R. Ann Parris on Ammunition Variance Quick Fix


Ammunition Variance Quick Fix by R. Ann Parris

Ammunition inherently has variance due to bullet weight and shape, and powder loads. Sometimes it’s not significant, but sometimes it is, especially if we went with a multi-purpose platform or have a wide variety of targets, ranges, and loads to match them. Variance also occurs between archery bolts and arrows with differing tips, shaft weights, and shaft lengths.

When the differences exceed our variation tolerance, there’s an easy, inexpensive fix we can apply.

*The same fix can be applied if we’re also using the same firearm for multiple people or switching between fixed-sight guns that shoot just a little differently.

First, we chart it.

That means we have to be consistent. Most manufacturer loads for hunting and precision sports are pretty “tight”. Some lower-end and plinking loads will be looser, so knowing rock-solid that we are not the problem is vital.

In our test, we keep the same point of aim for each ammo.

We’re looking for groups, and tight groups.

Once we know our baselines, and have paper plates, cardboard boxes, and spans of used wrapping paper with our groups right there where we can see them (marking them as we go), we measure.

Then, we go back, and move those groups where we need them by changing our point of aim or adjusting our scopes.

I personally prefer moving my point of aim if it’s something I may be changing on the fly, like giving up on 100+ yards for deer and taking a rabbit at 10-30 feet/yards instead, or switching between my typical man-animal defensive load to a window/radiator/tire puncher or greater-distance precision load in my grab-an-go rifles.

*I do actually have a few where I know to switch between sights instead, but they’re VERY rare and usually for small game v. medium or tiny game.

I prefer Kentucky windage just because it’s faster to adjust. I move my sights vs. taking my hands away and tweaking something. It’s also about to make inherent ammo differences easier to track in a quick-reference form, because…

Now that we have our baselines, we make a cheat sheet.

Ideally, it’s a tiny cheat sheet.

Like, really ideally we’ll be sticking this to our buttstock, magazine well, or protruding portions of mags, or archery bracers, a luggage tag we can affix to our coat or sling, or maybe even a quarterback-style wristband.

(We might also stick something tactile on a mag, stripper clip, or loops to remind us that those rounds are different.)

I’m not trying to track 10-20 options here. That’s fine for a notebook or card we use for single-target hunting, true one-shot sniper and DM shooting, or range plinking and competition, just like adjusting optics instead of using Kentucky windage.

If we’re aiming for a practical reminder that works while hearts are racing or we’re hungry (critters do not wait for us, particularly while we crinkle paper and move a firearm to click 2-14 times before getting a good shooting position again), we need to be able to just glance.

We can graph our cheat sheets different ways:

– We draw a single target with 3-6 different dots that are given a short letter/number code to show us where we want to aim, possibly including 2-3 numbers for ranges if that’s in play.

– We draw several targets labelled with the same info, showing the specific aim point.

All we need for the “target” is a simple circle and a very small “+” in the center, with a dot that represents our aim point.

Colored pencils reduce rain and hard-use smears. We can also cover paper with clear tape, or write directly on a piece of tape with a Sharpie (duct tape, painter’s tape, and sharpies do not always love each other, so check that, too).

I’ve become a fan of using pale, fine-tip paint markers or chalk pens that readily stand out in lower light, and don’t have the shimmering glare from bright lights that can be hard to see even in sunglasses or amber shooting lenses, or ultra-fine sharpies on pale tan packing tape (which is prone to coming off in wetness, but doesn’t leave stickiness on stocks like covering the whole thing in contact paper does).

Not everybody needs a cheat sheet.

Not everybody has enough loads to worry about it. Some can readily remember without cues.

For others, though, marking differing points of aim is handy, for ammunition variance, for different shooters, or for less-used and thus less-familiar guns. Happily, we have a cheap, easy and pretty quick solution.