100 yard test groupings

Recoil management and subsonic ammunition

Several months back, while developing some subsonic loads, I went to the local range for testing and ran into a very interesting older gentlemen, 80 years old to be exact, who was there to participate in a bench rest competition the very next day. He travels around the country in his motor home, which contains a very well equipped ammunition loading set up, attending these sorts of competitions.

As I was setting up, I glanced down range with my spotting scope to look at the target he had been shooting, and what I saw appeared to be twenty or so one-hole groups on his targets. I’m not a competitive shooter but I had to know more and I got a real education from a seasoned bench rest shooter. Beyond the gun, ammunition, scope, bags, forends, stocks, and bagrider slick strips on the stock, he talked at length about recoil management. That day he was shooting a 30BR cartridge with a muzzle velocity around 2800 feet per second and made no bones about the fact that the firearm moved BEFORE the bullet left the barrel. Due to that fact, it is critical to practice consistent recoil management to shoot the kind of groups he was shooting.

When shooting, your gun is always going to move before the bullet leaves the barrel and you’re not going to stop it from doing so. But if you practice ‘shot follow through‘, and control recoil in a consistent manner, you will shoot better groups.

So if a firearm moves before the bullet leaves the barrel traveling at 2800 fps, what am I up against shooting a subsonic cartridge traveling at 1000fps? From that point on I really focused on the way I managed recoil during load development and testing. Typically, I shoot bone stock rifles with the exception of an after market trigger and threaded barrel with a suppressor attached while testing our subsonic ammunition. I am trying to prove out my velocity consistency, bullet design (weight and shape), and how all this effects accuracy, while ideally optimizing customer satisfaction.

Yesterday I took my own Ruger 77/44, a used gun I purchased (see attached photo), out to test a recently manufactured batch of our 400 grain subsonic ammo. I had installed a Rifle Basix aftermarket trigger, threaded the barrel and was using a suppressor from our sister company, IQ Metals. I had previously sighted the rifle in at 100 yards with a different lot of our subsonic ammunition.

Before I get too far into explaining the groupings I shot, I would like to elaborate on the recoil impulse generated by our .44 Magnum 400 grain subsonic ammo. The recoil from this subsonic ammo is akin to firing an AR15 rifle; fairly mild with the exception that the muzzle wants to jump up and roll to the right. So consistent recoil management is crucial to shooting decent groups from the bench.

The first round fired at the target hit nearly dead center of the bullseye. Not a bad way to start. The next 4 rounds hit 2 inches high and an inch to the right. I was using a front rest and a rear bag, and holding the fore end of the rifle firmly into the front rest bag. I decided to release my hold point on the guns fore end and let the fore end float in the front rest, and to move my hand back to the rifle butt stock for additional support. The next 5 shots exhibit vertical stringing with one flyer that was definitely my fault.

At that point I have four rounds left in my magazine and I make a two click adjustment to the left on my Nikon P223 scope. I go back to firmly seating the fore end of the rifle into the front rest with my left hand and fire. I see the bullet impact 2 inches high and directly above the bullseye through my spotting scope. I shoot 2 more rounds and can’t determine where they landed. Firing the last round I know I pulled the shot without even looking through the spotting scope. As I approach the target I am pleasantly surprised to find that three bullets passed through virtually one hole. That says a lot about the accuracy potential of the Ruger 77/44 rifle, our own subsonic ammunition, and the importance of consistent recoil management.

100 yard test group, trying different methods of controlling the Ruger 77/44.


  1. I have a 45-70 Henry Big Boy w/ brass receiver. I have just purchased this rifle. I am a relatively experienced shooter. I purchased some 550 gr 45-70 Gov’t from you. Can you comment on the BC of this round, velocity through this barrel and ft lbs of energy at 100 yards. Maybe at max effective range as well. Maybe 300 yds? ( I see you have a Henry lever action Big Boy X) which is similar. Thanks for your blog and expanding my knowledge base.

    1. Author

      Mike, I am only repeating what my bullet maker claims the BC of the bullet is .348 . The round produces roughly 1288 foot pounds at the muzzle and you could go to any ballistic calculator online and extrapolate that data out to whatever yardage you like. I have shot this ammo out of my Model X at two hundred yards and it will produce 1 MOA groups regularly, thats pretty decent for a lever gun. An inch or two of difference in barrel length between your gun and mine will not change velocity enough to bother with at the ranges we are talking. I am quite sure that once you dope your scope you have sufficient terminal performance with that 550 gr slug out to 300 yrds. Thanks, Gary

  2. Hi Gary, now that I have had some range time with my 45-70 I am very pleased with this ammo. The BC is right on with my calculator and works with my scope well. The low recoil (relatively) of the round makes shooting great. I haven’t been able to get 3 in a hole yet but if my hands stop shaking from age , I will. Thanks for developing this round. I def will order more when you have it in stock.

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