What is Ballistic Coefficient?

What is Ballistic Coefficient?

Ballistic Coefficient (BC) is a dimensionless numerical value representing the ability of a projectile, such as a bullet, to overcome air resistance while in flight. Higher BC values indicate better aerodynamic performance, resulting in flatter trajectories and less wind drift. BC is a critical factor for long-range shooting, hunting, and military applications, as it influences the accuracy, velocity, and energy of projectiles.

Understanding Ballistic Coefficient

Ballistic Coefficient is derived from the ratio of a projectile's sectional density to its coefficient of form. Sectional density refers to the mass of the projectile divided by the square of its diameter, while the coefficient of form is determined by comparing the projectile's shape to a standard reference projectile.

The BC of a projectile is typically represented as follows:

  • BC = (SD x i) / C

Where SD is the sectional density, i is the coefficient of form, and C is the drag coefficient (G1, G2, G7, etc.) of the reference projectile.

Some factors that influence a projectile's BC include:

  • Shape: Streamlined projectiles with a pointed nose and tapered tail (such as boat-tailed bullets) have higher BC values than round-nosed or flat-based projectiles.
  • Weight: Heavier projectiles generally have higher BC values due to their higher sectional densities.
  • Diameter: Smaller diameter projectiles often have higher BC values because of their reduced drag and increased sectional density.

Why Ballistic Coefficient Matters

Understanding the ballistic coefficient is essential for:

  • Accuracy: A higher BC bullet is less affected by wind and air resistance, allowing it to maintain a straighter trajectory and increasing the likelihood of hitting the intended target.
  • Energy Retention: A projectile with a high BC will retain more kinetic energy as it travels through the air, resulting in greater impact energy at the target.
  • Effective Range: High BC projectiles experience less drop over distance, enabling them to remain supersonic for longer ranges, which is particularly important in long-range shooting and hunting applications.

BC in Practical Applications

Ballistic coefficient is commonly used in the following contexts:

  • Firearms Industry: Manufacturers often provide BC values for their projectiles to assist shooters in selecting the most suitable ammunition for their needs.
  • Ballistics Software: Ballistics applications, such as Applied Ballistics, Hornady 4DOF, and Strelok Pro, use BC values in their calculations to predict a projectile's trajectory, wind drift, and other performance factors.
  • Military and Law Enforcement: Snipers and marksmen use BC data to optimize their ammunition choices and establish accurate firing solutions in various conditions.


  • McCoy, R. L. (2000). Modern Exterior Ballistics: The Launch and Flight Dynamics of Symmetric Projectiles. Schiffer Publishing.
  • Litz, B. (2011). Applied Ballistics for Long Range Shooting. Applied Ballistics LLC.
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