Carl Zeiss Sports Optics (Zeiss) has a new mobile Ballistics Calculator App for iOS (Apple) and Android devices. Modeled after the web-based Zeiss Ballistics Calulator, the new Mobile App is tailored to work precisely with Zeiss Ballistic reticles. Mike Jensen of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics explained: “We wanted those who use our proprietary ballistic reticles to have a ballistic tool that could be used virtually anywhere you have a signal for your device.”
The Zeiss Ballistic Calculator App allows users to pick their ballistic reticle from a drop-down menu. The user also has the ability to select factory or hand load data as well as environmental variables, and then the system will calculate and display the optimum magnification setting. With this system, distant yardages now coincide with the Zeiss ballistic reticle subtensions. The system allows the user to adjust standard settings for altitude and temperature, as well as other advanced settings, e.g. for muzzle velocity and sight height above bore.
Zeiss Ballistics Calculator App Features:
- One page screen application for fast data entry and easy to read results.
- Comprehensive and current database for factory and hand-loaded ammunition.
- Adjustable settings to customize unique shooting environments.
- Slide feature to visualize how magnification change alters point of impact.
The Zeiss Mobile Ballistic Calculator App can be downloaded at Google Play (Android App) and iTunes (iPhone App) for $4.99. Zeiss has noted that the App will soon be updated to include the Zeiss ASV ballistic turret system.
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“This new series is heavily based in experimental ballistics, and takes a ‘Myth Busters’-type approach to many of the questions and problems faced by modern long range shooters,” stated Litz. Volume I of the series is scheduled for release in late July, 2014. The book will cost $39.95, but you can pre-order now for $35.95, a 10% savings.
Bryan adds: “Anyone interested in the underlying science behind shooting can benefit from this book. We address the important questions… How much does faster twist affect MV? How does stability affect BC from the muzzle and downrange? What chronographs are capable of high accuracy and precision? What characteristics should you look for in your long range rifle and optic set up? What new gadgets are being developed to enhance long range shooting?
New Book Features Extensive Live-Fire Test Results
Bryan tells us: “The book spotlights state-of-the-art technologies (and methodologies) in long range shooting. New equipment and old ideas are explored using experimental, live-fire testing. Extensive test results are reported in an easy-to-understand way. Among other things, our tests explore the effects of twist rate on muzzle velocity, BC (supersonic and transonic), precision, even spin rate decay for various rifling profiles as they are tested experimentally.
Chronographs and Optics Are Tested and Compared
Litz’s new book traces the evolution of modern rifle, bullet, and optic design. Results from chronograph comparison tests are presented, showing the strengths and weaknesses of available commercial chronographs. High-tech instrumentation such as laser rangefinders and wind measurement devices are explained in detail by contributing author Nick Vitalbo.
The New Book Puts Theory into Practice
We asked Bryan Litz how this new book differs from his previous treatises. Bryan replied: “My original Applied Ballistics for Long-Range Shooting book explains the fundamental elements of external ballistics. It’s the academic background which all future work relies on. The new book, Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting, covers the ongoing development of equipment and ideas. We explore things like twist rate effects, modern rifle and optic design, and some of the high tech instruments which are being used to enhance the effectiveness of long range shooting.
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Ruprecht Nennstiel, a forensic ballistics expert from Wiesbaden, Germany, has authored a great resource about bullet behavior in flight. Nennstiel’s comprehensive article, How Do Bullets Fly, explains all the forces which affect bullet flight including gravity, wind, gyroscopic effects, aerodynamic drag, and lift. Nennstiel even explains the rather arcane Magnus Force and Coriolis Effect which come into play at long ranges. Nennstiel’s remarkable resource contains many useful illustrations plus new experimental observations of bullets fired from small arms, both at short and at long ranges.
Shadowgraph of .308 Winchester Bullet
A convenient index is provided so you can study each particular force in sequence. Writing with clear, precise prose, Nennstiel explains each key factor that affects external ballistics. For starters, we all know that bullets spin when launched from a rifled barrel. But Nennstiel explains in greater detail how this spinning creates gyroscopic stability:
“The overturning moment MW tends to rotate the bullet about an axis, which goes through the CG (center of gravity) and which is perpendicular to the plane of drag, the plane, formed by the velocity vector ‘v’ and the longitudinal axis of the bullet. In the absence of spin, the yaw angle ‘δ’ would grow and the bullet would tumble.
If the bullet has sufficient spin, saying if it rotates fast enough about its axis of form, the gyroscopic effect takes place: the bullet’s longitudinal axis moves into the direction of the overturning moment, perpendicular to the plane of drag. This axis shift however alters the plane of drag, which then rotates about the velocity vector. This movement is called precession or slow mode oscillation.”
Raise Your Ballistic IQ
Though comprehensible to the average reader with some grounding in basic physics, Nennstiel’s work is really the equivalent of a Ph.D thesis in external ballistics. You could easily spend hours reading (and re-reading) all the primary material as well as the detailed FAQ section. But we think it’s worth plowing into How Do Bullets Fly from start to finish. We suggest you bookmark the page for future reference. You can also download the complete article for future reference and offline reading.
Ballistics books have gone digital. Bryan Litz’s Applied Ballistics For Long-Range Shooting (2nd Edition), the leading treatise on the subject, is now available in digital eBook format. This new eBook version contains all the text of the print version, all the charts, all the diagrams, and all the photos. You get all this in an easy-to-read, easy-to-search format that can be viewed on a variety of devices*. You can access the book on your home computer, on your laptop, on a tablet, on a smartphone, or on a lightweight, portable Kindle e-Reader. And yes, iPad users can use the Kindle app to read the book on an iPad.
NOTE: After clicking this link to go to Amazon.com, click on the blue book image labeled “Look Inside”. This will launch a preview window. Alternatively, Kindle users can click the “Send Sample Now” button.
Advantages of the eBook Edition
The eBook release of Bryan Litz’s most popular and comprehensive ballistics book is a big deal, in our opinion. There are many advantages to the digital format. First you can quickly search for any term or reference, or click from table of content entries to desired chapters. Second, you can highlight text and bookmark pages for future review. Third, you can easily change the font size to enhance reading for older eyes. Fourth, you can zoom in the charts, diagrams, and photos for a better view. Last but not least, you can easily carry the entire text in the field on the same digital device that holds your ballistics solver software.
Highlights of eBook Edition
The eBook version of Applied Ballistics for Long-Range Shooting (2d Ed.) is available now on Amazon.com. Since its release in 2011, the second edition (hardcopy) of Applied Ballistics for Long Range Shooting has sold over 10,000 copies. It’s the modern ‘go to’ book on the subject of ballistics for long range shooters. The Second Edition of the book includes two additional chapters covering extended long-range shooting and monolithic bullets.
200 Bullet Types Tested. In this eBook edition, Bryan Litz includes data from his own personal field tests with over 200 bullet types. Performance data (G1 and G7 BCs confirmed by live-fire testing) is presented along with 2-D drawings for hundreds of long range bullets.
Ballistic Program Included. eBook buyers can receive the Point Mass Ballistics Solver 2.0 for no extra charge. The software comes on a CD with the hardcopy. With the eBook, there are two ways to access the ballistics program. First, you can access the free AB online ballistics solver through embedded links in the eBook and run directly from your eReader. Alternatively, you can request the PM Solver program to be emailed to you for running on a PC.
“Our mission at Applied Ballistics is to be the complete and unbiased source of external ballistics information for long range shooters,” stated Bryan Litz, author and owner of Applied Ballistics, LLC. “We’re constantly testing new claims, products and ideas and dispensing the marketing hype which can make it difficult for shooters to master the challenging discipline of long range shooting. We developed the original hard copy of the book in order to provide shooters of all capabilities with this knowledge. The release of the eBook will not only provide readers with the same knowledge, but do so in a more accessible and mobile way.”
Sample Page from eBook
* Installation of FREE eReader software may be required for viewing on desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. This only takes a minute or so.
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The new-for-2014 Caldwell Crosswind Professional Wind Meter does much more than measure wind velocity. Along with Current Wind Speed, this device will measure and display: Average Wind Speed, Max Wind Gust, Temperature, Station Pressure, Barometric Pressure, Altitude, Density Altitude and even Wind Chill factor. Select among mph, ft/min, km/h, m/s, or knots for the wind speed units.
The swiveling impeller head (set parallel to barrel) allows you to determine an interpolated 90° crosswind value to use in your ballistics calculations. This eliminates a lot of guesswork.
You might say, “Why do I need a rotating head, I can just turn the whole wind meter to align the impeller axis with the wind?” Yes you can, but then you merely get a raw speed value, and you have to guesstimate the wind angle, and then calculate your actual windage correction based on the vector.
The rotating impeller ring on the Caldwell simplifies the job of calculating windage. The swivel head is designed to show an effective 90-degree crosswind value, no matter what the actual wind direction. Here’s how it works. Hold the unit with the display screen facing you. Then rotate the impeller head until it aligns with the barrel axis (bullet line of flight). The plastic shell surrounding the impeller is specifically designed so that the blades will spin faster or slower depending on the true wind angle. This allows the unit to estimate the effective 90-degree crosswind value (for your ballistics program). Pretty clever eh? See diagram to understand how this works:
This unit comes complete with rotating anemometer head, protective holster case, and one CR2032 battery. The unit has an auto “Power-Off” feature to preserve battery life. There is also a “Data Hold” function plus an LCD Backlight. NOTE: When figuring effective 90° crosswind values, Caldwell recommends using Average Wind Speed mode rather than Current Wind Speed.
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Need a simple, easy-to-use drop chart for your rifle? Something you can tape right to the buttstock? Then check out Hornady’s handy Online Ballistics Calculator. This user-friendly calculator will compute your drops accurately, and output a handy “Cheat Sheet” you can print and attach to your rifle. Simply input G1 or G7 BC values, muzzle velocity, bullet weight, zero range and a few other variables. Click “Calculate” and you’re good to go. You can select the basic version, or an advanced version with more data fields for environmental variables (altitude, temperature, air pressure, and humidity). You can also get wind drift numbers by inputing wind speed and angle.
Conveniently, on the trajectory output, come-ups are listed in both MOA and Mils — so this will work with either MOA clicks or Mil-based clicks. There are more sophisticated ballistics solvers available on the web (such as the outstanding Applied Ballistics Online Calculator), but the Hornady Calculator is very simple and easy to use. If you just want a basic drop chart, you may want to check this out.
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On LongRangeHunting.com, you’ll find a good article by Shawn Carlock about wind reading. Shawn is a veteran law enforcement marksman and a past USPSA national precision rifle champion. Shawn offers good advice on how to estimate wind speeds and directions using a multitude of available indicators — not just your wind gauge: “Use anything at your disposal to accurately estimate the wind’s velocity. I keep and use a Kestrel for reading conditions….The Kestrel is very accurate but will only tell you what the conditions are where you are standing. I practice by looking at grass, brush, trees, dust, wind flags, mirage, rain, fog and anything else that will give me info on velocity and then estimate the speed.”
Shawn also explains how terrain features can cause vertical wind effects. A hunter on a hilltop must account for bullet rise if there is a headwind blowing up the slope. Many shooters consider wind in only one plane — the horizontal. In fact wind has vertical components, both up and down. If you have piloted a small aircraft you know how important vertical wind vectors can be. Match shooters will also experience vertical rise when there is a strong tailwind blowing over an up-sloping berm ahead of the target emplacements. Overall, Shawn concludes: “The more time you spend studying the wind and its effect over varying terrain the more successful you will be as a long-range shooter and hunter.”
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If you only know Bryan Litz from his Applied Ballistics Books and DVDs, you may not realize that this guy is a great marksman (along with being an actual rocket scientist). This guy can shoot. At the recent Berger Southwest Nationals (SWN), Bryan took top honors among all sling shooters — and he managed to do that while performing many other important match duties. The pay-off for Bryan was getting his name on a really cool “ghost dancer” perpetual trophy. Litz joked: “With what the wind gods can do at shooting matches, it makes sense to have a trophy that puts you in touch with the spirit world.”
This is actually the second time Litz has finished first in Sling class at the Southwest Nationals. After his impressive win, we asked Bryan if he had any advice for other long-range competitors. First Bryan provided three tips concerning Ballistics, his special area of expertise. Next Bryan offered three more general tips about long-range competition — how to analyze your shooting, how to choose your ‘wind strategy’, and how to avoid the most costly mistakes, i.e. how to avoid the “train-wrecks”.
Litz Ballistics Tips
Ballistics TIP ONE. If you’re having trouble getting your ballistic software to match actual drops, you need to look at a number of possible reasons. Here are some common issues that can cause problems.
Click Values Are Not Exact. Scopes and iron sights don’t always produce accurate adjustments. In other words, if your ballistics program predicts 30 MOA of drop, and you dial 30 MOA but hit low, it might be that your sight actually only moved 28 MOA (for example). To see if your sight is adjusting accurately, shoot a tall target at 100 yards and measure group separation when dialing your sight.
Barometric vs. Station Pressure. This is a commonly misunderstood input to ballistics programs. You can avoid this pitfall by remembering the following: station pressure is the actual measured pressure at your location, and you don’t need to tell the program your altitude when using station pressure. Barometric pressure is corrected for sea level. If you’re using barometric pressure, you also have to input your altitude.
Muzzle Velocity. Chronographs are not always as accurate as shooters think they are — your true MV may be off by 10-20 fps (or more). If your drop is different than predicted at long range, it might be because your muzzle velocity input is wrong.
Mixing Up BC (G1 vs. G7). Knowledgeable long range shooters know that the G7 standard is a more representative standard for modern LR bullets. However, using G7 BCs isn’t just a matter of clicking the ‘G7′ option in the program. The numeric value of the BC is different for G1 and G7. For example, the G1 BC of the Berger 155.5 grain Fullbore bullet is .464 but the G7 BC is .237. If you were to enter .464 but click on G7, the results would be way off.
Ballistics TIP TWO. A properly installed level is absolutely essential for long range shooting. Without a good level reference, your long range wind zero will be off due to minor canting of the rifle from side to side. You can verify that your level is installed correctly on a 100-yard ‘tall target’. Draw a plumb line straight up the target and verify that your groups track straight up this line as you go up in elevation.
Ballistics TIP THREE. If your long range ballistic predictions aren’t tracking, always come back and verify your 100-yard zero. Sometimes a simple zero shift can be misconstrued as errors in long range ballistics predictions.
Litz Competition Shooting Tips
Competition TIP ONE. Improving your scores in long range competition is a constant process of self-assessment. After each match, carefully analyze how you lost points and make a plan to improve. Beginning shooters will lose a lot of points to fundamental things like sight alignment and trigger control. Veteran shooters will lose far fewer points to a smaller list of mistakes. At every step along the way, always ask yourself why you’re losing points and address the issues. Sometimes the weak links that you need to work on aren’t your favorite thing to do, and success will take work in these areas as well.
Competition TIP TWO. Select your wind shooting strategy carefully. For beginners and veterans, most points are typically lost to wind. Successful shooters put a lot of thought into their approach to wind shooting. Sometimes it’s best to shoot fast and minimize the changes you’ll have to navigate. Other times it’s best to wait out a condition which may take several minutes. Develop a comfortable rest position so you have an easier time waiting when you should be waiting.
Competition TIP THREE. Actively avoid major train wrecks. Sounds obvious but it happens a lot. Select equipment that is reliable, get comfortable with it and have back-ups for important things. Don’t load on the verge of max pressure, don’t go to an important match with a barrel that’s near shot out, physically check tightness of all important screws prior to shooting each string. Observe what train wrecks you and others experience, and put measures in place to avoid them.
Photos by Steve Fiorenzo
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More and more people are reading books on tablet computers and eReader devices such as the Kindle and Nook. Recognizing the demand for digital resource works, Applied Ballistics has just releases of its first eBook — a digital version of Accuracy and Precision for Long Range Shooting. This work (which has sold 5000 hard copy versions), is now available in electronic format for both Kindle and Nook eReaders. iPad users can use the Kindle app to access the eBook.
This book discusses how to evaluate multiple variables to improve your hit percentage. It explains how to correct the trajectories for drop, wind deflection, etc. through the use of Weapon Employment Zone (WEZ) analysis. WEZ is applied throughout the book, showing readers how to get more rounds on targets, more reliably. Case studies (with live fire verification for many scenarios) show what things affect your hit probability at long range.
All formats of the eBook are sold for $27.99 (hardcopy is $34.99). The Kindle book is available directly from Amazon.com, while the Nook version can be purchased from BarnesandNoble.com.
Free eReader Content on Applied Ballistics Website
If you have a Kindle, Nook, or iPad, you should visit the Ballistics website. You’ll find many free technical articles you can download as PDF files or in Kindle format or Nook format. To access these FREE articles, select the “Recreational” or “Professional” tabs on the top of the Applied Ballistics home page, then choose the “Articles” link from the pull-down menu. Bryan Litz tells us: “We recently updated our website and we’ve included a number of free articles about bullet design, long-range ballistics, and aspects of WEZ analysis. You don’t need an eReader for these — just download the PDF versions.”
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One 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.
TrackingPoint, creator of the Precision Guided Firearm (PGF) system, has released a new “smart rifle”, the XS4 .338 Lapua Magnum. The XS4 boasts TrackingPoint’s revolutionary TTX (Tag Track Xact) technology — a system that automates aiming and ballistic correction once you have “tagged” the target with a laser beam. Along with the exotic computerized targeting system, the new XS4 features top-flight conventional components: Surgeon XL action, 27″ Krieger barrel, and McMillan A5 hunting stock. Full rifle weight including laser/digital/optical scope, two batteries, loaded magazine, muzzle brake, and bipod, is 22.5 pounds.
Like TrackingPoint’s XS1, the new XS4 has a maximum TTX range of 1,200 yards, the longest effective range offered by the company. The rifle’s 27-inch, Krieger cut-barrel is fitted in a traditional-style, adjustable McMillan A5 stock. It also features TrackingPoint’s highest-power zoom optic, offering 6x to 35X magnification. “Our customers have been asking for the power of our 338 Lapua Magnum smart rifles in the form factor of our popular XS3 hunting model,” said John Lupher, Chief Technology Officer for TrackingPoint. Pre-orders for the XS4 are now being accepted. The rifle will be demonstrated at the 2014 NSSF SHOT Show and other trade shows in 2014. To learn more about the XS4 Precision Guided Firearm, visit Tracking-Point.com.
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Thomas Haugland, a Shooters’ Forum member from Norway, is a long-range target shooter and hunter. He has created an interesting video showing how to gauge wind velocities by watching trees, grass, and other natural vegetation. The video commentary is in English, but the units of wind speed (and distance) are metric. Haugland explains: “This is not a full tutorial, but rather a short heads-up to make you draw the lines between the dots yourself”. Here are some conversions that will help when watching the video:
.5 m/s = 1.1 mph | 1 m/s = 2.2 mph | 2 m/s = 4.5 mph
3 m/s = 6.7 mph | 4 m/s = 8.9 mph | 5 m/s =11.2 mph