Accuracy Testing, by Pat Cascio

Readers contact me all the time about how I conduct my accuracy testing. Even though I spell it out in my articles, I still get the same questions. I make no claims to having any special power, when it comes to shooting. I just shoot a lot, and I’ve been professionally trained in long gun and handgun shooting.

What I Do With My Handgun Tests

Here’s what I do with my handgun tests. After I’m about halfway through breaking-in a gun for an article, I’ll conduct my accuracy testing. For this I use a rolled-up sleeping bag (usually) over the hood of my pickup. The target is at 25 yards. I’ll load five rounds in a magazine, hunker down as best I can, and fire those five rounds for accuracy. If I feel I pulled a shot or two, I’ll do the shooting again.

I Have Some Really Bad Days

Quite honestly, I just have some really bad days. When this happens, I’ll come back another day to conduct accuracy testing. I don’t want to report a gun/ammo combo is giving me 10-inch groups, when I know I’m at fault.

Accuracy Testing Takes a Lot of Time

Honestly, the accuracy testing takes up a lot of time, especially if I’m shooting maybe ten different loads through a gun. All of the loads get tested, and it’s very time consuming!

Measuring Groups

Some gun writers take great pleasure in measuring groups down to ten thousandths of an inch. That’s crazy, if you ask me. I try to round off my groups to the nearest 1/8th of an inch. And, oftentimes, there is no clear cut winner when it comes to accuracy. In this case, I’ll report it as a tie or too close to call. For my needs and most of us, a mere fraction of an inch difference really won’t matter in a real-life, real-world shooting. This is just my two cents worth.

Carry Most Accurate Loads

I like to carry the most accurate loads I can in my handguns, but this isn’t always possible. When testing a gun/ammo combo, a FMJ round might be the most accurate, by far. However, it isn’t suitable for self defense or hunting purposes. In that case, I’ll take a pass on it being the best load to carry and go to a better self-defense round, even though it isn’t always the most accurate load tested.

Different Guns Shoot Different

To be sure, different guns shoot different loads better than others. I’ve had identical guns, and when testing the same ammo, usually one handgun will shoot better than the other. There is not a big surprise there.

Better One Day Than Another

I’m only human, and as such I make mistakes, or better yet I’m just better one day than another, when it comes to accuracy. One day the XYZ load will give me the best group. Then, the following day, using the same gun/ammo combo, the XYZ load isn’t the most accurate load even though I’m using the same gun and same ammo as the day before.

Shooting Done on the Same Day

My time is very limited, when it comes to firearms articles. So, these days I make every attempt to get all my shooting done on the same day. If I have to come back another day, I’m losing money. Sometimes I have volunteer helpers. There is never a lack of volunteers, when it comes to shooting a new gun and free ammo. But more often than not, I’m shooting alone. Even though some of my helpers might shoot for groupings, it is only my groups that I report. I’m the writer, and I’m the last word when it comes to my articles.

My Testing Results

Now, just because the XYZ ammo load beat out the ABC ammo load during my testing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the XYZ load is more accurate or “better” than the ABC load. It just means that, in my testing, the XYZ load beat out the ABC load on that day and with that particular gun with me behind the trigger. That’s all it means. Plus, I’ve never used a Ranson Rest to test for accuracy. I prefer the rolled-up sleeping bag setup, which gives me a better idea of real-world accuracy. Many readers will write and say, after reading a gun article, that when they shot the same gun with the same ammo, they didn’t get groups like mine or any other gun writer’s groups. Most of the time, they are standing and not resting the gun. Thus, they get larger groups. That’s all there is to it! Take the time to rest a gun, and you’ll get tighter groups.


The standard in the industry seems to be testing a duty-sized handgun at 25 yards distance. I personally think that’s too far, as in the real-world most shooting takes place at 21 feet or less. But for the sake of not rocking the boat, I’ll go along with the 25-yard distance. However, with smaller guns, I’ll test for accuracy closer. It only makes sense.


Look at my findings as a general direction to take when testing guns/ammo and then see what works best for you. Honestly, there aren’t a lot of really bad ammo makers out there. It’s just that some ammo shoots more accurate in certain guns than others.

Short Story

Here’s a short story. I purchased, for my own use, a Bushmaster AR-15. This one was from the new Bushmaster company, not the original. And, no matter what brand or type of ammo I used, the gun would not group. Instead, it patterned like a shotgun. At 25 yards, I would have been disappointed in a shotgun that patterned as large as that Bushmaster did. I traded the gun off the next day!

Try Several Different Types/Brands of Ammo in Any Guns

Always try several different types/brands of ammo in any guns you plan on carrying for self defense, and see what combo works best for you. Take my findings just as a guide, and go from there. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at your own findings. I hope this helps our readers understand how I conduct my accuracy testing.


  1. Great advice!
    I tried and tried and tried some more to find a 5.56 that my AR liked. Some manufacturers did better than others, but nothing shot as well as Wolf .223 hollow points did. Tried some other .223’s, but again, my rifle just seems to like the Wolf brand .223’s. Tight groups all the way out to 200 yards. I suppose I shouldn’t complain about my gun liking a cheap ammo, but, it does, so that’s what I stock in my ammo can’s!

  2. Hey K,
    I’m with you on the stocking of the ammo that work best in your particular gun. Some people think it’s a sin to be shooting steel cased ammo out of an AR, but if that works for you best, I say go for it. Keep in mind that the use of steel cases puts wear on the bolt face and extractor. But since these parts are relatively inexpensive have some spares on hand. The minute that your gun starts to not eject properly, I’d think about changing these parts. Happy hunting.

  3. I agree with Pat, that different guns like different ammo sometimes. Whenever I purchase a new firearm I shoot several different brands and bullet weights of ammo and the one that shoots most accurately AND FUNCTIONS, is what i carry.

  4. Shouldn’t the goal be repeatability? My high school science begs for the results to be the same and eliminating operator error should be one of easiest variables to cancel out and get true resultsl

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