The Information Age of Shooting
By Ed Turner
It seems to me that those involved in the wonderful, addicting sports of shooting and hunting are now living in the Golden Age of Information. Almost all of us have access to a personal computer and that opens a nearly limitless amount of technical information, innovations and new technology to all who have a desire to learn.
Years ago, one learned all he or she needed to know about deer calibers at the knee of Uncle Joe, who got himself a buck 'most every season. Joe knew everything about what was the best gun for any situation, as he owned both a .30-30 and .30-06! He claimed nothing worked better than a peep-sighted .30-30 for hunting deer and black bear in the woods.
He did admit that his Cousin Ted's .32 Win. Special and Brother Bill's .35 Remington also seemed pretty capable, but he was stickin' to the .30-30 because there were more ammo choices for it. He also claimed to be able to shoot the eye out of a gnat at 275 yards with his '06 and its Lyman All American 4X scope.
With those two calibers, we could hunt everything we needed under all conditions using just two rifles and we built our battery accordingly. Truth be known, even today a serious hunter could feel comfortable owning that two gun battery for hunting all CXP2 and CXP3 game. However, some shooters want to investigate alternatives and may prefer more specialized calibers, or need additional rifles for special circumstances.
The benefit of visiting a web site such as Guns and Shooting Online and pulling up articles, charts, lists and such on a computer, or simply studying the performance of one individual cartridge/load until we have a firm understanding of its ballistics, opens new possibilities and increases our understanding of the cartridge's potential. If we feel we need a rifle capable of taking an elk at 300 yards, we can pour over ballistics tables, read what calibers experienced elk hunters recommend and make an educated decision based on research we were able to do in our own home.
We can decide whether the .267 or .305 Wizbang Magnum is best for our purposes by researching typical loads and bullet weights, checking remaining energy and estimated killing power at expected ranges, and comparing the recoil energy and velocity of our selected calibers. These comparisons are exactly what a serious hunter should do before deciding on a new rifle, cartridge, or before embarking on a hunt for an unfamiliar species of game animal.
A serious student of hunting and shooting has a leg up on the enthusiast who simply relies on the word of those who may, or may not, be experienced enough to be helpful. That said, there is also nothing wrong with questions and campfire discussions, as they provide a way for a neophyte to hear some new ideas and compare the opinions of other hunters. However, it is then up to the individual to study, learn and decide who actually knew what they were talking about around the campfire.
Sadly, hunters offer many common misconceptions as advice. Certainly, some rifles and calibers are more suited for a specific purpose than others, but beware of generalizations. For example, the .243 Win. is a recognized long range (open country) cartridge and the .308 Win. is known as an "all-around" hunting cartridge that is particularly suitable for the woods and brush country hunter.
The truth be known, when using appropriate bullets for hunting the same game, these two calibers are more similar in trajectory than most people realize. The .243 shooting a 100 grain bullet at the typical 2960 fps muzzle velocity has a maximum point blank range (MPBR) +/- 3" of 283 yards, while the .308 shooting a 150 grain bullet at its normal 2800 fps has a MPBR of 275 yards. That is an eight yard difference in favor of the .243, but eight yards is unlikely to be a game changer.
This simple example is not meant to slight either caliber or its fans. It was made merely to show how some common misconceptions have nearly become gospel. The solution is for the new shooter and hunter to ask questions, listen to the answers and then check the information through their own research before making important decisions regarding calibers and their uses.
The same holds true for the rifle intended to shoot that new cartridge. Many shooters are overwhelmed (I can't blame them) by the selection of different rifles and even action types that are suitable for their hunting purposes. I wish I had a dollar for every time I have read that a serious hunter should purchase a bolt action rifle, because they are more accurate. Instead of accepting that at face value, do some research and see how well the new Marlin and Browning lever action rifles (for example) actually shoot.
There are many documented articles showing that these fine lever guns are capable of delivering MOA accuracy. This is comparable to the best bolt guns. Any hunter wanting a new rifle would be wise to look at all action types, from single shot to semi-auto, before making a decision based on outmoded opinions and questionable advice.
While you are at it, you might analyze how much accuracy you actually need, or can use, in the field. Is 1.0 minute of angle (MOA) actually a critical difference in intrinsic accuracy? Does it even matter? In some cases one MOA might matter, but in many others it will be insignificant. It all depends on the shooter, the situation and the game being hunted, so you need to be realistic in selecting your criteria.
Lastly, a few thoughts about telescopic sights. If we live in a "Golden Age" of anything, it has to be riflescopes. There are scopes available today for about $200 that could not have been equaled at any price only 25 years ago. If you think I'm full of horse dukey, grab a new Burris, Weaver, Sightron, Leupold, or Bushnell selling in that price range at your local sporting goods store and look through it. Note the ¼ MOA click adjustments, fully multi-coated optics and so forth that your old scope probably lacks.
Need a new scope? Read some articles about what type of scope might best fit your shooting or hunting needs. (See the Scopes and Sport Optics page.) Then, look for comparisons and reviews of the scopes you can afford and that interest you the most. (See the Product Reviews page.) One bad review does not a bad scope make, but consistent comments about performance and quality may give you some important insights.
We have a ton of quality information available to us right here on Guns and Shooting Online! Use it, study it, and try your best to digest and understand it. No, you needn't be a "gun nut" just to enjoy some shooting and hunting, but I promise you will have a better all-around experience if you do some research. It really is just that easy.
Copyright 2009 by Ed Turner. All rights reserved.