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3/24/2021

Understanding Ballistics and Bullet Grain

Ballistics and bullet grain may seem like daunting subjects which can discourage beginners from learning the topic. It can be hard to even find where to start. We hope to demystify this complex subject so that you can make better-informed choices whenever you shop for ammo.

Bullet Grain 101

Bullet grain (abbreviated ‘gr’) is a measurement of the weight of the bullet. It does not include the weight of the powder or cartridge. Grain is a really small unit of mass, requiring 437.5 grains for 1 gram. In most instances, the grain will be labeled on the package of ammunition right after the caliber. For example, you may purchase a box of 9mm, 124gr (124 grain).

Why Is Bullet Grain Important?

For some, grain is an irrelevant topic. Many shooters do not care too much about the weight of the projectile in their firearm as long as it still fires. However, those looking to go beyond just being a “casual shooter” will begin to explore the different bullet grains and their specific effects on a shot.

Understanding Ballistics and Bullet Grain graphic 1

In general 25 meter range use, any grain will do. Since you are shooting a close range target, the weight of the projectile does not really come into play. In some cases, certain grains in an AR platform may make it more susceptible to jamming, although this is rare. Further, some shooters may notice different recoil patterns with different grains.

For self defense and hunting, grain weight may be a factor. However, it will be less important than penetration and expansion. Typically for self defense, many individuals choose to use hollow point bullets due to their exceptional expansion and stopping power. The same can be true for hunting. In some instances, stopping power can be associated with bullet grain, but it isn’t a major factor.

But for competition-style precision shooting, bullet grain matters. A lot.

When shooting a target several hundred, or thousand, yards down range, the weight of the bullet will determine how the shot moves through the elements such as wind, rain, gravity and in some extreme cases, even the rotation of the earth (commonly referred to as the coriolis effect). For example, heavier grains will be less affected by wind, but if it is too heavy then it can struggle to maintain enough velocity for a stable flight path.

What Is Ballistics?

Ballistics is the science of a projectile in flight. As it relates to bullet ballistics, the field is generally reserved for those involved in professional long-range shooting. Ballistics have very little noticeable effects at short range such as during a self defense situation.

There are several different types of bullet ballistics. Internal ballistics refers to the environment of the projectile from the second the trigger is pulled till it leaves the barrel. For the most part, unless you are hand loading ammunition, the internal ballistics will not matter as much.

Understanding Ballistics and Bullet Grain graphic 2

External ballistics are the effects on the projectile while it is traveling to the target (from muzzle to impact). This is where ballistics really matter. For example, you can examine the drop of the bullet relative to the Line of Departure (LOD- a line extending from the center of the bore to infinity).

Every round which leaves a barrel will experience some level of drop when beginning its external ballistics path. At long enough ranges, the drop can be significant enough to miss your target.

Terminal ballistics is what the bullet does when it impacts the target. Like internal ballistics, it is not as important as external ballistics. For the most part, terminal ballistics cannot be mathematically calculated because there just is no way of determining exactly what a bullet will do when hitting something. The qualitative information about terminal ballistics usually relates to the type of bullet you are using, such as full metal jacket versus hollow point.

What To Look For When Buying Ammunition

If you own a gun primarily for self defense or hunting, then grain and ballistics might not matter to you. What is important is the type of caliber you use and the projectile or bullet design.

However, at Ammoplanet, we believe in providing our customers with a choice. We take a no-limits approach when it comes to ammo variety and want to make sure we put the right rounds in your hands. If you want to learn more about us and what makes us the right source for all your ammunition needs, check out our story.

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