For the past several weeks I’ve been testing Scout rifles, which will cause waves of nausea to sweep over some of you and thrills of expectation to overwhelm others. Two of them were very accurate, even when measured against the exalted standards of today. The third was a world-beater. It shot like a heavy-barreled match rifle, and a hell of a good one at that.

The fourth left me staring in stunned disbelief. The groups were positively lousy. I was shooting .308 Federal Gold Medal Match, 168- and 175-grain, M118 issue sniper ammo loaded with 175-grain Sierra MatchKings, and Federal Vital-Shok with Sierra 165-grain GameKing bullets. This was the same lineup that had produced the pants-wetting accuracy in Scout rifle #3.

My mood was not helped by the clod a few benches down who was firing a “Powerful Assault Rifle” as though he was at the Battle of Fallujah and the government was paying for the ammo, and by the bitter cold. (In fairness, the guy with the PAR picked up every bit of his brass, which a lot of them don’t.)

When I went downrange to pull my targets, things did not look any better. But when I got home and put the old caliper on the “lousy” groups, I was stunned to see that none of them went past an inch and a half, and that many were in the 1.2-inch range. This is well under the 2 MoA standard that Jeff Cooper specified, and what really shook me is, it’s exactly how a great many of my rifles, with which I did almost all of my hunting, printed as well.

Mine eye hath been fooled. I’ve been to the range way too often and come back with everything measuring under an inch, or under a half inch. This probably started about a decade ago when manufacturers figured out how to build rifles that were very, very accurate, and do it for an affordable price.

It’s helpful to remember that Warren Page’s 7mm Mashburn Magnum, Old Betsy No. 1, with which he killed 475 head of big game and got himself into the Hunting Hall of Fame, would put three shots into 1.5 inches and was considered a red-hot shooter back in the 1950s and 60s.

This has indeed been a lesson, and I am a humbler man, if not to say a better one, because of it.