Q: I notice that most hunters shoot 3-shot groups because they are convinced that more shots heat up the barrel too much resulting in fliers. However, I have noticed that sometimes when you test a rifle you use 3-shot groups, but another time you’ll use 5-shot groups. Why the difference?
A: If the test rifle has a thin, whippy barrel most often I’ll settle for 3-shot groups, but if the barrel is medium weight or heavy-barreled, I’ll use 5-shot groups. This is because a light barrel heats up more quickly and often the next two shots will be fliers. I’ve found 5-shot groups tend to be about 35-50 percent larger than 3-shot groups and 10-shot groups tend to be larger than 5-shot groups for the very same reason. This isn’t carved in stone, since some light barrels will shoot uniformly tight 5-shot groups even when hot. I suppose it’s largely a matter of the quality of the steel in a barrel and how it is treated and rifled. These days factory barrels, even the ones in economy class rifles shoot extremely well.