Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How accurate are military rifles?

This post was inspired by the internet commandos who claim that they can shoot 1 M.O.A. (Minute Of Angle, the traditional measurement of accuracy, about one inch at a hundred yards) groups with their rusty surplus rifles, gritty triggers, iron sights and ammunition left over from WWII.

There are indeed rifles and shooters capable of such accuracy. None of them are doing it like the Special Forces Seal Ninja Snipers on, with the cheapest rifles and ammunition they can find.

The closest group that an average human can hold, even from a shooting bench and using sandbags, is about 1/2". All the inconsistencies of the rifle and ammunition are added onto that 1/2".

The best that most unmodified military rifles are capable of with standard ball ammo is 3-4" groups.

Expect at least double that from AK47's.

The army considers 4" groups from it's new M4's normal and adequate.

When the M1 Garand, famous for it's accuracy, was factory new the army tested them in machine rests, which eliminate inconsistencies. The average 100 yard group was 1 3/4 inches. Amazing, but well over 1 M.O.A. even without the human factor added in.

British Enfield sniper rifles were specially selected and tuned and were expected to shoot groups that were 1" wide and 3" high.

From Wikipedia:

"A 2008 United States military market survey for a Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) calls for 1 MOA ... extreme vertical spread ... meaning the horizontal spread and hence extreme spread are allowed to exceed 1 MOA ... In 2009 a United States Special Operations Command market survey calls for 1 MOA ... extreme vertical spread ... Meanwhile current US Sniper Systems ... do not meet this requirement."

(And remember that those specs are for sniper rifles, not rifles made by the lowest bidder and handed out to the average grunt.)

If you're frustrated because you can't achieve the accuracy you keep reading about on your favorite web site, you can relax. Even better, the next time someone at the range tells you his Chinese AK47 will shoot one M.O.A. groups, slap a hundred dollar bill on the bench and tell him you'd like to see it.

Bonus historical trivia to enrich your life: During the Civil War, internet commandos had to write with feathers dipped in ink, because Al Gore hadn't invented the internet yet. Robert E. Lee called them "knights of the quill".

Update: Since this post was written, I've had several indignant fellows tell me that their military rifles will shoot sub-MOA groups with standard ball ammo. So far no one will put their money where their mouth is when I offer a wager, though.

Another update: I stirred up a hornet's nest with this post. I have one fellow claiming that his Swedish Mauser turns in consistent 3/4 MOA groups with ball ammo and open sights. Another says his Enfield puts everything in a single hole at 100 yards. Yet another claims that he shoots 1.5 MOA groups offhand. Of course they all fall back on the standard defense of bullshitters everywhere when I ask to see it: They huff and puff about their "honor".


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

At $100 a time its the quickest way to save up for that new 'ersplitin-loudneboomer'

Anonymous said...

I have been enjoying the Internet ninjas too. In fact, I think I ran across some of the challenging posts a la "how accurate are military rifles" and saw the huffing and puffing. Fun times. :)