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Angled shots reduce pellet drop

By B.B. Pelletier

This is another post on using a scope. Let’s talk about shots that are angled up or down from the shooter’s perspective.

On the level
When shooting with a scope, you have to know the pellet’s trajectory so you can hit targets at different ranges. I addressed this in the June 1 posting – At what range should you zero your scope? In that discussion, all shooting was done on level ground, with the target at the same elevation as the shooter. That kept the barrel parallel to the ground, which is the only way we could discuss trajectory without confusion. A lot of shooting is done that way, but there are exceptions.

What if you’re hunting squirrels that are high up in trees, or sniping rabbits in your garden from a second-story window or deck? In both cases your barrel won’t be parallel to the ground and gravity will act differently on the pellet in flight. To hit your target, you’ll have to compensate for this.

Up or down – they’re both the same
Whether you shoot up or down, the effect on the pellet is the same. The actual drop of the pellet from the effect of gravity is reduced. Another way to say this is that the trajectory will be flatter.

The easy way to picture it
Think of it this way. If you were shooting straight down, there would be NO arc to the trajectory. The pellet would travel in the same direction as gravity’s influence, which would be a straight line.

If you were shooting straight up, the effect would be the same. The pellet would travel in a straight line, as long as it was not influenced by wind or anything else. Eventually, gravity slows the pellet to a complete stop and it reverses direction, falling back toward the pull of gravity. It gains velocity again until it reaches a speed where it can’t go any faster because its wind resistance holds it back.

These two illustrations are to help you understand the dynamics of the situation. When you shoot up (at a high target) or down (at a target below you), the same thing happens to the pellet, though not to such an extreme. The slant angle of the shot determines the amount of the effect.

If you’re confused, here it is in a nutshell
Imagine your target is NOT up in the tree but on the ground and level with you. That distance is the one you should be sighting for! To hit a bird that’s 50 yards up – but the tree is only 15 yards away from you – aim the same as if the bird is JUST 15 YARDS AWAY! Gravity acts on the pellet as though it is only 15 yards away because of the extreme slant angle of your shot. That explains why hunters often shoot OVER their targets when they are high in a tree!

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

9 thoughts on “Angled shots reduce pellet drop”

  1. I would like to know is the Powerline Model 693 BB Pistol Kit metal or plastic and does the piece that hangs on the bottom of the Powerline(bottom of handle)close up inside of the handle or does it just hang there when operating the air gun?

  2. What do you do about the adjustable parallax when you are shooting up at a tree? do you adjust parallax for the object you are aiming for in the tree, and just compensate for drop by the distance the tree is from me? or does parallax get adjusted to the distance the tree is from me

  3. Thanks

    You should write a book. or have this information in a easier to get form once it is done like this.

    I wish there was a way to get in touch with you via email or something.

    Beginners need some good information

  4. God bless BB.Hes great.You make it easy for anyone to understand.I think it is a good idea to write your book.I know I would buy it.Ive been into the sport for only weeks and BB has help me to understand.Its me Hernan from the gamo cf-x question.If there is a way to talk to you via email or phone let me know because it would be a pleasure to talk to you and I have some questions that are to long for me to write them.Thanks again BB GOB BLESS YOU!!!!!!


    hernan_classic@yahoo.com is my email address.

  5. Hernan,

    First, thank you for your compliments! I remember how confusing this stuff was for me the first time, so I try to simplify it as much as I can.

    Regarding the pellet accuracy in a fixed barrel – as far as anyone has been able to determine, a fixed barrel does not increase accuracy. Breakbarrels have been used in Olympic target guns with success. But so many people worry about the possibility of a problem that breakbarrels have fallen out of favor for target use.


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