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What causes flyers?

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A flyer!

We all know the feeling – you have just shot a string of touching holes and out of nowhere – a flyer! A single solitary hole that decides to ruin all your hard work!

Flyers, as they are known, are the seemingly random shots within groups.

But first – a thought on group sizing. To me, three rounds is not a group. Statistically, you need much bigger sample sizes before you can realistically draw any conclusion from it. In fact, I tend to average over ten shots for things like my zero. Unless you are shooting with a captive rifle (i.e. you don’t touch the thing at all) – our input into the shooting is always going to be much, much more than most people seem to want to admit.

By increasing your group sizing you are evaluating things on, you start to differentiate between an actual, random flyer, or the fact you statistically had a run of shots on one side of your distribution average followed by one at the other extreme.

So, what are some of the variables that can cause flyers?

Well. Anything that varies from one shot to another has the potential to cause an issue. Let us break them down into three main groups – the shooter, the gear and the environment.

The Shooter

I always get these random flyers when I am out shooting!

Well. If you always get them, are they so random?

  • Natural Point of Aim
  • Sight Picture
  • Hold
  • Trigger Control
  • Follow Through

Any one of these things can cause the ‘random’ flyer. Unless you can one hundred percent guarantee that you shot each time, every time, the same. This is most likely your issue. Does the flyer always seem to come at the same point in a string of fire? It might be the gun heating up; it might be you forgetting to apply the fundamentals every time.

However. Let’s say you have your shooting nailed – and you can reliably call your shots every single time. A called or pulled shot – well, is it still a flyer?

The Gear

IMGL0010Consistency is the key to reliable, repeatable shooting. The more you can remove these variables the more we reduce the likelihood of something getting introduced into the groups that you are not expecting to be there. This is the difference between my ‘hunting’ loads and my ‘target’ loads. Slowing the process down, measuring out every single load, sorting, trimming, checking consistency.

It also depends on how fastidious you really want to get. You only need to look at the BR shooters to get an idea of how fine into the details you can get – have you measured your brass by both weight and internal capacity? How about sorting all the projectiles into similar weight classes? Have you trimmed the necks on your brass to ensure consistent neck tension? Do you measure every round for concentricity?

  • Neck Tension
  • Seating Depth
  • Bullet Diameter and length
  • Primers
  • Brass
  • Powder

In regards to the rifle itself?

  • Loose action screws
  • Scope / Ring Screws
  • Poor crown
  • Warped Barrel
  • Poor Bedding
  • Scope Parallax

Again, things that would cause a ‘constant’ issue – but could also cause the occasional random flyer.

GOPRO4__MGL0003

The Environment

We should all be aware the heat affects our ammo – causing changes in temperature. Depending on the firearm, a string of fire can be enough to cause significant shifts in POI. For example – say you fire three rounds off, leaving the bolt open between shots. The forth round, just before you pull the trigger, you get distracted/notice something/need to sneeze/whatever and end up leaving that round in there for longer than the rounds before, or the rounds after. The cartridge sitting in a hot chamber now likely has a different pressure output than anything else you are going to shoot today, potentially leading to a flyer. This might not even be something you consciously register at the time.

  • Temperature Changes
  • Wind changes
  • A target flapping in the breeze

In short – there are many, many things that could be causing a flyer. It becomes a case of systematically removing variables to identify what is causing them. Or. You could learn to live with occasional flyers and not loose any hair over it.

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