How Fast Does a Bullet Travel?

Last Updated: 05.08.20

 

You’ve just got yourself a new scabbard backpack, cleaned your hunting gear, and can’t wait for the next occasion to go out hunting. In the meanwhile, you’ve decided to learn more about your hobby and one of the questions you’ve always asked yourself is ‘how fast does a bullet travel?’. We are here to answer this question and tackle several other bullet-related dilemmas you might have. 

 

How fast do bullets travel?

Bullets have a different speed depending on their type and several other aspects that can influence them, which we are going to discuss in this article. The speed of a bullet can be measured in different ways. In the US, it is expressed in feet per second. Alternatively, it can be expressed in meters per second, which can be converted into kilometers per hour. 

Just like any other mechanism, a gun functions differently based on certain capabilities the manufacturer provides it with through the components it uses. For this reason, there is no standard bullet speed, different guns having different limits.

For example, a common 0.22 rimfire cartridge that contains a small dose of powder enables the bullet to travel at a speed of 370 – 460 m/s. Rifle cartridges, on the other hand, have increased capacities and their bullets can travel faster. 

The maximum speed of the average bullet can reach 760 m/s or 2736 km/h, which means 2493 fps. Because bullets are incredibly fast, it is impossible for any living creature to react in time and manage to dodge them. 

Consider that the speed of sound is 1126 feet per second or 768 miles per hour. This means that a bullet moves twice as fast as sound. In other words, when the gun is fired, the bullet first reaches the target, and then you can hear the sound it produces by leaving the gun. 

The bullets of the most common type of handgun, the 9mm, travel at a speed of 1500 fps and they can reach a distance of maximum 2500 yards.  

 

What factors can influence the bullet’s speed? 

The speed of the bullet may vary based on different factors. The most important one is the type of gun that is being used to fire that bullet. The bullet is one of the components of the ammunition cartridge that deploys a certain mechanism in order to launch it. Every gun has a specific ability and bullet speed based on its ammunition cartridge.

When the trigger is pulled and the bullet leaves the gun, it initially has a speed of approximately 536 m/s or 1200 mph. This represents the bullet’s muzzle velocity. The guns that have the highest acceleration and can launch bullets with higher muzzle velocity are machine guns and rifles. Other common guns such as pistol bullets have a lower acceleration. 

Weight is another factor that influences the bullet’s speed and it is dictated by the gun’s caliber and its type. A lighter bullet will have a higher speed. A bullet’s weight can vary tremendously. Lightweight bullets can weigh as little as 0.02 kg, whereas the heaviest models can even reach 0.2kg. 

The average bullet, which can be considered the 9 mm ones, weighs somewhere between 90g and 140g. Another commonly used bullet is the .22 caliber and it weighs approximately 40g. Hunting guns usually have heavier bullets, which is understandable given their size. 

When it comes to hunting ammunition, the bullet’s muzzle velocity varies depending on the bullet type, or more precisely, its caliber. Here are some of the most efficient calibers hunters use. 

The .35 Remington is one of the most appreciated calibers, and it has a muzzle velocity of 2080 fps. The .25-06 Remington has a muzzle velocity of 3440 fps. With the 7mm-08 Remington, you get a muzzle velocity of 2860 fps, while the 7mm Remington Magnum provides 3110 fps. 

Winchester bullets are also well-known and in this category, we have examples such as the Winchester .243 that has a muzzle velocity of 2960 fps, the .308 Winchester with a muzzle velocity of 2820 fps, the .270 Winchester with a muzzle velocity of 3060 fps, and the .30-30 Winchester that provides 2390 fps. 

There are, of course, many other types of bullets available for each gun model. If you want to find out precise information about their velocity, caliber, or weight, you will be able to get all the necessary details either on the label or on the manufacturer’s website.  

Other factors that can determine a bullet’s velocity include several environmental conditions such as the wind’s direction that can push the bullet forward or blow against its trajectory and slightly slow it down. The air density and temperature also make a difference. Bullets are faster at high temperatures. 

Air plays an important role too because, as the bullet travels, it will make it gradually lose its momentum. This happens due to what is known as the resistance drag factor. Air slows down the bullet’s speed. 

The angle from which the bullet is shot can also influence its speed, and so can gravity, that naturally pulls the projectile down. The bullet has the fastest speed right after it leaves the gun. As it moves toward the target, it starts to fall because of the gravity force. 

Moreover, there are several other gun-related factors that dictate how fast a bullet can travel: the amount of gun powder you are using, the barrel’s length (the longer the barrel is, the faster the bullet) and temperature, the volume of the cartridge case, the quality of the ammunition you are using and the way you handle it. 

 

What does the bullet contain? 

The gun’s ammunition cartridge is the bullet’s ‘home’ and it contains several elements that work together to enable the bullet to leave the barrel. The ammunition’s elements are:

Gunpowder – this is the chemical element that can be found inside the bullet and that burns when you shoot the gun.

Primer – this is the element that triggers the explosion and ignites the gunpowder when it is activated by the firing pin. 

Case – as its name suggests, this is the container where the other two main elements of the bullet can be found. The case can be made of different materials such as lead, different types of lead alloy, copper, or copper alloy. Most bullet cases are made of lead. 

Bullet – it is also called a projectile and this is the ammunition the gun expels once you are pulling the trigger. The most common material manufacturers use for bullets is lead. However, given the wide variety of guns available nowadays and their different purpose, you can also find bullets that are made of less resistant materials such as rubber or plastic.

Other alternatives to lead are copper, aluminum, bismuth, or steel. The latter is very strong and can pierce most materials with ease. Another type of bullet that is very resistant and can even pierce an armored car is made of the chemical compound tungsten carbide.

 

How to increase the bullet’s velocity? 

There are a few methods that can help you increase the bullet’s speed, and by this, we refer to the initial speed of the bullet. The cartridge plays an essential role in how fast a bullet can travel. The same bullet can have a different speed depending on the cartridge. The bigger the pressure the cartridge can bear, the faster the bullet will be.

If you want to increase the projectile’s initial velocity, you can upgrade the cartridge pressure once its limit has been reached. However, there are also other methods such as changing the type of bullets you use. 

Lighter bullets have a higher initial speed. Nonetheless, they are also more prone to be influenced by air resistance and wind force, and in case the distance to the target is long, these bullets will slow down faster than heavier bullets. 

The barrel type influences the bullet’s initial speed too. If you want the bullet to move faster, you should pick a gun that has a long barrel. However, this also has some disadvantages as the gun will be heavier and more difficult to handle and store. 

Guns are extremely diversified and you can never know too much about them. If you are a passionate hunter who’s always eager to learn more about hunting gear, you’re in the right place. Stay tuned for similar articles.

 

 

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