Book Review - Applied Ballistics For Long Range Shooting By Bryan Litz
By Gustavo F. Ruiz
Long Range is all about ballistics. Beyond that, no more than luck can be expected without it.
Writing a review is not an easy task, at least for me. Why? Because is hard to make a synthesis of a technical book like the one I’m going to share my impressions of with you.
First of all, it’s important to recognize that for anyone interested in pursuing an interest in shooting/hunting beyond the 400/500 yard mark, the understanding of the fundamentals of exterior ballistics is a strict requisite.
Exterior ballistics (a term first coined in 1644 by Marin Mersenne in his monumental treatise “Ballistica et Acontismologia”) is the main subject of many books, but more often than desired the good (and serious) ones are written for a very narrow audience.
This is not the case at hand. Mr. Litz’s book is meant for the general amateur, while at the same time, providing a practical in-depth coverage of significant aspects of general shooting. And precisely in the way it was written resides one of the great merits of this book. His work bears the mark of straightforwardness.
Is it possible to cover exterior ballistics in a simple way yet be rigorous? Good question...in my experience that objective is difficult to carry out. Nevertheless, this book does indeed a great service in doing a great balance between straightforward explanations while at the same time not taking too lightly the details of complex physics phenomena.
To be honest, I wasn’t surprised to see this level of communication aptitude, since I’ve been following Mr. Litz’s work for many years now, and he always demonstrated a rare skill to breakdown complex ideas into basics ones.
The book’s author is also a great contributor to our sports, but with a twist. He also has the indispensable technical background to make those contributions under a coherent framework.
Publisher's Note: The book can be purchased at the LRH Gear ShopThe book contains some material already published in the form of articles that were available for some time, now packed and organized into a single volume along with new data and information. Some of the other material is a nice compilation of the usual topics found on any exterior ballistics book, but the author’s ability to craft them as simply as possible can still be appreciated.
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Both G1 and G7 will respond in the same manner, yielding the same amount of error in drop predictions, given the same variation of, for example, muzzle velocity. And as expected, both will show the same “resilience” to uncertainty in their determination.
No doubt that the work done by the author to flight-test over 170 bullets, is by any standard, a fantastic gift. It’s worth mentioning that along the BC values (G1 and G7) the most critical figure of Cd (Coefficient of Drag) is also published.
A nice addition to the book is the included program, appropriately named “Point Mass Ballistics Solver”. While very basic in terms of features, it does the job and as such is a welcomed extra. Source code is not included, and hopefully it will be present in a future revised edition.
I also find rewarding the coverage of sight/scope adjustments. It makes for a very good reading given the significance of this fundamental aspect.
The treatment on how to validate your field data versus the predicted output of any ballistics program is, without doubt, essential reading for anyone using the available packages. Here the author puts in black on white what to expect, and what is a dreamlike belief, which is often under realized as most people expects “magical results” just by punching in a series of numbers.
We should realize, for once, that all ballistics predictions must always be viewed under the light of a “confidence level” not under the wrong criteria of “absolute/deterministic” values.
A point to highlight is that the book is well illustrated and the graphs are neat, and do help a lot to understand the presented notions. While to a large extent most of the contents are not new information, this book’s treatment of the most common ballistics concepts is both refreshing and easy to follow. For sure it’s a great addition to anyone’s library with an interest in this theme.
Most of the time, I found that the method developed by Prof. Arthur Pejsa is not rightly described and this book’s description is no exception, since the core of the method is not presented as it really is. Let me starting by saying, that the Pejsa’s method can model your specific bullet with an accurate solution by doing simple adjustments and it’s far from being limited by some weird coefficients as it’s exposed, at least in practical terms.
Rather it’s presented as just another variation of the G1 drag model and its underlying math model. Just to be clear, that’s not appropriate, since Pejsa’s method does not rely on any “G” function at all. The great potential lies in the use of a single number to adjust the drag curve, not the model (Cd) thus no need to be tied up to a particular drag model, especially when it’s scarce or not widely adopted.
It’s significant to realize, in order to dissipate any confusion, that the method used to compute a trajectory based on a G7 value is the same as the one with a G1 value. Just different drag models. Then make your selection to run Siacci/Mayevski, PM, MPM, etc.
Try out making a run using a G7 BC and the output will come close (sub-MOA up to 1500 yards) to another run made by using a well-defined G1 BC (as studied by McCoy, Weinacht, Cooper, Newill). An interested reader can verify that by relying on the data supplied by the book and the accompanying software (which is not a Siacci-based model, thus requiring a near-constant BC along the entire range).
Moreover, every method out there requires the knowledge of a velocity loss descriptor; there is no other way. In that regards, the Pejsa’s method does not impose any extra complexity. In short, if you have velocity data, then the coefficients are already in there.
Given the foregoing, I still fail to understand why the Pejsa method is regarded in relation to the bullet’s coefficients as “…which the shooter is burdened to establish…” in particular when Mr. Litz recognizes (rightly so) that “…the accurate determination of a bullet’s BC is not an easy task…” Then my point is, without the flight-data compiled by ballistics labs or individuals, we are going to be lost exactly the same way, with whichever method you like the most.
Granted, the method is not based on a “standard bullet” but it’s very easy to make it to work with any defined standard, and most critical, without resorting to “obscure” figures at all. On the other hand, highly developed derivations of Prof. Pejsa’s method are being established as the way to go, especially when compared to Doppler data beyond the 2000 yards mark as demonstrated by some NATO armies as they departed away from MPM when computing ballistics tables.
Danger Space, a concept usually related to military sniping, is taken by the author as a “decision making” tool useful when evaluating different loads. That’s an attractive position, since the book is making a point to pioneer this measurement into the realms of general shooting and/or hunting. Some may not agree and would prefer the use of Point Blank Range, however the merit is there and is up to the reader to take hold of it or not.
Publisher's Note: The book can be purchased at the LRH Gear Shop
The book also considers a hunter’s perspective when presenting different tools to assess the proper selection of bullets considering its ballistics properties. I know, this can be debated, as is the formula devised by Ed Matunas. In my consideration, it’s a good idea that more hunters start to incorporate some analytical rationale in order to rank some decisions, for example the classical (and never ending) discussions on cartridge’s performance.
Competitive shooters should read in detail the chapter about assessing scores. Firstly, because the author speaks from the authority gained by his notable achievements in the sports. Second because it makes sense at all. I truly look forward to see more of Mr. Litz’s work in this direction.
Some time ago a very knowledgeable shooter commented to me that some ideas and concepts, as explained in the book, are probably best described as “particular views” and are not necessarily the best position on the subject.
I said that bringing up the debate is always a good idea, and you may agree or not with some of the book’s contents. However, and to my expectations, this book is “essential reading” since it’s enjoyable, informative and workable.
Mr. Litz explains in the opening words that the book is not about advancing the science of ballistics by exposing a breakthrough. It’s about being practical in the use of the science required to make successful long shots.
To accomplish that, luck is always welcomed, but science is forever required.
Gustavo F. Ruiz is long time fan of ballistics, reloading and above all hunting big game. He has contributed many articles for both local and foreign magazines (Spain). Professionally, he spent eight years at Microsoft. Holds a BS in Computer Science, a BS in Operations Research and an MBA.
He is also a LtCdr (res) in the Argentine Navy, and is involved with the LR shooting training program of their Special Forces operators. Currently he is developing ballistics/reloading software through Patagonia Ballistics (www.patagoniaballistics.com.), a small software development group located in Argentina.