August 1st, 2019

Ballistics TIP: How Altitude and Air Pressure Affect Bullet Flight

Trajectory of Bullet fired at Sea Level

Trajectory of Bullet fired at 20,000 feet

You can do your own experimental calculations using JBM Online Ballistics (free to use). Here is an extreme example, with two printouts (generated with Point Blank software), one showing bullet trajectory at sea level (0′ altitude) and one at 20,000 feet. For demonstration sake, we assigned a low 0.2 BC to the bullet, with a velocity of 3000 fps.

Suunto AltimeterOne of our readers asked “What effect does altitude have on the flight of a bullet?” The simplistic answer is that, at higher altitudes, the air is thinner (lower density), so there is less drag on the bullet. This means that the amount of bullet drop is less at any given flight distance from the muzzle. Since the force of gravity is essentially constant on the earth’s surface (for practical purposes), the bullet’s downward acceleration doesn’t change, but a bullet launched at a higher altitude is able to fly slightly farther (in the thinner air) for every increment of downward movement. Effectively, the bullet behaves as if it has a higher ballistic coefficient.

Forum member Milanuk explains that the key factor is not altitude, but rather air pressure. Milanuk writes:

“In basic terms, as your altitude increases, the density of the air the bullet must travel through decreases, thereby reducing the drag on the bullet. Generally, the higher the altitude, the less the bullet will drop. For example, I shoot at a couple ranges here in the Pacific Northwest. Both are at 1000′ ASL or less. I’ll need about 29-30 MOA to get from 100 yard to 1000 yards with a Berger 155gr VLD @ 2960fps. By contrast, in Raton, NM, located at 6600′ ASL, I’ll only need about 24-25 MOA to do the same. That’s a significant difference.

Note that it is the barometric pressure that really matters, not simply the nominal altitude. The barometric pressure will indicate the reduced pressure from a higher altitude, but it will also show you the pressure changes as a front moves in, etc. which can play havoc w/ your calculated come-ups. Most altimeters are simply barometers that read in feet instead of inches of mercury.”

As Milanuk states, it is NOT altitude per se, but the LOCAL barometric pressure (sometimes called “station pressure”) that is key. The two atmospheric conditions that most effect bullet flight are air temperature, and barometric pressure. Normally, humidity has a negligible effect.

It’s important to remember that the barometric pressure reported on the radio (or internet) may be stated as a sea level equivalency. So in Denver (at 6,000 feet amsl), if the local pressure is 24″, the radio will report the barometric pressure to be 30″. If you do high altitude shooting at long range, bring along a Kestrel, or remember to mentally correct the radio station’s pressure, by 1″ per 1,000 feet.”

If you want to learn more about all aspects of External Ballistics, ExteriorBallistics.com provides a variety of useful resources. In particular, on that site, Section 3.1 of the Sierra Manual is reprinted, covering Effects of Altitude and Atmospheric Pressure on bullet flight.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
November 15th, 2016

Altitude, Air Pressure and Ballistics — What You Need to Know

Trajectory of Bullet fired at Sea Level

Trajectory of Bullet fired at 20,000 feet

You can do your own experimental calculations using JBM Online Ballistics (free to use). Here is an extreme example, with two printouts (generated with Point Blank software), one showing bullet trajectory at sea level (0′ altitude) and one at 20,000 feet. For demonstration sake, we assigned a low 0.2 BC to the bullet, with a velocity of 3000 fps.

Suunto AltimeterOne of our readers asked “What effect does altitude have on the flight of a bullet?” The simplistic answer is that, at higher altitudes, the air is thinner (lower density), so there is less drag on the bullet. This means that the amount of bullet drop is less at any given flight distance from the muzzle. Since the force of gravity is essentially constant on the earth’s surface (for practical purposes), the bullet’s downward acceleration doesn’t change, but a bullet launched at a higher altitude is able to fly slightly farther (in the thinner air) for every increment of downward movement. Effectively, the bullet behaves as if it has a higher ballistic coefficient.

Forum member Milanuk explains that the key factor is not altitude, but rather air pressure. Milanuk writes:

“In basic terms, as your altitude increases, the density of the air the bullet must travel through decreases, thereby reducing the drag on the bullet. Generally, the higher the altitude, the less the bullet will drop. For example, I shoot at a couple ranges here in the Pacific Northwest. Both are at 1000′ ASL or less. I’ll need about 29-30 MOA to get from 100 yard to 1000 yards with a Berger 155gr VLD @ 2960fps. By contrast, in Raton, NM, located at 6600′ ASL, I’ll only need about 24-25 MOA to do the same. That’s a significant difference.

Note that it is the barometric pressure that really matters, not simply the nominal altitude. The barometric pressure will indicate the reduced pressure from a higher altitude, but it will also show you the pressure changes as a front moves in, etc. which can play havoc w/ your calculated come-ups. Most altimeters are simply barometers that read in feet instead of inches of mercury.”

As Milanuk states, it is NOT altitude per se, but the LOCAL barometric pressure (sometimes called “station pressure”) that is key. The two atmospheric conditions that most effect bullet flight are air temperature, and barometric pressure. Normally, humidity has a negligible effect.

It’s important to remember that the barometric pressure reported on the radio (or internet) may be stated as a sea level equivalency. So in Denver (at 6,000 feet amsl), if the local pressure is 24″, the radio will report the barometric pressure to be 30″. If you do high altitude shooting at long range, bring along a Kestrel, or remember to mentally correct the radio station’s pressure, by 1″ per 1,000 feet.”

If you want to learn more about all aspects of External Ballistics, ExteriorBallistics.com provides a variety of useful resources. In particular, on that site, Section 3.1 of the Sierra Manual is reprinted, covering Effects of Altitude and Atmospheric Pressure on bullet flight.

Permalink - Articles, Bullets, Brass, Ammo No Comments »
December 2nd, 2015

Affordable Weather Meter Works with Mobile Devices

Weatherflow weather meter bluetooth kestrel wind speed air pressure temperature

That smart phone in your pocket is really a miniature computer. What if you could harness that electronic brain to work as a weather meter? You’d just need a way to feed the smart phone environmental data — temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind velocity and so on. Well now that’s possible with the new $69.00 Weatherflow Smart Phone Weather Meter.

This portable, multi-function Weather Meter provides key weather data to your iOS and Android Mobile devices wirelessly via BlueTooth. The unit measures temperature, humidity, air pressure and dew points. With its built-in impeller, the Weather Meter will also record wind speed (average and gust), and wind direction. You can hand-hold it or attach it to a pole/tripod with a standard camera mount. This wireless Weather Meter is compatible with iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and all major Android devices. The best thing is the price — right now the unit is just $69.00 at Amazon.com.

Reviews by Weather Meter Purchasers

By Wiley on October 2, 2015 — Verified Purchase
I own and love the original WeatherFlow Wind Meter but when I saw this new one that includes temperature, humidity and pressure for under $100, I had to have it. My new weather meter arrived two days after I ordered it and I am amazed at how good this thing is. Solid and well-built, it’s super comfortable in your hand. The hard carry case is nice. The App is pretty simple – start the App and push the button to connect. The meter connected without issue to my iPad mini and my Galaxy S5 (Android) phone. It displays the extra sensor information elegantly, and the data agrees very well with the Davis weather station on my neighbor’s house. Saving and sharing reports is simple. Something cool that’s not obvious until you play with the App a bit are the ‘more data’ you can see (wind chill, heat index, crosswind, headwind, and many others including some I didn’t know existed). I’ve used various Kestrel meters over years and while they are good sensors, Kestrel’s higher price and lack of smart phone integration (or any easy way to get data off the thing) have been frustrating. [Editor: Kestrel’s brand new 5000 Series Weather Meters do offer Bluetooth connectivity as an optional extra.]

Weatherflow weather meter bluetooth kestrel wind speed air pressure temperature

By Richard W. on October 27, 2015 — Verified Purchaser
Great device for the price. It would be nice to interface it with ballistics Apps… but it provides relatively accurate readings and is very small. Finding wind direction is a bit manual (you have to face the device into the wind), but how hard is that? The Bluetooth connectivity is great, you don’t actually have to have it physically connected to the phone — you can put it where you need it.

Technical Details — Compatibility and Settings
The WeatherFlow Weather Meter processes data via a free downloadable App for iOS or Android. The unit works with Apple iPhones 4S or newer, Apple iPads Gen 3 or newer, iPod Touch, and “all major Android devices”. Wireless functionality requires support for Bluetooth version 4.0. You can select either English or Metric units via the “settings” menu. Wind speed units/range are 0.5 to 140 mph; 0.4 to 122 Knots; 0.8 to 225 kph; 0.2 to 63 m/s. Pressure units/range are: 8.9 to 32.5 inHg; 300 to 1100 mbar.

Product Tip from Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
Permalink New Product, Tech Tip 3 Comments »
October 19th, 2014

How Altitude and Air Pressure Influence Ballistics

Suunto AltimeterOne of our readers asked “What effect does altitude have on the flight of a bullet?” The simplistic answer is that, at higher altitudes, the air is thinner (lower density), so there is less drag on the bullet. This means that the amount of bullet drop is less at any given flight distance from the muzzle. Since the force of gravity is essentially constant on the earth’s surface (for practical purposes), the bullet’s downward acceleration doesn’t change, but a bullet launched at a higher altitude is able to fly slightly farther (in the thinner air) for every increment of downward movement. Effectively, the bullet behaves as if it has a higher ballistic coefficient.

Forum member Milanuk explains that the key factor is not altitude, but rather air pressure. Milanuk writes:

“In basic terms, as your altitude increases, the density of the air the bullet must travel through decreases, thereby reducing the drag on the bullet. Generally, the higher the altitude, the less the bullet will drop. For example, I shoot at a couple ranges here in the Pacific Northwest. Both are at 1000′ ASL or less. I’ll need about 29-30 MOA to get from 100 yard to 1000 yards with a Berger 155gr VLD @ 2960fps. By contrast, in Raton, NM, located at 6600′ ASL, I’ll only need about 24-25 MOA to do the same. That’s a significant difference.

Note that it is the barometric pressure that really matters, not simply the nominal altitude. The barometric pressure will indicate the reduced pressure from a higher altitude, but it will also show you the pressure changes as a front moves in, etc. which can play havoc w/ your calculated come-ups. Most altimeters are simply barometers that read in feet instead of inches of mercury.”

As Milanuk states, it is NOT altitude per se, but the LOCAL barometric pressure (sometimes called “station pressure”) that is key. The two atmospheric conditions that most effect bullet flight are air temperature, and barometric pressure. Normally, humidity has a negligible effect.

It’s important to remember that the barometric pressure reported on the radio (or internet) may be stated as a sea level equivalency. So in Denver (at 6,000 feet amsl), if the local pressure is 24″, the radio will report the barometric pressure to be 30″. If you do high altitude shooting at long range, bring along a Kestral, or remember to mentally correct the radio station’s pressure, by 1″ per 1,000 feet.”

You can do your own experimental calculations using JBM Online Ballistics (free to use). Here is an extreme example, with two printouts (generated with Point Blank software), one showing bullet trajectory at sea level (0′ altitude) and one at 20,000 feet. For demonstration sake, we assigned a low 0.2 BC to the bullet, with a velocity of 3000 fps.

Trajectory of Bullet fired at Sea Level

Trajectory of Bullet fired at 20,000 feet

if you want to learn more about all aspects of External Ballistics, ExteriorBallistics.com provides a variety of useful resources. In particular, on that site, Section 3.1 of the Sierra Manual is reprinted, covering Effects of Altitude and Atmospheric Pressure on bullet flight.

Permalink Tech Tip 5 Comments »