I’ll be the first to admit that I hate math – it never was my strong suit. However, visiting the range reminds me that math has “real life” applications, including improving your shooting. Long range shooters, like snipers, are especially aware of how mathematics and physics must be effectively employed to achieve accuracy. However, short range (i.e. pistol) shooters can still use basic trigonometry to better understand how small deviations in the position of their gun’s barrel can equate to comparatively large deviations in accuracy downrange.
For example, I took my SIG P238 (a .380 ACP “mouse gun”) to the range and attempted an exercise I enjoy with my full size pistols: one-handed bullseye shooting. Using one hand to control the firearm, I aim at a bullseye target 75ft away and fire five rounds. It’s a fun challenge, and also a telling exercise. Any mistakes I make shooting at a closer range are multiplied when shooting at further distances.
If you were curious how well (or how poorly) I did with that particular exercise, you can see my shooting in the video. I also cover some simple math associated with that range trip.
If I simplify factors involved in shooting accurately (not accounting for trigger control, grip style, breathing, stance, bullet ballistics, and assuming the projectile has a flat trajectory), I can observe the basic trigonometry at work at this range trip. In this scenario, my goal as a shooter is to fire a round in a straight line from the barrel of my gun to the center of the bullseye on my target, 25yds away. So, if I miss the center of that bullseye, I can use trigonometry to find out how a small amount of deviation at the barrel of my gun translates to a larger deviation between the bullseye and the inaccurate round placement. If we assume the distance from the wrist (the axis of rotation for the firearm in this equation) is 6” the barrel is canted .376°, the end is .039in, (only 1mm) off from the ideal straight line. However, .376° of deflection over a distance of 75′ (instead of 6”), the separation of the shot placement from the bullseye’s center is 5.9 inches (about 150mm) off.
This example of how mathematics affects shooting is a simplification from many of the other factors involved in being an accurate pistol shooter. However, even this basic math illustrates how small factors in control impact shot placement at the range. And, what do you know, my high school teachers were right, I did find a use for math in the “real world.”