Transitional ballistics
Transitional ballistics, also known as intermediate ballistics, is the study of a projectile's behavior from the time it leaves the muzzle until the pressure behind the projectile is equalized, so it lies between internal ballistics
Internal ballistics
Internal ballistics, a subfield of ballistics, is the study of a projectile's behavior from the time its propellant's igniter is initiated until it exits the gun barrel...

 and external ballistics
External ballistics
External ballistics is the part of the science of ballistics that deals with the behaviour of a non-powered projectile in flight. External ballistics is frequently associated with firearms, and deals with the behaviour of the bullet after it exits the barrel and before it hits the target.-Forces...


The transitional period

Transitional ballistics is a complex field that involves a number of variables that are not fully understood; therefore, it is not an exact science
Exact science
An exact science is any field of science capable of accurate quantitative expression or precise predictions and rigorous methods of testing hypotheses, especially reproducible experiments involving quantifiable predictions and measurements...

. When the bullet reaches the muzzle of the barrel, the escaping gases are still, in many cases, at hundreds of atmospheres of pressure. Once the bullet exits the barrel, breaking the seal, the gases are free to move past the bullet and expand in all directions. This expansion is what gives gunfire its explosive sound, and is often accompanied by a bright flash as the gases combine with the oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 in the air and finish combusting.

The propellant gases continue to exert force on the bullet and firearm for a short while after the bullet leaves the barrel. One of the essential elements of accurizing
Accurizing is the process of improving the accuracy of a firearm or airgun.For firearms, accuracy is defined as the ability to hit exactly what one is aiming at...

 a firearm is to make sure that this force does not disrupt the bullet from its path. The worst case is a muzzle that is cut at a non-square angle, so that one side of the bullet leaves the barrel early; this will cause the gas to escape in an asymmetric pattern, and will push the bullet away from that side, causing shots to form a "string", where the shots cluster along a line rather than forming a normal Gaussian
Gaussian is a computational chemistry software program initially released in 1970 by John Pople and his research group at Carnegie-Mellon University as Gaussian 70. It has been continuously updated since then...


Most firearms have muzzle velocities in excess of the ambient speed of sound
Speed of sound
The speed of sound is the distance travelled during a unit of time by a sound wave propagating through an elastic medium. In dry air at , the speed of sound is . This is , or about one kilometer in three seconds or approximately one mile in five seconds....

, and even in subsonic
Speed of sound
The speed of sound is the distance travelled during a unit of time by a sound wave propagating through an elastic medium. In dry air at , the speed of sound is . This is , or about one kilometer in three seconds or approximately one mile in five seconds....

 cartridges the escaping gases will exceed the speed of sound, forming a shock wave
Shock wave
A shock wave is a type of propagating disturbance. Like an ordinary wave, it carries energy and can propagate through a medium or in some cases in the absence of a material medium, through a field such as the electromagnetic field...

. This wave will quickly slow as the expanding gas cools, dropping the speed of sound within the expanding gas, but at close range this shockwave can be very damaging. The muzzle blast from a high powered cartridge can literally shred soft objects in its vicinity, as careless benchrest pistol shooters
Benchrest shooting
Benchrest shooting is a sport in which very accurate and precise rifles are shot at paper targets from a rest or bench from a sitting position. Benchrest shooters are notoriously detail-oriented and constantly trying to further the accuracy potential of the rifle through experimentation. Nearly...

 occasionally find out when the muzzle slips back onto their sandbag and the muzzle blast sends sand flying.

Altering transitional ballistics

In addition to the process of "crowning" a barrel to ensure a clean and accurate exit of the bullet, there are a number of devices that attempt to harness the muzzle blast for various reasons.

Suppressing the blast

Flash suppressor
Flash suppressor
A flash suppressor, also known as a flash guard, flash eliminator, flash hider, or flash cone, is a device attached to the muzzle of a rifle or other gun that reduces the visible signature of the burning gases that exit the muzzle. This reduces the chances that the shooter will be blinded in dark...

s and sound suppressors
A suppressor, sound suppressor, sound moderator, or silencer, is a device attached to or part of the barrel of a firearm which reduces the amount of noise and flash generated by firing the weapon....

 are the most obvious devices that operate in the transitional ballistics realm. These both alter the flow of the escaping gas to reduce the effects of the muzzle blast. Flash suppressors introduce turbulence into the mixing of fuel-laden hot gases escaping from the muzzle and the surrounding oxygen-rich air, reducing combustion efficiency and thus reducing the size and brightness of the flash. Sound suppressors slow the expansion of gases, allowing it to cool and reducing the rate at which it escapes to prevent a shockwave from forming.

A recoil compensator is designed to direct the gases upwards at roughly a right angle to the bore, in essence making it a small rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

 that pushes the muzzle downwards, and counters the "flip", or rise of the muzzle caused by the high bore line of most firearms. These are often found on "raceguns" used for action shooting
Action shooting
Action shooting is a term that encompasses target shooting events where the shooter's score is based on both the accuracy and elapsed time. Disciplines covered by the term include:*United States Practical Shooting Association...

 and in heavy, rifle caliber handguns used in metallic silhouette
Metallic silhouette
Metallic silhouette shooting is a group of target shooting disciplines that involves shooting at metal cutouts representing game animals at varying distances. Metallic silhouette shooting can be done with airguns, black powder firearms, modern handguns, or modern rifles...

 shooting. In the former case, the compensator serves to keep the sights down on target for a quick followup shot, while in the latter case they keep the heavy recoil directed backwards, preventing the pistol from trying to twist out of the shooter's grip.

A muzzle brake
Muzzle brake
Muzzle brakes and recoil compensators are devices that are fitted to the muzzle of a firearm or cannon to redirect propellant gases with the effect of countering both recoil of the gun and unwanted rising of the barrel during rapid fire...

is designed to redirect the muzzle blast backwards, and therefore counter the recoil of the bullet. Muzzle brakes tend to be found on larger firearms, such as magnum rifles and artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

. A well designed muzzle brake can significantly reduce recoil, turning a rifle that would otherwise be punishing to shoot into a far more tolerable experience. A good example may be seen on the M82 Barrett sniper rifle.

There are downsides to both recoil compensators and muzzle brakes. They direct more of the muzzle flash to the sides or back towards the shooter—this is especially true of muzzle brakes. While eye and ear protection should always be used when shooting, this is even more essential with the muzzle blast directed back towards the shooter. Brakes and compensators are often quite bulky, adding length, diameter, and mass to the muzzle end of the firearm where it will affect the firearm's handling worst. While a simple slot milled in the barrel, such as those used in Magna-Porting, will provide some benefit, efficient redirection of the gas flow requires large ports and baffles to deflect as much gas as possible. It is also highly inadvisable to fire sabot
A sabot is a device used in a firearm or cannon to fire a projectile, such as a bullet, that is smaller than the bore diameter, or which must be held in a precise position. The term is also applied to a battery stub case, a device used similarly to make a small electrical battery usable in a...

 rounds like shotgun slugs or APDS
APDS may refer to:*Armour-piercing discarding sabot*Androgynous Peripheral Docking System*Augusta Preparatory Day School...

rounds through a muzzle brake not designed for them.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.