March 12th, 2014

The Science of Shooting Revealed in Fascinating NRA Videos

pistol shooting science Jessie Duff NRANRA Media recently released a series of informative videos about the Science of Shooting. These videos feature high production values, with super-slow motion segments, as well as helpful computer graphics to illustrate the principles covered.

The videos are narrated by our friend Jessie Duff, a top action pistol shooter (and the first women ever to achieve USPSA Grand Master status). Jessie is assisted by talented shooters such as Top Shot Season 4 Champion Chris Cheng.

There are eight (8) videos in the Firearm Science Video Series. Here are two videos, with links to the rest below.

RECOIL — The Physics of Recoil Explained

While this video focuses on handguns, the principles involved apply to all firearms. The force of recoil is affected by the mass of the firearm, and by the speed and weight of the projectile. On a revolver, as shown in the video, there are various phases of recoil. Grip, and “compensation” porting can change the perceived force of recoil (though the energy is constant for any given ammunition specification).

VELOCITY — Calculating the Speed of a Bullet

This video shows a conventional chronograph with front and rear light sensors. The bullet first trips the front sensor and then the rear sensor as it flies over the unit. The difference in sensor time is used to calculate bullet speed. This is not the only kind of chrono in common use today. The popular MagnetoSpeed chrono works by tracking the bullet as it passes over two magnetic sensors mounted on a bayonet-style fixture on the barrel. Steinert Sensing Systems offers an Acoustic Chronograph that works by measuring the bullet’s supersonic shock-wave. This system has a much larger “sweet spot” than most optical chronographs. Last (but certainly not least) is the brand new Doppler Radar chronograph from This can measure the speed of a bullet without the need to send the round directly over sensors.

pistol shooting science Jessie Duff NRA Ballistic Pendulum

Interestingly, this video also explains how, in the days before electric lamps, digital processors, and radar, scientists used a mechanical “Ballistic Pendulum” to calculate bullet velocity using Newtonian physics. The Ballistic Pendulum was first used in the mid 1700s. We have come a long way since then.

Other Firearm Science Videos

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