What is Wind Drift?

What is Wind Drift?

Wind drift refers to the horizontal deviation of a bullet's trajectory caused by the wind as it travels through the air towards the target. A critical consideration for long-range shooting, accounting for wind drift is essential to achieve accurate shot placement, as wind can significantly impact a bullet's flight path, especially at extended distances.

Understanding Wind Drift

Several factors contribute to the effect of wind drift on a bullet's trajectory:

  • Crosswinds: Winds blowing perpendicular to the bullet's flight path, known as crosswinds, have the most significant impact on wind drift. Shooters must accurately estimate the wind's speed and direction to compensate for crosswind effects.
  • Headwinds and Tailwinds: Headwinds (blowing towards the shooter) and tailwinds (blowing away from the shooter) can affect a bullet's trajectory to a lesser extent by altering the bullet's effective muzzle velocity and, consequently, its flight time.

Compensating for Wind Drift

Shooters can employ various methods to compensate for wind drift and achieve accurate shot placement:

  • Windage Adjustments: Most rifle scopes feature windage turrets, which allow shooters to adjust the scope's reticle horizontally to account for wind drift. By dialing in the appropriate windage adjustment, shooters can maintain their point of aim while compensating for wind drift.
  • Windage Holdover: Some shooters prefer to use windage holdover instead of adjusting the windage turret. This technique involves aiming off-target by a calculated distance to account for the wind's effect on the bullet's trajectory.
  • Wind Estimation Techniques: Accurately estimating wind speed and direction is crucial to compensating for wind drift. Shooters can use visual cues, such as observing the movement of grass or leaves, or specialized tools like wind meters to estimate wind conditions.

Factors Affecting Wind Drift

Several factors can influence the amount of wind drift experienced during shooting:

  • Bullet Design: Bullets with a higher ballistic coefficient, typically featuring a more streamlined shape, experience less wind drift due to reduced drag.
  • Muzzle Velocity: Higher muzzle velocities generally result in shorter flight times, providing less time for wind to impact the bullet's trajectory.
  • Distance: Wind drift becomes more pronounced as distance increases, making it especially important to account for in long-range shooting.


  • Cleckner, R. (2016). Long Range Shooting Handbook: A Beginner's Guide to Precision Rifle Shooting. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
  • Litz, B. (2011). Applied Ballistics for Long Range Shooting. Applied Ballistics LLC.
  • Barsness, J. (2006). The Big Book of Ballistics. Skyhorse Publishing.
  • Sweeney, P. (2010). Gunsmithing - Rifles. Gun Digest Books.
  • Van Zwoll, W. (2011). Mastering the Art of Long Range Shooting. Gun Digest Books
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