Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Ballistics

We used to shoot at rabbits and armadillos from the back of a pickup truck. Way back when we were kids spending summers in the Hill Country of Texas. Not sure what to think of that now, as an adult. I don’t shoot much anymore. Very little in fact. I do however, want to fill my freezer with venison. The 2006 deer from my brother’s property lasted nearly one year. We’ve missed it in 2008. To that end, my intention is to hunt in late November down here in The Driftless Area. In preparation, a friend and I attended a local shooting range. Here are some notes:

You can’t just walk up and shoot clay pigeons, having not done so for approximately two decades. I hit 5 of 16 targets. It was laughable. I don’t claim to be a good shot. I do recall that as kids, we were decent though. It felt pretty good, despite failure, and I believe that if a person put some time and practice in, you could become pretty proficient. My friend showed better.

In doing some reading on shooting slugs, I learned that it is important to marry the right ammo to the right barrel. Thus, I bought three different types of slugs: two sabots (I thought I was getting a rifled barrel - later found out that was not the case) and one rifled slug.

The shooting was so-so. A first note is that we both put rifle shots in a pretty tight circle at 100 yards. Shooting a bullet-shaped projectile from a rifled barrel with a scope should beget good accuracy.

Moving to the slug barrel shotgun... I fired three sets of three slugs at three different targets to track performance. At fifty yards I was consistently "southwest" of the target. The sights can adjust vertically, but not horizontally. I tried resting the barrel on a sandbag, to make sure I wasn't pulling with my left hand... no apparent effect. I shot three sets of two slugs at the same three targets at 35 yards and got pretty good results. At 35 yards I was aiming at the northeast corner of the target, in an effort to compensate.

The conclusion is that at 35 yards I'd feel pretty good shooting a deer. 50 yards would be so-so. Anything beyond that and I'd probably restrain. Not a good enough shot, but even more importantly - shooting a slug out of a smooth barrel with iron sights is not a distance bit. Hopefully I won't need a long shot. It was critical to get out and shoot that gun, to understand my constraints.

Interesting notes on the ammo - the sabots (meaning smaller than bore diameter slug in a plastic seat that fits to riflings) are meant for rifled barrels. The box says "smooth or rifled barrels" but some reading suggests that they don't shoot well out of smooth barrels. The limited experience I had supports that suggestion - the sabots (most expensive) performed the worst, and the basic rifle slugs (cheapest) shot the best (again, thought I was going to use a rifled barrel when I bought this ammo). Here are the three targets - red circles are 50 yard shots, and green circles are 35 yard shots.


Blogger amanda said...

Excellent detailed analysis. :)

I really appreciate your promoting the prep. for the hunt.
I grew up taught to be afraid of reckless rifle hunters... It's just the way it was, living on 80 acres of oaks & fields on the Mississippi in the middle of no-where... We had to have blaze orange in our backpacks to wear getting off the school bus just to walk up our own driveway. I never liked it. It was a long walk & I think I was really afraid of getting shot by some trespassing hunter who would mistake me for a deer from too far away, or a stray bullet, or whatever.
Unfortunately those are very legitimate comcerns.
Too much respect for what is being shot is lacking, affecting how, where, & why it is shot.
I like that you know your limitations/accuracy when it comes to distance.
And that you make note of the purpose for which you pursue the animal... to provide food for family.
Nice job.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Royce Gracie said...

Thanks to the Federals, the deer won't be laughing.

8:32 PM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

The prep is important. I see no point in trying to portray myself as a skilled hunter or great shot. I figure that if I ever want to become a really proficient harvester of mammal meat, I'll need to practice a lot and study up. You can't just walk into it and expect great results. An expectation like that would be false and an offense to folks who put in the work and thought. Anyway, if I want to do that, I'll have to give up fishing time and morph it into hunting time. That would be tough, but it may come to that sometime.

I'm confident that if I see a deer <50 yards away, the Federals will serve me well. I bought a couple boxes of those. Being optimistic I guess, with that purchase.

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