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David Sparks Ph.d Trajectory
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Sportsman's Spotlight
Date: September 26, 2018

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Hunting season is upon us and I thought I would talk about trajectory having just heard a story from a friend who is a hunter. He was after a mule buck… Miscalculated… Got a gut shot and the buck got away never to be found. Trajectory. According to the online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "trajectory" is defined as, "the curve that a body (such as a planet or comet in its orbit or a rocket) describes in space."

Essentially, once it leaves the muzzle of your barrel, your bullet starts on a curved path we call trajectory. Many factors influence that trajectory including the shape and design of the bullet, the bullet's velocity, and atmospheric conditions. And, of course, the big factor, gravity, which exerts a steady downward pull on the bullet.

So, can you the shooter affect your bullet's trajectory? Not once you pull the trigger. The best you could have done-and should have done--is to account for and determine that trajectory before the shot was taken.

The easiest way to accomplish this? Your bullet's velocity-at the muzzle-is a critical factor in determining trajectory, and this number is among your more important inputs. Knowing a round's muzzle velocity requires the use of a quality chronograph; a ten-round average of chronographed rounds is sufficient.

The denser the air, the more air resistance a bullet will face. This resistance slows the bullet, increasing flight time and giving gravity more of an opportunity to work on the bullet.

Air temperature, altitude and barometric pressure all affect air density, and these atmospheric conditions are important. Don't let trajectory get you down--and take you off target! Before you squeeze that trigger, get to know your "curve" and make every shot count.  

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