Ballistic calculators for long range shooting
The Long Game is a new series designed to improve your long-range shooting skills. This story is the second part.
To get consistent shots at targets smaller than a refrigerator over 500 yards, you’ll need the help of ballistic calculators. The best way to look at ballistic calculators is to think of them as a virtual, smarter version of your high school physics teacher. A successful ballistics program will capture all of the external ballistic data discussed in Part 1, as well as details about the rifle and optical sight you are using. Ideally, the program / app will be something that you can manage on your smartphone or small tablet. The best ballistic calculators allow you to record data for different loads and conditions. Some are free, but the best will set you back a few dollars.
Ultimately, your ballistic calculator will provide you with shooting solutions in minutes of angle, MIL, or inches, detailing the correct drift and elevation corrections you need to make with your tuning turrets or reticle. . Ideally, you will need a program that provides solutions in all three. You might have an MOA-based rifle scope now, but if you replace it with a MIL rifle scope in the future, you won’t want to start over.
MOA and MIL
What is the difference between an MOA and a MIL? The minute of angle (MOA) is an angular measurement that equates to 1 / 60th of a degree or about an inch (1.047 inch) at 100 yards. A mil (MIL) is an angular measure dividing the radians in a circle. There are 6283 mils in a circle, and one mil is 10 centimeters (3.6 inches) at 100 meters. It is important to realize that MOA and MIL are angular measures that increase in size with distance. One MOA will equal 1.047 inches at 100 yards and double, 2.094 inches at 200 yards. Having the data given in inches can also be useful when considering the size of the target or looking at downward impacts. The inch benchmark in your ballistic data also comes in handy when your brain freezes and you can’t convert MOA or MIL to real and actual measurements.
Ballistic calculators with wind inputs
Avoid ballistic calculators which are products of bullet or ammunition manufacturing companies. With a few exceptions, most only offer basic solutions and do not allow for advanced data entry or calculation. The best ballistic calculators will interface with a weather / atmospheric collection device like a Kestrel. This allows for the automatic capture and calculation of wind speed and other external ballistic variables discussed in Part 1.
We’ll discuss anemometers later in this series, but they’re worth mentioning here because wind is a critical part of your ballistic solution. And the effects of the wind are best determined by a calculator that takes into account all of the associated external ballistic factors. The less mathematical shooters have to do, the better they will shoot. For a good anemometer that can be paired with a ballistics program, you can pay up to $ 700.
Feeding the program good data
What we haven’t discussed is the requirement of ballistic calculators to have an accurate number representing the actual muzzle velocity of your rifle. This also applies to a precise BC value. Good ballistic calculators will allow you to tune both, based on your feedback in the real world. To get this data, you will need a chronograph to measure your initial speed, and ideally you will measure it at different temperatures. Without this vital data, your virtual physics teacher is worthless.
In addition to the ballistics program, you will obviously also need a rangefinder. Their price can range from affordable to ridiculous. (No one said long-range hitting was easy or inexpensive.) After purchasing a reputable rifle, expect to pay as much or double for quality accessories. The main thing to remember with a ballistics program is that it’s like any computer – if you put trash in it, that’s what it will give you. You will also need a good long-range data book. This is where you’ll record all the information about your rifle, accessories, and ideally record every shot you take.
By comparing what the ballistics program calculates your fits with the actual results on the target, you can fine tune your data for your muzzle velocity and BC value with the long range cartridge you choose. Speaking of long range cartridges, which are the best? We will cover this in part 3.