What is Bullet Drop?

What is Bullet Drop?

Bullet drop is the decrease in altitude of a bullet as it travels through the air due to the force of gravity. In the context of long-range shooting, understanding and accounting for bullet drop is essential for accurate shot placement, as the effect becomes more pronounced at extended distances.

Understanding Bullet Drop

Bullet drop plays a crucial role in shooting performance and ballistics:

  • Gravity's Impact: As a bullet travels through the air, gravity continuously pulls it downward, causing it to lose altitude over time. This effect increases with distance, making it especially important to account for bullet drop in long-range shooting.
  • Trajectory: A bullet's trajectory is the path it follows through the air from the muzzle to the target. The trajectory is influenced by factors such as muzzle velocity, bullet shape, and environmental conditions, which can all affect the amount of bullet drop experienced at different distances.

Compensating for Bullet Drop

Shooters can employ various methods to compensate for bullet drop and achieve accurate shot placement:

  • Elevation Adjustments: Most rifle scopes feature elevation turrets, which allow shooters to adjust the scope's reticle vertically to account for bullet drop. By dialing in the appropriate elevation adjustment, shooters can maintain their point of aim while compensating for bullet drop.
  • Bullet Drop Compensation (BDC) Reticles: Some rifle scopes, such as the Vortex Optics Diamondback Tactical FFP or the Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40, feature BDC reticles with holdover marks for different distances. These marks allow shooters to compensate for bullet drop without adjusting the elevation turret.
  • Ballistic Calculators: Ballistic calculators, available as smartphone apps or standalone devices, can estimate bullet drop for specific firearm and ammunition combinations. These calculators provide elevation and windage adjustments to compensate for bullet drop, along with other factors such as wind drift and spin drift.

Factors Affecting Bullet Drop

Several factors can influence the amount of bullet drop experienced during shooting:

  • Muzzle Velocity: Faster muzzle velocities generally result in flatter trajectories and less bullet drop at a given distance.
  • Ballistic Coefficient: Bullets with higher ballistic coefficients experience less drag in flight, resulting in flatter trajectories and reduced bullet drop.
  • Environmental Conditions: Changes in air density, temperature, and humidity can alter the behavior of a bullet in flight, potentially impacting bullet drop.


  • Van Zwoll, W. (2011). Mastering the Art of Long Range Shooting. Gun Digest Books.
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