Bullet Yaw

by Woodsbum

I got into a discussion the other day about bullet yaw and how people tend to forget this very important effect on accuracy. For some reason a lot of Rifle Range Commandos think that their 100 yard shot and accuracy will automatically translate into the ability to shoot at distance and that any long range inconsistencies MUST be because the “shooter can’t shoot.” There is just so much emphasis spent on tactics and CQB training that any engagement 200 yards or more is lost. This truly is a sad thing because 200 yards is really not that far to shoot.

One factor that seems to be completely overlooked is bullet yaw. Imagine a perfectly thrown football. The axis of the spin bisects the end point perfectly in the middle and the ball travels in a direct line. Now imagine if you taped several quarters on it to cause the balance to be off a bit. The ball’s flight would resemble a wounded duck as well as the the actual path that the ball traveled being modified. Think about the old “spit ball” in baseball. Additional weight would be added to one side of the ball before being thrown to create an unpredictable flight path.

To put this into a “firearms” type perspective, I give you the following example. Everyone that has been around guns knows about the tumbling effect of the .303 British. The way that the bullet almost tumbles in flight, enters the target sideways, and even seems to almost have a curved flight at times is and extreme example. This article here explains bullet yaw quite well and even has some really good graphics. The following picture helps to illustrate the way that a bullet may travel if is not spinning perfectly.

Because the yaw has not had time to truly affect the flight path at shorter ranges, an incorrectly weighted bullet may not seem to have problems until the distance stretches out past 150 yards. The farther the bullet travels, the more factors associated with the bullet’s trajectory will become apparent. This explains why most long range shooters spend the extra money on premium bullets and reload their own cartridges. It takes out a lot of the variables that mass production ammunition battle during the manufacturing process.

Here is a good video that shows how yaw affects a bullet’s flight.

In conclusion, I really want people to realize that the yaw can really modify the bullet’s path over distance. Take some time and study ALL aspects of how a firearm functions, ammunition works and how bullet paths are established. You should not just focus on one portion of this hobby. Just because someone shoots .25″ groups at 25 yards from the prone position with their $5000 sniper rifle doesn’t mean that they can use that exact same setup to push out past 1000 yards. There are just too many factors in play to make those sorts of assumptions. What it all comes down to is quite simple. Practice and test out your equipment BEFORE you need it and ensure that it will perform properly at whatever range you want to claim yourself to be effective at.

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