April 28th, 2020

Tuesday Trivia: Can You Over-Stabilize a Bullet?

spinning bullet stabilizationOn the Applied Ballistics Facebook page a few seasons ago, Ballistician Bryan Litz posed a “Tuesday Trivia” question about ballistics. This being Tuesday we thought we’d bring back this interesting brain-teaser — a true/false question about bullet stabilization. On shooting forums you often find heated arguments about “over-stabilization”. Bryan wants readers to consider the issue of over-stabilization and answer a challenge question…

Is This Statement TRUE or FALSE?

“The problem with ‘over-stabilizing’ a bullet (by shooting it from an excessively fast twist rate) is that the bullet will fly ‘nose high’ on a long range shot. The nose-high orientation induces extra drag and reduces the effective BC of the bullet.”

True or False, and WHY?

Click the “Post Comment” link below to post your reply (and explain your reasoning).

Bullet Movement in Flight — More Complicated Than You May Think
Bullets do not follow a laser beam-like, perfectly straight line to the target, nor does the nose of the bullet always point exactly at the point of aim. Multiple forces are in effect that may cause the bullet to yaw (rotate side to side around its axis), tilt nose-up (pitch), or precess (like a spinning top) in flight. These effects (in exaggerated form) are shown below:

spinning bullet stabilization

Yaw refers to movement of the nose of the bullet away from the line of flight. Precession is a change in the orientation of the rotational axis of a rotating body. It can be defined as a change in direction of the rotation axis in which the second Euler angle (nutation) is constant. In physics, there are two types of precession: torque-free and torque-induced. Nutation refers to small circular movement at the bullet tip.

Diagram from the University of Utah Health Sciences Library Firearm Ballistics Tutorial

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