All rifles are not created equal. Take three new, out of the box, rifles to the range with the same scope and the same ammunition and the results will vary. Modern production rifles and ammunition do have good overall accuracy and many will shoot a fair “hunting pattern” simply by zeroing in the scope. As a rifleman however, there is a higher goal than a fair group. Accuracy inspires confidence and success in the field. When I purchased my Ruger M77 7mm magnum I had certain expectations. My previous all around gun had been a smaller caliber .243 tack driver. I fed that gun factory ammunition and the results were astounding.
The second time I sighted in the new rifle, things started to fall apart, important things like accuracy and confidence. In fact four trips to the range that summer only improved things to a predictable level. Minute of deer accuracy yes, satisfaction and confidence at reasonably long ranges certainly not! I was deeply concerned with both my shooting ability and the gun’s accuracy. In hindsight it was new territory and I wasn’t sure what to do.
Fast forward to the next season when a stroke of providence found me sighting the rifle with two good friends both of whom shot the same model and caliber. Brad and I were both having mixed results while Randy punched the target with certainty. After a couple of three shot groups, Randy suggested we both try a couple of his hand loaded shells. Brad and I both accepted and the results spoke for themselves. Both of the resulting patterns were very acceptable immediately.
Randy kindly loaded us each a box of “custom” ammunition and a new aspect of accuracy in shooting was born. Ten years later I still shoot the same rifle for general purpose hunting with excellent results. Hand loading has become part of shooting, and my confidence in both my shooting and rifle are back in the solid performance range. I have witnessed the same results for countless rifles and shooters, although none as simple and dramatic have occurred since that August.
The reasons that hand loading improves accuracy are quite simple. Simple tools are readily available that are more accurate measures of powder than mass produced bullets are likely to achieve. Better bullets are available for hand loading than “standard” factory ammunition. Bullet loads can be customized and tuned for each rifle to achieve optimal results. Simply put, better bullet components loaded more consistently achieve better results.
Custom loading may sound intimidating to the uninitiated, however the technologies involved are actually very simple and extremely well documented and studied. The basic casing, primer, powder and bullet combinations are put together using precise and simple hand presses and readily available loading tools.
If your confidence or your group is wandering, before you give up on your equipment, find a friend with a hand loader. If that is unavailable, the initial cost of equipment is far less than a new rifle and scope and the results are usually impressive.