How Far Can a Bullet Travel?

Man doing target practice to see how far a bullet can travel.

Most bullets are smaller than your finger, but they all pack a lot of energy; and even if they don’t hit anything, they can still go quite far. Practically, there have been reports of confirmed kills as far as 3540 meters or 3871 yards.

When it comes to how far bullets can travel, there are several factors that must be considered: the caliber of the bullet, its type, the barrel length, the rifle, and even environmental factors that can impact how far the bullet will travel.

So, let’s talk about this in more detail and answer some of your burning questions about bullet ranges, as well as compare the maximum range of some of the most common rifle and handgun calibers.

What factors affect the range of a bullet?

The maximum range of a bullet depends on a variety of mechanical and environmental factors, so there isn’t an exact answer to how far a bullet will go. However, by considering the range of a certain caliber under different circumstances, we can get somewhat of an average answer.

As far as the bullet itself, different loads and different types of bullets even with the same size and caliber have considerably different ranges. The weight of the projectile, its shape, and the amount and type of explosives used in the casing can make quite an impact on range.

The firearm that is shooting the bullet also makes a difference. Longer barrels tend to result in longer ranges, the rifling of the barrel, and the angle at which the gun is fired can also create variations in bullet distance.

Finally, environmental factors come into play – altitude, humidity, wind, and other weather elements can slightly increase or decrease the range of a bullet.

Bullet being fired underwater.

How far does a bullet travel in water?

Generally, bullets are used in the open air, but maybe you’ve wondered whether you could use guns underwater, perhaps for hunting or fishing.

Although a gun will fire underwater, it won’t be very effective. Water is significantly denser than air, and its pressure can dramatically decrease the maximum range of a bullet. Contrary to popular belief, faster bullets won’t cut further through water; in fact, they travel a shorter distance. Moreover, the pointier the tip, the shorter the distance.

Therefore, in water, a 556 round will travel less distance than perhaps a 45 ACP or a 7.62 AK round. A pointed bullet, depending on the caliber and rifle, will travel between half a meter to 4.5 meters, or about 5 yards. A bullet with a round tip may go further and have an effective range of up to 2.75 meters or 3 yards.

Maximum range versus effective range

Knowing the difference between the effective range of a bullet and the maximum range of a bullet is very important. You can say that the maximum range is the maximum distance the bullet can travel until it hits the ground, whereas the effective range is the distance until which the bullet holds enough energy to kill a target.

How far will a 9mm round travel?

If you are wondering how far a 9mm bullet will travel, it can go as far as 2195 meters (1.3 miles) or about 2400 yards. Its effective range however, even out of a carbine with a 16-inch barrel, is only about 90 meters or 100 yards.

How far will a 556 round travel?

In the case of rifle caliber, you might be wondering how far a 556 bullet can travel. A standard FMJ 556 round could go up to 4000 meters (about 2.5 miles) or about 4375 yards. However, the effective range of the 556 bullets is around 800 yards in perfect conditions.

How far will a .308 Winchester round travel?

A .308 Winchester or 7.62×51 NATO is one of the most prolific rounds in the world. It is a very common hunting caliber among civilians and is used by armed forces all over the world as an extremely effective marksman’s caliber.

The maximum range of a 308 can be around 5675 to 7225 meters (3.5 to 4.5 miles) or about 7920 yards at most. This is when the bullet is fired in an ideal situation from a 45-degree angle. On the other hand, the effective range of the 308 is about 915 meters or about 1000 yards.

Summing It Up

Bullets can travel a very long distance if they aren’t disturbed. Many factors, however, can impact the maximum and effective range of a bullet. As with anything related to bullets and guns, the most critical aspect is always gun safety. Review these fundamental gun safety rules often:

  • Make sure your gun is always pointed in a safe direction
  • Never place your finger on the trigger unless you’re ready to shoot
  • Use correct ammunition in the gun
  • Ensure your firearm is maintained and safe for operation
  • Do not consume drugs or alcohol before or while handling a firearm
  • Train regularly
  • Understand ammunition laws specific to your state

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