Ballistics silver tip

Heavy Bullets and Wind Drift

Live the Legend |

Even with all of the information available to shooters these days, as well as their own experience at the range and on the field, there remains a lot of misconceptions about loads and firearm performance. According to veteran gun and outdoor writer Ron Spomer, one of the biggest is “the notion that heavy bullets drift less in the wind than light bullets.”

Spomer explains: “Heavier bullets can reduce wind drift, but that’s only a small part of the equation.” Bullet shape—called form factor and included as part of a bullet’s Ballistic Coefficient (BC) Rating—plays a much larger role, as do flight time to the target, as well as velocity. It may surprise some shooters, but a smaller 55-grain Ballistic Silvertip shot from a .22-250 drifts less than a 125-grain Pointed Soft Point fired from a .30-06. The difference can be as much as 2 inches less at 300 yards and 4 inches less at 400—not a lot, but enough to illustrate the point.

Most people imagine the wind pushes bullets in the air the same way it would push ping-pong balls, but it doesn’t. In fact, wind isn’t even the biggest factor. Instead, deflection plays a larger role. The energy of the wind on a bullet in flight puts forces on it that actually alter its angle of travel. Velocity and distance of flight also have an impact as the longer a bullet is in flight, the longer wind works on its trajectory. There are a lot of factors that play into this confusing drift/displacement phenomenon, but you don’t have to take a physics course to understand what the best bullet is for you. All you have to do to minimize wind deflection is shoot the highest BC bullets available at a maximum velocity in any caliber.

Heavy bullet 223
A prime example is when you shoot a .30-06 180-grain XP3 bullet with a high BC of .527. Compared to the earlier example, the mass and shape of this bullet increases its BC, so while it is still flying at 1,000 feet per second (fps) slower than the .22-250, the bullet’s long, efficient design allows it to deflect 5.2 inches less than the .22-250 bullet rather than nearly 4 inches more like the 125-grain Pointed Soft Point .30-06 load.

Regardless of what bullet you shoot, Winchester’s Ballistics Calculator will allow you to easily learn its trajectory in various wind conditions. Then, simply head to the range and verify you are getting the same results with your gun/load combination and you are ready to make accurate shots when hunting this fall.