View Full Version : Grouping

Feuer Frei
March 16, 2007, 02:19 PM
When selecting a deer hunting rifle what is the maximum groups you can have before ruling out that gun. Obviously the tighter the better, but at what point would it be no good? 2.5"? 3"? Do they all need to be 1 MOA or smaller? Thanks

March 16, 2007, 02:26 PM
What are the size of the vitals of the game?

That's your answer (assuming you can hit it from a stressed field position).

Feuer Frei
March 16, 2007, 02:28 PM
I'm not sure as I've never been hunting before. I just want to learn as much as possible before going. What is the average size of a whitetail deer's vitals?

March 16, 2007, 02:34 PM
My opinion- deer have a 6-8" kill zone, so any rifle you are going to use must be able to group inside of that and deliver sufficient energy at your normal hunting ranges (out to 250 or 300 yds).

Long answer, if you use a rifle that shoots sub-MOA, then the question becomes "how far can you hold well enough to ensure a good kill?". If your rifle has trouble keeping all the rounds inside of 5" at 100 yds, then it is a 150 yds rifle, regardless of caliber.

Also consider, if you use a rifle that shoots sub-MOA, but does not deliver sufficient energy at a given range to ensure a good kill, then the rifle is limited to the range where it drops below your target energy level.

Short answer, most people consider a rifle that shoots 1.5"-2" to be acceptable for hunting at normal ranges. Tighter is better, but a deer can't tell if the round hit where you aimed or not, so you have to be able to do your part.

March 16, 2007, 02:35 PM
I believe the acceptted standard size of a deer's vitals is around 8". Many people practice on 8" paper plates, which relate to about the same size and try to keep all there shots on the plate from field shooting positions.

March 16, 2007, 02:46 PM

Know where the vitals are too. Practice shooting and have fun!

Wild Bill Bucks
March 16, 2007, 03:16 PM
Most any new rifle nowdays will put 3 factory rounds inside a 1 1/2" circle off of the bench, but for the most part, most shooters that can only group 1 1/2" from a bench, have a hard time hitting a 6" group at 100 yards, freehand.

Before going hunting with any rifle, it is best to sight your rifle in off of the bench, then practice freehand until you can group inside 6" consistantly.(On deer size game )

That all being said, if I buy a rifle that won't group inside 1 1/2" at 100 yards, it generally finds a new home before long.

March 16, 2007, 05:52 PM
If you are shooting a 6" group, offhand, at 100 yards, then you need more practice.

A 6" group at 100 yards becomes a 12" group at 200 yards, and a 15" group at 250 yards.

An 8" paper plate is not the way to go for a target. Buy some rifle targets with 1" squares, such as Leupold targets, and work on getting 1 1/2" groups at 100 yards, using sandbags. Sight your rifle 1 1/2" high at 100 yards, and you will right on out to 250.

Fat White Boy
March 16, 2007, 08:46 PM
I give my self a zone about the size of a pie pan(8") that will result in a clean kill on most big game. If you can put a round into an 8" circle on the front shoulder of a deer or pig with the bottom of the circle just below the shoulder joint, you will put that animal down.

Head, neck and spine shots will also result in a kill but are smaller targets with less room for error...

Art Eatman
March 16, 2007, 09:07 PM
Two things: First is that the first shot from a cold barrel goes to the same point of aim, today, as it did yesterday.

Next, as far as group size, I'd worry if I couldn't get a three-shot group inside of two MOA. Five-shot groups are unimportant in a hunting rifle. Since the heart.lung area of a deer is a big double-handful, somewhere inside a four-inch circle is plenty good for a clean kill.

Probably over 90% of all shots on deer are inside of 200 yards.


March 17, 2007, 08:59 AM
If the rifle puts the first two shots very close together, you're good to go.

March 17, 2007, 10:52 AM
Define close. Someones close could be 5". Personally I'm not happy unless my 200 yd shot is around 2" or 3". It feels good too when you hit a quarter sized target at 100 yds (my maximum standard for any rifle I shoot)

My shotgun (mossberg 500 rifled barrel) has a 5" grouping at 100 yds. The only deer I shot on the only hunt I have had the rifle out on was 100-120 yards away and the shot went through the side behind the shoulder. The deer only ran about 40 yds before collapsing.

March 17, 2007, 11:17 PM
See the deer. Kill the deer.

.308 win

March 17, 2007, 11:24 PM
That's helpful.

Art Eatman
March 18, 2007, 11:07 AM
SFAIK, there are very few bolt-action deer rifles made today that won't shoot inside of two MOA, and a great many are right at one MOA straight from the box.

It's more important that the stock fit one's body. When you mount the rifle to your shoulder with your eyes closed, and then open your eyes, you should be looking right through the sights or looking right down the centerline of the barrel. And without moving your head. (Same as for a shotgun.)

After that, it's aesthetics and $$$.


March 20, 2007, 04:02 PM
When selecting a deer hunting rifle what is the maximum groups you can have before ruling out that gun?

The answer is gonna depend highly upon:

-at what distances you'll be shooting (based on terrain, flora cover, etc.)
-whether or not you're disciplined enough to not take shots that are beyond your established range, based on the capabilities of your rifle and you
-How much you practice under field conditions / how good a shot you are under field conditions
-(closely related) whether your "field condition" is rested or unrested (e.g. tree stand with horizontal rest vs. walking/still hunting).
-Whether you're shooting vital shots or neck shots, as well as general size of the deer in your area (these determine target size)

But, without knowing more, typical hunting situation, typical skill, ranges, etc., you figure....... take the vital zone (heart/lungs) of say, a typical sized deer - outside the deer is about a 10" circle (5" radius). Allow 4" for "field condition error", including shooter hold, shooter range mis-estimation, wind effects, and angle vis a vis horizon effects - i.e. 2" on either side. This means you need the rifle to hit within a 6" circle. That means you need a 12 MOA gun/ammo combo at 50 yards, a 6 MOA gun at 100 yards, 3 MOA at 200 yards, 2 MOA at 300 yards, and 1.5 MOA at 400 yards. 400 yards shots are pretty insane, and just ain't gonna happen realistically. At least not ethically, in 99.44% of situations. And since 300 yards shots are very rare, but not altogether inconceivable, you want a rifle that shoots roughly 2 MOA from a rested position at the range, or about 3 MOA if you limit your shots to 200 yards and are a *reasonably* steady/good shot.

Now, since (as Art & WBB & others have said), pretty much any modern turnbolt will shoot into 2 MOA with ammo it likes, you can pretty much grab ANY modern rifle made out there and with proper ammo testing, zeroing, and practicing under field conditions, the deer are as good as dead if they meet up with you. Just as true with a $244 Mossy 100 or $279 Stephens 200 or $195 NEF or $170 Rossi, as it is with a $1,250 Kimber, Sako, or whathaveyou, or anywhere in between.

That's actually an imprecise calculation because the 4" allowed for to provide for field conditions is actually gonna depend on the distance, and so this should be expressed in MOA, not inches, since any error is magnified the further out you go. So it's a decent analysis for 50 to 100 yards, but not real pretty after that. You need a progressively better and better gun (not to mention a better and better shooter), the farther the distance.

In other words, a 6MOA gun is probably fine for hunting if all shots are 100 or less (and heck, a 13 or 14 MOA gun is going to work if all shots are under 50 yards, instead of 12 MOA). But at 300 yards, you actually need a gun that shoots a tad BETTER than 2 MOA rested, even with better skill...shooter error, wind, and range misestimation are all magnified. So more like 1.5 - 1.75 MOA gun/ammo combo at 300 yards, and preferably a 0.5-.075 MOA gun/ammo combo if you're gonna try a 400 yard shot, and stay ethical.

All IMO, of course. But distance, distance, distance - it all depends on the distance!

Yes, and what Art says about a rifle's stock-to-body natural fit is right on.....

If the rifle puts the first two shots very close together, you're good to go

Yes, provided those two shots are close to the point of aim, not a foot from the crosshairs. :)

May 29, 2007, 03:02 PM
I'd say a 3" group at 100 yards would be enough for most hunting guns. What it comes down to is your ability to make that shot at 100 yards that matters, and whether you can consistently make those shots under pressure.

My opinion is that, provided you're able to do your part (a very big IF) and the cartridge is rated for the distance (for instance, if you can get 1MOA with a .223, that doesn't mean you'd be good for 300 yard shots):

3" at 100 yards grouping is good for 100-150 yard shots
2" at 100 yards is good for 200-250 yards
1" at 100 yards is good for 300-400 yards (the higher end for

I would not personally take a shot beyond 250 yards (my .270 win deer gun is sub-1MOA), and I'm a pretty good shot. I put two shots through the boiler room of a doe at 60 yards two falls ago (one from each side of the animal) from a standing position with a .30-30 in about 2 seconds two years ago (my first deer hunt - my inexperience made me nervous when she just jumped, turned around, and looked at me without any apparent damage - so I took another shot. both were at roughly 30 degrees from broadside - like this but at a lesser angle: / \), and I can comfortably (and accurately) shoot prone out to 200 yards with good groupings in field conditions. The 250 yard distance is the rough maximum I'm willing to take given my ability, distance estimation ability, ability to gauge wind, and desire to make a clean kill (I won't take a shot other than one at a ~90 degree angle to the deer - don't want to ruin any meat).

Another thing to keep in mind is that field distance estimations aren't always what they seem; it's good to have familiarity with the land so you know how far apart different land features are. The place I hunted last year is fairly flat, and it appeared to be a much shorter range than it was (I was thinking 300ish yard field of view before walking it; it was closer to 500). That distance differential would have really screwed up my shot had I taken it without knowing the proper distance.

May 29, 2007, 03:11 PM
It's more important that the stock fit one's body. When you mount the rifle to your shoulder with your eyes closed, and then open your eyes, you should be looking right through the sights or looking right down the centerline of the barrel. And without moving your head. (Same as for a shotgun.)


Also keep in mind the scope's eye relief (if you're using one) will be important, largely depending on what position you'll be shooting at. A comfortable eye relief while standing will be insufficient (depending on stock length) from prone, especially if you've a lanky body type (as I do). I'm thinking of transitioning to a "scout scope" setup for this very reason (even while shooting at the range, I'm prone to have the &$@% scope bop me in my overly-large brow - I have the scars to prove it).