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The question: Will shooting through mesh ground blind windows affect accuracy?

Portable ground blinds are popular these days because they work. Instead of hacking and stacking a pile of leafy limbs to build a blind, only to have it blow away in the first stout wind, portable ground blinds offer an instant hideaway from the weather and the wary eyes of game. Portable ground blinds have revolutionized turkey hunting, especially with a bow.

Almost every blind comes with removable “windows” made of canvas or other tent material that block all vision, and in addition many blinds come from the factory with mesh window liners that do a good job of allowing the hunter to see out but prevent animals from seeing in. Many manufacturers of these blinds say hunters should shoot directly through the mesh without removing it first. This sounds great, but I want to know: Will shooting through the mesh affect accuracy of bullets, shotgun pellets or arrows? What about arrows tipped with expandable broadheads?

The Test
In the controlled environment of NRA’s indoor gun range, I set up a Shooter’s Ridge Sasquatch ground blind. Its mesh window liners are similar to most on the market. In separate tests with a rifle, a shotgun and a bow and arrow using three styles of popular broadheads, I first shot each implement from a rest, while inside the blind, through a fully open window. (Ranges were 50 yards for rifle, 25 yards for shotgun and 25 yards for bow and arrow.) I averaged the groups for each. Then using the exact same setup, I shot each implement through the mesh-covered window and measured and averaged the resulting groups. Then I compared groups for each implement and noted the differences in group size to see if shooting through the mesh affected accuracy and/or point of impact.

Control Tests: To see if the expandables would open prematurely, I shot them through a mesh screen near the bow before passing through a sheet of paper placed just in front of the target. For a double-control test, I shot an expandable-style broadhead that had its blades permanently fixed in position and compared results to the working broadheads of the same type.

The Answer:
This test proved logical. The thin mesh proved to be a neglibible factor upon bullets and shotgun patterns; certainly not enough to worry about under hunting conditions. Although it is statistically irrelevant, the .308 Win. actually grouped slightly tighter when shooting through the mesh. So, if you have a turkey or deer in the sights of your rifle or shotgun, don’t bother taking down the mesh window liner and risk spooking the animal. Merely line up the sights and pull the trigger.
It is advisable, however, to avoid shooting through the mesh with fixed blades whenever possible, just to be on the safe (accurate) side. It should be noted that firing a shotgun or rifle through the mesh panel destoys it after a couple shots, not so much due to the projectile as much as the explosion of burning powder and gases. At no time did the mesh catch on fire, but shots normally blew the mesh panel to smithereens!

Arrows, on the other hand, are slower, much longer projectiles, and are much more sensitive to interference during flight. With fixed-blade broadheads such as NAP Thunderheads, accuracy was affected somewhat, but not enough to warrant taking the mesh down at 25 yards. For expandable-blade broadheads, the mesh presented clear problems.

Long slashes in the mesh after shooting through it indicate that the broadhead was opening most of the time while passing through the mesh and before reaching the target. Subsequent paper test confirmed premature opening. Premature opening destroys accuracy, as many expandables have huge cutting diameters that are prone to wind-plane if opened during flight. Perhaps the worst for accuracy, though, is the fact that on some shots they opened and on some they did not, and this was entirely unpredictable. If, for example, all opened consistently when passing through mesh, it might be possible to compensate with sight adjustments. But because they opened randomly, I struggled to hit the 15-inch target on many shots while shooting expandable broadheads through mesh. If you choose to use expandable broadheads, don’t shoot through the mesh, mister! 

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