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If someone was going to build a semi-automatic handgun for strictly non-competition (25 yards) target shooting which would be the most inherently accurate cartridge to chamber it in? Would it be .22LR, 9mm, .38 super or something else? Or is there really no cartridge that is inherently the most accurate---that it's just a matter of the quality of ammo being used?


Nero
 

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Since you said target shooting only, .22's can have a high level of inherent accuracy, though ammo selection will play a big part in what level. .45's in a well made auto pistol also are an inherently accurate cartridge, and with a SWC bullet you can make nice, BIG holes in paper. Nearly all bullseye records have been made with these two calibers
 

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Well, I guess you would want to optimize the following parameters. Also keep in mind, that I think you are refering to precision, which is different than accuracy. Accuracy is the ability to hit what you are aiming at and in theory is a controled variable that can be adjusted with quality sights/optics. Precision is a much more elusive issue and refers to the ability to put the same shot on the same spot using the saming aiming point (i.e. grouping). So lets assume we have good quality sights and know how to aim the gun and can adjust for accuracy once we find our one-hole grouper.

1) We would want something without much aerodynamic disturbance. So anything that is close to the transonic region is going to be inherently less precise than something that is say 300 fps away (+ or -) from this precision killer. Transonic drag is the turbulent unsteady transition of air as an object accelerates through the sound barrier. The speed of sound at sea level and stand temperature & pressure is right about 1100 feet per second. This is a precarious number for handgun shooters, because if you try to get 200-300 fps over this number your pretty much into the magnum realm, and if you go under your into a fairly low selection of subsonic rounds. But lets say from the logic above our velocity to minimize transonic drag is either around 800 fps or 1400 fps.

2) Recoil, muzzle control, barrel vibrations etc. The addition of these variables and effect they have on precision would lead me to the lower end of our velocity spectrum. Yes people can shoot magnums and speedy 9s very accurately, but the potential for barrel vibration and muzzle to affect precision with the higher pressure is greater with the higher velocity, thus I say that our target velocity is around 800 fps.

3) Wind drift, bullet stability. Since we are looking at only 25 yard shooting, this will be a minimal concern, but still a factor in our precision equation. Common practice holds that a heavier bullet will experience less wind drift than a lighter bullet of the same category. Basic physics here and its not really a discussion. Also, a heavier bullet in the same caliber must be slightly longer and will thus have a lower balistic coeficient translating to less drag and a flatter trajectory. Keep in mind trajectory, assuming it is the same every time (precision) is not a factor in accuracy assuming you correct for it.

4) So what are we left with, well the following caliber's would seem to fit the bill right now. Subsonic .22 (short, long or long rifle), .44 special, 45 auto, 32 auto, 25 auto. In general I think straight wall cases are more inherently precise due to the lack of the "pressure cone" of a shouldered round like 357 sig or something. The addition of the shoulder adds performance, but also another variable that affects powder burn.

5) So another issue is load selection and powder burning characteristics. Now we get into the potential for messing with standard deviation of combustion which can greatly affect our precision. In general, if you have more powder in a case, the greater potential exists for pressure variation, even if the percentage of standard deviation is measured against each other. For example, lets say my standard deviation on powder charge from shot with a .22 and a .44 special is 3%. The effect of that 3% difference in the .22 will manifest itself in less pressure variation than the 3% difference in the .44 special, thus I would contend giving a more potential precise burn. So I would argue that cases with a smaller powder capacity have the potential for a more precise burn.

6) Now you figure the previous points about recoil and barrel vibration and I think the larger calibers mentioned above detract from precision. Also, the smaller diameter bullet of the .22 will give you an edge on the balistic coeficient, and even though I said trajectory is an indirect effect on precision, it none the less comes into play since we are all humans and by definition the larger the potential variable, the greater room for less precision.

So bottom line, for precise 25 yard shooting, I think I would have to personally vote for a heavy bulleted subsonic .22 round. Say 50 to 60 grains at no more than 800 fps. If this can be achieved with a 22 short, thats the one. But, I don't think it can, think you need 22 LR for the heavier bullets, than that would be the ticket.

Just my opinions, sorry for the lengthy post, but I thought it was a pretty interesting question. I'd be curious to hear other thoughts.

Gunslinger
 

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22s, .38s, and .45 loads can be made more accurate than a human can hold. My choice for most accurate caliber is .22, not because of the cartridge but because most .22 pistols have fixed barrels. My Marvel .22 conversion has a 50 yard test target of 5 shots at .575 inches ( clearly indoors ). My Rock river .45 has a 5 shot 50 yard test target of 1.450 inches.
 

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Probably 45 ACP

Bigger holes, lighter recoil.

22lr is great but after a while, even shooting 1" groups at 25 yards can get boring. Sold my Ruger 22/45 for that very reason.

I like to hear more of a bang! .22lr unless for hunting rabbits is like shooting a bb gun!
 
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