The Top Five Rifle Myths Out There


There are commonly quoted items that just aren’t true. They may have once been true, but aren’t anymore.

It might have been granddad’s truism that little Johnny bought as gospel, or it might have been like the wrist-clamp grip for magnum-revolver shooting.

At one time, it was how things were done, but evidence has proven the fallacy of the idea.

Here are the top five rifle myths that have perpetrated the firearms world:

Myth #1: You need a magnum rifle to hunt big game.

This could not be further from the truth. If you want to buy a .300 Win Mag, 7mm Remington Magnum or a .243 WSSM, be my guest. However, they are far from required to be successful in the deer woods.

The very slow rainbow trajectory (comparatively speaking) .30-30 Winchester is a very effective deer slayer as long as you stay within its practical kill zone, roughly 150 yards.

I am not saying you can’t take deer at 200 yards with your Marlin 336, just the drop chart starts becoming vertical.

If you are hunting at extended ranges (past 500 yards), the flatter-shooting magnum cartridges might have a distinct advantage. This is similar to taking the .30-30 past 150 yards.

With a much flatter-shooting cartridge, the odds of hitting are better for the average hunter. Unfortunately, the cost to shoot goes up, as does the recoil penalty.

Both of these make it less likely that enough rounds have gone downrange to stay in practice for that shot distance.

Not to mention most U.S. hunters do not have shots beyond 200 yards, making this one of the more outlandish rifle myths.

three rifle cartridges increasing in size

Myth #2: A longer barrel is more accurate than a shorter barrel.

All things being equal, the opposite is true. Let’s assume a straight-contour barrel for a 6.5 Creedmoor with a barrel diameter of 0.800”.

I know you have never seen, nor will you see, such a barrel, but work with my illustration. My hunting rifles typically have a 24” barrel.

If we lock that barrel in a vice and hang a 50-pound weight from the muzzle end, we will see a certain amount of deflection caused by the weight. We will assume it is three inches.

If we take the exact same barrel and chop it down to 16.5”, we will in effect, reduce the leverage of the weight. This means the barrel is stiffer and the flex drops to 1.5 inches.

The increased effective stiffness decreases recoil-induced barrel whip. Less barrel whip means an increase in precision, so the bullets are more likely to hit where aimed.

The thing most people notice is, with the 24” barrel, the bullet velocity is 300+ fps faster. The increased speed makes for a flatter trajectory, which means distance matters less and so does shooter error in range estimation.

The bullet may be more likely to hit a distant target from a longer barrel, but it is mostly due to the effects of range miscalculation, not the precision of the barrel.

A longer barrel can be made as precise as the shorter barrel. The method of doing so is to increase the width of the contour and thus the weight of the barrel. This increases the stiffness.

I did this with a factory Remington 700. The factory barrel is a very light contour with the muzzle tapered to 0.600”.  The barrel shot horribly. Groups at 100 yards were just over two inches.

The group size grew to almost ten inches at 300 yards. Simply replacing the factory barrel (0.600” at the muzzle) with a heavy, hunting (0.830” at the muzzle) Shilen barrel, decreased group sizes to 0.60” and a bit under three inches respectively.

In fairness, part of the equation is the higher-quality machining from the Shilen barrel. The extra 0.115” added to the radius of the barrel adds a significant amount of stiffness, as well as weight.

For comparison, the factory barrel weighs roughly 2.5 pounds, the Shilen replacement weighs five pounds. This is one of the more complex rifle myths.

rifle barrels

Myth #3: There is no such thing as too much gun.

For most people, this means shooting a fatter bullet at faster speeds is always better. Let me start by telling you, I am a fan of recoil, but it has its limits.

Even those who like recoil and utilize a proper shooting stance, at a certain point it wears on you. For those who are recoil (or muzzle blast) sensitive, it can cause flinching and a large percentage of misses.

I used to hunt with a guy who upgraded his hunting rifle every year or two when a new uber-thumper caliber came out. He always had the “coolest” gun in hunting camp.

Unfortunately, he almost never came back with a deer. On one hunting trip, he packed last year’s ammo for this year’s rifle.

Needless to say, that wasn’t going to work, and finding ammo for his .243 WSSM wasn’t going to happen in very rural Georgia.

I had a spare .270 Winchester with me. We took it over to the zero range and confirmed zero at 100 yards and drop at 200 yards. His first comment was that the rifle shot so smooth.

Within ten rounds he was comfortably hitting at 200 yards. That weekend he shot a buck and a doe. His normal weekend was two or three missed deer.

He didn’t learn the lesson until his next trip using the .25 WSSM. He shot at two deer and missed both of them.

He now hunts with a .270 or a .308, both because ammo is easy to find and he realized great ballistic numbers don’t help if you flinch each time you pull the trigger.

This is one of those rifle myths some shooters choose to ignore.

woman holding large AR rifle

Myth #4: Increased power means increased recoil.

For each action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is very true, but there are ways to mitigate that opposite reaction off your shoulder.

The simplest method of taming recoil is to add an effective muzzle brake. I use the word effective because all brakes are not created equally.

A good brake can remove 30% or more from the recoil impulse. The problem is that energy goes somewhere, and that is into a huge side blast and greatly increased report.

If I shoot a .308 without a muzzle brake, I can set a can of soda a few inches to the side of the muzzle and it doesn’t really affect the can.

Do the exact same thing with a very effective brake and you might pop the can open. You will definitely knock it off the table. This effect only increases with a more powerful caliber.

Another way to reduce the felt recoil is to use a suppressor. This is very effective in spreading out the recoil impulse on very high-velocity rounds.

It certainly will not make them quiet, but it will almost eliminate muzzle blast and will not increase the report. The downside is, the suppressor is usually fairly long and heavy for uber-thumper calibers.

This may require an adjustment in zero, as it may affect the whip of the barrel. Many states allow hunting with suppressors, but confirm before you do.

This is one of those rifle myths some people just don’t seem to understand.

muzzle break

Myth #5: At distance, a light bullet is more accurate than a heavy one.

First, we have to define distance. If long-distance for you is 300 yards, you may well be “right.” For the rest of us shooting well past 500 yards, that is definitely not true.

The premise is that a lighter projectile can be pushed faster. Faster is flatter, so it is easier to be precise.

This is true until the point where the lighter bullet’s energy drops, and heavier bullets are better at resisting wind changes. This is one of the rifle myths with many factors to consider.

Each caliber is different, as are the weight choices, but there is a reason people who take 5.56 to 800 yards single-chamber 85+ grain bullets instead of 35-grain options.

At 100 yards, the 35-grain choice might be the same or better. Past 300-400 yards, the velocity is going to level out. Thus, you have a very light bullet traveling at the same velocity as a bullet that weighs three times as much.

Very simple math indicates the lighter bullet is going to dance in any wind compared to the heavier one. It also loses speed faster, so its drop chart is much more rapid.

Bolt action rifle on camo mat
Both of these make for much less fidelity between point of aim and point of impact.

Some numbers using 5.56 Nosler bullets, assuming a 15-mph crosswind:

  • A 35-grain Ballistic tip with a BC of 0.201 at 3,890 fps
  • An 85-grain BTHP with a BC of 0.498 at 2,475 fps

At 350 yards, the 35-grain bullet is down to 2190 fps with 12.9” of drop and 24” of wind drift. The 85-grain projectile has a velocity of 2183 fps with 23.9” of drop and has 7.3” of wind drift.

At 800 yards, the numbers for the 35-grain bullet are 995 fps with 209.7” of drop and wind drift of 189”. The 85-grain option has a velocity of 1835 fps with 188.7” of drop and 41.4” of wind drift.

On a side note, the 35-grain bullet went through the transonic zone at roughly 700 yards. The transonic zone tends to create odd trajectory effects, which tends to increase the dispersion of groups.

Another potential consideration, at 800 yards, the retained energy of the 35-grain bullet (assuming it hasn’t started tumbling) is 77 ft/lbs. The 85-grain bullet has 636 ft/lbs.

As a comparison, a 4.5” barrel 9mm Luger puts out roughly 400-450 ft/lbs of energy with a 124-grain bullet.

This may be one of the most contested rifle myths.

Do you have any common rifle myths that you know are wrong? Tell us about them in the comments section below!

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