Pellets, spiraling, technique, and real-world no-BS testing

Forums General Discussion Pellets, spiraling, technique, and real-world no-BS testing

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    spinj
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    The common thought is different pellets may be inaccurate over another and that a barrel may prefer a certain pellet over anything else.  While this is true to a certain extent, it is my belief that this is entirely a misconception.  A barrel doesn’t change the way a pellet flies.  Instead, it is the pellet’s design that determines how it will be shot out of the barrel.  All the barrel knows what do to, if it were a living thing, is to launch a projectile in accordance to the line from its breech end to out of its muzzle end.  Remember this: the barrel shoots only in one direction, and that direction is ALWAYS straight.  The design or inherent aerodynamics of a pellet dictates the flight that it would take.  So, for instance, when one says his or her pellet is spiraling, if all the other things like clipping have been ruled out, the reason is shooter error. 

    Let’s briefly go a little deeper into the subject of pellet design by looking at the science behind a shot from a different projectile, an arrow, though nonetheless the same when it comes to placing a precision shot, to get a better understanding of its flight.  In archery, there is what is called an archer’s paradox (or wobbling of the arrow) that governs an arrow’s line of flight (here’s a video that explains it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7zewtuUM_0).  In the video, famed archer and sharpshooter Byron Ferguson explains that he takes into account archer’s paradox when making his arrows.  He takes into consideration his arrows’ stiffness and spine so that he can normalize and know their wobble rate.  Jumping back to pellets, it is thus my belief that their design (weight, length, its shape vs. another’s, etc.) governs their flight when they are slicing through the air while twisting.  That is why when shooting different pellets and the POI changes to a different spot—though consistently—you’ll find that they are still as accurate (if your technique is perfect).  It is their dimensions and the change in rifle movement they cause during a shot cycle that influence their POI.  Don’t believe me?  Prepare to have your eyes opened.     

    I am a serious air rifle shooter, like many of you, maybe.  I keep my shooting ability grounded in my training, experience, and self-initiated research and experimentation.  In a constant quest to refine my technique, I tend to challenge some of the notions out there, often those that have never worked for me, that are claimed to be scriptures by many.  Sometimes I find out that they aren’t necessarily true, like for instance, why pellet A is better than pellet B (at least on a personal level, that’s just a misnomer).

    To start, I posted an article (and it can be accessed here: https://www.airgunnation.com/topic/shooting-with-or-without-a-rest-that-is-the-question/) on shooting tips on this forum before.  Scroll down to the sixth post that contains ACCURATE SHOOTING TIPS FOR THE DISGRUNTLED BEGINNING SHOOTER – DON’T GET RID OF YOUR GUN JUST YET!  In it, I stated that if a rifle were to be suspended in air in an environment where gravity is nonexistent it would continue to stack pellet after pellet on top of another.  That knowledge is one key to understanding why some pellets seem to not want to fly in the direction a known and accurate pellet does.  As stated earlier, some pellets cause a change in movement of the rifle during a shot cycle.  If the shooter’s technique is unable to accommodate or work with this change, the result is going to be an errant shot.  To me, 98 percent (the other two percent being from things like pellet clipping, failed O-rings, severely dented pellets, etc.) of the time a flyer is a flyer because the shooter made a mistake.  I know some of you would be hard-pressed to believe that to be the case, but I’m sticking to that idea. (Ah, isn’t it nice to confidently stand up to your claim when you have evidence to back it up?)

    To see how shooting technique plays a huge part in precision shooting, do the following:

    1. Set scope magnification to 10X (mid-level mag is best for good viewability). Focus your scope to 25 – 30 yards.  If you have a scope cam mounted, use whatever focus your zero is at. 
    2. Set your rifle on a rest AND position the rifle at an upward angle of 20 – 25 degrees toward the sky.  It is best to shoot the pellet at this angle and with the sun behind you so that you can see it better (but make sure you are doing this in a safe and appropriate environment and knowing what lies in the distance). 
    3. When looking through the scope make sure the rifle isn’t canted, and focus your sight to the reticle and around it so that when you fire a pellet you can track its flight in relation to it. 
    4. Fire a series of shots (around five pellets) so you can see the general flight behavior of the pellet. 
    5. Next, take your rifle off the rest and hold it very loosely and shoot it offhand in the same angle and direction.  IMPORTANT: Hold the rifle without resting your forestock hand and arm on a rest and letting the butt rest naturally on the pocket of your shoulder.  This is to replicate to a degree suspension of the rifle by damping some of the movement and vibration the rifle makes.

    Did you notice a difference between the flight of the pellets shot without a rest and the pellets shot with the gun rested?  If you did things correctly, you may have witnessed that the pellets shot non-rested flew straighter and, maybe, off to the side of the vertical strand of the reticle (even if they’re known to be accurate in your gun).  Also, more than likely the pellets that you previously have seen spiraled now fly straight.  Ponder on that revelation for a moment.  It all goes back to the idea that a rifle shot without anything contacting it as much as possible enables it to shoot pellets straight, as it was meant to do. 

    When you touch a rifle you alter the behavior of its firing cycle.  Whichever part the rifle rests on, nodes are created that it will pivot against and cause Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion to come into effect.  In addition, a different pellet may impart its unique force that changes the regular movement of the rifle from another pellet.  It may be a consistent or inconsistent type of movement, but the goal in precision shooting should always be to find a technique that works with—never against—the natural shot cycle the rifle imparts; that is, to let the gun move the way it wants.  Avoid the urge to restrict the motion induced by recoil.  I always advise against testing a gun’s accuracy by clamping it on a vise.  It never works, especially if it is your intention to prevent any movement.  It doesn’t matter whether you shoot a PCP or spring-piston rifle.  I’ve said countless times in many posts, PCPs are not immune to the effects of recoil.  As you’ve seen in the test, even they are affected by it, by a lot, actually. 

    For those of you who have read my other articles or posts, you know that I don’t like to shoot off a bench.  One of the reasons is because of what I’ve just shared here.  And if you want to call it a secret, which to me isn’t even one, it’s why I shoot the way I do and am able to achieve the kind of groups I have shared in some of my posts.  Call me the unconventional shooter with the unorthodox style of shooting if you wish; I’m okay with it.  To add weight to what I said about a lot of the things out there about shooting accuracy purported to be true actually isn’t, let me say that bench-resting a rifle isn’t really removing the human factor necessary to allowing the rifle to shoot on its own.  Again, as you’ve just seen, the pellet flies truer when shot off a rifle off-hand than bench-rested.  Don’t be misled though, bench-resting works (and effectively for many shooters), but you need to make sure you know how to properly set up the equipment and apply the technique correctly. 

    While I’m at it, be advised that a lot of things said out there even by proclaimed experts (on YouTube or in print) should be taken with a pinch of salt.  I’m one who is overly reluctant to believe a gun reviewer’s claim about a gun’s accuracy.  When it comes to assessing a gun’s performance, I’m keen to determine whether it is a capable shooter myself instead, only after I’ve done (1) all the things I know pertaining to shooting, (2) factored in the physics that govern shooting it, (3) apply the skills I’ve acquired from years of shooting, and (4) administer the technique I’ve continually refined.  I encourage you to do yourself a favor and test these claims yourself, particularly if they don’t seem sensible to you the first time.  But first you must develop a good shooting foundation with good shooting technique.  That itself is the key to shooting precision.  You can read the article that I linked to here for my honest, no-BS advice to help you if you’re struggling and just confounded with your groups or gun.

    At any rate, as always, you aren’t obligated or persuaded to take what I share as fact.  I do however, welcome you to try out for yourself the method I’ve shared.  Let me know what you find out. 

    Shoot safe and cheers!    
     

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    addertooth
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    precession.

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    oldspook
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    “spinj”So, for instance, when one says his or her pellet is spiraling, if all the other things like clipping have been ruled out, the reason is shooter error. 

     


    Pellets spiral and it has nothing to do with the shooter.  I don’t know any way to hold my pellet rifle, or pull the trigger, or hold my mouth wrong that will cause pellets to spiral but I have seen them spiral.  I’ve seen one brand of pellet spiral and a different brand not spiral.  I’ve seen exactly the opposite in a different rifle.  It has absolutely nothing to do with the shooter.
     

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    Goodtogo
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    I have to agree if it was always the shooter why would anyone use the roll method to make sure pellets are true? But like the OP said ;)

    “While I’m at it, be advised that a lot of things said out there even by proclaimed experts (on YouTube or in print) should be taken with a pinch of salt”

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    nced
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    Spiraling pellet videos………..



    Anywhoo…..seems that some pellets do spiral for whatever reason other than the shooter.

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    spinj
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    Thanks for the responses, gentlemen.  Yes, pellets do spiral in extreme cases such as when they are shot at too high a velocity, when they are of the wrong size for the barrel, when they have a hollow spot internally, when they have a heavier region externally, etc.  Nevertheless, I personally believe and have experienced and observed that good technique can greatly minimize and even eliminate their occurrence, especially when they’re not supposed to happen.

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    oldspook
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    “spinj”Thanks for the responses, gentlemen.  Yes, pellets do spiral in exfreme cases such as when they are shot at too high a velocity, when they are of the wrong size for the barrel, when they have a hollow spot internally, when they have a heavier region externally, etc.  Nevertheless, I personally believe and have experienced and observed that good technique can greatly minimize and even eliminate their occurrence, especially when they’re not supposed to happen.

    
I respectfully disagree.  If you can explain to me the error that causes pellets to spiral I will go out and try to make it happen.  I don’t believe there is any such shooter error. Mind you I am talking about things which the shooter can control other than mechanical issues with his rifle, pellets, air pressure etc.  Explain to me what a shooter can do that causes pellets to spiral because of his shooting form or the way he rests or addresses the rifle.

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    Alan
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    Let us not forget, that pellets are both spin and drag stabilized. And pellet consistency, when compared to the manufacturing tolerances of bullets, is second rate at best!

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