Book Review - Applied Ballistics for Long Range Shooting by Bryan Litz


January 5, 2011, 09:34 PM
I did a quick search here, but didn't see much discussion on this book except for passing references. I thought I'd do a little in depth write-up here.

I got this book for myself as a Christmas present. A colleague recommended it to me. He retired from the PA State Ballistics Crime lab a few years ago, and told me, “If you don’t think it’s worth every penny, I’ll buy it back from you.” Well, I’m keeping it. Bryan Litz is brilliant.

What a tremendous body of work by a truly gifted scholar. Litz is gifted not only in his intellect and ability to understand the science, but also with a great knack for explaining the science to guys like me. I'm weak at higher math and statistical modeling, yet I can easily grasp the concepts he's explaining.

On page one, in bold letters he writes: My objective is to help the average shooter improve their performance thru a better understanding of the science behind shooting.

He does just that in very easily understood methods. He takes often mysterious and arcane concepts, makes them understandable, and gives you the essence of just what you need to know to improve your shooting. For the student of the discipline looking for more meat, he also provides any formula behind the problem and teaches the inquisitive student how to use the formula.

Throughout the book Litz follows the practice of -

describing the problem
setting up an example problem with a real world bullet and velocity
uses very simple, yet accurate approximations to solve the problem in small steps
shows you how to input the variable in your ballistic program
THEN provides a "for all the physics geeks" section of solutions for anyone inclined to work the math out for himself.

He provides a free software program with the book. It's unique in that all the formulae and calcs are set up to use the G7 projectile as the standard instead of being limited to the G1 projectile. I knew there was a great deal of criticism of many current ballistic software programs from shooters in the discipline. Even the bullet makers' published Ballistic Coefficients receive criticism as not quite accurate. And some of the data tables I created using a ballistic calculator for myself would often be off at longer ranges. I just never knew exactly why.

He explains why this is - it's because the industry is using a G1 standard projectile, which is shaped nothing like a low drag bullet used in long range shooting, to describe a given bullet's B.C.

This is what the G1 Standard Projectile looks like. Most company's product literature use this standard to describe the B.C.'s of their low drag rifle bullets. But since this bullet both looks and performs nothing like a low drag, long range bullet, the published B.C.'s don't quite work well.

To compensate, a series of additional calculations are necessary to correct an error that compounds the closer the bullet approaches the transition from supersonic to subsonic. The error starts somewhere around 2,000 fps and peaks as the bullet slows down close to the speed of sound.

This is the shape of the G7 Standard Projectile. Doesn't this look a whole lot more like the kinds of bullets we use for long range shooting? Of course it does, and a B.C. referenced off this shape doesn't contain those compounding errors.

What this means in practical terms is when we use a G7 B.C., in a program set up to accept G7 data, the data tables it produces correlate to real world shooting on the range with extreme accuracy.

In the last section of his book he's done the effort of calculating and restating B.C.'s based upon the streamlined G7 standard projectile for over 175 modern long range bullets. He's covered 8 calibers in 6 of the most popular brands. Moreover - he field tested each one to confirm the results of the program were accurate.

This kid has made a tremendous contribution to advancing the science of long range shooting. And it's a very generous contribution at that. The methods he describes using to test and evaluate the G7 B.C.'s must have been enormously expensive. This is an invaluable addition to the long range shooter’s library.

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January 5, 2011, 09:36 PM
This is the book's outline:

Part 1 The Elements of Exterior Ballistics

Some Fundamentals
The Ballistic Coefficient
Gravity Drop
Uphill/Downhill Shooting
Wind Deflection
Gyroscopic Drift
The Coriolis Effect
Using Ballistic Programs
Getting Control of Sights
Bullet Stability

Part 2 Ballistic Performance Analysis

Interesting Fact and Trends
Example Performance Analysis
General Score Shooting Analysis
Lethality of Long Range Hunting Bullets
Hit Probability for Hunting

Part 3 Properties of Long Range Bullets

Anatomy of a Bullet
Using the Experimental Data

I got my copy from MidwayUSA. Brownell's sells it as well.

January 5, 2011, 09:43 PM
Excellent, thanks for the review. Definately need this in my library. I can't say I'll be using any of the 'higher' math myself, but I love learning more on this topic. The outline looks promising.

January 5, 2011, 09:51 PM
nice write up!

January 5, 2011, 09:54 PM
This book is must read material for long range shooters, and I find myself constantly referring back to Bryan's data whenever ballistics are concerned.

January 5, 2011, 10:02 PM
It's on my nightstand along with Cornered Cat, the new Lyman manual and a bullet casting book.

I haven't got to it yet but it's in my pile.

January 5, 2011, 10:24 PM
The beauty of this book is Bryan Litz has done all the higher math. He does show you how to use high school algebra to interpolate or extrapolate; but that's it. You can read this book and enjoy it without having to understand calculus or differential equations.

What Bryan did was to shoot bullets and measure initial and terminal velocity and then use HIS knowledge of higher math to back calculate the model. He also uses his knowledge of aerodynamics and statistics to explain what is going on in layman's terms and identifies what factors affecting the bullet are truly worth paying attention to.

He also addresses the "killing potential" of a bullet from an external ballistics perspective (not terminal bullet performance, which he says is another subject.)

For me, this book fills the gap between Rinker's "Understanding Firearm Ballistics" and McCoy's "Modern Exterior Ballistics" (which does require calculus).

January 5, 2011, 10:45 PM


He did all the higher level math and boils it down to the essence of what's necessary to the shooter. He does show some of his work for the physics geeks, but in no way does anyone need to bother with it to apply the principles to improve our shooting.

Furthermore, some of the subject matter like uphill/downhill angles; the coriolis effect (the rotation of the earth); and gyroscopic drift he presents in a couple ways. First, he discusses the both the practical conditions and thresholds for when it really matters. Afterwards if it does matter, he tells you how to measure, account for and adjust for it.

I'd say it's presented in a matter similar to a 200 level college class, with some 300 level material thrown in. You do have to possess some basic understanding of the challenges of long range shooting when you begin the book. Otherwise you'll have to read slowly, or perhaps re-read the chapter to "keep up with the class".

But the material is quite accessible to anyone without a higher level mathematics background, like me. And his ability to teach the concepts through a book is genius, pure genius. Any aerospace engineer (which he is) can write material that other engineers, physicists and mathematicians can understand. He has the ability to write a book for the shooting audience.

Examples such as why the 220 Swift kicks butt under 300 yards, but doesn't at 800 are discussed in ways that any shooter can understand. And the fact that he doesn't just limit his discussion to target shooting reflects a true understanding of his audience. He'll even go into discussions for why a given well-performing caliber in competition doesn't serve the long range hunter well, and why.

For anyone who really wants to get good at long range shooting, this book will exponentially advance your knowledge and understanding of the study.

January 12, 2011, 07:57 PM
OK, I'm on the wait.

Welding Rod
January 12, 2011, 09:01 PM
I got mine a Christmas or two back. I agree it is an outstanding book.

But another must have is the software for figuring windage and drop. I also got the little TI computer with the Moball program that Litz sells. It is tremendously educational just to sit on the couch and run scenarios and view the solutions.

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