Monday, August 30, 2010

A Ballistic Computer for Airsoft Use?

Given that present-day specialist snipers already use special-purpose palm-held ballistic computers to further improve their already exceptional performance, can such computers be designed specifically for Airsoft use?

By: Ringo Bones

It seems like only yesterday – actually back in those few years preceding World War II – that ballistic computers of sufficient accuracy were mechanical devices the size of a spacious room. Like Dr. Vannevar Bush’s Differential Analyzer of the 1930s which was later used to calculate artillery trajectories during World War II. Surprisingly, a much smaller – though the accuracy is scaled-down as well – ballistic computer portable enough to be held in one’s hand was invented by a French artillery officer named Amédée Mannheim called the slide rule back in 1850.

These days, specialist snipers are more than likely to use those palm-held Blackberry-sized / Blackberry-looking special purpose battery-powered electronic ballistic computers, like the KAC Bullet Flight 2.0.0 by Knight’s Armament Company, described as a ballistic computer designed to provide quick firing solutions in the field; Palm-held push-button firing solution, anyone?

Similar and / or related devices appear as if they are now fast becoming an indispensable part of the specialist sniper, almost as indispensable as the sniper’s weapons system. Though I haven’t seen a present-day sniper resorting to use a 1950s era slide rule to compute his or her firing solution just to make a statement on how battery-operated devices had dumbed-down the world. And there’s even probably a ballistic computer i-Phone-style app being offered somewhere already. But can such devices be of used in the world of Airsoft gaming?

The problem with Airsoft weapons systems justifying the necessity of ballistic computers is that the 6-mm plastic pellets themselves – Airsoft ammunition – have a non-existent ballistic coefficient. I mean they are spherical and light, unlike a high-performance rifle bullet that’s conical, of sufficient mass and spin-stabilized in flight. In short, spherical 6-mm BB pellets for Airsoft use are a far cry from a 123-grain Lapua Scenar round with a ballistic coefficient of 0.547 and a muzzle velocity of 2,600 feet-per-second famed for its ability to hit tennis-ball-sized targets at 600 yards or 1,800 feet away.

No matter how much you tweak your Airsoft weapons system to give you an initial muzzle velocity approaching 600 feet-per-second, the spherical BB pellet’s very lousy ballistic coefficient will always preclude your Airsoft gun from hitting a tennis-ball-sized target from even as close as 94 feet away – the full length of a basketball court. Real life should have been much easier for the Airsoft gamer, but it isn’t.

Computing the ballistic coefficient – if it ever has one - of a spherical 6-mm BB pellets made of mineral-reinforced polypropylene weighing 0.2-grams or slightly heavier will probably require the computing power of a 1995-era Cray supercomputer or better. Airsoft manufacturing firms probably don’t have the R & D time and money for such an endeavour. Even using a 1950s era slide rule to compute a firing solution during a typical Airsoft game is probably as effective as being able to see the planet Uranus using a 3X sniper scope.