Reliability vs Accuracy trade offs

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Reliability vs Accuracy trade offs

Postby Doug Coulter » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:57 pm

I'm going to start right off by being an obnoxious heretic and claim that the two aren't really a dichotomy. The trade-off space here is actually more complex than that.

Let's consider the following - you're a hunter, or a sniper. You chamber a round - goes in smooth, you aim, fire and miss.
Which would have been more important to "reliability" - the fact it went "bang" or the fact you missed? If a hunter, the game is now spooked, if a sniper, it's worse - the game shoots back - and now they know you're there and about where you are.
As John Plaster said - it can only raise your insurance premiums. So reliability, as usually defined is just plain wrong here - if you miss, the rest didn't matter one bit, and it could be argued that failing to chamber or just going "click" would have been a lot better outcome, eh?

Seems the usual (unsatisfying to those who like simple absolutes) answer of "it depends" now comes into play.

In a combat situation - one I've managed gratefully to miss out on myself, and hope to remain so - everyone knows you're there anyway, and even if you miss, you might get what you want out of getting them to keep their heads down - so an inaccurate but reliable fusillade of fire might do the job you need done right then. The reliability question is a lot more clear-cut in that case. Sure, you'd prefer accuracy, but when charging a position, or retreating - you may not have the luxury of taking time to aim well anyway. Plain old reliability is therefore king in some combat situations.

In match competition, you're "charged" with every shot. One that misses is also worse than one that didn't fire or wouldn't chamber. In long range accuracy games, you have plenty of time anyway, but you can't afford any "bangs" that don't result in an X ring hole. So here we are back to accuracy being the dominant desire, a malfunction that doesn't hurt anything is annoying, but that's all. Even if you have to take out the bolt and use a cleaning rod to poke out a hard to extract shell - no big deal.
It's nearly the same in handgun bullseye competition - plenty of time to aim, a misfire isn't the end of the world, usually.

In the run and gun games - ones I don't happen to play (because I stink at that and am unlikely to improve at my age) - we're back to reliability - they are a rather weak attempt to duplicate combat situations. Accuracy isn't so important, ranges are short, and it'd be hard to convince me the winners spend much time aiming anyway - at most it looks like muscle memory and fat forearms to control guns in recoil to get another shot off quickly - time is score.

Now, as it turns out, as classically defined, there IS a trade-off. The very most accurate ammo has a tendency to be a tight fit (just a tiny error in building it and it won't chamber - or will fail to extract), lack the ability to take abuse in something like a slam-feed autoloader (or just rough handling on the way to the match), and probably doesn't "keep" as long in nasty conditions, as we in this case do care about things like bullet-case neck friction and cold welding, straightness and uniformity. You can't really get away with crimping and sealing match grade accurate ammo against the weather, either, it makes it non uniform, and leaves crud in the gun that can affect the accuracy of later shots.

Self defense is it's own unique issue(s). There, you should really use factory ammo for a bunch of legal reasons. You might be committing a homicide - or close (which can be worse, now you've got a crook on the other side of a courtroom, probably a much better liar than you are, with all that implies). You sure wouldn't want to wind up in court explaining to a lawyer on the other side why you were crafting "especially deadly or brutal wounding" ammo - you know the other side is going to spin it that way, even if your self-defense weapon is a snubbie with a light, target hand-load in it. In this case, you need a bang and a hit, both, at least as well as can be managed in a horrible situation you're never going to be used to - you'll be overcoming adrenalin and fear while trying to shoot in bad conditions, quickly. There are other esoteric issues as well. Since it's a very commonly held "urban myth" that say, a .38 isn't that good for this job - cops tell endless stories of perps continuing to keep coming after multiple hits - it might actually be a better carry weapon (since almost everyone shoots better than most cops - you do have to point the thing in the right direction, something that seems to be lost on many), than say a .45 ACP, which "everyone knows" is a fight stopper even if you just wing the guy. You'd not get as much crap for emptying a .38...which is sure to do the job. Some legal theorists claim that it's definitely better to kill the guy in these cases - I have no experience and don't wish to collect any. At any rate, self defense that works is homicide in most cases where shots are fired (there are significant cases - more than when shots are fired - where the perp just runs away when he sees that gun or laser dot). To use that "defense" you have to admit you shot someone - now you have to prove it was justified, which the theorists claim is going to be easier if you're the only one with a story to tell afterwards.

I don't claim to have the ultimate insight here, this is just one of those things that got under my skin a little - as if there were one or the other, when in fact, it's obviously a continuum, depending on need and use. So I'd like to hear anyone else's comments on this. There ARE trade-offs in ammo design and construction here - not as bad as it used to be - quality parts can be pretty good at both metrics, but...

Discuss!
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Re: Reliability vs Accuracy trade offs

Postby solar_dave » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:33 pm

In a self defense situation I want as much fire power as I can muster. I keep a 6" S&W 686 to use for those situations loaded with jacketed hollow points. I do use hand loads but they are no different than high quality factory ammo except the use of 2400 as the charge. Yes if you did do the loading with cross cut bullets or any other bullet mod like Teflon coated bullets you probably are not going to have a good time in court.

But in AZ the law is pretty much in favor of the defender even in protecting property or prevention of a felony..

13-411. Justification; use of force in crime prevention; applicability

A. A person is justified in threatening or using both physical force and deadly physical force against another if and to the extent the person reasonably believes that physical force or deadly physical force is immediately necessary to prevent the other's commission of arson of an occupied structure under section 13-1704, burglary in the second or first degree under section 13-1507 or 13-1508, kidnapping under section 13-1304, manslaughter under section 13-1103, second or first degree murder under section 13-1104 or 13-1105, sexual conduct with a minor under section 13-1405, sexual assault under section 13-1406, child molestation under section 13-1410, armed robbery under section 13-1904 or aggravated assault under section 13-1204, subsection A, paragraphs 1 and 2.

B. There is no duty to retreat before threatening or using physical force or deadly physical force justified by subsection A of this section.

C. A person is presumed to be acting reasonably for the purposes of this section if the person is acting to prevent what the person reasonably believes is the imminent or actual commission of any of the offenses listed in subsection A of this section.

D. This section includes the use or threatened use of physical force or deadly physical force in a person's home, residence, place of business, land the person owns or leases, conveyance of any kind, or any other place in this state where a person has a right to be.
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Re: Reliability vs Accuracy trade offs

Postby Doug Coulter » Sun Jul 07, 2013 3:04 pm

Well, FWIW - I carry a .38 Taurus Ti Ultralight with Crimson trace laser grips - it's blinding bright and should do (don't look into laser with remaining eye), since I do shoot fairly well (just not competitive with the real masters, but I teach those cops who can't hit a sheet of paper from 7 paces reliably, so they can re-qual). I know better than to aim a .38 at a forehead or breastbone, where it might bounce. But my backup is a .45 acp CZ-97B in the car or truck, my favorite .45, holds 10+1, and shoots great accuracy even for noobs. VA law isn't real different, but in fact, it's mostly case law, not very specific in the actual laws themselves - which is bad if you're the shooter, you never know what the other side will pull out of a hat. A legal theorist/author mentioned the above - you can empty a .38 and no one will have a problem, but if you gut shoot or wing someone with a .45, you'd better not shoot again, you're not supposed to try and kill them, just stop the crime. I don't like that - for the reasons above, but it is what it is. Hopefully, it will never matter to me personally. I have a rep as the serious "gun guy" around here, even though in my own eyes and those of the real masters, I ain't much. But no one who has seen me in rapid fire shoot a small group with a handgun wants to get into that situation with me - so at home, I'm pretty safe just from the reputation. I also don't choose to go places I think I'd need a gun anyway, since in general, I have that choice without inconvenience.

The .45 is too big and heavy for practical carry for me, so it's the Taurus or nothing. I sometimes do carry open just to watch the reactions, which have been interesting. More or less, it seems the closer to farmland, the less negative or any reaction at all, the closer to the big city is where I get any negative reactions, and puzzled looks - I really don't look like even a deep-cover cop, after all. The liquor store had no problems, and so I asked explicitly - they said, DO carry open and often - we get robbed too much. The bank, same deal, despite the silly sign that says "take off your hat so our cameras can take your picture". They know me...what would I do, steal my own money? Where at the jiffy lube in the next big town, some huge guy got up in my face and asked about my permit to carry open (I just said I had one, didn't mention the 2nd), and next door at the hot-dog place, the girl went nuts till I told her, hey, I'm here for a hot-dog, and no one will rob you while I'm here - and no robber wears a holster anyway. All was fine then, but it was a little tense.

VA law has one huge flaw I know of. Even with a CCW permit, you can't conceal in a bar - unless you're a legislator. This is the last place on earth I'd carry open - someone might grab the gun while I'm busy with my beer and do harm with it. It's also the last place I'd want to be seen locking it in the car (in this case, the Volt doesn't have a real trunk anyway), where someone might steal it - or hit me as I'm putting it away or taking it out. What could they have been thinking, if anything, about that one? VCDL (Virginia Citizens Defense league, which is NRA on steroids) is working it, but...VA also has northern VA in it - which may as well be DC...which has most of the voters. So I'm not holding my breath.

For actual self defense, my own philosophy is "situational awareness" to hopefully prevent any need of force, followed by a few dirty fighting tricks my martial arts instructors taught me, then the gun, in that order. I will talk my way out, walk my way out, run if I must - but if you keep coming and catch me, heck, it's on your head now...and I really mean it, and can back it up. As an old drummer, I'm sneaky-fast with my arms...

I've found one thing that surprises most non-gun-people, though. In the event of someone getting into my face and trying to start a fight, if I'm carrying, I get really calm. I know where it could go, even if they don't, and it's quite interesting how they react to me not caring - some get worse, some are just mystified I don't rise to their insult. This hasn't happened often - I don't send the signals that usually get that situation going, but it has happened. Heck, *I* was surprised. Just knowing was enough for me.
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Re: Reliability vs Accuracy trade offs

Postby solar_dave » Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:24 am

I really like wheel guns. Been thinking about getting a S&W Model 60 Chiefs special, 38 5 shot. A very nice pocket gun.

Auto-loaders are fine except when a round fails, then a wheel gun is just a trigger pull away from a next shot.
Granted they don't have a capacity of an auto-loader but if you can't get it done with a few rounds you got bigger problems.

Are there really cops who can't qualify out there packing? Oh man that is really bad.
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Re: Reliability vs Accuracy trade offs

Postby Doug Coulter » Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:17 am

Sadly, yes, there are a lot of cops who don't shoot as well as your basic noob. You see it on the news a lot - like that incident in NY where 43 shots were fired at a guy going for his cellphone (possible weapon). They killed him. 3 shots hit - many cops just emptying their guns sort of at random. From cover and suppored positions. It's kind of scary - what about bystanders? Out of the 6 in my town, one doesn't need my help - he's a "gun guy" and practices. The rest...not so great.

I like wheelguns too. Only ever had one click that didn't turn into a bang - they'd put the mainspring in the Taurus in upside down and it screwed itself around the nub on the hammer drive bar and got weak. I fixed that of course.
And I love S&W - have to get a pic of one of mine up here. But they didn't make the right ultralight for me, so I got the Taurus. It really makes a difference in comfort during carry.

The only pistol I have that's nearly as reliable is that CZ-97b - thing just never jams, but if you limp-wrist it - like some people I've handed it to - it might not fully cycle, like any pistol. My FN five-seven seems pretty good too, but it's a reloaders nightmare, as it pushes the shoulder forward about 50 mils on the brass everytime you shoot it - it's kinda too powerful to be unlocking that soon.

Edit, don't follow this link if you're squeamish. Police take 4 shots at a dog at 3-4 feet - and don't kill it instantly. Really?
http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2013/07/ ... shoot-dog/
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Re: Reliability vs Accuracy trade offs

Postby Donovan Ready » Fri Apr 18, 2014 8:56 am

My favorite revolver is the S&W model 66. I bought mine for $250 at a pawn shop, spent another $125 to have the trigger smoothed out and bead-blasted the finish to a matte.

I was reloading at the time, and managed to double-charge one +P .38 round when I got distracted. The SOB sounded like a little-bitty howitzer.

Range master and all the fellows on the line stepped well away from me while I unloaded and left.. :oops: I went back to the gunsmith for a mag flux and mike check-up and he said all was well. Amazing pistol! Amazing reaction when that puppy went off, too. :|
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Re: Reliability vs Accuracy trade offs

Postby Doug Coulter » Fri Apr 18, 2014 9:39 am

My favorite revolver is also a S&W, model 14. I mounted a red dot sight on it, and it's just dead on accurate every single shot. Yeah, you gotta be careful reloading .38 as with most bullets and appropriate powders you can double charge one. Not that the Smiths mind so much (I've seen cheaper ones that got blown up, though)...I have a light bullet load for mine that zeros out the same at 25 ft and 75 yards, and it a little above "+p" but I don't shoot that a lot
. What I mainly shoot is wadcutters - hollow base when I can find them, but mainly tumble lube style from Lee's molds, cast here, over around 2.8 grains bullseye. Those just don't really have room for a double charge, as I seat the bullet flush with the case mouth - the slug takes up most of the room in the brass.

I've found that load superior for short barrel guns as well (the Taurus) - but not easy on the hand in a light gun (Ti). The reasoning is - super fast powder, heavy bullet (about 145 gr), and the case itself is part of the barrel, so to speak - the powder has time to burn - by the time it gets to the cylinder-barrel gap/leak, it's already moving fast. This is borne out in actual tests over a chronograph. This load only goes about 700 fps in a short barrel (about 800s in a long one), but a light bullet load in +p (commercial) might not even make 400 fps, but with huge muzzle flash - heck, those +p loads use tons of slow powder and almost none of it burns before the light bullet is gone, unless you shoot it in a 6" barrel. That's too large a gun to carry concealed anyway, but tons o fun on the range to say the least.

I also have a similar Colt Police Special from ~1930s that's pretty good. It's just not as good as the Smith, quite, and everything turns backwards by comparison. The trigger isn't as good as the S&W target model. I also put a red dot on it, destroying its collector value, but that wasn't its purpose anyway. Lots of holster wear on it - previous owner carried it daily and used it to practice often, but it shoots quite nicely.

I'm really a rifle guy at heart, like to build and shoot them. I lack the forearms to be really good at handguns, but it's fun to try anyway.
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Re: Reliability vs Accuracy trade offs

Postby solar_dave » Sat Apr 19, 2014 7:08 pm

I like my 686 S&W 6 inch it shoots the peach. Not touched it since picked it up in a pawn shop in Denver about 25 years ago. You would not want to stand anywhere within about 200 yards and take pot shots at me while I have that gun in hand.

I have a Model 10 that looks like a police carry gun and is quite old as well.

If you want a good beating try out the 8 3/8 model 629 I have with max pressure 2400 loads. Ouch, but mighty impressive at night. Talk about side flash and huge frontal barrel flames.

What we found what was fun to do was get a 1 inch thick 12 inch diameter plate of steel and hang it on chains from an old real estate sign. Start at 50 yards and see who can ring the bell the most, then move it back to 100 yards, then 150 yards ... The only range long enough is the rifle range, the long gun guys get impressed pretty quick.
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Re: Reliability vs Accuracy trade offs

Postby Doug Coulter » Sun Apr 20, 2014 9:15 am

I only really used 2400 in .357 maxed out loads, and you're not kidding - huge flash and a stinging hand, even in a heavy long barrel. I've since gotten out of the .357 biz for those reasons. After the first shot at night - you can't see. And it really does sting. I have to admit that the super light taurus snubby in titatium shares some of that, but at least it fits in a pocket, so it's with me - run whatcha brung, but I have to force myself to practice with it. It's not "fun" - just effective and available. The big .38's rate highly as "fun" so...those are "from my cold, dead hands".
I generally prefer loads that actually burn all the powder before the bullet leaves, if possible, so low in flash and in bang. I HAVE noticed that on a .45 1911 "race gun" I built that a larger load of slower powder works better with the muzzle brake. That said, it's still more difficult to shoot accurately than my unmodified CZ-97b with no brake, no fancy anything, untouched in re gunsmithing at all - it just works, crummy trigger and all.

Those 6" barrel .38s are good at 100 yds if the shooter does his part, no question - easily inside a few moa. What was actually more impressive was when a guy brought out an only slightly modified Ruger in .22 and red dot, and from prone - inside 1.5 moa with a frigging pistol with factory ammo! I don't own one, and I'm not real fond of the mechanical design (makes Rube Goldberg's Marlin .22 rifle look simple), but what is, is. Heck, I can't even SEE that well w/o a scope.

You have to wonder how much retained energy a .38 has at 100, though. They do punch paper - and I don't think you could catch them in your teeth, but a thick coat might stop them at that point.
I can't shoot the super-heavy jacketed ones in my guns - not enough twist rate to keep them stable at the speeds I can get - they might have a chance at that range with all the other stuff done right.
We might part ways there - I'll take the long gun. It did take awhile to learn how to hold offhand within a couple moa - in fact, when I first started I couldn't hold on a sheet of plywood at 100 ( and refused to even shoot - what would have been the point?), but David Tubbs' book on highpower shooting took care of that real quick - it's pretty obvious he knows his stuff. What I thought funny is that most of that book is describing a zen approach, but you know gun guys - so he managed to do it without even coming close to mentioning that - it just took a lot more words that way.
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Re: Reliability vs Accuracy trade offs

Postby solar_dave » Sun Apr 20, 2014 11:14 am

I just found it interesting that with some practice the 100 yard 12 inch "bell" was pretty easy to hit about 3 or 4 out of 6 times and if a center of mass shot was taken you were pretty much guaranteed a hit on a man size target. With a .357 load I don't think I would stand in front of it even at 150 yards, it would swing that 1 inch steel plate pretty good.

Of course for distance a long gun off hand is still preferable. I think the best live off hand shot I did was on an elk hunting trip, bull spike 385 yards confirmed with range finder across a valley with a one shot Ruger #1b in 338 Win mag and 250 gr Noslers driven by IMR 4831. When taking the shot I estimated the distance at 300+ yards and held accordingly, the gun was sighted in to be on at 150 yards. The #1 is nice in that a 26 inch barrel gun is still a manageable length for in the woods and is light enough to be carried all day. Of course it is brutal to shoot such a round with that light a weapon. The loads were developed one summer and lots of bench shooting showed that if the pressure signs were evident in the brass then the accuracy would fall off. Initially I was using IMR 4350 attempting to get a bit more out of the round but found that just about a full charge of IMR 4831 was the best at less than max pressure. The rounds were seated just short of the rifling lands, one advantage to the #1 as no magazine length requirements exist.

BTW The Nosler preformed as expected opening up nicely upon entry. That Elk took only one step and was a drive up distance from the primitive 2 track where we loaded it (talk about luck). That year we filled 9 out of 9 tags, and man some of them were in terrible locations (ever see a large bull elk upside down in a ravine about 30 ft deep?). I think I spent more time packing out quarters than hunting. I am way beyond being able to do that anymore let alone live in a tent @ 9000 ft in November in the Colorado Rockies (lots of good stories from those trips). Definitely a younger mans sport.
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