Ammunition and Pellets

There seems to be a lot of myth and misunderstanding about what we feed our fine target guns. Some people believe that if it goes "bang" or if the pellet gets to the target, then the stuff is O.K. Others think that if the "group" isn't one bullet or pellet width in size, the stuff is - well, not O.K. The real world is somewhere in between, as usual. Before we can talk about the real world, it might be best to talk about a statistical concept called "Analysis of Variance". This is the science (of sorts) of figuring out why we get different results every time we test or measure something. In shooting, the "Total Variance" is the observed group on the target. This "V Total" is made up of many items: the variance due to the ammo, the variance of the machine rest (or - usually much greater - the variance of the shooter), variances due to weather, light, and who-knows-what-else. Some of these we can control and some we can't. Usually, we can't do much about the gun, for instance. Oh, we can clean it and sometimes "tune" it, but a free pistol or a .22 rifle is pretty much whatever it is. And we can't do much about the ammo, really. Yes, we can try to sort it or maybe size it (pellets) and sometimes that helps, but the major factors were determined at the factory. Reducing variance can often be accomplished by using common sense: it should be obvious that a good machine rest, properly operated, will result in less variability that a human being, for example. The major task is to analyze the factors involved in getting a group on the target and eliminating as much variation as possible.

In ammunition and pellets, first there has to be a proper DESIGN. Wasp waisted, hollow base pellets vs. round lead balls might be an example of this. Some people (Dr. Henry Cross) have already written that the .22 LR round is fatally flawed by DESIGN and can never be really as accurate as compared to an air gun pellet for another example! But, this is probably beyond our control also. So, we do what we can do: get the most UNIFORM (low variance) stuff that we can. There is one vendor making a bunch of bucks with a clever gimmick - "We'll match pellets to your gun for $30.00". Then selling you those pellets, of course. Now, it is true that you can get a particular lot of pellets or ammo matched with a particular gun and get a really great group. But often, if the pellets/ammo are very UNIFORM in all regards ("high quality" and therefore not cheap), they will do very well indeed in most, if not all, "high quality" guns. Most of us will not gain much from splitting hairs much further. Inevitably though, this uniformity DOES cost more. Sometimes, with technology (or design) advances, the cost comes down. Today decent ammo/pellets are generally:

Fortunately, the middle ground, particularly for pistol shooters, is reasonable. Good quality .22 LR ammo can be had for around $250.00 per case. The $800.00 per case ammo may be needed by Olympic smallbore prone shooters and a few others like bench rest competitors, but most of us can achieve national record performances with the medium priced stuff. Airgun pellets are pretty darn cheap even for the best in the world, so there is no real reason to skimp there. Now, once you have a decent gun and decent ammo, the last really big variable turns out to be the operator!

But you knew that.


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