, does a man walk up to within 15 feet of a paper silhouette target on the pistol range to shoot five shots from his concealed carry revolver and call it hasty pudding? Shouldn't he be shooting them from his hip, back at the 25-yard line? Don't bother telling me that snub-nosed revolvers are not that accurate. I'm saying most people think they are.
Is it possible that people KNOW instinctively that most guns are not that accurate, but they refuse to accept it on a social level? In other words, an anonymous poster on a chat forum can shoot a quarter-inch group at 100 yards with his air rifle, but when you see him in person at the range, he can't seem to keep them all on the paper. He lies to himself so much that when he is confronted by the truth, he sloughs it off as passe.
Or is there more going on? I knew a man who believed that he was 6 feet 2 inches tall. I am 5 foot 11 inches on a good day, and I could look this man in the eye. We were the same height. Yet nothing could dissuade him from believing that he was 6' 2".
I have known people who think that 5 yards is 20 yards. The reason I know better is because I was in the marching band in high school. We had to march a certain number of steps between every 5-yard line on the football field, to keep our lines straight while moving. The Army reinforced this. On tank ranges I learned to estimate distances out to 1,200 yards pretty well.
But without this training, some people haven't got a clue how far certain distances are. They tend to over-estimate the close distances and under-estimate the far ones. So 50 yards becomes 200 yards and so on.
When I was a kid in the 1950s, most American cars had speedometers that went up to 120 mph. The cars they were in might not go faster than 90, but seeing that number on an instrument in the dashboard made you feel like it was possible. The manufacturers didn't come out and say their cars would go that fast.
But, if you wanted to believe that your 1956 Chevy with its inline 6 was capable of doing that, they weren't about to tell you different.
This concept translates directly over to airguns. Gamo is so proud to tell its customers that such-and-such a rifle will shoot a pellet at up to 1,600 f.p.s. The unknowing customers are thrilled, thinking that the accuracy is a given. Surely no gun company would make a gun that was NOT accurate--would they? We get both the accuracy and high velocity. What's not to like? Yes, there are more than a few people who think that way, and they are the constant targets of marketeers.
But airgun companies do make guns that aren't accurate. They make a lot of them. In fact, it's the accurate airgun that is the rarity, which is why I place so much emphasis on shooting when I look at a new gun.
If Col. Townshend Whelen said, "Only accurate rifles are interesting," don't you think there had to be some inaccurate rifles around to prompt his statement? If Dr. F. W. Mann spent 37 years of his life compiling data that he then reported in his book, The Bullet's Flight, From Powder to Target, don't you suppose something drove him to do so? It certainly wasn't the money.
Most guns are not that accurate, and, no, I'm not going to get into a discussion of what I mean by accuracy. You either know what it is or you're one of the people I am referring to in this report. Debating the precise meaning of a subjective term like accuracy is like trying to figure out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The player on first base is named Who--end of discussion!
What's Wrong With Presumption?
Barrels are not drilled straight. They are not connected parallel with the axis of the receiver. Barrels touch the stock and absorb vibrations when the gun fires. Or they touch the air reservoir (or are connected by barrel bands) and flex as the reservoir flexes when its internal pressure rises and falls.
If the door on my house moves with changes in temperature and humidity, what prevents a wooden gunstock from doing the same? If it's touching the barrel as it moves, what do you think happens?
One hundred years ago most savvy buyers knew that no Colt Single Action revolver ever came from the factory with the sights perfectly aligned. You bought the gun then went to the range and shot it at a target. You picked the distance you were most interested in.
Then you bent the front sight blade in the direction opposite where you wanted the bullet to go! Yes, I said bent! In fact, I read a huge article a few years ago, written by a man who made a jig that he took to the range, just to bend the front sight blades on all his single actions.
In other words, Colt knowingly sold a handgun that did not shoot to the point of aim! They did so for over a century, and in fact are still doing so today. And no one is complaining. In fact, everyone praises Colt for their timeless design--a design that has to have its front sight blade bent by the user!
The Test Target
Here is a misrepresentation that's a burr under my saddle blanket. Cooper Firearms makes bolt-action rifles that are well regarded for their accuracy. In fact, the company claims that all of their centerfire rifles are capable of putting 3 shots inside 1/2-inch at 100 yards. They even supply a test target with each rifle that shows what that rifle did at the factory.
That target has a lot on information on it--the date it was shot, the shooter, the bullet that was used, the powder that was used, the caliber and serial number of the gun. But curiously the distance at which the target was shot is missing. That seems odd to me. The company claims all their centerfires shoot three shots in 1/2-inch or less at 100 yards - shouldn't the range at which the target is shot be on the target somewhere? Its absence makes me wonder.
The Emperor's New Clothes
Remember The Emperor's New Clothes? When the naked emperor walks by the little boy shouts, "The emperor isn't wearing any clothes!" Then the royal spin-doctor replies, "It isn't so much that he isn't wearing any clothes, as he has taken his wardrobe to a new minimalist peak."
In management dynamics, this story was modernized into something called The Abilene Paradox. The premise remained the same but was stated more clearly--People will decide on a course of action in a group that each of them disagrees with privately. In short you have political correctness--the fear of telling the truth because of whom it might offend.
We live in an age where the emperor is walking around naked and being praised for his beautiful new clothes. The M4 rifle continues to be procured by the same army that acknowledges that it is a highly specialized weapon that is completely unsuited for general battlefield use. They use reworked Ml4s for "special purposes" like hitting targets effectively at distance. But the procurement contract for the M4 is in place and you know how difficult those can be to initiate! Better to buy something you don't need than to not be able to purchase something you need. At least you'll have something.
Behind the Curtain
Now I will let you peek behind the wizard's curtain and see something though my eyes. I get contacts from time to time from people who come to airguns with their credit cards in their hands and their minds made up. They want that new Bow-of-Hercules breakbarrel that shoots .25 caliber pellets at 1,000 f.p.s. They are going after big game and they want all the smashing power they can get, but in a self-contained rifle, please. "I don't have time to mess with scuba tanks and dive shops."
I just smile. I know that in 6 months these guys will either be building model rockets or else they will be turning to the "dark side" and getting into precharged pneumatics. Why? because their .25 caliber Mashemflat Magnum was too hard to cock more than 10 times in a row, had a horrible trigger, kicked like a Missouri mule and wasn't accurate. Top that off with pellets that cost almost as much as rimfire rounds and you have a thoroughly dissatisfied customer who can now give a lecture on how not to get into airgunning. Like Old Man River, I been rollin' along for awhile and I've seen all this.
The point of this article is that not all airguns are accurate. That is why I test them for a living. The work is good, but there is a lot of it!