External ballistics – Silvercore Firearms Training BC
In order for a projectile to impact any distant target, the barrel must be inclined to a positive elevation angle relative to the target. This is due to the fact that the projectile will begin to respond to the effects of gravity the instant it is free from the mechanical constraints of the bore. Thus, a bullet fired with a zero elevation angle can never impact a target higher than or at the same elevation as the center axis of the bore. The imaginary line down the center axis of the bore and out to infinity is called the line of departure and is the line on which the bullet leaves the barrel. As the bullet travels downrange, it arcs below the line of departure as it is being deflected off its initial path by gravity.
For hitting a distant target an appropriate positive elevation angle is required that is achieved by angling the line of sight from the shooter’s eye through the centerline of the sighting system downward toward the line of departure. This can be accomplished by simply adjusting the sights down mechanically, or by securing the entire sighting system to a sloped mounting having a known downward slope, or by a combination of both. This procedure has the effect of elevating the muzzle when the barrel must be subsequently raised to align the sights with the target. A bullet leaving a muzzle at a given elevation angle follows a ballistic trajectory whose characteristics are dependent upon various factors such as muzzle velocity, gravity, and aerodynamic drag. This ballistic trajectory is referred to as the bullet path.
Bullet path is of great use to shooters because it allows them to establish ballistic tables that will predict how much elevation correction must be applied to the sight line for shots at various known distances.
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