shooting cold barrel

Shooting Myths Busted: Bullets Shoot High from Cold Barrels

Live the Legend |

In the 2014 Winchester Ammunition Catalog, shooting writer Ron Spomer tackles some of the more common shooting myths he and recreational shooters like you have most likely heard. This week we’ll allow Spomer to set the record straight on the widely accepted misconception that “bullets always strike higher when fired from a cold, clean barrel,” a belief that can cause some shooters attempting to zero a rifle to choose the wrong aim point during a quick sight-in session.

As to the question, “Do bullets always strike higher when fired from a cold, clean barrel?” Spomer says the short, simple answer is, “no.”

He goes on to explain: Some clean, dry barrels throw the first shot high, but some throw it low. Or left or right. What’s important is knowing if and how your rifle and ammo respond to cold and hot barrels.

Most settle down after two or three fouling shots and then shoot to the same point hot or cold. Some shoot perfectly either way. A few recalcitrant barrels insist on pushing the cold shot out of the hot-shot group. Spomer says bedding problems can sometimes cause the inconsistency and suggests consulting with a gunsmith and looking there first.

Other times it can be bullet weight.

“Try a few varieties of ammunition to see if they perform differently,” he says.

And sometimes, Spomer admits, a shooter just has to live with it—or get a new barrel.

“In a hunting rifle, I zero for the cold-shot hit, since that’s the most important one,” he writes. “If one or two finishing shots land an MOA or two high or low, no big deal. But I want that first one right in there. If I was shooting for competition, where groups of shots would be fired from a hot barrel, then I’d go the other way.”