Learning about new guns and ammunition is a leisure time activity for many of us, but I can bet that many of us doesn’t know much about gun-facts; like how fast does a bullet travel, or how far does it go – Do you? Let’s learn about some amazing facts about bullets and the physics behind it.
Admit it, we all wished to be like the superheroes at least once in our life time. The ultimate power they have, the strength, that speed – everything. Like who doesn’t want to be more powerful than a locomotive, and travel easily from this corner to that in a leap? Or what they say about Superman’s dynamo – ‘faster than a speeding bullet’, which was basically an adage designed to give the impression of his top speed.
But now this statement begs for a real and obvious question: how actually fast a bullet does travel?
In real life or movies, we all see a bullet shot from a gun and it travels so fast that it is impossible to watch it moving from a naked eye. So how fast does it move?
Fact 1: Bullets fired from Sniper’s rifles are supersonic. That means that the target would have been hit before the nearby observers heard the gun shot.
Mechanism of Bullets
Before learning about the speed and getting into some number thing, first let’s know something about the mechanism of bullets. Do you know that the design of bullets resembles to fireworks?
A bullet consists of three major parts – the primer, the propellant and the bullet metal. But how does it work?
The primer or percussion cap is like fuse of the bullet. When the gun’s trigger is pulled, a spring mechanism inside the gun pushes the firing pin into the back of the bullet, where it ignites a small explosive in the percussion cap.
The primer then ignites the explosive (propellant). A propellant usually takes up to two third of the entire bullet’s volume which means almost a half.
When the primer ignites the propellant, it’s chemicals burns swiftly while building a lot of gas pressure in the barrel, that pushes the bullet down the gun and in the air through the barrel.
The inside of the gun’s barrel contains spiraling grooves known as rifling. These grooves make bullet spin faster when emerging from barrel.
The bullet leaves the barrel with a loud sound in results of the pressure releases and hit the target in no time.
This is mechanism behind gunfire. Now coming down to the actual question – how fast does a bullet travel?
Fact 2 – Sniper bullets can travel for so long that the earth’s rotation will move the target, creating an effect known as Coriolis drift.
How Fast a Bullet Travels?
Bullets come in different sizes called ‘calibers’ which is the diameter of the bullet. A 22lr-caliber bullet exits the barrel between 1200 to 1750 feet per second. A slightly larger .50 caliber can travel around 2800 to 3150 feet per hour, while a typical 9mm bullet travels around 1200 fps. However, this is roughly a factor to determine the speed of a bullet.
There are a lot of different factors that can affect the speed of a bullet like inclination of aim, temperature, twist rate, muzzle velocity etc. However, there are other important factors as well that can affect the speed of the bullet.
- Barrel Length: Barrel length plays an important role in the bullet speed. The longer the barrel, the longer the bullet will accelerate.
- Cartridge: Another important factor is the cartridge. The amount and type of propellant behind the bullet is called cartridge and determine the speed of a bullet. For suppose a 22RL bullet travels at the speed of 1500 fps, but a .223 Remington, despite having a same size, exits at over 3000 fps because of a bigger cartridge.
- Bullet Grain: Weight of the bullet. The heavier the bullet, the longer time it takes to accelerate and exit and thus will carry slow speed.
However, to combine all the facts and figures, a regular bullet can travel up to 2,600 feet per second, equivalent to over 1,800 miles per hour.
Fact 3: Bullets are 3 times faster than the commercial jet aircraft at about 400-500 knots.
How Far a Bullet Can Travel?
Well basically how far a bullet can travel depends on how fast does a bullet travel. That means it includes the same factors as the speed of bullet does like a caliber size and all. A typical and most common bullet .22 caliber can travel around 1.5 miles at a 12,000 ft altitude, .45 caliber shot can travel about 5,000 ft, while a typical 9mm can travel up to 2.5 to 3 miles due to its smaller size. How far a bullet can travel also includes the obstacles, aim, surface type etc.
Fact 4: Bullets can travel faster than the speed of sound
So those were some super cool information and fun facts about the speed of a bullet. Its speed and range can be a really interesting and deep topic, but above all this is just something to add to your knowledge and not something practical. Bullets, no matter how advance or fast they maybe, are formed for destruction and except their mechanics and physics, nothing can be really exciting about them.
Fact 5: Bullets fired in to the air and fall back to the ground can be drop-dead lethal.