What’s Up With Those Pesky Flyers?

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Gary Prisendorf

Occasionally someone will ask, “Why did I get a flyer that didn’t go in with the rest of my group?”  If I had an answer that would stop flyers from happening, I would be rich.

There are many reasons why this can happen. Everything from gripping a forearm differently to variations in the brass casing, the list goes on and on.  Most of the time the flyer is usually shooter induced and sometimes what you may think is a flyer, is just part of your group.  There are a lot of shooters, that go out and test a load and they may shoot a 3/8” group at 100 yards and think that load is good.  But I have seen far too many times that you can shoot another group, same load, same rifle and the next time you may get a 1 ¼” group.

The total opposite can also occur. You may shoot a 1 ¼” group and turn around and follow it with a ½” group without changing anything.  If you only shot the one group, you might decide that load wasn’t any good and move on to something else without really knowing what that load was capable of.

To really determine how a particular load is performing we need to shoot multiple groups and take an average of the group sizes to really see what that rifle/load combination is really capable of.

I would suggest shooting a minimum of 3 five shot groups and averaging the group sizes before deciding if the load is acceptable or not.  Obviously the more rounds you shoot for a group and the more groups that you shoot, you will get a much better representation of what that particular combination is capable of.

Now I’m not saying to go out and shoot 30 groups with 50 rounds in each group to determine how well your load is shooting.  That would be a bit pointless, in some cases it would be time to re-barrel your rifle before your load development was finished.

In most cases, I feel that 3 to 5, five shot groups will give you a pretty good representation of how a load will perform in that specific firearm.

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6 Responses to What’s Up With Those Pesky Flyers?

  1. firstriverbend says:

    Great observation and suggestion!!
    I am always amazed by the people shooting 3 shot groups, then claiming they have found the “one”.
    Maybe they have, more likely they have not!


    • javier says:

      I’ve found that was starting shooting groups when i was out of barrel. Usually people shoot an unusually 5/16 group then say ” my rifle is sub half moa”. Actually sub half moa your rifle-shooter is when fired at least five five shot group on that average


  2. DAVID RUPPEL says:

    I agree, my group sizes have change alot from the first 5 shot group to the 3rd 5 shot group while testing loads. I have had 3 shot change from .3″ to a real 1.5 when the same load was tested with 5 shot groups.


  3. C K Bell says:

    3 shot groups are meaning less, 5 shot groups are not much of a step up. 10 shot groups are the true “gold” standard. If you take the time to do your 5, five shot groups but “index” the target on top of a backing target then take a look at how much bigger the group is on the target backer and compare with the 5 shot groups.


  4. jesse says:

    Great suggestions! It always kills me to see the single 3 and 5 shot groups as well. I would also like to add the necessity of doing these group exercises at different ranges to confirm that a 1/2 MOA load at 100 isn’t a 2 MOA load at 300, or 600. Personally I shoot 3 five shot groups at 100, 300, and 600 before choosing a load. You may shoot the lights out at 100yrds with a 168gr .308, but due to your barrels twist rate the bullet that originally didn’t do as well might do twice as good at longer distances.


    • firstriverbend says:

      Or half as good in some rifles. LOL
      Seriously, too many people do not understand what happens at longer ranges to the bullet they put down range. Some times it is good, some times it is bad or really bad!
      Sounds like you have a good plan of action in place. 🙂

      Another thing over look by people; just how far are you going to realistically going to shoot with a particular round/firearm combination?
      If one is using a shorter range combination, does not matter how well it does at 600. However the opposite is also true. Those whom only test a long range shooter at 100 or maybe 200 yards, but are willing to take a much longer shot have only done half the work they need to do.


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