Bryan Litz and the team from Applied Ballistics have released another book packed with their latest research projects and findings related to long-range shooting. This new book is the 3rd Volume in the series they call Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting. It is not just a new edition of an old book. It contains 100% new content/research and stands on its own (i.e. you don’t have to read the other volumes to get value from this one).
Bryan mailed me an early draft of the book several weeks ago, and I’ve read it cover-to-cover. It is equally as interesting and useful as the last 2 books in this series, which are the books that I find myself going back to reference more than any other source. My copy of this new book is chock-full of notes and highlights in every chapter!
The idea behind the Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting series is the group can continue to publish the results of their ongoing research. What represents the “state of the art” in long-range shooting is still evolving rapidly, so this is an excellent outlet for them to publish serious research into various aspects of long-range shooting that would benefit the shooting community in general. They also test the latest developments and products to see if they live up to the hype. Here is how Bryan Litz describes this series in his own words:
“Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting aims to end the misinformation which is so prevalent in long range shooting. By applying the scientific method and taking a MythBuster approach, the state of the art is advanced both in terms of the available tools, and the knowledge to best apply them.”
The book is available for pre-order now, and copies should start shipping in early September 2022. Here is a link where you can order it directly: https://thescienceofaccuracy.com/product/modern-advancements-long-range-shooting-3/
What Is Covered In The Book
There are over 250 pages of research and knowledge packed into this book, and it covers a variety of topics related to long-range shooting. Here is a quick look at the table of contents from my early copy of the book:
While it wouldn’t be right for me to give away all of the takeaways or results, I’ll try to give a quick summary of some of the things covered.
Chapter 1 & 2: The Nature of Precision Testing & Precision Testing Example
Bryan starts by laying a great foundation on the best practices when trying to test differences in precision. This is a topic that is critical for serious shooters to understand because it’s the root of most misinformation in the shooting community. But, this kind of topic can get very technical and academic, which is why most people don’t understand it – much less apply it. I feel like Bryan did the best job I’ve ever come across at trying to give a practical explanation on how to apply the scientific method to precision testing and interpret results in a way that leads us to the best decisions. He uses lots of examples and visualizations to try to help us know how to apply the ideas. Don’t skip these chapters!!!
Chapter 3: TOP Gun (Theory of Precision)
This is a pretty interesting concept. The AB team analyzed many rifle variables to see what most closely correlated to a rifle’s precision potential. Of course, there are many variables in the shooter-rifle-ammo system that can affect the actual precision, but their idea was to create a formula you could use to baseline the basic precision potential of a rifle based on some easy variables.
Here is how they explain the idea:
Go into any major gun store and find a common model of hunting rifle. Something that’s available chambered in both 300 Win Mag and 223 Remington, such as an 8-9 pound Remington 700. Of course the action length will be different, but otherwise, the rifles have the same design and quality of: barrel, stock, bedding, and trigger. Suppose you properly mount the same model scope on both of these rifles and purchase 100 rounds of factory-loaded Match ammo:
- 60 grain varmint bullets for the 223
- 190 grain match bullets for the 300 Win Mag
Now take them both to the range, get a zero, and start shooting groups. Which of the two rifles would you expect to produce the smaller average group size?
If you share the experience of most shooters, this is a no-brainer. The 223 will shoot better groups, every time, as long as there’s nothing actually wrong with either of the set-ups. This insight is shared by nearly all shooters, but why? What accounts for the difference in precision?
So the AB team chose a huge cross-section of 17 different rifles, from lightweight hunting rifles to competition rifles for various disciplines. “All 17 of the guns listed in Table 3.1 [below] were fired for at least 5 groups of 5 shots to get an average, nominal precision level. In other words, we weren’t trying to absolutely maximize the precision of each rifle. Rather the goal is to characterize the average precision.”
They looked at a few variables, but ultimately their analysis resulted in a surprisingly simple formula to baseline a rifle’s precision potential. While it won’t calculate the exact precision of a rifle, you can think about it as a good rule of thumb. They say, “You can use their TOP Gun model to estimate the precision class of a rifle,” which can be helpful.
Note: If you want to understand the big shift we’ve seen in PRS rifle calibers and configurations over the past 5 years, this chapter seems to explain and quantify that.
Chapter 4: Barrel Tuner Testing
Okay, this one was very interesting – and exhaustive! This test involved over 1800 rounds across 4 different rifles with 4 different tuners. One of the rifles and tuners tested is shown below, which is very representative of the typical PRS competition rifle (because it actually is Francis Colon’s PRS competition rifle):
Every group was measured, and all trends were analyzed using statistics. I can’t give away the results, but I’ll just say it will surprise a few people!
Chapter 5: BC Consistency
Applied Ballistics has been traveling with their Mobile Lab to bring their Doppler radar to competitive shooting venues for a few years now, and much has been learned about the variation in BC that exists for competitive shooters across several disciplines of long-range shooting (PRS, ELR, etc.). This chapter explores what they’ve learned about this variation, shares a ton of the data they’ve collected, and gives tips on what we can do to improve it.
Chapter 6: Ladder Testing for Powder Charge
If you reload, there is a 99.9% chance that you’ve done a ladder test to develop a load for your rifle. There are a few versions of that test, but it typically means some type of systematic sweep through a range of different weight powder charges. In this chapter, the AB team pulls out all of the stops to see if that is an effective and repeatable way to develop a load. I mean, they pulled out a rail gun! 😉
Here is a peak at some of the set-up and results from this test in the book:
Chapter 7: Powder Humidity
This chapter shares some empirical data on the effect that variances in gun powder humidity can have on your ballistics. This may have been one of the most surprising and actionable tests in the entire book. It presented a few concepts that I hadn’t ever thought about before but could have a measurable impact on your ammo consistency.
Chapter 8: Barrel Break-In & Lifecycle
Wow! Yes, they actually went there and presented test results on barrel break-in and lifecycle. This chapter looks at results from breaking in several different barrels using different break-in methods, solvents/abrasives, cleaning regimens, and even different types of steel.
This is very applicable to PRS-style shooting because we shoot so many rounds each year and go through barrels relatively quickly. In fact, Francis Colon, Chad Heckler, and Morgun King all contributed to this study – which means there was a lot of data specifically on the 6mm Dasher. (If you aren’t sure who those guys are, they are 3 of the top 10 PRS shooters in the country.)
This chapter shows the effects of muzzle velocity migration over time, group sizes, velocity SD, and a bunch of other stuff. VERY interesting stuff!
And they didn’t just test 6 Dasher barrels, they also tested large calibers – specifically the 375 EnABELR. The effects of an abrasive bore paste vs. chemical solvents are especially evident on that larger caliber.
This chapter also describes what happens when a barrel begins to reach the end of its useful life and what that means in terms of performance.
Chapter 9: The Applied Ballistics Bullet Library
This chapter explains the evolution of the Applied Ballistics bullet library and live-fire testing that they’ve been doing since 2009 to quantify the drag of a specific bullet as accurately as possible. We all know that today they are using a high-end Doppler Radar to track bullets at a very high resolution all the way down range. Starting in 2019, all of their testing has been conducted with a Doppler radar. But, this chapter also explains the nuances of those Doppler files and gives us context for the performance we should expect from those drag models.
Chapter 10: Aerodynamic Drag at Transonic Speed
If you are still reading this, my bet is you are as big of a nerd as me. 😉 And this chapter dives head-on into the technical aspects of the forces that act on a bullet in that critical portion of the flight as it slows below the speed of sound. It also helps us understand how any errors or variations between the actual drag and our drag model will play out at various distances. Is it significant enough to miss?
Chapter 11: Problems with Spinning Bullets
One thing I love about the Modern Advancements series is it is like a window into Applied Ballistics’ ongoing research. We get to see what they’re working on, which sometimes means they’ve uncovered some unexpected things that they don’t have a solution for yet. That’s what this chapter is. Here is how Litz describes the bottom line of what they’re seeing in their research: “Modern rifle barrels might not have aggressive enough riflings to properly grip and spin up the heaviest large caliber bullets.” This primarily affects large caliber rifles (maybe .416 cal and larger) and not smaller calibers like 30 calibers or less. In this relatively short chapter, they present some compelling data that led them to identify that issue. They plan to continue to work on this along with barrel makers, so it will be interesting to see what has changed based on this 5 years from now.
Chapter 12: Effect of Bore-Groove Diameter
This is another relatively short chapter where they present some empirical data they’d gathered on barrels with different bore/groove diameters. They test 3 barrels:
|Barrel #||Description||Bore (in)||Groove (in)|
For each barrel, they fire 185-grain bullets and 230-grain bullets and then analyze the velocity and resulting BC of the bullet and try to identify any differences the different bore/groove diameters make in terms of performance or consistency.
Chapter 13: Labradar Chronograph
Back in 2014, when Applied Ballistics published Volume 1 of Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting, they included a very comprehensive test of virtually every chronograph on the market. The problem was the Labradar was released in 2015 and, since that time, has become one of the most popular chronographs on the market. In this chapter, Bryan puts the Labradar through a similar test to see how its performance compares to the results from the initial test in Volume 1.
This chapter also points out a few challenges you might encounter when using a Labradar when it comes to proper alignment or using it with quiet rifles or a crowded range. Litz also presents solutions to overcome each of those challenges.
If you like my writing style, I guarantee that you’ll enjoy this book. I was so excited to hear that they were wrapping up another installment of this series. It is packed with a ton of nuggets and new ideas, which are all deeply rooted in cutting-edge empirical research.
I feel like Volume 3 of MALRS included more applications and calibers that were related to PRS-style competition shooting, which I personally loved. This research isn’t intended to be solely applicable to a single discipline, but I definitely appreciated that they included more PRS-type rifles and cartridges – and even got some of the top PRS shooters, like Francis Colon, Chad Heckler, and Morgun King, involved in the research. That is an added bonus for most of us!
What I love most about this series and the research they present is very honest. They even point out the places the data surprised them or the empirical results didn’t line up the way they originally thought it would. They don’t start with a theory to prove or exclude data that doesn’t support the views they started with. That is so rare – and incredibly valuable. Here is a quote from the introduction of this book that captures their approach:
“If you’ve ever done much extensive scientific testing, you’re aware that oftentimes a well-designed test can conclude with more questions than answers. This can be confusing at first, but if you’re persistent, eventually, you can nail things down to a point of understanding that is decisive and perhaps altogether different from your original intended goals. That is the path many of our investigative R&D efforts go. Due to this, it’s very common for us to arrive at results and conclusions that may seem foreign or strange to readers who are familiar with conventional thinking in this space. This disruption of norms is one of the highest goals of our research efforts.”
Well done, Bryan and the rest of the Applied Ballistics team! This is another great contribution to the shooting community, which will help us be more informed and put more rounds on target.
Order Your Copy Here: https://thescienceofaccuracy.com/product/modern-advancements-long-range-shooting-3/
Thanks for putting out another book.
Was wondering if their is anything in it to improve my shooting with 6.5 creedmoor?
In Canada we shoot F Class style shooting and I am trying to build the perfect bullet for shooting 100 metres out to 1000 metres or more.
Hey, Paul. I actually didn’t author this one. Bryan Litz did invite me to contribute some of my research to the last one (Volume 2), but this Volume was all them.
While there isn’t anything specific about the 6.5 Creedmoor in the book (that I remember), there is absolutely a lot of topics that are applicable to shooting a 6.5 Creedmoor in F-Class style shooting. In fact, I’d bet over 50% of the content in the book could be applied to that. There is some content that is specific to big bore rifles used in Extreme Long Range that might not apply to other disciplines, but that is only a small portion of the book. I especially think you’d benefit from the first 2 chapters that talk about how to go about testing ammo or equipment or comparing loads in a way that is repeatable and you know you’re making decisions on meaningful data. I think that is probably applicable to anyone who ever wants to shoot a rifle precisely. But, there is more than that that I think you would find valuable. Lots of good stuff in there!
Thanks for the heads up on what is sure to be a valuable resource. The more of Mr. Litz’s writing I consume the less I realize I know. Well, lets hope you actually can teach an old dog like me some new tricks. Looking forward to furthering my ballistic education.
Isn’t that the truth?! I feel the same way. His research on the effects of powder humidity will definitely make you feel that way. I knew dried powder shot a little faster, but never knew it could change your muzzle velocity like what his research showed. It’s crazy! I can focus so much on some variables, then ones like that may be more significant and I don’t even pay attention to them!
But, that’s part of what I like about this hobby: There is always something to learn. I feel like we’re still in the steam-engine days of this, and our knowledge of ballistics will mature dramatically over the next 20 years. It’ll be fun to try to keep up!
Great report as usual. I will attempt to order a copy asap.
Hope you’re having a great summer & glory days on the range.
To me there are essential y TWO methods of creating ballistic tables:
1.) Applied ballistic algorithms -> gets you very close
2.) Doppler radar real world testing -> gets you exact results based on real world tests.
I see Litz’s “Applied Ballistics” as the best of #1.
Hornady’s 4DOF is THE example of #2.
I’m getting a new Kestrel 5700 with 4DOF ballistics. I may be “wrong” in that decision but, as in some horse shoe tosses, not very far wrong.
Hey, Eric. That is a view that I hear a lot, and I know where you are coming from. In 2013, Applied Ballistics came out with Custom Drag Models (CDMs) that were based on live-fire testing, but not Doppler radar tracks. Those old CDMs from Applied Ballistics were basically a set of BCs for several different velocities from their live-fire testing, which was sometimes just based on one rifle. They only had a few data points and they estimated/inferred the rest of the drag from those. Like you said on #1, they got you very close (and were an upgrade from a single number BC) – but they didn’t always perfectly align with hits in the field at all distances. In fact, I couldn’t get them to line up even with a lot of fine-tuning. That was my experience, and it sounds like yours and others, too.
And like you said, Hornady’s 4DOF Doppler-based drag models are insanely accurate. In my experience, I’ve always got the 4DOF solutions to line up pretty much perfectly at all distances with a very minor amount of fine-tuning the Axial Form Factor.
BUT, in 2017 Applied Ballistics began recording drag with a Doppler radar and started replacing all of those old CDMs with detailed Doppler trace files. From 2019 on, their testing has been done exclusively with their Doppler radar, and that is what all of their CDMs are now based on. They still call them CDMs, and I can understand why they did that – but I think it was a mistake. I think they should have named the new drag files Doppler Drag Models (or something like that), so that it was more clear to everyone in the shooting community that these were different than the old estimated CDMs, which were basically just a few banded BCs. These new upgraded CDM files contain a ton more points and nuance of the drag of a particular bullet, similar to the Hornady 4DOF drag profiles. I know a lot of shooters that still talk about the Applied Ballistics CDMs based on their bad experience a few years ago, before AB changed over to Doppler-based drag files. They aren’t aware that how these work have been seriously upgraded since they last tried them, and they represent the state-of-the-art. In fact, not only are the CDMs now based on multiple rifles – they are actually based on hundreds of rifles in some cases, meaning the drag is the average over a huge sample of rifles, making the solution even more accurate.
Now, I’m not saying they are more accurate than Hornady 4DOF drag models – or that you shouldn’t go with the Hornady Kestrel. I’m not a fan-boy of Applied Ballistics or Hornady – I will use whatever works best for me. I’ve personally been using a Kestrel with Hornady 4DOF for the last couple of years. It is insanely accurate and easy to tune – if you are using one of the bullets they have a 4DOF drag profile for. They have a much more limited selection of bullets with 4DOF files than Applied Ballistics, but I’ve had a great experience with their solution, if they have the bullet I’m using. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I missed a target in a competition because of my elevation. I have pulled some shots, but I NEVER doubt my firing solution or miss a shot because it was off. That is pretty amazing, considering where we were 10 years ago!
But, Applied Ballistics also has this new thing called Personalized Drag Models (PDMs) that are arguably a step ahead of Hornady 4DOF and Applied Ballistics CDMs. They basically haul their mobile lab all over the country to large competitions and allow shooters to fire 10 rounds over their high-end Doppler radar, which will track their bullets out of their rifle with high precision from just in front of the muzzle to beyond 1,000 yards. Then they’ll make a PDM for your exact rifle and ammo based on the Doppler data they recorded. I just haven’t been able to connect with AB at one of the events yet, or I bet I’d be running a Kestrel with Applied Ballistics and a PDM.
If you’d like to read more about this, here are a couple of articles where I expand on all of these different drag models and new technology:
AND, I will also say that you’d benefit from reading Chapter 9, which explains all of this stuff too, including the progression of the Applied Ballistics Bullet Library.
Hope that helps! Honestly, I have almost written blog post about that a few times, because I know some top 100 shooters that talk about Applied Ballistics CDMs like they function the same as they did 5 years ago, and that just isn’t true. So I guess that is why I turned this comment into a full-length article! 😉 I bet a lot of people are thinking the same thing, so I just wanted to try to help. Thanks for the comment!
Cal, does this book stand on its own? Meaning, will I get full benefits from this book even though I haven’t read Vol I and II? Hope to read all three Volumes sometime but was considering starting with III due to specific topics. Thanks
Great question, Bob. Yes! It does stand on its own. There are a few references to previous books, like the LabRadar test since it was really a continuation of a big project in Volume 1 – but you’d still be able to get the value from that chapter even if you never read Volume 1.
Any idea if they’ll offer a bundle for all 3 similar to what they did for vol 1 and 2?
I’m not sure, Andy. Sorry!
Thanks for writing up this summary.
I intend to dive into these books soon, but I’m curious of your opinion – would you recommend reading all three? Are there any preparatory materials you recommend studying first to get the most out of the cutting edge content in them?
Hey, Matt. I would recommend reading all 3. They really are the books that I find myself referencing in my articles or just in my own shooting more often than any other source. Each volume is a combination of almost a random variety of topics. It’s whatever they’ve done research on lately, and not some systematic approach to testing everything around a certain aspect. For example, some of the volumes have a lot more content related to reloading than others. But, I have found a lot of value in each one of them.
I do think this series represents the cutting edge of research and knowledge. There really isn’t another source like this that even compares. You might could argue that some of the government whitepapers on their research can be as interesting and useful, but in my experience, you likely have to sort through 20-30 of those government research papers before you find 1 that is interesting. These are just as professional as those (since AB does a lot of military/defense research projects, too) – but these are also much easier to read, and are more applicable for the typical long-range shooter than those.
Hope that is helpful!
Im just gonna blame you when the wife ask what I need that for….
Ha! I get you, Pierre. Feel free to blame me! 😉
I have all of Litz’s books Lots of good info but there is some redundancy when read them all. His independent study of each bullet in his profiles is outstanding. I met him at SHOT and he is certainly a rocket scientist. Lol. Very professional and even a bit nerdy but a genius non the less.
I bought his book about 13 years ago and ELR shooting has exploded since then. You won’t find a more comprehensive study on ballistics then his books I just hope it has new information instead of a regurgitation of the old.
Hey, Heath. I think you’ll like this one. I’d say over 80% of the content was new to me, and I’ve read all his books (most more than once). At the very least I had not read anything Applied Ballistics had put out on the subject or at the level of detail that was in this new book. The only redundancy to me would be a brief summary to catch people up who might not have read a previous book when he talked on that subject. I can tell that he’s trying to find the balance between the book able to “stand on its own” (i.e. you don’t have the buy and read all the previous books to get value from this one), but also not constantly having to re-explain the same thing. I try to do the same thing in my own writing, and it’s a tough balance. You don’t want to alienate new readers – or bore highly-educated readers. That is why they moved to a series of books with “Volumes” instead of simply coming out with new editions of the old books. It’s more intuitive that they are individual installments. I’m sure Bryan doesn’t like rehashing old stuff any more than you do.
Anyway, I really don’t think you’ll find this book repetitive or a regurgitation of old content. I mean, you can read through the chapter summaries in this post and I don’t think you could point to another source where you’d read on many of those topics.
Good to hear from you, Heath!
It is a shame that Brian would put ot a book with a section called Powder Humidity. Humidity is not a property of powder. It is a calculated property of the earth’s atmosphere and only applys to gasses.
Ha! To be fair, Bryan does go into the definition of “hygroscopic” by the 2nd paragraph of that chapter. So while he’s trying to use layman terms, he’s still an engineer! 😉