American Hunter - December 2012 - 42

Photo: Author

Flat-shooting cartridges like the .280 Remington are ideal at long range. That white
speck the author is taking aim at across
the canyon is a Dall sheep.

While the line of sight is linear because
gravity has no effect on it, the bullet's
flight is not. If your line of sight was
exactly parallel with the bore of the rifle,
the bullet would always impact below the
line of sight as it exits the barrel below
the scope. The greater the distance to
the target, the farther below the line of
sight the impact will occur. For example,
a -grain bullet from a . Winchester
Magnum impacts . inches low at 
yards, but at  yards it's only  inches
below the line of sight.
So we adjust the relationship between
the line of sight and the bullet's flight. To
work correctly, rifles do not have the line
Remember the line of sight is linear but
bullet flight is not. A bullet's rate of drop
accelerates the longer it is in flight-at
a rate of 32.2 fps, per second. Firing a
rifle held parallel to Earth, below, demonstrates how quickly things happen: At
300 yards in this example a bullet already
is about a foot low. The author learned all
this through trial and error on the range
and in the field.

of sight and the bore parallel. The bore of
the rifle will actually be tilted up at the
muzzle when compared to the line of
sight. The bullet exits the muzzle about
. inches below the line of sight for most
scoped hunting rifles. Because the bore
is tilted slightly relative to the straight
line of sight, the bullet's path will arc up
through the line of sight. With our .
Win. Mag. and a -yard zero, the bullet
crosses for the first time at . yards (see
chart on page ). Even though the bullet
is dropping toward the earth, its path will
continue to rise relative to the line of sight
until it reaches its peak. That varies with
cartridges, bullets, velocity, zero range
and other factors, but for our . Mag.
with a -yard zero it happens at about
 yards, where the bullet will be .
inches above the line of sight. After that
point the bullet will be moving closer to
the line of sight until it crosses it again at
 yards. From that point on the bullet
will always be below the line of sight and
the distance between the bullet path and

the line of sight will grow exponentially
larger as the distance increases.
So what does that mean hunters? Well,
first off, with most modern, high-velocity,
bottleneck rifle cartridges you can pretty
much ignore all this out to  yards or so.
With a -yard zero the . Winchester's bullet will be about  inches
below the line of sight at  yards. So
from zero to  yards the bullet is never
more than . inches above or  inches
below the line of sight. On big game this
means you can hold on the center of the
chest and you will hit the kill zone if you
do your job. Even at  yards the bullet
is only . inches below the line of sight. If
you hold slightly high, but still on the critter-on hair not air-you will hit vitals.
But after that things rapidly start to
change. The . Win. bullet has been in
the air for more than a third of a second
and it is beginning to pick up drop speed.
At  yards it is almost  inches below
the line of sight. At  yards the bullet impacts more than  inches below
the line of sight. At  that has doubled
to  inches. It's almost  inches at
 yards. By , yards the bullet will
impact almost  inches below the point
of aim-that's more than  feet.
But if you move your zero distance out,
you run into other problems. Suppose you
zero that same . Win. Mag. for 
yards: At  yards your bullet will be .
inches above the line of sight. If you aim
at a deer standing  yards away, you
will shoot over his back. Remember too,
this is with a . Win. Mag., one of the
flattest-shooting cartridges. With many
less powerful cartridges these numbers
grow bigger due to slower bullet velocity. Considering that a lot more deer are
shot at less than  yards than are shot

Bullet Drop When Fired Parallel to Ground

30
0
-30
-60
Inches

-90
-120
-150
-180
-210
-240
-270

0

100

200

300

400

500

Range in Yards

  ❘

600

700

 ❘ .

800

900

1000


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American Hunter - December 2012

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Hunter - December 2012

American Hunter - December 2012 - 1
American Hunter - December 2012 - 2
American Hunter - December 2012 - 3
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