Why supersonic?

Discussion in 'The Basics, Starting Out' started by Natty Bumpo, Feb 17, 2008.

  1. Natty Bumpo

    Natty Bumpo Well-Known Member

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    I've only been hanging out here a bit more than a month; but, I occasionally see reference to the importance of a bullet staying supersonic at a given range. Why is this important? Does something happen to bullet stability or performance when it drops to subsonic levels?

    I was thinking the speed of sound was around 600 miles/hour. If my math is correct, this works out to around 880 feet/second. Is this close?
     
  2. landcbeitner

    landcbeitner Well-Known Member

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    Yes, when a bullet makes the supersonic-subsonic transition (transonic zone) it's deflected from its origional course. The 416gr Chey Tac bullets are supposed to minimize this problem with advanced bullet design (called their "Ballanced flight process". If you want accurcy a supersonic bullet must remain supersonic. Trying to shoot .22's you may notice a major loss of accuracy at a give distance, due to the bullet going subsonic. To combat this many will shoot subsonic .22 ammo, you'll have more drob but the bullet never has to encounter the "transonic zone".
     

  3. phorwath

    phorwath Well-Known Member

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    The speed of sound at sea level is about 1100 ft/sec.

    Bullet speed is also important in long range hunting in that many expanding bullets start to fail to expand as bullet speed drops below approximately 1700-1800 ft/sec. If they fail to expand then they become less lethal and the chances of wounding an animal increase.
     
  4. britz

    britz Well-Known Member

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    +1 on landcbeitner

    Whenever someone mentions the fact of staying supersonic, they are mostlikely talking about accuracy. Since bullets don't usually have enough killing power left to take big game when they get down to the 1100 fps mark anyway, the bullet expansion theory is pretty much a moot point. IMHO Varmints can be safely taken with bullets going less than the speed of sound because they are much lighter skinned.
     
  5. phorwath

    phorwath Well-Known Member

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    supersonic vs bullet expansion

    If the question was with respect to long range hunting, then staying supersonic is more or less the moot point because bullets lose their ability to expand at velocities which are substantially higher than the speed of sound. By the time the bullet has fallen to supersonic velocities, most people would agree that we should no longer be targeting game animals as the bullet will no longer expand, and kill game, reliably... shy of a head or central nervous system hit. If the question is with respect to shooting targets, then supersonic bullet stability is indeed the primary point of this thread. And the third possibility is that Natty Bump was interested in all applicable perspectives. I think we've provided the pertinent information for all apparent possibilities.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2008
  6. James Jones

    James Jones Well-Known Member

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    Bullet desgine has more to do with the bullet "destabilizing" than the speed , example the 308 shooting a 168gr Sierra Match King out of a 1-12 twist barrel at 2700fps , this bullet will go subsonic between 800 and 1200yds and the vast majority of the time it s accurcat will fall of as the bullet with start to tumble. shoot the same bullet out of a 1-10 twist barrel and the "destabilization zone" is differant.

    Now a 308 shooting a 220gr Sierra Match King out of a 1-10 twist barrel at 2400 fps , it will go transsonic at around the same range maybe a little farther or closer yet this round has been used to shoot to 2000yds despite the bullet being well below the speed of sound. Is it a matter of RPM's? , can't be because the 220gr bullet is starting out slower so the RPM's will be lower (compairing the 1-10 and 168gr bullet).
    from what i have seen bullets with BC's in the .525 or more in calibers from 30 and down will stay staybilized after they drop below the speed of sound because of their superior desgine and high BC.
     
  7. sullijr

    sullijr Well-Known Member

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    Why supersonic

    If you have watched any of the manned space flights on tv they have talked about max Q which is a time during liftoff when communication is lost and the vehicle is submitted to buffeting,I believe that this is when the speed is passing through the "sound barrier" or going supersonic.This max Q also happens when it slows down.A bullet is also subjected to this buffeting, thus a possible loss of accuracy if the bullet is subsonic when reaching the intended target.
     
  8. NDNorm

    NDNorm Well-Known Member

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    I always thought that was coming back into the atmophsere everything not shielded and hanging out was burned off and new antannas were deployed after that would not happen
    Norm
     
  9. James Jones

    James Jones Well-Known Member

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    Max Q has little to nothing to do with breaking the sound barrier , the shuttle is moving over 1,000 MPH less than a min after take off , at 7 min its at nearly 17,000 MPH.

    I have seen planes break the sound barrier many times at low level over the Gulf of Mexico and not once have I ever seen the so called "barrier" that is supposed to surround the plane like is seen is some of the internet chain E-mails nor have I everheard a plane break the sound barrier when it slows back down to less than the speed of sound.

    I honestly can't see a bullet flying along and the instant it goes transonic totaly destayabilizing like it was kicked in the butt. Again I'll bring up the point of bullet shape and its needed RPM to stabilize it. For instance lets shoot a 115gr Berger VLD out of a 30" , 1-14 twist barrel at a speed of 3300 fps at 200 yds it still going to be well inexcess of 3000 fps yet the bullets will be so destabilized that they will hit the target sideways , now the Berger 115 has a very high BC and is a remarkablely long bullet but it requires a very fast twist rate , but if you spin this bullet at the required RPM's and it will shoot accurately even as it falls below the speed of sound.
     
  10. phorwath

    phorwath Well-Known Member

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    The space shuttle does make a sonic boom when it returns to earth. I have heard it in Florida. But what that has to do with bullet flight going subsonic I have no idea.