Accuracy observation

I test a lot of guns for work, and that means shooting a lot of groups out of those guns. Every review I write usually involves shooting at least five 5-shot groups at 25 yards from a sandbag or rest, and I’ll usually shoot five more 5-shot groups freestyle from 15 yards.

P226 25 yard group

The group pictured was shot at 25 yards with a Sig P226 Elite, and measures about 1.6 inches. This particular group was fired freestyle at 25 yards, because I forgot to bring my sandbag with me to the range for testing on that day. Here’s another group, this one shot free style with the same gun and ammo at 15 yards. This group is 10 shots, and measures about 0.9 inches.

P226 15 yard group

I had previously noticed that freestyle groups shot at 15 yards are frequently so close to 25 yard rested groups in size that they’re interchangeable, so I borrowed a sandbag and shot one more 25 yard group, this time from a rested position for max accuracy. The results were interesting:

25 yard rested group

That’s another 0.9 inch group, but this time at 25 yards. By the way, I’m seriously thinking about taking this Sig to Bianchi Cup next year, because it’s obviously quite accurate. It would make a hell of a Metallic gun for the Cup. However, back to the point – this was the first time I set down to actually gather data and try to control for it a little bit. For years I’ve been noticing that my 15 yard freestyle groups were very similar to the best groups I could produce from a bag at 25 yards, and used that bit of anecdotal information to help me sight-in quickly if I was short of time. I like to know my point of aim/impact for any match gun at 10-15-25-35-50, but if I’m in a hurry, 15 yards is a perfectly acceptable mid-range zero for a competition gun with adjustable sights.

What I’m curious about now is other people’s groups. I mentioned yesterday that shooting a gun accurately is something I’m okay at, so I’m not sure if this phenomenon is something I’ve noticed, or if other people have as well? Do you shooters see correlation between freestyle 15 yard groups and benched 25 yard groups when shooting handguns?


  1. I personally like to sight in at 25 yards then try freestyle at shorter ranges, which is usually quite acceptable. I then see what it will do at 50 yards. Mostly if the 25 is good then the 50 will be fine for hitting a long shot at steel (a common option at my club matches). My bullseye guns? That’s a different matter.

  2. Vision plays a big part with iron sights anyway, the farther the target is the more difficult it is to maintain focus on the front sight. On the bench you can take much more time with the sights and trigger press, off hand you can’t.

  3. Even if your personal results tend to be similar, a freestyle 15yd group is measuring different things than a benched 25yd group.

    Regardless, consistent sub-inch accuracy from a mass-produced production pistol is incredible.

    1. It helps that I was shooting DC Ammo’s awesome Bianchi Cup 9mm load. When I tried it with factory ammo, groups increased by double or more.

  4. I generally try to sight my pistols in with free hand only. I find that shooting off a bag or bench can sometimes affect my POI. To find the mechanical accuracy of the gun I have used bags, but to get my sights on I always do it free hand.

    Much like you I will use a 15 yard zero, but I will generally then shoot at a much longer range 35-40 yards. I usually skip the 25 yard entirely unless there is a crazy amount of vertical discrepancy between the 15 yard and 35 yard zero.

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