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ROFESSORMIKE INVESTIGATES...

THE BALLISTIC
COEFFICIENTEXPLAINED
provides
MikeWr,ight
Professor a technical
explanation coefficient
of ballistic
andhowit affectsourpellets
fo ' bmost shootersthe idea of a This is a very longway from the Figure2: VelocityLoss dueto Air Drag
allistic
| c o e f f i c i e n t ' ( B Ci)s a i r g u np e l l e t ,w h i c h h a s m u c h
b o t h f a m i l i a ra n d b a f fl i n g a t t h e s m a l l e rd i m e n s i o n as n d w e i g h si n
.
s a m et i m e , M a n y o f u s r e g u l a r l y at aroundone 500th or"soof the :
use softwarepackageswhich use weightof the standardbullet. lt is :
* 4SS 1 t ' t ' 1 '

t h e b a l l i s t i cc o e f f i c i e n to f o u r not surprisingthereforethat the r.t


{t \ ;
c h o s e np e l l e tt o c a l c u l a t e BCs of the pelletswe use are very, u
E
trajectory,energyretentionand very much lowerthan 1.0. The \
o t h e r v a r i a b l e sa t v a r i o u sr a n g e s , valueof BC for most available "B
TJ
**s '' f:
b u t h o w m a n yo f u s r e a l l y p e l l e t sf a l l sw i t h i n a s p a no f v a l u e s q t.
1'
a¡ \1
*. 1
u n d e r s t a n dw h a t t h e B C o f a p e l l e t r a n g i n gf r o m a b o u t0 . 0 1 t o 0 . 0 4 , xü
¡
a c t u a l l yi s ? I n e s s e n c et,h e d e p e n d i n go n t h e c a l i b r e w , eight E equ '"--.t'
b a l l i s t i cc o e f f i c i e n to f a p e l l e t i s a and shapeof the pelletconcerned. 't
\ \.
m e a s u r eo f h o w w e l l i t r e s i s t sa i r In practice,the actual BC of the GT
0f
d r a g a n d r e t a i n sv e l o c i t ya s i t p e l l e ti n f l i g h t a l s od e p e n d so n t h e ..,.:..
1?0 \j'""'
travelsdownrange:the largerthe rifling patternof the gun's barrel : -r"

c o e f f i c i e n t t, h e l o w e rt h e v e l o c i t y and the mechanismof oower ; :-L


l o s s .T h e b a s i cs c i e n c eo f h o w a i r delivery;springor PCP. , : {q

d r a g a f f e c t sp e l l e tv e l o c i t yi s q u i t e In manywaysit is unfortunate
lflü
ü ?ü 4S ñü SCI 10ü 1?S 140 1Sü
straightforward,but it has been that the ballisticcoefficientidea, Range{yürdsl
obscuredby the long historyof which has subsequently been
b u l l e tb a l l i s t i c sf,o r w h i c h t h e refinedand redefinedby a varietyof i n t ot h e a i r g u nf i e l d ; i t w o u l db e straightforward dragfactorslike
c o n c e p to f t h e b a l l i s t i cc o e f fi c i e n t researchers, was evercarriedover much simplerto work with everyotherbranchof engineering
science. Butthe notionof the
**ffiffi
ffiffiffiffiffimffi-wffiffi
ffiffitutuHffiwKffi ffiffie
ffiffiffiffiffiHffiffiffiffiww ballisticcoefficientis nowfirmly
embedded and
in the literature
ffiffitutuffiwKffieffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
ffiffiffiffiwwffitutuKwffiffiffiffiffiwffi software of airgunballistics
needto understand
andwe
whatit really
&ffiffiffiffi&ffi-&ffiffiffiffiw&Hffiffiwffituffimffiww-- means. Thebestwayto geta handle
on whatthe BCis all aboutis to
w a s o r i g i n a l l yd e v i s e d . takea lookat thewayin whichair
I n t h e 1 8 6 0 ' s ,a B r i t i s h dragaffectsa pelletin flight.
clergyman,the wonderfullynamed
FrancisBashforth,was conducting &ilpffiraR
velocitylossexperimentson artillery Figure
l: AirDrag Figure1 illustratestheflightof a
p r o j e c t i l e us s i n ga b a l l i s t i c pelletwhichhasbeenfiredfroma
p e n d u l u mO . w i n gt o t h e d i f f i c u l t y horizontallyaligned barrel.Wind
of measuringdown-range velocities effectapart,the pelletis subjected
for a whole rangeof bullets,he to two externalforces:a constant
'standard verticalforcedueto gravitY anda
conceivedthe idea'ofa
bullet' f r o m w h i c h the allistic
b varying forcedueto air drag.The
performance of all other bullets combination of theseforces
c o u l d b e c a l c u l a t e db, y s c a l i n gu p oroduces the familiardownward-
or down,without recourseto further curvingtrajectory of the pelletshown
tests,Consequently, he proposed in thefigure.
that the ballisticcoefficient(or, ln orderto understand howthe
morespecifically,its reciprocalthe gravityanddragforcescombine to
'dragfactor')be basedon a produce a pafticular we
trajectory,
standardcylindricalprojectilewhich needto knowhowair dragvaries
w a s o n e i n c h i n d i a m e t e ra n d duringthe pellets'flight.
w e i g h e do n e p o u n d .T h e B C o f t h i s Thedragforceincreases with
s t a n d a r db u l l e tw a s d e f i n e da s 1 . 0 . velocityin a waythat depends on theffi

7s
natureof the air flow overthe pellet it will loseanother18%, arrivingát number 3.1416,w hi chi s l abel l ed
as Wecannowusethisvalueto
surface.Forthe subsonicregime, the 20 yard mark with 403 ftlsec, pi ( ) because
it comesup so estimatethevelocity
at another
with air flow velocitiessubstantially At 30 yards,the velocitywill be a frequently.Using'e',,the velocity range,say35 yards:
belowMach 1 (i.e,for velocitiesup further 18% lessat 337 ft/sec and formulais:
to about 950 fVsecond)that applies s o o n , i n s i m i l a rf a s h i o n a, s t h e vetocity =
at3s rards 29}nts
to virtuallyall airgunpellets,the drag MuzzleVelocity frl=
pellet movesdown range. Figure2 at Range'd'=--¡------,
VelocitY
force increaseswith the squareof the showshow air drag robsthe pelletof elBail¡stlc?ilge
'
Thisvelocity valueis markedup ,
velocityof the pellet.Sincethe velocityas it movesdown range. This is all verywell, but we needto Figure2, whereit canbeseenthat
deceleration of the pellet,or the 'air knowwhat the BallisticRangeof a linesup precisely withthe35 yard
drag', is proportionalto this force, HxpmlrerltimB
Veimcüty
H-*ss particularpelletis beforewe can do range. TheBallistic Rangeformul
the followingsimpleformulaapplies: This patternof constantpercentage anycalculations. By puttingthe provides uswitha simplemethodo
Changein Velocity_ Vetocityz lossovera given intervalgoverns velocityformulainto logarithmicform, convertingtwomeasured velocitie
Air Drag=
Tine BallisticRatnge many phenomenain the worldaround we find that the followingformula takenat twodifferentrangesintoa
of Pellet us. Forexample,it is the waythat emergesfor the BallisticRange: measurement of thevalueof the
The constantin this for:mula, the radioactivity decaysand is the basis Ballistic
Range.,But howdoesthis
'Ballistic d
Rangeof the Pellet',is very of the carbondatingmethodfor' Ballistic Range= ,- constant,the BallisticRange tie up
closelyrelatedto the ballistic
tn(ffi¡,)
ancientartefacts.lt is alsothe pattern withthecommonly used''
Ballistic
coefficient,BC, as we shall see. for ring separationin a tree trunk and Where'ln' denotesthe natural Coefficient'?
In practicalshootingwe are, of showshowthe valueof money logarithmof the velocityratio
course,more interestedin the wav declinesduringa periodof constant Youcan find the 'ex' and 'ln' TttmffimHtistüeffioeffisfrmmt
arld
that pelletvelocityvarieswith inflation.lt is calledan exponential buttonson all scientificcalculators, ffimtlistüc
ffiangm
distanceratherthan time and the decaycurveand the formulafor it includingthe one that I purchased In orderto understand the torturo
air dragformula is better recastin alwayscontainsthe same number lastweekfor a poundfrom a well- definition of the present:day
thoseterms:
**wmm
ffiffiewffiwffiffiK
$vxffiffiffitu
Change
in Vetocity
Velocity
_ Distance
Ballistic
Ranqe
wffi ffiffiffiffiffiffiq"ffffiffi
of Pellet
tr&ffiffiffiWffiffi.Yffiffifuffiffiffifu ffitrWffi&hfuffi
$'&fuTffiffi ffiffiWffif
lA0 x Distance
0r o/o.Reduction =
in Velocity
BallisticRanoe
of Pellet'
ffiMHWffiffi ffiWey-ffiffi
&ffiffiKwpgffiAwwffiruTffiwffiffiwffi
Notethat,for a givendistance,
the percentage reduction
ffiKMPfuHffiY ffiXEYffiWffiKK-ffi
ffiffiMffifuWffi'-
in velocity
dueto air dragis constant. Thisis (2.7I83 to four decimalplaces) knowndiscountchain.These Ballistic Coefficient, l th:inkit's
the essential pointto graspabout irrespective of the field of application. functionsare alsobuilt into a variety helpfulto tr,ace a littlebit of the
velocityretention andit is the key The equationfor the velocitydecline of computerspreadsheet packages. historybehindit.
factthatdetermines theshapeof of our pelletwith distanceis: Let'stake a lookat how these A l thougthhe not ionof a ballis
the velocity/distance curve.To formulaeapplyto our example.We coefficient in its present form,as
illustratethis point,let'slookat an Velocity
at Range'd'= will first find the valueof the Ballistic measure of bulletf lightef f icienc
#ffi
example for a verypoorpellet. Range.We knowthat the muzzle originated withthe Reverend
Consider a pelletwith a muzzle Because thenumber 2.7783' velocityof 600 fVsechas fallen to Bashforth, it wasProfessor Peter
velocityof 600 fVsec,whichis occursoverand overagainin all 403 fVsec at20 yards,so the Guthri Taite ,wor king in Cam br id
sloweddownby air dragto492 forms of dynamicanalysis,it is a BallisticRangewill be givenby: a n dE d i n b u r gw hh, op u b l i s h et h
de
ft/secat 10 yardsrangei.e.the giventhe 'shorthand'label'e', where firstaccurate trajectory formulaei
'e'
pellethaslost18 % of its velocity is shorthandfor 'exoonential Battistic
nanle= = Slyar¿s t h e 1 8 6 0 s i,n c l u d i ntgh e i d e ao f
ffi
in 10 yards.Overthe next10 yards constant'.This is just likethe B al l i sti R
c a nge. Som e20 year s
l ater,the K ruppCom pany in
Germany, madethe firstaccurate
measurements on the effectof air
dragon bullettrajectory in the
1881.Thi swasdoneby t estf ir in
largeflat-based, blunt-nosed
bulletsmanufactured to a standa
desi gn.Fo llowing t he Kr upp
experi mentms,ilit ar yengineerins
R ussi a (Ma yevski) and lt aly( Siac
workedto derivea mathematica
modelto predictbullettrajectory
apparently unaware that Profess
Tatehadalreadybrokenthe back
of the problem(therewasno
Googlein thosedaysl).The
Mayevski modell wassubsequen
takenup by Colonel Jam esI ngall
of the UnitedStatesArmy,who

74m
TECHNICALAIRGUN

a t t e m p t e dt o s i m p l i f yM a y e v s k i ' s and is alwayscalculatedin lb-inch


resultsfor use by non= units.
m a t h e m a t i c aal r m y p e r s o n n e l .t The factor; 'i 'is the Form Factorof
w a s I n g a l l sw h o r a t i o n a l i s etdh e the pellet,whichdetermine5 its
b a l l i s t i cc o e f f i c i e nat s a m e a s u r eo f effectivefrontalareaand the amount
t h e b a l l i s t i ce f fi c i e n c yo f a n y of drag.
p r o j e c t i l er,e l a t i v et o a s t a n d a r d U s i n gB C a n d c o m p a r i n gt h e
b u l l e ta n d p u t t h e B C i n t h e f o r m f o r m u l a ef o r a i d r a g i t s h o u l db e
still usedtoday.The resultswere a p p a r e ntth a t t h e B a l l i s t i c
p u b l i s h e di n w h a t a r e s t i l l k n o w n Coefficientis simply a scaled
a s ' l n g a l l sT a b l e s ' . v e r s i o no f t h e B a l l i s t i cR a n g e .l f w e
T h e i d e ao f s c a l i n gt h e b a l l i s t i c factor in the correctunits, an
e f f i c i e n c yo f a s t a n d a r db u l l e tt o appropriatefigure for air density
determinethe performánceóf and the correctbasefor 'i' it works
a n o t h e rc h o s e np r o j e c t i l e( i . e . a n out that:
a i r g u n p e l l e t )r e q u i r e st h a t t h e
physicsof the problembe taken Battistic - Ballistic
coefficient
Range
oarto
8000
f u l l y i n t o a c c o u n t .I h a v ep r e v i o u s l y
w r i t t e na d e t a i l e da r t i c l eo n t h i s i n So for our examplepellet,the BC
A i r g u nS p o r t ,a s u m m a r yo f w h i c h is 50/8000 = 0.0063. (l saidthat it
is as follows: was a poorpellet!)Let'ssummarise
The air flowingoverthe pellet the key facts so far:
createsa dynamicair pressure,
which dependson the squareof the ffi At subsonicspeeds,ai dragvaries
velocityof the pelletand the density with the squareof pelletspeed.
of the air.This is depicted l ffi Velocityreductionwith increasing
diagrammatically in Figure3. distanceis suchthat a constant tfrtsffimfr
ffimm*unir'*g $istl* 25 yards.Theyareveryeasyto use.
This pressuremultipliedby the percentage of velocityis lost for #nefficierut Figure5 is a diagramof the process
effectivefrontalareaof the pelletgives each equal incrementof range. In his companion articlein this issue, involved. Twochronos areset up a
the dragforceon the pellet,which, ffi The velocityversusdistancecurve Jim Tylerrecountsthe trialsand carefuIly measured distance apart.
' d' is t hesepar at ion in
whendividedby the pelletmass, is an exponentialdecay. vicissitudes of,measuring the ballistic Thedi stance
determines the deceleration air drag; ffi The rate of decaydependson the coefficientfor a particularpellet.You yardsbetween the centresof the
Pettet B a l l i s t i cR a n g e( B R )o f t h e p e l l e t ; mightthink that it is unnecessary to sensorsof the two instruments. The
Effective
Area .. Vetocitv, the higherthe BR, the betterthe go to the trouble,becausethe BC'sof nearest chrono(redin the diagram)
AIrDrag= prttrt x atroensnY
uuu z: givesa velocity reading V1.The,
pellet retainsits velocity. a vast rangeof pelletshavealready
The term in squarebracketsis ffi The BR can be found from ' beenpublishedon the internetand further(green) chronoreadsV2.To
effectivelythe reciprocalof the measuring the pelletvelocityat are availableat the click of a button. fi ndthevel ocitryat io,Vl is divided
'd' is 15, , 20
ballisticcoefficient,which is usually two rangepoints. Youmight indeedargue that point,but byV 2. l f thedist ance
given,as: ffi The BatlisticCoefficientis the you wouldbe wrong.The ballistic or 25 yards,thevalueof BCcan
BallisticRangein yardsdividedby coefficientof a pelletdependson its then be readoff the appropriate
Pettet
Mass suppose the Vl
Dlr- - 8000, preciseweightand dimensional curve.Forexample,
tolerancesand its exactshapeafter it reading was750 ftlsecandthe
has beenfired from a barrel.So,with reading on thesecondchrono, 20
Figure3: VelocltyLsss dueto Air Drag the bestwill in the world,the yardsaway,V2,was647 ft/sec.The
fiüü publishedfigurescan only be regarded velocity ratiois 750/647= 1.16.
i as an approximation withinplusor Thebal l i stico
c ef f icient ( 0. 017)can
; off the 20 yard
minusabout 15%. To get an accurate now be read directly
^ 490 figure,you reallyneedto measureit curvein Figure4. ,

{D pelleVrifle combination.
for your'orrrrn Alternatively,as Figure5 shows,
tt
b The most direct methodfor wecanusetheformulato getthe
sameresult:
FTJ scs \ :''t
rneasuring the ballisticcoefficientis
:
to fire a oellet overtwo 2o
6 =o. ol7
B c=
gt
i \ chronographs which are separated 8000x ln l.16
by a knowndistance,1d'and to use
L

: a.
$ z¿a 1'-
:
r"1
the formulae:' T h i s a r t i c l e , , a l o nwgi t h J i m :
'ñ \t:
: T y l e r ' sc' o m p a n i o np i e c e ,s h o u l d
{t
.\ ; Velocityfron NearestChrono p r o v i d ea r e a s o n a b l ien t r o d u c t i o n
u ; : \: VelocityRatio=
Velocityfrom FurthestChrono
12ü ":"-,.-\*. t o t h e b a l l i s t i cc o e f f i c i e nat n d ,
":a
,h = e x p l a i nw h a t ' sb' e h i n dt h e l i t t l e
BallisticCoefficient
800x In(VelocityRatio) n u m b e rw e t y p e i n t o o u r b a l l i s t , i c
?t.*'
Figure4 showsa veryconvenient p r o g r a m m e sB. u t , a s J i m ' s a r t i c l e
2$ 40 $n $0 10* 13ü 14ü "r60 r80 ?sü setof curves whichdo the mathsfor warns,there are morethan a few
Range {yard$l youfor threetypicalchronograPh w r i n k l e st o b e i r o n e do u t y e t ,
separation distances; 15, 20 and Watchthis space! ffi

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