Can the Shooting Position Affect Muzzle Velocity?

The answer to the question in the title is “YES!”. Sniper’s Hide has recently released a video, where they experimentally prove that and explain why it happens. The host of the channel shows that shooting from the bench (sitting) results in 20 fps decrease of average muzzle velocity compared to shooting from the prone position. When shooting from the bench he gets an average muzzle velocity of 2696 fps and from the prone position, MV is 2717 fps. Here is the video with that experiment:

So actually, it is not the shooter’s position or stance itself that affects the muzzle velocity, but the ability to manage the recoil from any particular position. The better you control (resist) the recoil, the more is the muzzle velocity. My understanding is that less energy spent on moving the recoiling gun means more energy is spent to propel the projectile. So according to this logic, the highest muzzle velocity will be achieved if the gun is firmly fixed and doesn’t move at all during shooting. And the opposite should be correct too: the more unstable is the position and the more the gun moves upon recoil, the more loss in MV you’ll have.

Sniper’s Hide also proves that it is about recoil management by shooting from the bench again, but this time having both elbows square on the table and “leaning” on the gun. This time they get results almost identical to that of the prone position.

For most of the shooters, this 20 fps difference won’t even matter. But when it comes to long range precision shooting, it does matter.



Hrachya H

Being a lifelong firearms enthusiast, Hrachya always enjoys studying design, technology and history of guns and ammunition. His knowledge of Russian allows him to translate and make Russian/Soviet/Combloc small arms related information available for the English speaking audience.
Should you need to contact him, feel free to shoot him a message at TFBHrachyaH@gmail.com


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  • Major Tom

    To be brutally honest, 20 FPS is statistical noise. Normal variance.

    • NineWays

      If you are an average shooter who uses factory ammo, I agree that you’ll not see a measurable performance difference. For someone who meticulously builds hand-loads, 20fps is a notable compromise.

      Even saying that, there are more important factors to worry about, like wind reading and distance to the target.

      • Major Tom

        I think you may have misinterpreted. I’m saying the normal variance in bullet velocity is what’s happening. They did the prone test and a bench test. I’m not convinced they did a large enough sample size from either position to prove anything.

        Unless they fired over a thousand rounds from each and didn’t mention it.

        • roguetechie

          No, what he’s saying very much has merit… Especially since this comes out of snipers hide forum which is about the closest you get to peer review as seen in the science world.

      • True, but the changes on point of impact will most likely not become a serious concern until longer ranges of perhaps 500+ yards are reached (assuming a 100-yard zero). Even then the changes of impact will still be within MOA, but easier to identify. The Sierra 168-grain BTHP Match bullet has a factory rated muzzle velocity of 2600 fps. A change of -20 fps is only 0.77% (.0077).

        • iksnilol

          Snipers hide, those guys shoot at 1200 meters for warmup.

          So 500 yards + definitely applies to them.

          • I totally agree for these long-range shooters. For them the 20 fps will definitely create some impact differences at those ranges. However, most hunters and shooters (who are 500 yards and closer) will most likely not even notice the difference.

          • Lemdarel

            Well, of course. Discussion by long range shooters about long range shooting is usually targeted to audiences interested in long range shooting.

          • But the article doesn’t specify long-range shooting. It simply talks about shooting position and what it might do to muzzle velocity. This opens the dialogue to a much broader range of shooters – some who won’t notice much of anything, and others who will take particular note.

            In fact, if you watch the Sniper’s Hide video, the target he is shooting at is only about 100 yards away. Had they specified the effects of position for long-range shooting, even showing video of point of impact changes, that would have been a different story. My initial comments were directed at Major Tom and stated my above premise that most shooters would not see a noticeable difference (even reloaders), due to ranges shot.

    • roguetechie

      To be brutally honest, the guys at sniper’s hide have enough knowledge as individuals, and way more than enough as a cumulative group to have thoroughly eliminated the possibility that this is just a function of statistical noise.

  • M C

    So what Sniper’s Hide are revealing in this shocking exclusive is that shooting is subject to the same laws of physics as everything else.

    I look forward to an article from Car & Driver on how to reduce stopping distances by applying more pressure to the brake pedal.

  • RocketScientist

    BREAKING NEWS! LAW OF CONSERVATION OF ENERGY ALSO APPLIES TO FIREARMS! STORY AT 11!

    • Drew Coleman

      You would be surprised how many gun owners don’t understand that. A few weeks back I was at a trauma class at the range (the basics of how to treat a gunshot wound at the range, just in case), and one of the guys giving us information thought that a bullet continues to accelerate after it leaves the muzzle, that it doesn’t hit peak velocity right out of the muzzle. The people in my group and I just stood there like “what??”

      • Cymond

        Who knows, maybe the dude’s EDC is a Gyrojet.

      • Goosey

        Pressure continues to act on the bullet after it leaves the muzzle and can increase the bullet’s velocity for a short distance outside the barrel (6″-12″) according to Fr. Frog.

  • MrBrassporkchop

    When I shoot straight down my bullet keeps accelerating a bit even after it leaves the muzzle.

  • Rob

    Velocity of the bullet relative to the gun (which is moving backwards at some speed due to recoil) will be the same. The velocity of the bullet relative to the ground will be lower by what ever the rearward velocity of the gun is. Think of throwing a ball backwards from a moving car. It subtracts the forward velocity of the car from the velocity of the thrown ball, as long as the ball is moving a lot slower than the speed of light, anyway.

  • Sgt. Stedenko

    Great.
    Now repeat the experiment at least 5 times with the same shooter and make sure you document wind, humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, etc if you want to call this science.
    And dont forget to measure propellant charges just to be sure.

  • roguetechie

    There’s actually another option which should be even better in theory…

  • Badwolf

    And that’s why I always shoot jumping forward. I can get an extra 40 fps.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/76d11f213d9ac536e07f8b07bfb6c24149390f8207a7cb28fdc13e72f270323c.jpg

    • iksnilol

      Genious, I’ll try it in my air pistol. Those need all the velocity.

      • Badwolf

        You’re gona look like a complete idiot at the range. But then when you show them the results you’ll get the last laugh, just like I did.

  • Tom Currie

    The effect is real. Your explanation of the cause appears to misstate the physics involved.

    I believe there is exactly the same amount of energy “spent on moving the recoiling gun” regardless of the position. The cartridge provides the same amount of energy in each case, and that energy is applied equally to both the bullet and the gun.

    The difference is the rearward VELOCITY imparted to the gun by the recoil in the small fraction of a second before the bullet leaves the barrel.

    The bullet’s forward velocity _relative_to_the_gun_ is the same. The difference comes from the gun’s velocity.

    • Armchair Command’oh

      Yes! I was going to post the same thing. The recoil is caused by the conservation of momentum. That same amount of recoil momentum is always there, even if the gun is locked down. The difference in velocity is the barrel dragging the bullet backwards with it.

  • Edeco

    Interesting. Not too surprising as a concept, but neat that they’ve apparently measured it.

    Now handgun muzzle velocity from an average shooter who crumples like a paper cup during recoil vs a highly conditioned expert like myself whose outstretched gun arm you could hang a car battery from…

  • Seth Hill

    What about prone from the ground vs prone from an elevated position, where the muzzle is overhanging the elevated platform? I’m curious if proximity to the ground can affect the ballistics of a bullet.

    • koolhed

      Ground effects…