In years gone by, when shooters want to find a cartridge with excellent ballistics, they often look at how much the bullet drops in its trajectory; however, with the popularity of laser rangefinders, the amount of drop is not nearly as important as the wind drift or wind deflection of the bullet. Wind is much more difficult to accurately account for than bullet drop.
The rifle cartridges with the lowest wind deflection at 1,000 yards are the: (1) 6.5-300 Weatherby, (2) .26 Nosler, (3) .50 BMG, (4) .28 Nosler, and (5) 6.5 Weatherby RPM. Each of those cartridges have less than 60″ of wind deflection at 1,000 yards.
If you’re a good enough shooter to start accounting for wind in your shots, you absolutely need an inexpensive kestrel (link to Amazon). It’s good to learn to estimate wind by yourself, but it’ll be difficult to gain that skill without a kestrel to give you exact numbers on what you observe.
Before we get too far into this topic, we need to discuss what we even mean when we talk about wind deflection or wind drift. “Wind drift” simply means the distance the wind pushes a flying bullet off its trajectory during flight. “Wind drift” and “wind deflection” are used interchangeably in common conversation, but “wind deflection” is the more correct term because it highlights how the wind makes a bullet fly slightly askew as it travels forward.
Wind Drift of Rifle Cartridges in a 10mph Wind
* Important Note * The following table averages 6 different loads for each cartridge to display a reliable average. Obviously, some loads could exhibit more or less drift than what is shown in the table. The cartridges are ranked by wind drift at 1,000 yards from least to most.
|Cartridge||1000 Yard Wind Drift (inches)||500 Yard Wind Drift (inches)||300 Yard Wind Drift (inches)|
|6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum||54||11.7||4.0|
|6.5 Weatherby RPM||59||12.7||4.4|
|.264 Winchester Magnum||62||13.2||4.5|
|7mm Weatherby Magnum||65||13.6||4.6|
|.280 Ackley Improved||66||14.3||5.0|
|7mm Rem Mag||69||14.5||4.7|
|6.5-284 Norma Match||70||15.2||5.1|
|.300 Weatherby Magnum||74||15.5||5.2|
|.30-378 Weatherby Magnum||76||15.4||5.5|
|.270 Weatherby Magnum||78||16.0||5.4|
|6.5 x 55 Swedish Mauser||84||17.8||6.2|
|.300 Winchester Magnum||89||18.1||6.1|
|.240 Weatherby Magnum||91||18.0||6.5|
|.257 Weatherby Magnum||94||18.7||6.4|
|.300 Ruger (RCM)||100||20.4||6.8|
|.338-378 Weatherby Magnum||126||25.4||8.0|
|.338 Lapua Magnum||128||26.0||8.2|
|.340 Weatherby Magnum||130||26.0||8.7|
|.338 Win Mag||139||29.9||9.6|
|9.3 x 62mm Mauser||148||30.5||9.9|
|.378 Weatherby Magnum||151||29.7||9.5|
|.375 H&H Magnum||151||31.4||9.9|
|6.8 Remington SPC||166||33.9||10.9|
|7.62 x 39mm||169||37.4||12.2|
|.416 Remington Magnum||172||37.6||12.1|
|.223 / 5.56||192||36.7||11.5|
|.458 Win Mag||194||46.9||15.4|
Factors that Affect Wind Drift
There are really only three factors that affect the wind drift of a bullet: (1) wind speed, (2) the bullet’s time of flight, and (3) the ballistic coefficient of the bullet. You may be surprised that bullet weight and bullet speed are not on this list. That is not an accidental oversight, as those factors do not affect wind drift.
WIND SPEED – Obviously, the faster the wind speed, the more energy it pushes against the bullet, and thus the more the bullet will drift in the wind. Many shooters use an inexpensive Kestrel to read the wind speed for exact shooting.
BULLET TIME OF FLIGHT – Suppose you shoot two bullets of the same design and caliber, but for one of the cartridges, you put in less gun powder. That bullet may take 0.2 more seconds to reach the target. That means the wind has 0.2 more seconds to act on the bullet and push it off course. Thus, the time it takes for a bullet to reach the target is an important factor in determining wind drift.
If you drop a dumbbell and a paperback book off a building and all else is equal, which one lands first? You may think the weight of the dumbbell would make it drop faster, but it doesn’t. They land at essentially the same time (assuming the air resistance is the same). So don’t think of the time of flight as being a function of just the bullet weight.
BALLISTICS COEFFICIENT – What would drift more in the wind: a piece of paper, or a paperclip? Obviously, the piece of paper. Even if the weight of the objects is the same, the piece of paper will catch more of the wind and thus be pushed further.
The ballistics coefficient is a measurement of the bullet’s resistance to the forces of air while in flight. There are two common models for ballistics coefficient: the g1 and the g7. The g1 is an older model based off a less aerodynamic bullet, and the g7 more closely represents today’s modern bullet designs.
Wind Drift of Common Rifle Cartridges
.22 Long Rifle
The .22 LR is one of the worst-performing rifle cartridges in the wind because of its slow speeds and generally poor ballistics coefficient of bullets. In a 10mph wind, it drifts 5.4″ at 100 yards, 18.9″ at 200 yards, and 39.2″ at 300 yards on average.
.223 Remington or 5.56 NATO
On average, the .223 or 5.56 drifts approximately 1.1″ at 100 yards, 5″ at 200 yards, 11.5″ at 300 yards, and 21.9″ at 500 yards assuming a 10mph wind. Because of the low ballistics coefficients of most .223 bullets and the relatively mild velocities, it does not buck wind as well as some other cartridges.
In general, the .243 Winchester is very resistant to wind drift despite its light caliber. It drifts on average 1″ at 100 yards, 2.5″ at 200 yards, 6.5″ at 300 yards. At 500 yards, it drifts 19.5″ and at 1,000 yards it drifts 95″. These numbers assume a 10mph cross-wind.
The 6.5 PRC is one of the best rifle cartridges for avoiding wind deflection. On average, a 6.5 PRC bullet in a 10mph full value wind drifts 0.2″ at 100 yards, 2″ at 200 yards, and 4.3″ at 300 yards. It drifts 13.2″ at 500 yards, and 62.3″ at 1,000 yards.
The 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge is reasonably resistant to wind drift. In a 10mph wind, it drifts on average just 0.6″ at 100 yards, 5.5″ at 300 yards, 16.1″ at 500 yards, and 76″ at 1,000 yards.
The 6.8 Western is a good cartridge for avoiding wind drift. In a 10mph wind, it drifts 0.6″ at 100 yards, 5.1″ at 300 yards, 14.8″ at 500 yards, and 69.8″ at 1,000 yards. Though the 6.8 Western is more powerful than the 6.5 Creedmoor, it performs similarly in the wind.
Ballistically, the mild 7mm-08 performs acceptably in the wind, but does not stand out for its ability to resist wind drift. In a 10mph wind, the 7mm-08 drifts on average 1″ at 100 yards, 2.7″ at 200 yards, 6.5″ at 300 yards, and 12.5″ at 400 yards.
The .270 is very resistant to wind drift when coupled with a high BC bullet. In a 10mph wind, It drifts on average 0.9″ at 100 yards, 6″ at 300 yards, 18.7″ at 500 yards, and 91.4″ at 1,000 yards.
The .28 Nosler is one of the best cartridges in the world for resisting wind drift. In a 10mph full-value wind, it drifts only .3″ at 100 yards, 4.2″ at 300 yards, 12.3″ at 500 yards, and 56.6″ at 1,000 yards.
7mm Remington Magnum
Despite its age, the 7mm Rem Mag’s ballistics perform well even by today’s standards. It resists wind drift well. Given a 10mph wind and an average load, it drifts just 0.3″ at 100 yards, 14.5″ at 500 yards, and 69″ at 1,000 yards.
The .308 has long been known as an accurate round and is frequently used to shoot long distances, but it does drift in the wind more than many similar cartridges. In a 10mph wind with an average load, it drifts 7.3″ at 300 yards, 21.3″ at 500 yards, and 100.5″ at 1,000 yards.
The .30-06 Springfield performs reasonably well in the wind. In a 10mph full-value wind with an average load, it drifts 6.3″ at 300 yards, 18.5″ at 500 yards, and 88.5″ at 1,000 yards.