When you are shooting medium to long range, environmental factors are going to play a roll in your accuracy and precision. Factors such as temperature, humidity, elevation, and wind can mean the difference between hitting your target and missing completely. In this article we are going to explore each one of these environmental factors and how they can affect our shot.
How Temperature Affects Your Shot
One of the most important factors to consider when learning about how temperature affects your shot is the air density in which you are shooting in. Physics has taught us that warm air is thinner than cool air and therefore less dense. This will result in a bullet encountering less resistance and expending less energy as it travels to the target on a warm day than a cooler one.
Temperature will also affect your shot in a couple of different ways. Most obviously temperature will affect your barrel and ammunition temperatures. In hot temperatures your barrel is at risk of baking the residue and fouling in the barrel which can cause loss of accuracy. On the opposite end, if the outside temperature is cooler then the air will absorb more heat faster which will help keep the barrel cooler. When ammunition is unprotected from outside sunlight and heat this can cause havoc, most notably on handloaded ammo. The explosion of the black powder in the case will produce varying results, and the lube on the bullet may melt in high temperatures which can flow under the bullet or into the powder column. To help prevent your ammunition from heating up, try storing it away from sunlight, and covered by a light colored towel or in a insulated soft cooler.
How Humidity Affects Your Shot
Contrary to popular believe, humidity does not affect your accuracy. It is a common misconception that humid air is more dense than dry air which in turn offers more resistance on the bullet in flight than dry air. In fact this is completely inaccurate. Dry air is actually more dense than humid air, this is because humidity is water vapor not liquid water. So water vapor molecules are lighter than the nitrogen and oxygen that make up 99% of our atmosphere. Surprising but true! This means that the amount of humidity in the air has almost no impact on the accuracy of your shot.
How Elevation Affects Your Shot
At higher altitudes the air is thinner with lower density. This means there is less drag on the bullet which means the amount of bullet drop is less. Since the force of gravity is constant the bullet’s downward acceleration doesn’t change but a bullet shot at a higher altitude is able to travel slightly farther in the thinner air. So basically as altitude increases, the density of the air that the bullet is traveling through decreases. This reduces the drag on the bullet. So the higher the altitude the less the bullet will drop.
How Wind Affects Your Shot
I think that the thought of wind to a shooter causes a lot of concern. Wind can drastically affect a shooter when it is unpredictable. For instance, large gusts and erratic wind are difficult to calculate adjustments and compensate accordingly. When shooting at long distances, wind can also be blowing in different directions at the same time. Fun I know. If wind is more constant, steady, and predictable you can make the necessary adjustments and still maintain accurate shots at long distances. The main way to have the best shot on a windy day is to be patient and wait for the conditions to be as close to the same for each shot you take.
Next time you are worried about how environmental factors will affect your accuracy and precision, use this article as a helpful guide. Good Luck and have fun shooting!