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Measuring Accuracy


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#1 Blood Angel

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 01:41 AM

In the NIC there is a lot of threads and posts about range and velocity. It seems very clear that a lot of interest lies in knowing what a blaster chronos at or where the darts fall shooting parallel to ground. Just recently Southern Brisbane Nerf Club (SBNC) wrote an article discussing FPS vs. Range. And there has always been a sort of immature obsession to getting increased ranges. As if increased range ensures complete and total victory at your next game.

What good are 200 foot ranges and 120 FPS velocities if you cannot hit what you are aiming at? Accuracy has to be one of the most overlooked data points in the NIC. But why is that? I have a feeling it is because there really isnít a standard by which to judge whether a blaster is accurate or not.

I have asked a few people about the accuracy of their blasters and have come back with different answers from every single person. Many of them replied, stating that they donít have data on the accuracy of their blasters. Most replied with descriptions that in no way tell you anything about how accurate their blasters are. But that is to be expected, since most people donít think about how accurate they need to be before a war. Or they get a rough idea of how the blaster performs during test fires and what not. So, I guess there really doesnít need to be an accuracy standard. Or does there?

I have made a few high powered homemades and modded a fair share of blasters. Some of you are great innovators and pioneers of the NIC. But most are regular players who try and duplicate already existing projects. And that is ok, because one personís idea may lead to other new ideas for the NIC. Like many of you, I have followed a write up or watched a video guild. We all want to know about the performance of a blaster, homemade, or mod; before investing time, money, and effort into it. Well folks. Accuracy is also a part of performance. Wouldn't you like to know if the blaster you are planning to make can hit the broadside of a barn with stefans? stock elite darts? I certainly would like to know.

I understand that accuracy is dependent on the darts used and that using darts in general limits just how accurate any given blaster can be, by nature of the projectile being made of foam. But range and velocities are also dependent on the darts used. As long as the same type of darts are used, the general grouping of the blaster should not change. And if your stefans are so inconsistent that you can't do an accuracy test, should you even be using them?

I have asked a lot of people, and 30 feet seems to be a good distance to judge the accuracy of a blaster. Most Nerf fire fights take place from 20 to 40 feet. This also pretty much indicates that the most common effective range is somewhere around there. 30 feet is not an arbitrary distance I picked because I like it. An Hour of Angle (HOA) or a 1 degree angle creates a cone with a base of about 6 inches at 30 feet. Using HOA measurement, predicting dart spread and accuracy at varying distances becomes a little easier. But the first step is to actually get data on the dart groupings of darts

This isnít some made up concept, but a tried and true way of measuring accuracy. In firearms, there is a generally accepted standard measure of accuracy determined by ďminute of angleĒ or MOA. A minute of angle is just a fancy way of saying 1/60th of an angle. This measure is used out of convenience, because a MOA creates a cone with a base of about 1 inch at 100 yards. This in turn became a way to measure accuracy. Because as that angle extends farther out the base of the cone becomes 2inches at 200 yards, 3inches at 300 yards, and so forth. This measure of accuracy makes it easier to estimate shot spread or groupings at farther distances.

I think forming a generally accepted process of determining accuracy can be as simple as figuring out a blasterís dart shot spread at 30 feet. But thatís just a theory, a Nerf theory.
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#2 Xellah

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 02:47 AM

I didn't have a problem with your statement until this part:

I have asked a lot of people, and 30 feet seems to be a good distance to judge the accuracy of a blaster. Most Nerf fire fights take place from 20 to 40 feet. This also pretty much indicates that the most common effective range is somewhere around there. 30 feet is not an arbitrary distance I picked because I like it. An Hour of Angle (HOA) or a 1 degree angle creates a cone with a base of about 6 inches at 30 feet. Using HOA measurement, predicting dart spread and accuracy at varying distances becomes a little easier. But the first step is to actually get data on the dart groupings of darts

This isn’t some made up concept, but a tried and true way of measuring accuracy. In firearms, there is a generally accepted standard measure of accuracy determined by “minute of angle” or MOA. A minute of angle is just a fancy way of saying 1/60th of an angle. This measure is used out of convenience, because a MOA creates a cone with a base of about 1 inch at 100 yards. This in turn became a way to measure accuracy. Because as that angle extends farther out the base of the cone becomes 2inches at 200 yards, 3inches at 300 yards, and so forth. This measure of accuracy makes it easier to estimate shot spread or groupings at farther distances.

I think forming a generally accepted process of determining accuracy can be as simple as figuring out a blaster’s dart shot spread at 30 feet. But that’s just a theory, a Nerf theory.


Who are "a lot of people"? Why are you under the assumption that 30 feet is the magical average engagement range? Have you never been to an NIC war before? Correlating anything Nerf related to firearms is silly. They aren't comparable.

Edited by Xellah, 04 January 2014 - 02:53 AM.

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#3 Blood Angel

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 06:47 AM

Who are "a lot of people"? Why are you under the assumption that 30 feet is the magical average engagement range? Have you never been to an NIC war before? Correlating anything Nerf related to firearms is silly. They aren't comparable.


I have been to NIC wars before. I have been to several different kinds of NIC wars. Some have been long range stand offs at distances of 70 to 80 feet. Others have been more aggressive, where players have rushed in to distances of 15 to 25 feet. I have also been to many stock wars. In my area (Northern California), where I play (south bay) there are about 4 to 6 stock wars (including HvZ) and about 1 NIC war a month. There might be more NIC wars in my area; but if there are, I haven't heard of them.

So, in my experience (which is limited, I admit) average (not median) engagement range - overall - is more around 30 feet. I understand it might be different for you and where you live. NIC wars are very popular and I know players are known to engage each other with relative accuracy at ranges of +100 feet (I've never been to those NIC wars). And I respect that level of Nerf play and the NIC war community that has the talent to play at that level. But if I am to include the whole of the Nerf community, then the upper echelon of NIC wars doesn't offset the number of small local stock blaster games overall. Which I am assuming is much more based on my knowledge and experience; plus the ease and relative low cost of just buying stock blasters compared to the time, effort, and know-how of modding and creating homemades.

30 feet isn't some magical random distance I pulled from thin air. It has a propose of measure. The actually distance of 30 feet is just an easy distance to use for calculation purposes. You can use 60 feet, 120 feet, or any other distance you choose. The translation from distance to HOA (hour of angle) is just easier with 30 feet, 60 feet, and 120 feet. Given that that scale is meant to work with all blasters (stock, modded, and homemade) 60 feet seems far for stock blasters and pretty far for actual accuracy testing purposes. For example: My apartment isn't 60 feet long, but if I open up a bed room and use the hallway I can do a 30 feet accuracy test. If you don't care about rating your accuracy in HOA, then don't translate your grouping into HOA. Just say you are shooting a *blank* inch group at whatever distance you feel like testing your accuracy. Like I said before HOA numbers just make it easier to figure out what your overall grouping is like at variable ranges.

---------------------------------------------

I understand that the it is taboo to compare anything Nerf related to firearms for media image purposes. In no way do we as an NIC want people to think about guns and firearms when people play with toy Nerf blasters. For fear that they will be banned, at certain places the NIC like to play. But saying that I cannot use techniques and processes that are used to measure firearms and correlate them to Nerf is just not true. The measuring of muzzle velocity and range for nerf blasters is also done in the same fashion for firearms. I understand what you mean when you say that the ballistic data is just to extreme to compare the two. But I am proposing a technique for measuring accuracy, not comparing data.

Firearms are actually more comparable to Nerf then say paintball or airsoft. Not from raw data and a numbers stand point, but from a philosophical stand point. Stock elite streamlines, slug, domes, and other stefans change velocities, accuracy, and ranges of blasters in the same fashion that different calibers, bullet weights, and powder loads change the velocities, accuracy, and ranges of firearms. The firearm comparison was an example of how those accuracy measuring techniques work and how it can and does translate to Nerf. Because whether a firearm, airsoft system, paintball marker, or nerf blaster each has a spread that can be measured as a grouping. And that grouping becomes the base of a cone with a specific angle and that angle can be used to predict groupings at different distances. I used firearms, specifically, as a comparison because that is where the technique originated from.

Edit: spelling and puctuation

Edited by Blood Angel, 04 January 2014 - 07:47 AM.

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#4 Daniel Beaver

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 08:30 AM

Accuracy has to be one of the most overlooked data points in the NIC.

It is, absolutely.

People overlook it because there isn't a simple test. If you can come up with a test that is useful, it will get used.
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#5 Samurai kidd

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 01:12 PM

The main problem I see with trying to do something like this is that there's currently no way to distinguish poor accuracy of a blaster from poor accuracy of the user. You could construct some kind of structure that would keep the blasters level and aimed in the exact same way for every test, but that would take effort and resources and you would need a new one for every blaster since every blaster is shaped differently. How exactly would you measure groupings, anyway? You would either have to make holes in your target or create some kind of marking system for normal darts. Making holes isn't a terrible idea as it can be achieved by most NIC worthy blasters, but you're using stock blasters. Is there actually a purpose to testing the accuracy of stock blasters? Accuracy problems traditionally arise from darts, which is why we make them now, and stock blasters can ONLY use stock darts. Even at lower stock velocity these things can fly anywhere. What's the point of knowing if your blaster is more/less accurate if the darts are still going to fly along a 30 degree curve? If the darts themselves weren't problematic, there's still the fact that most blasters are going to have the exact same accuracy because most blasters are manufactured with the exact same internals. It's not something like a mod that's prone to lopsided couplers; these things are made by machines to exact specifications.

As far as homemades/mods go, unless you really screw up and your barrel is bent or your couplings are lopsided, you are probably able to hit stuff with your blaster. If you can;t hit stuff you wouldn't be using it, and since you can it's "accurate enough". Even testing with homemades has a ton of issues because now there's not just room for human error in testing, but in construction. Unless you can guarantee testing with a perfect rendition of X mod/homemade and a dart standard then would you even get usable results from a test like this?

Obviously accuracy is important and this endeavor isn't an unworthy cause but like many mods go, is the effort input really worth the results? Are our blasters really so inaccurate that there's significant room for improvement? I think a dart-type accuracy test would be much more beneficial than a blaster accuracy test.
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#6 Exo

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 01:15 PM

Oooh,Doom's about to post. This is gonna be good.
Gah, psychic powers have failed.

Darts have the biggest effect on accuracy. Well made darts are gonna shoot straight, and bad darts won't.

Edited by Exo, 04 January 2014 - 01:17 PM.

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#7 Xellah

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 01:31 PM

Darts have the biggest effect on accuracy. Well made darts are gonna shoot straight, and bad darts won't.

For once I agree with something a Nerfer from California said. Darts do have the biggest effect on accuracy. Unless you manage this:

As far as homemades/mods go, unless you really screw up and your barrel is bent or your couplings are lopsided

If not, then 99% of your accuracy comes from your darts and how well you judge the direction and range of what you're aiming at.

You can arrange tests and use whatever philosophical rating you want to employ as your logic for such tests, but to what end? These are nerf blasters we're talking about. You can find some magical grouping or calculation of accuracy at 30 ft, but what is this going to accomplish?

tl;dr It comes down to the darts. The physics between firearms and Nerf blasters are comparable, but the measures associated with precision between firearms and Nerf blasters/homemades is not. Best of luck in your testing to prove otherwise.

Edited by Xellah, 05 January 2014 - 03:27 AM.

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#8 Bchamp22795

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 02:56 PM

In my experience, darts are the biggest factor with accuracy, but blasters do account for some changes in accuracy, even with the most perfect darts. I'd suggest a drill press vice and level for testing. Adjustable for different sized blasters, sturdy, yet mobile.


Disclaimer, the below text is speculation and has no valid data, just qualitative observation.


Funny you bring up accuracy, too. Last night I had a nerf war with some friends. I brought a bunch of nerf blasters of all sorts to supply the 14 of us with primaries as well as some darts. Because I didn't have that many, I asked them to make some before I arrived. These guys have little to no experience dartsmithing, so the darts were pretty terrible. As the war went on, it was easy to tell that their gray foam-crap slugs were inferior to the beige foam ones I had made last summer. But, about halfway through I noticed that my friends were switching blasters with each other, occasionally claiming that they wanted a particular one because they believed it was more accurate. They asked me, "Why don't you make all your guns this accurate?"

I hadn't thought of it before, but I realized the "accurate" blasters were my 4B's, one of two UMB's as well as one of my many RBP's. What separates these blasters from the rest? Why was one UMB more accurate than the other? Why was one RBP more accurate than the rest? At the end we were just shooting cans/bottles and it was clear that these blasters worked the "best," no matter who's hands they were in.

Speculating (no tests have been done), I think that what causes a blaster to be less accurate is mainly "barrel wobble" and muzzle blast.

If you have ever watched someone shoot a high powered springer like a +bow, SNAP, or RBP, you may notice that the barrel wobbles ever so slightly during each shot. Maybe my blasters just suck, but maybe this barrel wobble happens to everyone. I attribute this to all of the plunger movement in spring blasters. The plunger rod moving forward and the vibration caused by the sudden stop of the plunger rod (whether it be impact or tension from a dry-fire-able string) lead to this barrel wobble. If you have every been to a war with Beaver's SuperPAC, Ryan's Latex Tubing Blasters, or anything with barrels fixed on both ends, you may notice that they are inherently more accurate. Also, air guns seem to have much less barrel wobble and are more accurate, even if secured only by one end. Materials and barrel design may also be a factor to reduce barrel wobble. Nesting CPVC in PVC may help as I have noticed that sometimes CPVC comes slightly curved, and the thicker wall will vibrate less. My RBP had the updated Brithop design where the CPVC runs all the way to the stub that connects to the bushing. Perhaps this somehow attributed to its accuracy? I know that the CPVC being hammered in PVC widens the OD of the PVC slightly, making it a tighter fit into the bushing.

Muzzle blast may cause some barrel wobble, but mostly I'd say it pushes the dart unevenly causing accuracy issues. Barrel porting and/or telescoping barrels may help this.

How secure your coupler/bushing fits your barrel is important, too. I have a UMB from a trade with a gray PVC coupler, and it has terrible accuracy because my brand of PVC doesn't fit tightly and there is a lot of wobble and misalignment. I have to wrap a few layers of tape around my PVC stub to secure it better, but it is still compromised to a degree.

Edited by Bchamp22795, 04 January 2014 - 03:05 PM.

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#9 Ivan S

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Posted 05 January 2014 - 12:28 AM

Nerfhaven's official in-house physicist, the aforementioned Doom, has some good tips on accuracy in his nerf engineering notes. Section 3.10.1

Edited by Ivan S, 05 January 2014 - 12:31 AM.

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#10 Blood Angel

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Posted 05 January 2014 - 04:54 AM

The main problem I see with trying to do something like this is that there's currently no way to distinguish poor accuracy of a blaster from poor accuracy of the user. How exactly would you measure groupings, anyway? Is there actually a purpose to testing the accuracy of stock blasters?

Unless you can guarantee testing with a perfect rendition of X mod/homemade and a dart standard then would you even get usable results from a test like this?

Obviously accuracy is important and this endeavor isn't an unworthy cause but like many mods go, is the effort input really worth the results? Are our blasters really so inaccurate that there's significant room for improvement? I think a dart-type accuracy test would be much more beneficial than a blaster accuracy test.


I wrote the OP as a means to understand a developed process by which to measure accuracy (the ability to hit what you are aiming at) not to test the precision (the ability to consistently hit the same spot) of specific blasters and their darts. While I believe testing blaster precision is a worthy endeavor, the intent is to meant for both person and blaster. I understand that one could make a very precise blasters and be a terrible shot. But the blaster precision data does him (specifically) no good, if he were to use the blaster. I, personally, was thinking about putting paint on the tips of darts and shooting them at paper targets. Lately I have been recording my shoots and playing them back in slow motion using my cell phone. Stock blasters: If you are a big name nerf blogger or do youtube reviews on nerf products, then maybe it could be worth it. With new stuff coming out and the mega series, the data would be interesting none the less.

I think it is worth having accuracy notes on the potential of mod or homemade along with the ammunition used with it. Even if you make it better or worse, at the very least you would have an idea of it capabilities. It would be no different than asking for range or velocity data on a homemade or mod (which people often do).

I think the effort to result ratio is what you make of it. If people are so intent on getting more range, why not strive to have the most accurate blaster? Are our blasters really so inaccurate that there's significant room for improvement? We won't know until people start posting accuracy data, now will we? I think a dart-type accuracy test would be very beneficial as well.


You can arrange tests and use whatever philosophical rating you want to employ as your logic for such tests, but to what end? These are nerf blasters we're talking about. You can find some magical grouping or calculation of accuracy at 30 ft, but what is this going to accomplish?


It accomplishes a standard by which the NIC can measure the accuracy of blasters and their darts. Now, people are free to create a different standard (like meter vs yard). But the end result is knowing more about the capabilities of blasters and darts. Its the ability of saying that "this" is not just more accurate than "that;" but it is exactly this much more accurate. The ability to apply numbers to accuracy is a powerful step, in my opinion. I, personally, would rather have people brag about how accurate their blasters shoot, than much range and FPS is gets. I can understand if others don't feel that way, but I thought it worth sharing my opinion to the NIC.

Nerfhaven's official in-house physicist, the aforementioned Doom, has some good tips on accuracy in his nerf engineering notes. Section 3.10.1


The OP is about measuring accuracy, not about how to obtain more or better accuracy through initial, transitional, and exterior ballistics.

BUT this would be a good way to test the mentioned effects on ballistics to see which one affects accuracy and precision the most. The idea that transitional ballistics might be the downfall of stock dart performance in high powered blasters has the potential to change the way some stock nerf wars are played.
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#11 Doom

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Posted 05 January 2014 - 12:52 PM

I'm seeing some confusion of terminology here. Just so everyone is on the same page, let me reiterate the difference between precision and accuracy. Accuracy is how close an average shot is to the target. Precision is the variability between shots. Precision is the issue in Nerf. Wikipedia has some nice illustrations of this. Take home point: what people usually think of as accuracy is actually called precision.

In terms of measuring precision (not accuracy), I had planned a test two years ago. I recall others suggesting similar tests on SpudFiles or here years back. Find a long indoor area. Put some large sheets of paper (perhaps old newspaper) up on one end. Set up a gun that is aimed roughly at the center of the paper. This gun is at a set distance from the target. Lock down this gun such that it will not move when the trigger is pulled (clamps are one way to do this). Dip the tip of a dart in paint. Fire the gun at the wall many times. You can measure the location of the impacts from an arbitrary point (say, the center of the papers). From this, you can calculate the standard deviation of the impact locations. This'll give you an idea of how precise the gun-dart combination is.

There is no user error here, as this test does not measure accuracy (e.g., how close the average is to the target because there is no specific target point). It measures precision of the shot, that is, the variability. This variability is the issue in Nerf.

If you have some sighting device or something, you can measure accuracy of that system with the sight aimed at the target (or perhaps you eyeballing it), but I don't use sights, so I haven't thought much about that. You could more or less do the same sort of test, but instead of locking down the gun, you fire it yourself. If you eye-ball your shots, then accuracy is mostly a function of how good of a shot you are.

Who are "a lot of people"? Why are you under the assumption that 30 feet is the magical average engagement range?


30 feet seems concordant with my memory of when I took shots confidently at Nerf wars. A few years back, I had intended to watch a few rounds at local Nerf wars, take photos, and measure distances after the fact to get an idea of how far away most shots are taken. Until someone does that, we'll have to go off of what we remember.

As I recall, you'd need a lot of luck to get a hit at 50 feet or more. I can only recall one hit from over 100 feet away, and that was a total fluke.

You could construct some kind of structure that would keep the blasters level and aimed in the exact same way for every test, but that would take effort and resources and you would need a new one for every blaster since every blaster is shaped differently.


As mentioned, clamps locked down to a table work. And they can be used for basically every blaster.

In my test, the blasters don't need to be aimed at the exact same point. The tip of the barrel just needs to be the same distance from the target. The test only looks at variation from the center of the grouping, wherever that might be.

I think a dart-type accuracy test would be much more beneficial than a blaster accuracy test.


Hypothetically, you could design a gun to have as little barrel vibrations, muzzle blast, etc., variability as possible and do that. The problem is that it's really hard to eliminate all the variability from the gun. I had plans to make such a gun a while back, but I never got around to it.

You can arrange tests and use whatever philosophical rating you want to employ as your logic for such tests, but to what end? These are nerf blasters we're talking about. You can find some magical grouping or calculation of accuracy at 30 ft, but what is this going to accomplish?


If you don't see the value, then don't bother. Personally, I do see much value in designing a blaster that hits my intended target more often.

Speculating (no tests have been done), I think that what causes a blaster to be less accurate is mainly "barrel wobble" and muzzle blast.


In the notes Ivan S mention, I bring both of these up. No tests have been done to see what's worst, but I think for most blasters the muzzle blast is the worst effect.

While I believe testing blaster precision is a worthy endeavor, the intent is to meant for both person and blaster. I understand that one could make a very precise blasters and be a terrible shot. But the blaster precision data does him (specifically) no good, if he were to use the blaster.


A precision test is the most objective and useful test we can do. Improving precision also does the user a lot of good, knowing that a higher percentage of their shots will end up where they want them to.

Edited by Doom, 05 January 2014 - 01:09 PM.

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#12 Xellah

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Posted 05 January 2014 - 11:52 PM

If you don't see the value, then don't bother. Personally, I do see much value in designing a blaster that hits my intended target more often.


I need to clarify my viewpoint on this topic a bit further.

I see the value of building a more precise blaster. I don't see the merit of Blood Angel's argument toward measuring precision with MOA. That is pretty much my only problem with his thought-process.

Once testing on the precision of any given Nerf blaster is underway, I'm fairly certain it will become a problem of proper blaster construction, barrel to plunger volume configurations, and dart-smithing. Not a calculation of MOA at 30 ft.

My input on the matter is only in reference to homemade springers. Testing on the precision of airguns would be an interesting venture as well.
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#13 Doom

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 09:45 AM

Once testing on the precision of any given Nerf blaster is underway, I'm fairly certain it will become a problem of proper blaster construction, barrel to plunger volume configurations, and dart-smithing. Not a calculation of MOA at 30 ft.


I'm confused. The standard deviation I mentioned can readily be converted to a MOA. If you want to make sure that your dart-blaster configuration is good then you'll have to do some testing. What don't you like about MOA aside from the fact that it's used in real firearms?
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#14 Exo

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 12:12 PM

I'm confused. The standard deviation I mentioned can readily be converted to a MOA. If you want to make sure that your dart-blaster configuration is good then you'll have to do some testing. What don't you like about MOA aside from the fact that it's used in real firearms?

I think at X range, you'll have Y spread is more readily understood than something like MOA. Some of us are mathematically challenged here, and we'd like to keep the confusion low.
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#15 Blood Angel

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 01:30 PM

A precision test is the most objective and useful test we can do. Improving precision also does the user a lot of good, knowing that a higher percentage of their shots will end up where they want them to.


Actually, I agree with that and retract my previous statement. I just believe that people do not need to go as far as using a bench rest to shoot blasters in order to eliminate human error.
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#16 Blood Angel

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 01:45 PM

I would like to remind everyone that calculations would be converted into HOA Hour of Angle, which is a one degree angle. HOA would be a measure exclusive to nerf and have nothing to do with firearms

Firearms work off of MOA Minute if Angle, which is 1/60th of one degree.

I understand the complexity of the idea and keeping it simple would be for the best. For reporting accuracy measures, X inch group at Y distance is fine. The HOA convertion just makes it easy to understand how that grouping will look at farther or closer ranges.
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#17 azrael

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 03:23 PM

Human error introduces a lot of different variables in testing precision, and especially range. I don't see how you can conduct an experiment where you get meaningful results without taking out these variables.
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