Beginners guide to select a ballistics device for long range shooting

Beginners guide to select a ballistics device for long range shooting

In the world of hunting, distance and precision has always been an issue when it comes to long range shooting. It requires years of practice to be able to hold zero on your target in a short span of time. What happens when you are just a beginner at long range shooting and eager to understand the math and precise degree to aim your rifle at.

This is where the assistance of a ballistic device comes in handy. A ballistic device is used to help understand the underlying idea of how the effects of wind and bullet drop affects your shooting past a few hundred yards.

There are  two categories of ballistics device. First being the traditional ballistic calculator which is a device operating separately from your rifle but found in a compact sizes. Next, with the growth of technology and the popularity of the all-in-one concept, there are now ballistic phone apps that can be downloaded on your smartphones.

However, being a beginner hunter at long range shooting and probably having little to no knowledge on this field, we understand that you are overwhelmed by the many choices available out there. But fret not, we are here to lay out both features of a ballistic calculator and ballistic phone app to get you started.

Ballistic calculator

Ballistic Calculator

A ballistic calculator accurately characterise all aspects of the bullet trajectory the second the trigger is pulled. The calculator creates a trajectory chart recording velocity, time, energy, wind drifts range, bullet drop and temperature accordingly. This means that we can easily calculate the effects of our shooting environment without the worry of deriving equations.

However, the downside is that we have to understand the concepts of the ballistic calculator in order to receive accurate data. You can successfully operate the ballistic calculator just by understanding the few simple concepts that we need to be aware of.

Ballistic coefficient


Every bullet has a ballistic coefficient described between a range of numbers from zero to one. It shows how slippery your bullet is during fire or how efficient it is at overcoming air resistance. Usually, ballistic coefficient depends on the mass and size of your bullets but the manufacturer would have already stated the value during production.

High ballistic coefficient value correlates with the level of aerodynamic in bullets. Low ballistic coefficient value means that your bullet is broad and draggy. So if the head of your bullet is comparatively sharper, it produces more speed resulting to high ballistic coefficient.

Bullet drop

The next thing you need to understand is bullet drop. The actual drop of the bullet is due to the line of departure. Line of departure is expressed as a perfectly straight line speeding down the centre of the path to infinity.

Every bullet starts to gradually drop from the line of departure the second it is fired from the muzzle. It is almost unlikely for a bullet to start rising as the bullet will exit the muzzle 2 inches lower and gradually drop from there onwards.

Muzzle velocity

One of the biggest aspect of the ballistic chart is muzzle velocity. Theoretically, you will want to be able to measure the true velocity of your bullets when it leaves the muzzle. You can input the manufacturer’s recommended velocity for that bullet if you do not have the accurate chronograph.

However, the result may differ from your actual gun due to atmospheric conditions. But this will be less of a concern as most calculators automatically inputs the correct muzzle velocity according to results generated from the actual bullet drop.

Atmospheric pressure

The pressure of where a bullet is originally fired from affects the bullets flight path. The pressure measured from the point of where you are standing is known as the station pressure. However, do not get confuse with barometric pressure when calculating ballistics.

Barometric pressure is usually your station pressure adjusted according to sea level. It gives us the ability to assess the overall pressure for an area by adjusting our station pressure to match sea level. High pressure causes a greater bullet drop and to fly slower.


Even with shooting, environmental factor such as weather can affect the ballistic of your bullet. During higher temperatures, the bullet will pick up a faster speed resulting to less bullet drop from the line of departure. Majority of ballistic devices require you to input the current temperature. However, the more advance devices will want to know the current temperature of when the rifle is hold zero as well.

Ballistics phone apps

Ballistic Phone Apps

After understanding the basic concepts of the ballistic calculator, you are probably waiting for the description of the detailed concepts on ballistic phone apps. Frankly speaking, there are not many differences.

The fundamentals of both device functions similarly as they were both created for similar purposes. Ballistic phone apps are viewed as the simple version of a ballistic calculator providing similar input concepts.

Difference of a ballistics phone app

The main difference of a ballistic phone app from a ballistic calculator is that ballistic apps are designed to help shooters determine the distance to hit targets in a palm-sized package. This makes determining flight time, bullet drop, wind drift and impact of energy easier than ever.

The real advantage received from using a ballistic phone app is the ability of convenience to calculate your data at any time. You are able to refer to your app just about anywhere when needed and this gives you the ability to discuss data points with your fellow peers.

Due to the major memory storage on phones, it allows you to record comprehensive data profiles of bullets. Moreover, besides calculating numerical outputs, it also displays good quality charts and graphs to visualize what is going on at current conditions.

Battery lifespan

However, there is one major factor that differentiates a ballistic calculator from a  ballistic phone app and that is the battery lifespan. There are many factors such as environmental conditions that can affect a battery lifespan if proper care is not taken. A ballistic calculator operates on specific batteries that has a lifespan twice as long as regular batteries.

Whereas the battery on a smartphone lasts up to an average of 12 hours and with an app running constantly, it will drastically decrease the battery. If you are considering to download the ballistics phone app, be sure to carry a powerbank with you for that extra charge.

Best of both worlds

Many companies have begun stepping into the modernise world by pairing the usage of both device together. Nowadays, tools are able to transfer current atmospheric data to smartphone apps through bluetooth technology. This approach has balance the benefits of both device.  

Besides that, you are able to place a device or tripod stand at desired positions to compile data while having your smartphone next to you. With developing standards of wireless connections, systems allow incorporation of rangefinder gadgets, so all entrees are automated.


Regardless of which device you choose, both are beneficial in their own ways and provides the similar features you will need. Ballistics calculator are more suitable for long range shooting but being a beginner you may not require an advance device. As you are just getting started and everything still seem fresh, the concepts provided by a ballistics calculator may not be fully utilised.

Therefore, downloading an app will be great for beginners to get the hang of it. But if you are more of a tech savvy person and do not mind spending that extra money for equipment, consider getting the wireless device as it is more efficient.  

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