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There aren’t many bigger issues to be faced with when trying to shoot precisely over longer distances, than having to judge, assess and counteract the wind. 9 times out of 10, you’re going to have to adjust your firing when aiming at a long-distance target. For all of you experienced shooters out there who find themselves searching for advice, don’t be too concerned. This isn’t just an issue that beginners face; even expert marksmen have to struggle to perfect their wind adjustments. Nonetheless, it’s a skill that has to be learned if you want to shoot effectively.
You don’t have to do it completely alone though, there’s technology out there - as well as handy guides like this one - that will aid you to and allow you to make better judgements. Ballistics Weather Meters are a very useful tool - but they can often be fairly pricey.
Keep reading to learn more about how to judge wind when shooting, with some helpful tips and advice along the way.
Know the speed of the wind
Before we start anything else, you have to identify how fast the wind is currently travelling. You don’t necessarily need a specialist meter for this part, as you’ll often be able to use your general perception as well as mobile apps such as Met Office or AccuWeather, which do give pretty accurate readings of the wind in your locality. However, this figure will be quite broad and simply based on your nearest town, meaning the wind speed at your exact location is going to be slightly different , for example if you’re high on a hill or sat in front of a dense woodland. Because of this, it would be wise to use a specialist meter, just like these. Remember to keep a mental note of the measurement once you have it.
Getting the direction of gust
Just because there is a strong wind, doesn’t always mean that it will have drastic impacts on your bullets’ trajectory or path. For example, winds blowing head on or from directly behind you, shouldn’t really have any effect on your shot, or the direction of your shot at least. That’s why we then need to work out the direction that the gust is actually travelling.
Again, it’s not too tricky to assess this yourself either by feel or by using trusted weather apps, but this won’t be as accurate as using specialist equipment; and it’s accuracy we are looking for after all!
Once you’ve found your wind direction, you want to identify it as a number on a clock, as this will be the easiest way to work out your adjustments. As an example, if your wind is coming from the South West (SW), then your wind will also be coming from the 7 or 8 O’clock position. We can then use a diagram like the one below to get an initial idea of the effect the wind will have.
A key thing to remember: A wind that’s coming from your left will blow to the right, a wind that’s coming from your right will blow to the left!
Based on this, we will always be adjusting our shot to shoot into the wind.
The diagram above shows you the effect the wind will have on your bullet, in a very basic form. Of course, a direct crosswind from left or right will have the most impact on your shot. You’ll notice that we have used ranges in each section. That’s because the strength or speed of the wind will result in different effects. A 5mph wind from the left may only affect your shot by up to 75%, whereas a 25mph wind from the same direction could have far bigger consequences.
These ‘in-between’ angles are quite a challenge, as you’ll realise that even the slightest change in shooting direction can have drastic impact; it really is fine margins.
Once we have established the speed and direction of the wind, we can use a very simple equation to make your adjustments. This equation will always stay the same as long as you’re shooting at targets that are 500 yards or less away (About 450m or less).
Distance (in multiples of 100 yards) X wind speed ÷ 15
To show you an example, let’s say we are shooting at a target which is 300 yards away, and there is a wind speed of 20mph. The formula will look like this:
3 X 20 = 60 ÷ 15 = 4 MOA
You get a result of 4 MOA. This means that you’ll need to adjust your scope or sights by 4 MOA, towards the current wind direction. If you aim at your target and fire a test shot with your setup like this, you should hopefully see that you’re pretty accurate.
This is a very well trusted method used by many military rifle/sniper squads, but as mentioned before it will only be accurate up to 500 yards, at which point the ‘constant’ will move down from 15 as you get further away.
Making these adjustments in real time
At first, this can all seem like a lot to compute in one go, but the old cliche ‘practice makes perfect’ really does apply here; eventually it’ll just be one of those things that you start doing before you’ve even realised it happened!
Shooters who compete in target events as a sport will actually work out multiple results in one go, as they’ll need to adjust their sight with each shot, as the wind fluctuates.
As we’ve touched on earlier, the wind rarely stays constant over a longer period of time, and you will probably notice the wind speed going up and down if you watch your meter for long enough. Recording two figures - the high wind and the low wind - will give you a handy scale that you can use to make adjustments, whenever you feel that the wind has changed speed. If you know the high point and the low point, you should never struggle to be agile with your judgements. It’ll usually take a couple of minutes for you to get a reliable range, so don’t just take the first two readings you see!
Don’t forget that there is a chance the wind will shift the direction it’s blowing in too. You don’t want to have to get a meter out to check this every time, so you’ll need to try your best to master the skill of judgement; making the most of your awareness and your surroundings to get the best idea of how the wind has changed. If you make sure to keep a mental note every few minutes or so, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to make the alterations you need to shoot accurately. It’s extremely unlikely that the wind will complete change direction, so it’s just about noticing slight movements and adapting to them.
Use your surroundings to judge the wind
Experienced shooters will able to analyse the wind with astonishing precision, simply by using what’s around them. There are a lot of things happening around you that can add to your understanding of the wind, like studying heatwaves at the target when aiming down the sights, or leaves blowing from trees, or the movement of the grass. These will all help you make better decisions, so don’t just rely on your wind meter or technology. An accomplished wind reader is someone who takes evidence from the elements around them!
If you hold your patience, use your awareness, and follow these tips and formulae, you’ll have no issue at all with getting the perfect shot on a blustery day - even if it takes a few attempts.
There will be far more complex guides out there that’ll help you understand wind judgement in even more granular detail, but this is all you’ll need to get out there and get started! We hope this was useful, thanks for reading!