Skip to main content

Bullets vs. Wind

Bullets vs. Wind

Wind is the varmint shooter's greatest enemy, and the search for better "wind-bucking" bullets is never-ending.

If you've embarked on that search, be sure not to confuse a bullet's "wind resistance" with its "air resistance."


In flight, bullets are affected by three separate forces: gravity, air resistance and wind. Gravity pulls down on the bullet, causing it to drop below the line of sight. Air resistance (or "drag") slows the bullet with a force proportional to the square of the velocity. Wind makes the projectile drift from its normal still-air trajectory.


There are two key elements to understanding a bullet's susceptibility to wind drift. The first is its ballistic coefficient (BC), which combines the air resistance of the bullet shape (the drag coefficient) with its sectional density (the ratio of its frontal surface area to bullet mass), and is expressed by a figure providing the ratio of its ballistic efficiency compared to a standard theoretical reference projectile.

Sporting bullets have BCs in the range 0.12 to slightly over 1.00, with 1.00 being the most aerodynamic and 0.12 being the least. Bullets with higher ballistic coefficients have better air resistance, and the deceleration a bullet will experience due to drag is proportional to its BC.


In technical terms, wind drift is caused by drag. It is not, as is commonly thought, caused by wind pushing on the side of the bullet. Drag makes the bullet turn into the wind, keeping the center of air pressure on its nose.


This causes the bullet nose to angle into the wind and the base to be angled downwind. Since drag is the force slowing the bullet against the resistance of the air, the effect is to make it drift from its linear path in the downwind ("backward") direction. The greater the bullet's drag, the more it will drift.

Headwinds or tailwinds have similar but less obvious drag effects. A headwind will slightly increase the velocity of the bullet relative to the air it is passing though, which will increase the amount of drag and corresponding bullet drop.

A tailwind will reduce the drag and the bullet drop. In the real world, pure headwinds or tailwinds are rare since wind seldom is constant in force and direction and normally interacts with the terrain it is blowing over.

The second key element in a bullet's susceptibility to wind drift is its velocity. Here, unlike the complex physics of drag coefficients, the issue is simple. The longer the time any bullet is exposed to wind while in flight to the target, the more it will drift; the faster it gets there, the less it will drift.

While it is also true that drag increases as velocity increases, if you use bullets having high BCs to begin with, the benefit of the reduced flight time will outweigh any additional drag effect.

If you are seeking the maximum in wind resistance for varmint shooting, you need to pick the bullet with the highest ballistic coefficient (least drag) you can find for your cartridge of choice and push it to the highest velocity possible while maintaining the accuracy you need.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

Delta 5 - Daniel Defense

Delta 5 - Daniel Defense's New Precision Bolt Action Rifle

Those looking to explore precision rifle shooting without going broke will be well served by Daniel Defense's new Delta 5.

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Keith Feeley of Tactical Solutions sat down with Michael Bane at SHOT Show 2018 to talk about the new X-Ring Takedown SBR .22LR rifle.

Steyr Arms Announces Sniper Rifle in 6.5mm Creedmoor

Steyr Arms Announces Sniper Rifle in 6.5mm Creedmoor

Scott O'Brien from Steyr Arms sat down with Michael Bane at SHOT Show 2018 to take a look at Steyr's new tactical heavy barrel sniper rifle in 6.5mm Creedmoor.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

You're only as good as your weakest link; heed these to tips to make sure your shooting skills don't hinder your rifle's accuracy potentialHow to Shoot Your Best from a Benchrest Shooting Tips

How to Shoot Your Best from a Benchrest

Keith Wood - August 05, 2014

You're only as good as your weakest link; heed these to tips to make sure your shooting skills...

Thompson/Center and S&W's Performance Center team up to build an entry-level long-range chassis rifle.Performance Center-Thompson/Center LRR Review Reviews

Performance Center-Thompson/Center LRR Review

Alfredo Rico - April 09, 2019

Thompson/Center and S&W's Performance Center team up to build an entry-level long-range...

Want to get into the long-range game and not go broke? Check out the Mossberg MVP Precision Rifle.Mossberg MVP Precision Rifle Review Reviews

Mossberg MVP Precision Rifle Review

J. Scott Rupp - March 21, 2019

Want to get into the long-range game and not go broke? Check out the Mossberg MVP Precision...

Practical rifle marksmanship depends on following these five fundamentals.5 Fundamentals of Rifle Marksmanship Shooting Tips

5 Fundamentals of Rifle Marksmanship

Jospeh von Benedikt - August 13, 2020

Practical rifle marksmanship depends on following these five fundamentals.

See More Trending Articles

More Ammo

The Berger .22-cal 85.5-grain Long Range Hybrid Target bullet is a great option for handloading precision rounds in .224 Valkyrie, 22 Creedmoor and .223/556 rifles with a fast twist rate.Berger 22 Cal 85.5 Grain Long Range Hybrid Target Bullets: First Look Ammo

Berger 22 Cal 85.5 Grain Long Range Hybrid Target Bullets: First Look

RifleShooter Digital Staff - October 09, 2019

The Berger .22-cal 85.5-grain Long Range Hybrid Target bullet is a great option for...

Despite their similarities, the 6.5 PRC and 6.5 RPM are opposites in some regards. For example, the PRC requires a magnum bolt face but fits in a short action whereas the RPM utilizes a standard-diameter bolt but demands a long action.6.5 PRC vs 6.5 RPM — What You Need to Know Ammo

6.5 PRC vs 6.5 RPM — What You Need to Know

Brad Fitzpatrick - June 18, 2020

Despite their similarities, the 6.5 PRC and 6.5 RPM are opposites in some regards. For...

When it comes to the best deer bullets, hunters have more choices than ever before. Consider your hunting environment and choose accordingly.Affordable Deer Bullet Options Ammo

Affordable Deer Bullet Options

Craig Boddington - November 08, 2019

When it comes to the best deer bullets, hunters have more choices than ever before. Consider...

The RifleShooter staff put together their gift guide for the upcoming holiday season, with products from SIG, Browning, Leupold and many more.RifleShooter Holiday Gift Guide (2019) Accessories

RifleShooter Holiday Gift Guide (2019)

J. Scott Rupp

The RifleShooter staff put together their gift guide for the upcoming holiday season, with...

See More Ammo

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the RifleShooter App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All RifleShooter subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now