April 2nd, 2022

Saturday at the Movies: Litz on Long Range Shooting + Ballistics

Bryan Litz Elements Long Range Shooting NSSF Ballistics Coeffecient Atmospherics

Want to learn more about Long Range Shooting? Check out the NSFF “Elements of Long Range Shooting” videos hosted by ballistics guru Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics. In this multi-part series, Bryan covers a variety of topics of interest to precision shooters. For today’s Saturday at the Movies special, we feature seven of Bryan’s videos. Watch other informative Long Range Shooting and Ballistics videos with Bryan Litz on the NSSF YouTube Channel.

Litz NSSF Video Elements long range shooting Raton NM ELR

Atmospherics and Density Altitude

Bryan Litz explains: “An important element in calculating an accurate firing solution for long-range shooting is understanding the effects of atmospherics on a projectile.” Atmospherics include air pressure, air temperature, and humidity. Bryan notes: “Temperature, pressure, and humidity all affect the air density… that the bullet is flying through. You can combine all those factors into one variable called ‘Density Altitude’.” Density Altitude is used by the ballistic solver to account for variables that affect bullet flight.

Bullet Ballistic Coefficients

A bullet’s ballistic coefficient (BC) basically expresses how well the bullet flies through the air. Higher BC bullets have less aerodynamic drag than lower BC projectiles. You will see BCs listed as either G1 and G7 numbers. These correspond to different bullet shape models. Generally speaking, the G7 model works better for the long, boat-tail bullets used for long-range shooting. Notably, a bullet’s drag is NOT constant in flight. The true BC can vary over the course of the trajectory as the bullet velocity degrades. In other words, “BC is dynamic”. That said, you can make very accurate drop charts using the BCs provided by major bullet-makers, as plugged into solvers. However, long-range competitors may want to record “real world” drop numbers at various distances. For example, we’ve seen trajectories be higher than predicted at 500 yards, yet lower than predicted at 1000.

Transonic Range

When considering your rifle’s long-range performance, you need to understand the limit of your bullet’s supersonic range. As the bullet slows below the speed of sound, it enters the transonic zone. This can be accompanied by variations in stability as well as BC changes. Bryan explains “once your bullet slows done below supersonic and you get into transonic effects, there are a lot more considerations that come into play. The drag of the bullet becomes less certain, the stability of the bullet can be challenged, and things related to long times of flight, such as Coriolis and Spin Drift, come into play. So whenever you are shooting long range you need to where your bullet slows down to about 1340 fps.”

Ballistics Solvers — Many Options

Bryan Litz observes: “When we talk about the elements of long range shooting, obviously a very important element is a getting a fire solution, using a ballistic solver. There are a lot of ballistic solvers out there… Applied Ballistics has smartphone Apps. Applied Ballistics has integrated the ballistic solver directly into a Kestral, and the same solver runs (manually) on the Accuracy Solutions Wiz-Wheel. The point is, if it is an Applied Ballistics device it is running the same solutions across the board.”

Bullet Stability and Twist Rates

In this video, Bryan Litz talks about bullet in-flight stability and how to calculate barrel twist-rate requirements for long-range bullets. Bryan explains that bullet stability (for conventional projectiles) is basically provided by the spinning of the bullet. But this spin rate is a function of BOTH the nominal twist rate of the barrel AND the velocity of the projectile. Thus, when shooting the same bullet, a very high-speed cartridge may work with a slower barrel twist rate than is required for a lower-speed (less powerful) cartridge. For match bullets, shot at ranges to 1000 yards and beyond, Bryan recommends a twist rate that offers good stability.

Scope Tracking — Tall Target Test

Scope Click Verify Elevation Tall Target Bryan Litz NSSF test turret MOA MIL

Have you recently purchased a new scope? Then you should verify the actual click value of the turrets before you use the optic in competition. While a scope may have listed click values of 1/4-MOA, 1/8-MOA or 0.1 Mils, the reality may be slightly different. Many scopes have actual click values that are slightly higher or lower than the value claimed by the manufacturer. The small variance adds up when you click through a wide range of elevation. In this video, Bryan Litz shows how to verify your true click values using a “Tall Target Test”. The idea is to start at the bottom end of a vertical line, and then click up 30 MOA or so. Multiply the number of clicked MOA by 1.047 to get the claimed value in inches. For example, at 100 yards, 30 MOA is exactly 31.41 inches. Then measure the difference in your actual point of impact.

Coriolis Effect

The Coriolis Effect comes into play with extreme long-range shots. The rotation of the earth actually moves the target a small distance (in space) during the long duration of the bullet’s flight. Bryan Litz notes that, in most common shooting situations inside 1K, Coriolis is not significant. At 1000 yards, the Effect represents less than one click (for most cartridge types). Even well past 1000 yards, in windy conditions, the Coriolis Effect may well be “lost in the noise”. But in very calm conditions, when shooting at extreme ranges, Bryan says you can benefit from adjusting your ballistics solution for Coriolis: “The Coriolis Effect… has to do with the spin of the earth. The consequence of that is that, if the flight time of the bullet gets significantly long, the bullet can have an apparent drift from its intended target. The amount [of apparent drift] is very small — it depends on your latitude and azimuth of fire on the planet.”

About Bryan Litz
Bryan began his career as a rocket scientist, quite literally. He then started Applied Ballistics, the leading company focusing on ballistics science for rifle shooting. A past F-TR Long-Range National Champion and Chief Ballistician for Berger Bullets, knows his stuff. His Applied Ballistics squad was the winning team at the 2017 King of 2 Miles event, and Applied Ballistics has earned major U.S. defense contracts.

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