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Thread: How accurate is a pistol?

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    How accurate is a pistol?

    I always assumed that a pistol is going to be accurate to 15-25-50 yards...
    So, I'm wondering if my thoughts on pistol accuracy is just because it is only as accurate as the shooter...

    Here is my background on my thought:
    I shot a steel match the other day with my CZ52 Tokerev. The the targets were 10 yards away and large 1-2' diameter. I had a tough day at work and went in and was missing everything. Not really everything but 2 or 3 or 4 misses out of 6... That sucks...

    I consider my CZ52 to be a very accurate gun...

    So, couple days later I go to my favorate range and am shooting long range steel targets. While I am waiting on my rifle to cool down, I pull out the CZ52 and think let's just put a couple on the 100 yard targets...

    Well, I put 7 out of 8 on a cowboy silhoute at 100 yards that is about 2' tall and 1' wide... The one I pulled... So the gun is accurate...

    So, I try for a chicken (about the size of a real chicken) at 200 yards and after about 20 or so rounds I hit the sucker and knock him down.

    That CZ52 has a 4" barrel and shoots a HOT round. But I'm thinking... Is a pistol really much more accurate than we think? I told my buddy this story and he said "wow, that is some serious marksmanship" - I thought, well I kind of played a little battle ship... Low, high, left, right, right high and most likely got really lucky on the hit... So not really good marksmanship, but just zeroing in. And the pistol happened to be consistent enough that I could zero in on the target.

    Then I started thinking about my other pistols. I have some that I think are really accurate and others that I think that are well not so much. Now I am thinking, perhaps I am just not shooting them right.

    Seems like a good way to start thinking about my varius guns and when I feel like there is an accuracy problem, perhaps I should just go to the long range and see if it really is a problem...

    My thinking is that I am wrong to think that pistols are sub 50 yard guns and that I should think of them as guns that I need to figure out how far they are actually accurate out to... Basically, I think I need a new notebook...
    WWG1WGA

  2. #2
    Boolit Master BNE's Avatar
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    Every pistol I own is more accurate than I am. I really think they just take more effort to hold steady and to aim than a rifle that is designed to be held more securely. Iron sights that are only 4 inches apart are difficult to properly line up at 200 yards also.

    I have done similar tests as you, clay pidgeons can be hit at 75 yards with a standard pistol. But it usually takes me a few shots!
    I'm a Happy Clinger.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    Many handguns are capable of long range accuracy. Some handguns are inherently inaccurate. Factors to consider beyond shooter skill are ammunition, individual gun, and environmintal conditions. I've been shooting handgun silhouette since 1980 and I can assure you that hand guns are indeed capable of fine long range accuracy.

  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master GhostHawk's Avatar
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    I'm with BNE.

    I saw my wife take a Beretta 92fs which she had never before seen or shot. Without using the sights or the laser. Her first shot was 4" low, her 2nd shot drilled a 2 liter pop bottle full of water. Kerbloey! And she did it standing, at 25 yards.

    I try not to go down this rabbithole because the limiting factor is the shooter.
    Anything that causes me to lose confidence also effects accuracy.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master

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    First, you must understand your own limitations. Mine are around 75 yards for deer and less for smaller critters.
    I will confess that I took a shot at a very large 12 point buck once at 156 steps that fell where it stood breaking its spine.

    But, the accuracy of a handgun itself is more times than not far greater than the person shooting it.
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  6. #6
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    You should try this dry fire exercise, might surprise you. Pick a target or a spot to aim at, put the sights dead on alignment, and dry fire the gun. Watch what the front sight did when the hammer dropped. If it jumped, there's half or better of your group sizes. When you can hold the sights motionless throughout the trigger pull/hammer drop, and maintain alignment of the front sight, groups will shrink admirably. That is, of course, if you memorize your grip/trigger pull and use the same in live fire.
    Got a .22 .30 .32 .357 .38 .40 .41 .44 .45 .480 or .500 S&W cylinder that needs throat reaming? 9mm, 10mm/40S&W, 45 ACP pistol barrel that won't "plunk" your handloads? Shoot me a PM! Also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Cylinderhone-756429174391912/

  7. #7
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougGuy View Post
    You should try this dry fire exercise, might surprise you. Pick a target or a spot to aim at, put the sights dead on alignment, and dry fire the gun. Watch what the front sight did when the hammer dropped. If it jumped, there's half or better of your group sizes. When you can hold the sights motionless throughout the trigger pull/hammer drop, and maintain alignment of the front sight, groups will shrink admirably. That is, of course, if you memorize your grip/trigger pull and use the same in live fire.
    Good information here

  8. #8
    Boolit Buddy gunarea's Avatar
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    Hey 44Blam
    Come shoot some Lawnsteel. We are shooting that chicken with stock out of the box Ruger Blackhawks at 75yds. Some of our shooters choose either head or tail for impact. Note; every shot is handloaded using home cast projectiles exclusively. Another very significant point is that velocities, by rule, may not exceed 875fps. This dictates that Turkeys, at 75yds, must be hit in the head to successfully topple them. Come shoot Lawnsteel, we make really good shooters into really good shooters, while laughing.
    Roy
    Shoot often, Shoot well.

  9. #9
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Part of accuracy is going to boil down to how the gun fits your hand and the quality of the trigger pull and so on.....my opinions here. To me personally I like a single stack magazine if I have a semi automatic in my hand and I'll go on record as not liking Glocks again personal opinion. With a revolver I favor a S&W say 25-5 or 629 or 686 simply because of the fit and feel and the very light crisp trigger pull. I am very proficient with these three I mentioned. Now, I did break down and purchase a Ruger Super Red Hawk 44 magnum and I couldn't hit anything with it mainly because the trigger pull wasn't up to what I am used to. Part of choosing a gun is how it feels and reacts when you pull the trigger. As mentioned practice sighting and pulling the trigger build precision, accuracy, and confidence.

  10. #10
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    Just for grins, I mounted a scope on a handgun I had and fired it from a rest. Accuracy was outstanding. groups around two inches at 25 yards. I didn't get to shoot it at longer distances but indications were that it would do well further out.
    Without the scope, I didn't shoot it any better than the other handguns I own.
    The limiting factor is definitely the shooter.
    There are a lot of people shooting long range silhouette with handguns. They specialize in it. Most use standard factory handguns with little to no modifications.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    Put on a scope and sand bag rest it and you will find many handguns are very accurate to a hundred yards and some a bunch further.

  12. #12
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    I shot metallic silhouettes...both IHMSA and NRA...for quite a few years and my revolvers were, essentially, 'box stock'. In 'Revolver' class, IHMSA allowed 'trigger jobs' and custom grips, otherwise, guns were pretty much 'off the shelf' but that didn't prevent quite a few of us from shooting, consistently, in the high 30s (out of a possible forty) with an occasional 40 on a good day. (Btw: in those days, IHMSA didn't allow optics...factory irons only!!)

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  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    I've owned a number of handguns that were accurate beyond belief. I had Bill Davis make me two revolvers in .357mag that would shoot ten shots inside 1" at fifty yards off a rest. I have owned rimfire handguns capable of shooting around an inch at 100 yards and used them in small bore silhouette to shoot many, many 60x60 scores. I once shot a 9x10 shoot-off string of NRA rifle chickens at 100 yards with that gun using the factory iron sights and those targets were around a total of 1 moa surface area. I've shot deer out to 167 yards with a revolver standing off hand (one of those Bill Davis guns). I hunted woodchucks for many years with a handgun and again, using one of the Bill Davis revolvers I shot eleven chucks one day all over 100 yards....witnessed shots by the way. The longest was 158 yards. Handguns can be very, very accurate if you know how to shoot them and they are a quality built gun. It's almost always the shooter with a handgun, not the gun.

  14. #14
    Boolit Buddy bishopgrandpa's Avatar
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    The shooter can be the the most steady in the world.
    The gun can be the most accurate.
    But if you develop your own loads, the load can make or break you.
    So what is accuracy? The shooter, the gun, the load, weather conditions or a combination of them all??

  15. #15
    Boolit Master Wheelguns 1961's Avatar
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    It is my belief that you never master a handgun. I have a checklist that I go through in my head every time I pull the trigger. I have gotten some very good advice over the years. The first, squeeze the trigger like you are taking a babies pulse. The second, and this is what Doug Guy is talking about, follow the front sight right on through the recoil. This last one is hard to do, but once you do it your shooting will improve dramatically. Follow through is also a big deal, and kind of links the two together. I wish I was a great shooter, but the fact of the matter is, I must work very hard to get the results I get. Eternal vigilance is a virtue.
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  16. #16
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Pistols can be very accurate. Several things are also a factor in pistol accuracy. Pistol are harder to shoot well than a rifle. with out the shoulder stock of a rifle and the brace support it provides. The much shorter sight radius makes sight alignment mush more critical. Think about it a pistols 3-5" sight radius compared to the 18=40" of a rifle. Weight light weight supported by 2 hands floating in the air a triggerpull thats sometimes heavier than the pistol. A rifle thats supported by s hands and a shoulder that weighs maybe 7-10 lbs and a much lighter triffer pull maybe around 2-3 lbs. Then comes ammo pistol rounds are handicapped by low velocities and bullets with a low bc sometimes under .3 while rifle rounds are in the 2000-3000 fps range and with bullets in the .4 bc range up.

    Hand gn sihlouette has the rams around 500yds and they are hit routinely with big revolvers and single shot pistols

  17. #17
    Boolit Grand Master

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    I've seen some amazing groups from a handgun in a machine rest. My thinking, and this applies to me, is that 98% of inaccuracy problems is the nut behind the handle. When I was younger (stronger, steadier, and had better eyesight) and shooting my 44 Magnums a lot, I could keep a cylinder full from my SBH in 2" @ 50' all day (indoor range). Not today...
    My Anchor is holding fast!

  18. #18
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    The more you shoot them the more accurate they (you) are. I have a Ruger .22 semi auto that I can go out to my hundred yard rest, and hit an 8X10" gong pretty much of the time. We shot our .44's and .45's at a 960 yard target during a break at a BPCR match, and once we found an aiming point on the mountain above the buffalo, we were hitting pretty regular, at least enough to make it fun, and to know you wouldn't want to be standing out there with any of us shooting at you.
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  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    Years and years ago, before the years, beer and coffee took their effect, we shot a great deal of revolvers out to 500 yards. It was easy at the time, we were raising beef and owned the land to do it. I was and still am a fan of Elmer Keith soooo..with the easy availability of the range and having been casting and loading for a couple decades already, we set out to see if what Elmer had said was actually possible and, if we could duplicate any of his "shots". All we ever did was confirm Elmer ever said. I welded up a steel buffalo shaped target about 2 ft. long by about 18 inches high. After a while, at 500 yards, we were getting 4 out of six hits from a Ruger Blackhawk in 45 Colt and a Colt New Frontier in 44 Spl. Both had 7 1/2 in. barrels and factory open sights. We were using the "stance" described by Elmer as sitting on our butts with out knees drawn up and resting our wrists on our knees.

    It was pretty amazing to see what could actually be done with accurate revolvers and loads. Admittedly it took a while to get where we could hit that small a target that consistently and, if we laid off a couple weeks the skills deteriorated quickly. I doubt I could do it today. 100 yards is a challenge these days.
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  20. #20
    Boolit Master


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    In my experience, it is rarely the gun. The CZ is not very accurate but it is not the problem in the performance you described.

    I would be happy if a had a CZ and it would hold 2" at ten yard. I would be disappointed if my 686+ would not do under an inch. Guns make a difference but not a much as you might think at short ranges.
    Don Verna

    NRA Endowment Member

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