Lapua just dropped a bombshell — multiple bombshells, in fact. Lapua just announced that it will be producing .221 Fireball brass and .50 BMG brass starting early 2014. This will be the first truly match-grade brass ever offered for the .221 Fireball. That’s great news for varminters, who can use Lapua’s new .221 Fireball brass “as is” or neck it down to .20 Vartarg or 17 Fireball. Tactical shooters can also use the .221 Fireball brass to make the .300 Whisper and 300 Blackout sub-sonic cartridges. At the other end of the spectrum, ultra-long-range shooters now have a new ultra-premium brass source for the mighty .50 BMG. This is potentially a “game-changer” for fifty-cal shooters who have had to “make do” with military surplus brass for the most part. Lapua says the new brass, both .50 BMG and .221 Fireball, should be in the USA by early April, 2014. Sorry, no pricing info is yet available.
Here is the Lapua Product Announcement for .221 Fireball and .50 BMG Brass:
New 180-Grain and 150-Grain 7mm Scenar-L Bullets
The other big news from Lapua is the release of two new 7mm (.284 caliber) Scenar-L target bullets. Recognizing the popularity of 7mm cartridges among F-Class Open Division shooters, Lapua will offer a high-BC, 180-grain bullet. As part of the “L” series, this new 180-grainer bullet should exhibit extreme consistency in base-to-ogive measurements and bullet weight. We expect this new 180gr projectile to be extremely accurate in the .284 Winchester, .284 Shehane, 7mm WSM, and 7mm RSAUM — popular chamberings for F-Class and long-range benchrest shooters. No BC information has been released yet, but we expect the BC number to be quite high, giving this bullet great wind-bucking capability. In addition to the new 180gr 7mm Scenar-L, Lapua will offer a new 150gr 7mm bullet. This is optimized for medium range competition in Silhouette and Across-the-Course competition. It should offer great accuracy, but with less felt recoil than its 180-grain bigger brother.
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Have you ever seen bullet trace? Do you know how to read trace? Well watch this NSSF video to learn how to recognize trace, and use trace to help adjust your aim on the target. Watch the video from 1:50 to 2:20 to see trace in slow motion. Watch carefully starting and you can see the trace in the milli-seconds before the bullet hits the target.
Rod Ryan of Storm Mountain Training Center explains how to read bullet trace: “If you’re looking through your spotting scope, and you focus on your target, and then back off about a quarter-turn counter-clockwise (in most cases) you’ll be able to focus a little closer to you and you’ll actually see this movement of air — it’s called the trace — going down range.”
Watch the Slow-Mo Trace Starting at 1:50. From 2:10 to 2:20 you can actually see the bullet hanging in the air just before it hits the target.
Trace is easier to see when there’s some moisture in the air. By following the bullet trace you can see if you shot is running high or low, left or right, even if you can’t see a shot imparct on the target. This is important, particularly when you’re attempting an steep-angled shot and it’s hard to see bullet impact on the ground near the target. Rod Ryan explains: “A lot of times we have an angular hill-top and you’re shooting directly into a [steep] drop [so] you can’t see any splash at all or any dirt flow after the miss happens. In this case the last thing you see is that trace.”
What you’re seeing is akin to the wake that forms behind a motorboat, but it is a trail of disturbed air rather than disturbed water. Ryan says: “It’s just like you’re looking down from space at a motorboat in the water, you can see that wake. Very close to the target, you can actually see it roll in… if you’re taking a shot at say… four, five, six hundred yards, it’s very prevalent, you can see it very well.”
Video find by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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The last primary lead smelter facility in the United States will be closing soon. The Doe Run Company smelter in Herculaneum, Missouri has been operating since 1892. The facility will be closed permanently under pressure from the EPA. According to MSNBC.com: “Doe Run Co. was ordered by the EPA to install new pollution control technologies needed to reduce sulfur dioxide and lead emissions as required by the Clean Air Act. The company will instead close its lead smelter.”
Doe Run started life in 1864 as the St. Joseph Lead Company, better known as St. Joe, which started lead mining on a small scale in southeastern Missouri. In 1892 it started up its smelter in Herculaneum, where all smelting was consolidated in 1920.
Cause for Concern? Our readers have been concerned that the closure of the Doe Run smelter will lead to serious shortages in raw materials for bullet-making. Readers fear that bullet-makers won’t be able to source lead, and so the output of bullets and ammo would be reduced. Curtailed bullet production would lead to higher prices, it is feared.
As it turns out, the situation is not as dire as it seems. At least one bullet-maker says the Doe Run smelter closure will have no immediate effect on its raw material supply chain.
Sierra Bullets Responds: Lead Smelter Closure Should Not Cause Supply Shortage
Addressing the issue of supply shortages, Sierra Bullets posted a notice in the Sierra Blog on November 1, 2013. Sierra Bullets Plant Engineer Darren Leskiw stated that the Doe Run smelter closure should create no problems for his company because it uses only recycled lead:
We have had many customers contact us about the closing of the last primary lead smelting facility in the USA. This facility is operated by Doe Run and is located in Herculaneum, Missouri and is just about a 3-hour drive from our facility in Sedalia, Missouri.
The main question asked is “Will this shut down your supply of lead?” The answer to that is no. First, Sierra buys lead from several different vendors to maintain constant supply. Second, this facility only smelts primary lead or lead ore. This is lead ore that has just been brought out of the earth. Sierra uses no primary lead at all and never has, so we use nothing directly from this facility. The lead we buy from Doe Run comes from their recycling facility in Boss, MO that is about 90 miles away from the smelter that is closing.
The facility we buy from is still going strong and delivering to us as scheduled. The lead from this facility is from recycled lead, mostly coming from car batteries. This is a continuing “in and out” cycle for them and the smelter closing will not affect this facility.
Our supply should not be in jeopardy and we do not anticipate any changes in our supply chain at this time. Could the lack of primary lead create a little more demand for recycled lead? Sure, but how much is unknown. Could this increase in demand also create an increase in price? Sure, but again, by how much is unknown at this time.
There are many other primary lead smelters in the world and so the flow of primary lead will not be shut off. Where there is a need for primary lead, I am sure there will be a salesman more than happy to pick up the business. In short, we do not see any reason for alarm. We expect our supply to continue and keep feeding our production lines which are still running 24 hours per day to return our inventory levels to where they should be.
Lead Smelting Operations Have Moved to Mexico
Posting on SnipersHide.com, one industry insider says shooters should not be overly concerned about the Doe Run shut-down, because smelting is still being done in nearby Mexico:
“The lead industry has been transitioning out of the United States for over a decade now. 85% of the lead smelting industry capacity migrated over the Mexican border where there are [fewer environmental regulations]. The remainder of production capacity will be online and running by the third quarter of 2014. There has been no production disruption to speak of in obtaining lead or lead products. The auto battery industry among others has prepared for this eventuality for some time….
The last lead smelter closing in December did not have enough capacity to supply even 10% of the battery industry much less the ammunition industry. The lead being used in ammunition today hasn’t been coming from the United States for years already. The closing of that plant will not have any appreciable effect on lead availability at all. There is a great deal of lead processed here being extruded, made into shot, converted to wire, etc., but the smelting operation is only one part of the production process.”
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Need something for the walls of your “man cave” or reloading room? Check out these jumbo-size cartridge posters. The creators of the Cartridge Comparison Guide now offer three very large full-color printed posters. These can be tacked to a wall or matted/framed to hang like paintings. Three different posters are available. The Rifleman’s Classic Poster, a full 38 inches wide and 27 inches tall, is the most comprehensive. This $19.95 poster displays 272 rifle cartridge types at true size (within 4/1000 of an inch). Cartridges shown range from .17 caliber all the way up to the big boomers (including some cannon shells). The Rifleman’s Classic poster includes all American Standardized Rifle Cartridges (as of 2013) and many European rifle cartridges. The poster is a good representation of military cartridges dating back to WWI and includes cartridges such as the 13X92mm MSR and the .55 Boys.
CLICK Image to Enlarge:
American Standard Cartridge Poster (Rifle, Handgun, Shotgun) — $15.95
The 36″ x 24″ American Standard Poster displays 165 rifle cartridges, 55 handgun cartridges, and 9 different shotgun gauges. This includes all American Standardized Cartridges (rifle, handgun, and shotgun) available as of January 2012. All cartridge types are displayed in full color, actual size. The rifle selection includes all standard hunting cartridges from the 17 Mach 2 through the .505 Gibbs and .577 Nitro. Bonus cartridges include the .375 and .408 Chey-Tac, .416 Barrett, .50 BMG, 50-20 and 20mm. The Handgun section covers cartridges from the 17 HMR to the 500 S&W. Shotgun cartridges include the .410 and 32 gauge up to the 8 gauge. NOTE: Wildcat, proprietary, and obsolete-historic cartridges are NOT included in this poster.
CLICK Image to Enlarge:
BIG BORE Cartridge Poster (215 Cartridges) — $15.95
The 36″ x 24″ Big Bore Poster illustrates over 215 large=caliber rifle cartridges, all shown actual size in full color. These include Standard, Historic, Military, Proprietary and Wildcat rifle cartridges side by side. Cartridges illustrated range from the subsonic .338 Spectre up to the monstrous .729 Jongmans. The poster also includes historically significant cartridges such as the 12 Gauge Paradox, 4 Bore, 1″ Nordfelt, 50 BAT Spotter, .50 BMG, .5 Vickers, 12.7×108 Russian, 20mm, 25mm, 30mm and more.
CLICK Image to Enlarge:
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On the Applied Ballistics Facebook page, Ballistician Bryan Litz regularly offers a “Tuesday Trivia” question about ballistics. Today’s brain-teaser is 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:
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.
In order to increase deliveries of its most popular types of ammunition and bullets, Hornady announced that it will temporarily suspend production of 150 bullet types and 150 ammo types. IMPORTANT: These bullet and ammo products are NOT being discontinued. Rather, these less-popular, suspended items will simply not be produced for the remainder of 2013. By doing this, Hornady can reduce tool/machinery changes and thereby increase production of products in highest demand. On July 2nd, Hornady issued this statement:
Dear Hornady Customer:
As you are aware, 2013 has been one of the most challenging years ever in the sporting arms industry. We are proud of the increases in production we have achieved this year, but we are still faced witha demand that exceeds our ability to produce.
In efforts to increase production, we have reviewed everything, refining procedures, adding people, and equipment when possible. One area that will help us produce more: cutting the number of changeovers in our production machinery.
In order to reduce changeovers, we are announceing the temporary suspension of over 150 ammunition items and 150 bullet items, for the balance of 2013.
Attached you will find the list of items that will be suspended. Our plan is to remove the orders for these items from our system, beginning July 10th, and notify you of the cancellations. We will continue to monitor and update this list as the market conditions change.
Our goal is to try to deliver more to every customer, and while this may impact certain categories, our overall delivery should improve.
Hornady has listed the suspended bullet/ammo items in ten pages of attachments sent out to Hornady wholesalers and retailers. One representative page (covering 6mm, 6.5mm, and 7mm bullets) is shown below. This is NOT the complete list — there are TEN (10) pages! Click on each link below to see suspended items listed by caliber, small to large.
Notable Bullets on the Suspended List:
22832 – 22 Cal .224 80gr A-Max
22420 – 6mm .243 75gr V-Max
24562 – 6mm .243 105gr A-Max
26101 – 6.5mm .243 100gr A-Max
29402 – 7mm .284 162gr A-Max
29405 – 7mm .285 162gr BTHP Match
30314 – 30 Cal .308 155gr A-Max Moly
30715 – 30 Cal .308 178gr BTHP Match
30733 – 30 Cal .308 208gr BTHP Match
33102 – 338 Cal .338 200gr SST
Note, the above selection of “notable bullets” is just a “short list” of items that caught our attention. Remember 150 bullet types are being suspended for the balance of the year. With some items on the list, partial orders will be filled, or current orders will be filled, but no new orders taken.
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Here is a simple technique that can potentially help you load straighter ammo, with less run-out. It costs nothing and adds only a few seconds to the time needed to load a cartridge. Next time you’re loading ammo with a threaded (screw-in) seating die, try seating the bullet in two stages. Run the cartridge up in the seating die just enough to seat the bullet half way. Then lower the cartridge and rotate it 180° in the shell-holder. Now raise the cartridge up into the die again and finish seating the bullet.
Steve, aka “Short Range”, one of our Forum members, recently inquired about run-out apparently caused by his bullet-seating process. Steve’s 30BR cases were coming out of his neck-sizer with good concentricity, but the run-out nearly doubled after he seated the bullets. At the suggestion of other Forum members, Steve tried the process of rotating his cartridge while seating his bullet. Steve then measured run-out on his loaded rounds. To his surprise there was a noticeable reduction in run-out on the cases which had been rotated during seating. Steve explains: “For the rounds that I loaded yesterday, I seated the bullet half-way, and turned the round 180 degrees, and finished seating the bullet. That reduced the bullet runout by almost half on most rounds compared to the measurements from the first test.”
Steve recorded run-out measurements on his 30BR brass using both the conventional (one-pass) seating procedure, as well as the two-stage (with 180° rotation) method. Steve’s measurements are collected in the two charts above. As you can see, the run-out was less for the rounds which were rotated during seating. Note, the change is pretty small (less than .001″ on average), but every little bit helps in the accuracy game. If you use a threaded (screw-in) seating die, you might try this two-stage bullet-seating method. Rotating your case in the middle of the seating process won’t cost you a penny, and it just might produce straighter ammo (nothing is guaranteed). If you do NOT see any improvement on the target, you can always go back to seating your bullets in one pass. READ Forum Thread….
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This an older video from the YouTube archives but we expect many readers have still not seen it yet. It definitely teaches an important lesson — never underestimate the destructive power of rifle-launched projectiles. What appears a “safe distance” from steel may actually be well within the danger zone.
In this video a rather ignorant (yet lucky) fellow demonstrates what NOT to do with a large-caliber rifle (a 50 BMG apparently). He shoots at a steel target about 70 yards away and a bullet fragment comes back directly at him. He was lucky enough that the ricochet just smacked his left ear muff. Another inch to the right and he could have lost his eye… or worse.
If you have ever done much action pistol shooting at close range on steel targets, you’ll know about the hazards of ricochets and bullet splashback. That’s why you should only shoot low-velocity rounds with soft lead or frangible bullets when shooting at relatively close range.
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How much does it cost you to send a round downrange? Ask most shooters this question and they’ll start adding up the cost of components: bullets, powder, and primers. Then they’ll figure in the cost of brass, divided by the number of times the cases are reloaded.
For a 6BR shooting match bullets, match-grade primers, and 30 grains of powder, in brass reloaded ten times, this basic calculation gives us a cost per shot of $0.51 (fifty-one cents):
NOTE: If you shoot a larger caliber that burns more powder, and uses more expensive bullets and/or brass, your total cost per round will be higher than $0.51.
$1.00 Per Shot True Cost? Yikes!
OK, we’ve seen that it costs about $0.51 per round to shoot a 6BR. Right?
Wrong! — What if we told you that your ACTUAL cost per round might be closer to double that number? How can that be? Well… you haven’t accounted for the cost of your barrel. Every round you fire down that tube expends some of the barrel’s finite life. If, like some short-range PPC shooters, you replace barrels every 700 or 800 rounds, you need to add $0.60 to $0.70 per round for “barrel cost.” That can effectively double your cost per round, taking it well past the dollar per shot mark.
Calculating Barrel Cost Per Shot
In the table below, we calculate your barrel cost per shot, based on various expected barrel lifespans.
As noted above, a PPC barrel is typically replaced at 700-800 rounds. A 6.5-284 barrel can last 1200+ rounds, but it might need replacement after 1000 rounds or less. A 6BR barrel should give 2000-2600 rounds of accurate life, and a .308 Win barrel could remain competitive for 4,000 rounds or more.
The table below shows your barrel cost per shot, based on various “useful lives.” We assume that a custom barrel costs $540.00 total to replace. This includes $300.00 for the barrel itself, $200.00 for chambering/fitting (conservative number), and $40.00 in 2-way shipping costs. These are typical costs shooters will encounter when ordering a rebarreling job.
The numbers are interesting. If you get 2000 rounds on your barrel instead of 1000, you save $0.27 per shot. However, extending barrel life from 2000 to 3000 rounds only saves you $0.09 per round. The longer you keep your barrel the more you save, but the savings per shot decreases as the round count increases.
How to Reduce Your TRUE Cost per Round
What does this tell us? First, in figuring your annual shooting budget, you need to consider the true cost per round, including barrel cost. Second, if you want to keep your true costs under control, you need to extend your barrel life. This can be accomplished in many ways. First, you may find that switching to a different powder reduces throat erosion. Second, if you’re able to slow down your shooting pace, this can reduce barrel heat, which can extend barrel life. (A varminter in the field is well-advised to switch rifles, or switch barrels, when the barrel gets very hot from extended shot strings.) Third, modifying your cleaning methods can also extend the life of your barrel. Use solvents that reduce the need for aggressive brushing, and try to minimize the use of abrasives. Also, always use a properly fitting bore guide. Many barrels have been prematurely worn out from improper cleaning techniques.
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In a masterful piece of Madison Avenue magic, BMW portrays its M5 “super-sedan” as the four-wheeled equivalent of a speeding bullet. In this clever, CGI-enhanced marketing video, an M5 is “shot” from a giant barrel. It then speeds across the Bonneville Salt Flats towards a giant bullseye — just like a bullet heading toward a target. Along its path, the M5 shatters a giant apple, and then slices through three giant water balloons. Far-fetched? Yes. But the illusion is superbly-crafted, making for two very compelling minutes of movie-making.
Watch BMW Video
Measuring the BMW M5 in Bullet Terms
How does the M5 measure up compared to real bullets shot from real rifles? With a 66.9″ body width, the BMW M5 is a 1700mm projectile. When we convert the M5′s rather porky 4350-pound curb weight* to grains, we find the M5 weighs an astonishing 30,450,000 grains. (Yes that’s 30.45 MILLION). The M5′s electronically-governed top speed is 155 mph. That equates to 277.33 fps — pretty slow by ballistics standards. A typical hunting projectile flies ten times as fast. And even a 9mm handgun bullet travels four times as fast.
M5 ‘Knock-Down’ Power More Than Adequate for Big Game
When it comes to knock-down power, a speeding M5 beats even a 50 BMG bullet hands down. At 500 yards, a 750gr A-Max fired from a 50 BMG has about 8625 foot/lbs of retained energy (this assumes 2700 fps MV).
By contrast, with a terminal velocity of 277.33 fps, the 4350-lb BMW delivers 5.199 Million foot/lbs of retained energy. We think that’s more that enough “hitting power” to cope with any size North American game. But there are certainly some “Zombie” Hunters who might still wish for more power.
How about trajectory? Well we can’t answer that one for you. Last time we checked, Bryan Litz had not calculated the G1 or G7 BC for a BMW M5, so we can’t figure the car’s come-ups using JBM Ballistics. Still, we’re sure that, if BMW gave Bryan an M5 to play with, he’d be happy to spend a few months gathering “data”. But we do suspect it might be a bit challenging to get a 4350-lb sport sedan to fly through the sky-screens of Bryan’s chronographs.
A while back, Werner Mehl of Kurzzeit.com produced a 10-minute video for the 2010 SHOT Show. When syndicated via YouTube, this amazing video became an internet phenomenon. It has been watched over six million times! Employing cameras recording at up to 1,000,000 (one million) frames per second, Mehl’s bullet flight video has been called “astounding”, “mesmerizing”, and a “work of art.” If you haven’t seen it yet, sit back and enjoy!
LINK: Kurzzeit.com Video System and PVM-21 Chronograph
Click the link above to learn more about Werner Mehl and his super-sophisticated camera systems that can record at 1,000,000 frames per second. On the same linked page you can learn about the advanced PVM-21 chronograph designed by Werner. Operating “all-infrared, all the time”, the PVM-21 is the best chronograph we have tested for very low light conditions, or very tricky light conditions.
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Two Sandia National Laboratories engineers, both hunters, have developed a patented design for a laser-guided bullet. The 4″-long laser-guided projectile has made hits at ranges up to 2000 meters. No this is NOT an April Fools’ joke. The projectile shoots from a smooth-bore rifle and uses small, movable fins to adjust its trajectory. The fins are controlled by micro-sized actuators in response to signals from a tiny, onboard laser-sensor. Plastic sabots provide a gas seal and protect the delicate fins while the projectile is in the firearm’s barrel.
Click Here for Video News Report on Sandia-developed Guided Bullet
Sandia researchers Red Jones and Brian Kast (and colleagues) have invented a dart-like, self-guided bullet for small-caliber, smooth-bore firearms that could hit laser-designated targets at distances of more than a mile. “We have a very promising technology to guide small projectiles that could be fully developed inexpensively and rapidly,” Jones said. Researchers have had initial success testing the design in computer simulations and in field tests of prototypes, built from commercially available parts, Jones said. While engineering issues remain, “we’re confident in our science base and we’re confident the engineering-technology base is there to solve the problems,” he said.
Sandia’s design for the four-inch-long bullet includes an optical sensor in the nose to detect a laser beam on a target. The sensor sends information to guidance and control electronics that use an algorithm in an eight-bit central processing unit to command electromagnetic actuators. These actuators steer tiny fins that guide the bullet to the target.
Fin-Stabilization — Like on a Guided Missile
The guided projectile is shot from smooth bore barrel with no rifling. While conventional bullets are spin-stabilized, Scandia’s guided bullet doesn’t spin in flight. To enable the guided bullet to adjust its trajectory toward a target and to simplify the design, the spin had to go, Jones said. As on most guided missiles, fins both stabilize and steer the projectile. But on this projectile, the fins are tiny — just a few millimeters tall.
The bullet flies straight due to its aerodynamically stable design, which consists of a center of gravity that sits forward in the projectile and tiny fins that enable it to fly without spin, just as a dart does, he said. The four-inch-long bullet has actuators that steer tiny fins that guide it to its target.
Projectile Flies at 2400 fps — More Speed Is Possible
Testing has shown the electromagnetic actuator performs well and the bullet can reach speeds of 2,400 feet per second, or Mach 2.1, using commercially available gunpowder. The researchers are confident it could reach standard military speeds using customized gunpowder.
Sub-MOA Accuracy at 1000m — No Matter What the Wind Does
Computer aerodynamic modeling shows the design would result in dramatic improvements in accuracy, Jones said. Computer simulations showed an unguided bullet under real-world conditions could miss a target more than a half mile away (1,000 meters away) by 9.8 yards (9 meters), but a guided bullet would get within 8 inches (0.2 meters), according to the patent.
The prototype does not require a device found in guided missiles called an inertial measuring unit, which would have added substantially to its cost. Instead, the researchers found that the bullet’s relatively small size when compared to guided missiles “is helping us all around. It’s kind of a fortuitous thing that none of us saw when we started,” Jones said.
As the bullet flies through the air, it pitches and yaws at a set rate based on its mass and size. In larger guided missiles, the rate of flight-path corrections is relatively slow, so each correction needs to be very precise because fewer corrections are possible during flight. But “the natural body frequency of this bullet is about 30 hertz, so we can make corrections 30 times per second. That means we can over-correct, so we don’t have to be as precise each time,” Jones said.
Projectile Becomes More Stable After Launch
Researchers also filmed high-speed video of the bullet radically pitching as it exited the barrel. The bullet pitches less as it flies down range, a phenomenon known to long-range firearms experts as “going to sleep.” Because the bullet’s motions settle the longer it is in flight, accuracy improves at longer ranges, Jones said. “Nobody had ever seen that, but we’ve got high-speed video photography that shows that it’s true,” he said. (See below)