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Thread: 3 or 5 shot Groups?

  1. #1
    Boolit Master 18Bravo's Avatar
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    3 or 5 shot Groups?

    So, what is the consensus? Do you shoot 3 or 5 shot groups for load development accuracy? I was always taught to believe that 5 shot groups were the way to go. The problem for me recently, is that I can’t seem to put 5 rounds into anything that would be considered an acceptable group. 3 shots? Yes. 4 shots? Yes. 5 shots? NO. It seems that no matter how hard I concentrate I always end up with one flyer. To work up a new load, the attached target was shot at 100 yards. As you can see in three of the targets one round screwed up decent groups. In most cases it was the last round that messed things up. What are the rest of you shooting; 5 or 3?

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  2. #2
    Boolit Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    3 shot groups used only to determine sight changes. Tells you almost nothing about accuracy.

    A minimum of three 5-shot groups for hunting rifles, three distinct repetitions starting from a cold barrel to see if a load works. A valid comparison of two similar loads using a T-test requires a minimum of five consecutive 5-shot groups under the same conditions without excluding any data.

    Ten-shot groups are better for assessing precision of rifle and ammunition and for function/accuracy testing of rifles commonly subjected to longer strings of fire, to ensure the point of impact doesn't "walk" as barrel heats up. A cadence of one minute per ten-shot group with a pause between groups until the barrel cools enough that it can be held in the bare hand, as in service rifle competition.

    As a general rule, ten-shot groups will be about 1.28 times larger than 5-shot groups, over the long haul.
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    Boolit Master Artful's Avatar
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    I have used multiple targets over the top of each other and with 20 rounds fired this gives you
    1 20 shot group
    2 10 shot groups
    4 5 shot groups
    Gives most info for my money
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  4. #4
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    Number of Shots per Group

    I agree with Outpost. Artful's solution sounds like a good one too.

    With my competitive shooting background, almost all my load and rifle testing is with 10 shot groups. Some 30 calibre hunting rifles will get several 5 shot groups as a test, but varmint and target rifles are held to a 10 shot group standard.

    Revolvers are held to two cylinders worth for a test and semi autos at least one or two full magazines.

    Here's a good example:

    A Remington 788 in 30/30 was test fired at 200 yards with the classic 311114 bullet. The first three rounds were something like 1 1/4 inches. I stopped there just for fun and after using a different aiming point (top center edge of the target) to separate the two groups, shot the remaining 7 shots of the intended 10 shot group into something like just under 4 inches. The three shot group? Not worth believing while the 7 shot group, very good at 2 MOA, is much more representative of the load's capability at 200 yards.
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    Last edited by Scharfschuetze; 08-02-2017 at 04:42 PM.
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    Ten shots is the standard.

    I believe it was Felix who said, three to test the load, three to test the rifle, and four to test the man.
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  6. #6
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    I believe eight is the minimum statistically. Ten shots is the standard. Three shots are fine for getting on paper. But it isn't going to tell you anything beyond that.

  7. #7
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    Scharfschuetze's Avatar
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    I believe eight is the minimum statistically. Ten shots is the standard.
    Another advantage to basing accuracy on 10 shot strings is that many of the older bullseye competitions are based on 10 shot strings. Thus a load that does well with 10 shots will do well in a match if the shooter does his part.
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  8. #8
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    since i use single shots almost exclusively and i hunt deer/black bear, i'll do a 3 shot group(3 or more times). i used to be able to do a 10 shot group(3 or more times) for paper and varmints, but i gave up on paper and i don't hunt much varmints(groundhogs, foxes and 'yotes) anymore.

    come to think of it, its rare for me to take a 2nd shot at anything. i can only think of 3 or 4 times that i did need 2nd shot.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Here is an example of "good" 100-yard performance with a .30-'06 sporting rifle with 4X hunting scope. All sixty rounds were fired in about 15 minutes. Note that most of the groups are ten shots. There is one 20-shot group which I fired mostly for academic curiosity. Cast bullets shot as-cast and unsized without gascheck.

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by 18Bravo View Post
    So, what is the consensus? Do you shoot 3 or 5 shot groups for load development accuracy? I was always taught to believe that 5 shot groups were the way to go. The problem for me recently, is that I can’t seem to put 5 rounds into anything that would be considered an acceptable group. 3 shots? Yes. 4 shots? Yes. 5 shots? NO. It seems that no matter how hard I concentrate I always end up with one flyer. To work up a new load, the attached target was shot at 100 yards. As you can see in three of the targets one round screwed up decent groups. In most cases it was the last round that messed things up. What are the rest of you shooting; 5 or 3?

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    Using the OPs target it appears he shot 2 groups each of 2 different loads(?). If he did not make any sight changes the different groups of each load demonstrate how "random dispersion" of the shots with in his cone of fire can be deceiving unless the sample size (# of shots) is statistically valid. Taking the 23 gr load as an example; the 5 shots he used for each group are not statistically valid as previously mentioned. What the OP ended up with using the 5 shot groups was 2 separate groups seemingly with different accuracy capability and different POIs. If he overlaid the targets or had just shot a 10 shot group he would have gotten a much better idea of the actual cone of fire (the real accuracy measurement) with that rifle and each load.

    Overlaying the 23.5 gr load for a composite 10 shot group appears to give moa capability and appears to be the more accurate load. Another indicator is the center of the groups are closer together indicating a smaller cone of fire. Further testing should be done to confirm.

    As a side note I use 26.5 gr H335 with the Hornady 55 gr SX in my 12" twist M700V....have done so since '74.
    Last edited by Larry Gibson; 08-02-2017 at 06:04 PM.
    Larry Gibson

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  11. #11
    Boolit Master Any Cal.'s Avatar
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    I have been using ten shot groups, shot over the course of ten minutes. Keeps the barrel cool, and tells exactly where the point of aim/impact is, since the barrel isn't walking. Not too hard to concentrate, since each shot is like a first shot.

    If I want to see how the firearm fires warm, I just speed up the cadence. Usually you see issues before 10 rounds for that, so just 5 or 6 can tell you something.

    This is a 10 shot group done this way out of my 50+ year old .444 with a receiver sight over a rolled up gun case at 100yds. The flyer was my fault... The other 9 went into 2 1/4". Figured this way no sight cuts or mag tube hangers would be wreaking havok as the barrel warmed.

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    Last edited by Any Cal.; 08-02-2017 at 08:07 PM.

  12. #12
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    No correct answer to this one. Best is to test the way it will be used and answer what you are looking to achieve. For a NRA Match or Service rifle ten shot groups in 60 to 70 seconds since that is that is the same as the rapid strings, however, some walking issues may not show in the first ten shot group string. On a big game hunting rifle load development I normal do 5 shot groups but for testing the rifle I am only interested in the first couple of shots since a follow up shot means I didn't do something right. I have a Savage 99 that groups very well for the first three shots but starts to walk badly after the 3rd. While it would be nice if it didn't I really don't care since it will never fire 4 shots hunting.

    Prairie dog rifles/loads are always tested with 10 shot groups since going from cold to very hot is a normal usage for them.

    I am not into long range big game hunting, however, a buddy is. Once his load is developed he only used one shot groups. He starts with a clean cold bore and fires one shot per day at whatever yardage he wants. Normally 600 to 800 yards.
    Last edited by M-Tecs; 08-02-2017 at 08:29 PM.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master tazman's Avatar
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    M-Tecs That makes complete sense to me.

  14. #14
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    Greetings
    Years back read an article that gave the "statistical average" for 7 shot groups. Decided to try it awhile. Still doing 7 shot groups for initial accuracy testing. If I feel a load is worthy of my accuracy parameters I fire a 10 shot never letting the barrel get warm. Never a wonder.
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  15. #15
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    One 3 shot or even 5 shot group doesn't show you much. Id like to have a dime for every time I shot a one inch 5 shot 100 yard group and came back the next day shot again and got a 2 inch group. 3 or 5 shot groups for sighting in. To get an idea of what is an accurate load I shoot 3 5 shot groups and do it at least two different days. Usually when its all said and done and I'm calling it a hunting load I shoot a final SLOW 10 shot group. I chuckle at guys who go out and shot a half a box of shells shoot one 3 shot 1in or less group and claim they have a tack driving moa gun. I need to know that when an animal is standing out at 300 yards if the shot is muffed its my fault not the guns.
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  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lloyd Smale View Post
    One 3 shot or even 5 shot group doesn't show you much. Id like to have a dime for every time I shot a one inch 5 shot 100 yard group and came back the next day shot again and got a 2 inch group. 3 or 5 shot groups for sighting in. To get an idea of what is an accurate load I shoot 3 5 shot groups and do it at least two different days. Usually when its all said and done and I'm calling it a hunting load I shoot a final SLOW 10 shot group. I chuckle at guys who go out and shot a half a box of shells shoot one 3 shot 1in or less group and claim they have a tack driving moa gun. I need to know that when an animal is standing out at 300 yards if the shot is muffed its my fault not the guns.
    Lloyd, you're ruining it for all the guys who shoot one three shot group into an inch and then tell everyone that "my gun will do it all day long". I worked many years as a quality engineer who used statistics extensively. I pretty much agree with everyone who says you need to shoot more over time to know what your gun is going to do. I believe that shooting three shots one time is pretty meaningless in the long run. I do believe that if you're only going to take it out one time to see how it performs you should at least fire a ten shot group. If you're a hunter who expects to shoot only one shot I'd suggest letting the barrel cool between shots. If you're shooting prairie dogs you'd probably be better off shooting those shots pretty quickly to see what a warm barrel is going to add to the mix. Lots of good comments on this post.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master buckshotshoey's Avatar
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    To add, I swab the bore with solvent and a dry patch before beginning. It will give you the clean bore impact point. Allow to cool. Then see if impact changes as the barrel fouls.

    Before you go hunting, start with a swabbed barrel.

  18. #18
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    IMHO,M-TECS is on the more plausible answer...no one is wrong here.."statistical averages" IMO would have merit if the gun was fired from a mechanical device...but in most cases the groups whether three shot or twenty shots are fired by individuals with "flaws"..ie; inconsistent hold pratices, inconsistent sight pictures, not reading the wind, change in lighting, failing eyes, fatique, stress etc....shooting good groups in competition takes being able to handle the stress as much as it has to do with being a good shot...heck one shot groups are used in some disciplines' .....if I hadn't gotten older and keenely aware of the affects of failing eye sight and muscle fatigue I would probably agree that there was a definite answer...for me at my age I find that 5 shot groups are about the limit that I can hold things together so I shoot a series of 5 shot groups spaced well apart ...taken together they pretty much tell me what I need to know..the last shot flier can almost be counted on...but hey even that is consistent...

    One last comment ..I'll agree that some barrels will walk the shoots when they get heated up..but again like the man said "if you're a hunter.. who cares.."

    So if your a hunter.. shoot the one shot cold barrel "flier" five times and see what you get for a group..if you're in competition shoot your ten shots and see if you get vertical stringing or what ever ...provided you take into consideration your physical capabilities or infirmities..you'll get a good idea of what's happening....remember "it aint always the gun or load"

  19. #19
    Boolit Master Rick Hodges's Avatar
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    When deciding on a load for a hunting rifle....my final test is 5, 5 shot groups. I let the barrel cool to ambient temperature between groups. I will average the 5 groups and call my rifle/load as accurate as that average. I know that isn't as precise as 10 shot groups, but I'm ok with it because I have never had to fire even 5 shots at a big game animal.

    3 shot groups are to confirm zero when sighting in.
    Je suis Charlie

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Hodges View Post
    When deciding on a load for a hunting rifle....my final test is 5, 5 shot groups. I let the barrel cool to ambient temperature between groups. I will average the 5 groups and call my rifle/load as accurate as that average. I know that isn't as precise as 10 shot groups, but I'm ok with it because I have never had to fire even 5 shots at a big game animal.

    3 shot groups are to confirm zero when sighting in.
    That is the camp I am in. High power competition shooters have different needs. And there are no pararie dog towns in Michigan, so even my varmint guns do not see many rounds in a short period of time.
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