What is Bullet Drop? Definition

What is Bullet Drop?

Bullet drop refers to the vertical distance a bullet falls from its initial trajectory due to the force of gravity during its flight. In the context of shooting, understanding and compensating for bullet drop is crucial for accurate shot placement, particularly at long ranges. Bullet drop is influenced by factors such as muzzle velocity, ballistic coefficient, air resistance, and shooting angle.

Understanding Bullet Drop

The concept of bullet drop plays a significant role in shooting performance and ballistics:

  • Projectile Motion: Once a bullet leaves the barrel of a firearm, it is subjected to the force of gravity, causing it to follow a parabolic path. As the range to the target increases, the bullet drop becomes more pronounced.
  • Ballistic Trajectory: The bullet's trajectory is the path it follows from the muzzle to the target. Understanding the trajectory, including bullet drop, allows shooters to make necessary adjustments to their point of aim for accurate shot placement.
  • Zeroing: The process of zeroing a rifle involves adjusting the scope or sights to align the point of aim with the point of impact at a specific distance. This process accounts for bullet drop, ensuring that the bullet will strike the target where the shooter is aiming.

Compensating for Bullet Drop

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

  • Scope Adjustments: Many scopes feature elevation turrets with MOA or MIL adjustments, allowing shooters to dial in the necessary compensation for bullet drop at specific distances.
  • Ballistic Reticles: Some scopes are equipped with ballistic reticles that provide holdover points to account for bullet drop at various distances, enabling shooters to make precise shots without adjusting the scope turrets.
  • Ballistic Calculators: Shooters can use ballistic calculators, available as smartphone apps or standalone devices, to estimate bullet drop for their specific firearm, ammunition, and environmental conditions. These calculators provide elevation and windage adjustments to compensate for bullet drop and wind drift.

Factors Affecting Bullet Drop

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

  • Muzzle Velocity: Higher muzzle velocities result in flatter trajectories and less bullet drop, as the bullet reaches the target more quickly.
  • Ballistic Coefficient: Bullets with a higher ballistic coefficient maintain their velocity better and are less affected by air resistance, resulting in less bullet drop.
  • Shooting Angle: Uphill or downhill shooting angles can alter the effective gravity acting on the bullet, impacting the amount of bullet drop experienced.
  • Air Density: Changes in air density due to altitude or weather conditions can affect bullet drop, as air resistance plays a significant role in the bullet's flight path.


  • Cleckner, R. (2016). Long Range Shooting Handbook: A Beginner's Guide to Precision Rifle Shooting. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
  • Barsness, J. (2006). The Big Book of Ballistics. Skyhorse Publishing.
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