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Consistency vs. Accuracy

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by BearGriz, Oct 2, 2012.

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  1. BearGriz

    BearGriz Member

    Jul 10, 2011
    I was going to reply to a comment in a different thread, but in my reply I was going off topic (original topic was whether you could hit a quarter with an AR at 1000m) and my reply was long, so I thought I'd start another thread. The comment I wanted to talk about (by JohnKSa) is:

    I've thought about this lately. I'm trying to learn and improve, and I think I understand what JohnKSa is talking about, but it is sort of confusing and frustrating at the same time.

    If you are shooting tight groups (even if they are way low and to the right, for example), does that mean both you and your weapon are consistent in performance? But what about being accurate?

    Are those two the same thing (consistency and accuracy)? Wouldn't accuracy be putting the projectile exactly where you want it to go, and not just proving that the weapon puts the projectile consistently in the same place when you fire it? So I guess I'll call one "consistency" and the other "accuracy"

    In my mind, I don't see how consistency is a goal in and of itself. Wouldn't it be more like a stepping stone on the way to accuracy? I imagine that you would:

    1. Get a weapon that is simply consistent (or modify it to improve consistency)
    2. Prove it is consistent on a "lead sled" or similar rest
    3. Learn to shoot consistently with it
    4. Then learn to shoot accurately with it (adjust the point of impact).

    Am I on the right track?

    I'm getting the idea that accuracy may involve as much art/guestimating/gut-adjustments as it does science (whereas consistency is more science). I'm thinking of stuff like "Kentucky windage" here. And I imagine that it only comes through practice? Maybe tuning your sighting system? Both?

    I just don't get the point of consistency without taking it a step further and achieving accuracy (by effectively adjusting your system and/or yourself for conditions such as distance and wind). Am I missing something?
  2. redbullitt

    redbullitt Member

    Nov 9, 2008
    Morgantown WV
    Accuracy is dropping a shot where you want it. Consistency is doing it 4 more times : ).

    I would say you are on the right track for sure.

    A good way to deal with it is to shoot one shot per target (provided you know the rifle shoots like it should). There is no grouping really, and every time you are trying to get your POI to be where you want it to be, even in the wind etc.

    If someone is only testing components, loads, parts etc, then a consistent group will be telling them all they need to know. Accuracy IMO is going to come down to the shooter, not the hardware.
  3. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

    Oct 22, 2007
    Central PA
    The two different concepts are best described as accuracy and precision.


    Accuracy is the ability to hit what you're aiming at. Once, or one hundred times, doesn't matter. Where did that bullet go?

    Precision is the ability to do the same thing exactly over and over. A benchrest shooter is going for ultimate precision.

    Ironically a "Long-Range Precision Rifle" shooter is usually going for accuracy, much more than precision. The ability to hit a target (often a steel gong) at an estimated distance, on the first try.

    Usually the two concepts overlap quite a bit, but not always. If you're a hunter or sniper or precision rifle shooter, often only one (maybe 2) shot(s) at a time are important. The "cold-bore" shot, as it is often known.
  4. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

    May 26, 2007
    As a hunter I actually want my groups to be 1-2" above my aiming point when testing different factory or hand loads. If the bullets are hitting my aiming point and destroying the target right where I am aiming, it is difficult to know if you are getting good groups or not.

    Once I find the load that is the best compromise between speed, bullet construction and accuracy I can always adjust my sights so the bullets are actually impacting where I am aiming.

    Benchrest shooters are testing the limits of the equipment and want 5 bullet holes as close together as possible. Of course it also requires a lot of skill. Exactly where they land on the target is less important. Hunters and target shooters will always use benchrest techniques for load development, then adjust their sights for the point of aim just as I do.
  5. allaroundhunter

    allaroundhunter Member

    Oct 5, 2011
    Southeast Texas
    Are you on the right track? Definitely.

    However, consistency is not necessarily a stepping stone for accuracy (and, IMO, are terms for different aspects of shooting; the shooter and the gun). To use Sam's terms, consistency is a stepping stone for precision.

    Shooting at longer ranges is more of a test of a shooter and of ammo than it is of the gun. Are the shooter's fundamentals consistent? Are the cartridges consistent? If one is having problems shooting long(er) ranges, these are the first questions that need to be answered before worrying about if a weapon is "accurate". This is why consistency is such a big goal (and it is a much harder one to reach than many think).

    Weapons themselves are (for the most part) consistent so long as the user is. In other words, the gun is a machine; it doesn't have a will of its own and will react pretty much the same way for each shot. What you want is a weapon that is accurate. Most all rifles today are more accurate than most shooters are able to take advantage of. If a shooter is consistent in his fundamentals, then you can determine what is needed to make the gun more accurate.

    Consistent, accurate groups are a combination of a consistent shooter, and an accurate gun.

    To edit your list, I would move your #4 up to #1. To be a precision shooter, you have to know the basic fundamentals, and they carry over to whatever gun that you are shooting. Learn how to shoot, and practice a lot; then worry about getting a precision rifle. Too many people think that buying a $2,000 setup will teach them how to shoot like a military sniper...it never does. Sometimes they will get lucky and put their first shot into the bullseye, and they will tell their friend how "accurate" their gun is. Well, yes, but can they do it again? Nope... 99% of the time a $2,000 gun will be accurate; but it is up to the operator to be consistent and precise with it.
  6. murf

    murf Member

    Nov 16, 2010
    the more consistent the shooter, weapon and ammo, the more accurate the that system will be. the goal here, i believe, is for the system to be perfectly consistent. accuracy will follow.

  7. Kendahl

    Kendahl Member

    Apr 7, 2012
    Precision and accuracy have very specific and different meanings in the physical sciences and engineering. Unfortunately, shooters combine the two and call them accuracy.

    What you are calling consistency is the same as precision. Suppose we have someone who shoots a 1 inch group that is a foot to the left of the bullseye and a foot low. A scientist or engineer would say that he is precise but not accurate. Suppose we have someone else who shoots two foot groups. After many shots, we notice that his big group is centered on the bullseye. He is accurate but not precise.

    Your initial goal should be precision. That is, you want to be able to put shot after shot into the same small group even if it is far from the bullseye. Once you have achieved precision, you can adjust your sights to move the group so that its center coincides with the bullseye. At that point, you are both precise and accurate. Then, the difference between you and the guy with the two foot groups is that you can hit the bullseye with any given shot and he won't unless he is lucky.
  8. Pete D.

    Pete D. Member

    Sep 13, 2010

    I lost a match once because, even though I had shot the best group, someone else shot a better score. The larger group was more centered, mine was a bit off to the right. The gun was shooting precisely; I wasn't.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2012
  9. BearGriz

    BearGriz Member

    Jul 10, 2011
    Thanks all, this is starting to make more sense (especially since what I was thinking is apparently not that far off). And I do like knowing the generally accepted terms!

    I can see how "precision" means what I was assigning "consistency" to. I probably wouldn't have figured that out on my own, but it makes sense. I think I would have assumed that precision was equal to accuracy; semantics can be interesting. But, yeah, I get it!

    I am looking to get into some longer range shooting in the next few years (right now I am enjoying hitting reactive targets within about 10-50 yards. I am fairly accurate with my current weapons, and they are precise enough within that range. I think next year I'll be looking at getting a rifle that is suited for longer range precision shooting.

    Thanks for the info!
  10. Reloadron
    • Contributing Member

    Reloadron Member

    Jul 6, 2012
    Cleveland, Ohio USA
    My thinking on this has always been as Sam covers with the Wiki. I see Precision as a measure of repeatability and I see Accuracy as unbiased precision.

    So if I place 5 shots 6" below the X at 6 O'Clock in a sum MOA group I have precision. When I get that same group in the X I now have unbiased precision or Accuracy.

  11. SSN Vet

    SSN Vet Member

    Jan 3, 2006
    The Dark Side of the Moon
    whether hunting or self defense..... consistantly missing your target by one inch will likely not produce a good outcome...


    you need to define the "practical" target size....

    Most bench rest types I see shoot at a 1" target at 100 yds. So missing that target by 1" with every shot will certainly produce "minute of deer" results..... provided you have a lead sled in your blind :^)

    Seems like much of the defensive handgun training out there is focussed on decreasing the range & increasing the target size .... with an eye for decreasing the time to put lead on target. Now your "consistancy" goals have a lot to do with uniform draw and presentation moves.
  12. KansasSasquatch

    KansasSasquatch Member

    Jul 22, 2012
    LV county KS
    Sam1911, I generally find you have good info but you have the definitions of the
    terms precision and accuracy mixed up.

    Precision is obtaining an exact result. Meaning your rifle/pistol/whatever shoots exactly where you are aiming. Accuracy is the ability to repeatedly come to the same result (within given tolerances). A rifle that hits the dead center of the bullseye on the cold bore shot is precise. If it puts the next 4 shots within 2" (or 1", or 1/2", whatever group size you go by) of the first shot then the rifle is accurate.
  13. Warp

    Warp Member

    Jan 22, 2008
    Precision is a good/small group.

    Accuracy is a group centered on the target.
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