How would you like an on-the-firing-line, hand-held ballistics app that can dope a swirling wind coming from eight different directions? How would you like it for free?
“You get what you pay for” is cliché precisely because it usually pans out that the less we pay, the less we get. However, Ballistic is out to prove the exception to the rule in offering free to shooters a top of the line firing solution calculator app downloadable to iPhones and other Apple iOS devices.
“Ours is the number one app on the market, in regards to more downloads and more use than any other,” Ballistic General Manager Shaun Steingold said in an interview for this report. “We pride ourselves on the quality of our product. We have the largest library of projectiles—about 5,400 so far—and we update our ballistics library when manufacturers release new bullets. Our app also supports handloads.”
Ballistic based their app on the JBM calculator, which is the recognized highest standard among ballistics computers, but Ballistic itself is a company entirely independent of JBM Ballistics. Competitors can input projectile characteristics from that large Ballistic library, and create custom data from their own handloads.
“The app’s advantage is in the amount of data you can input to fine tune your firing solution,” Shaun said. “Inputting for Coriolis effect, spin drift, elevation and more equates to a more accurate shot. Our calculations are best-in-class because JBM Ballistic engineering is regarded as the best available.” Adding to its versatility, the app can also connect to a Kestrel handheld weather monitor to input wind speed.
No Free Lunch
Ballistic supports both G1 and G7 bullet ballistic coefficient (BC) calculations, and just about everything in between. But why bother with other standard projectile BCs (RA4, GI, GL, G8, etc.), when bullet manufacturers only offer G1 or G7 standard projectile data? “To support handloads, where there are more variables,” Shaun said, “We want to give the shooter as many options and variables as they desire, to provide full capabilities so that you can put together your own firing solutions.”
“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” is another well-known axiom, so it’s natural to ask, “How does Ballistic profit from providing free software to shooters?” The answer is that someone else is paying for our lunch.
“One of the great things we have is that our system tracks users’ firing solutions,” Shaun said. “I can tell you, for example, how many people are using a particular drag model. But tracking is completely blind. We don’t track anything by the user’s name – there is no benefit in knowing anything about the individual.” Rather, Shaun said, tracking data usage gives the company feedback on what users are finding most beneficial. “When we can see what people are using, we can perfect the product’s back end, and we can share the data and info with manufacturers.”
And that is why the Ballistic app is free to shooters: Ballistic benefits from the data collected by users in selling product—information—to manufacturers so that manufacturers can consider more and improved products.
With the Ballistic app, competition shooters have real-time firing solutions literally in-hand on the firing line. “But we made sure it would work for two audiences,” Shaun said. “The app also works for the amateur shooter or hunter who shoots maybe three times a year, who doesn’t care about Coriolis effects and such. For them we’ve provided a library where they can choose a projectile and quickly input elevation and atmospheric data. They can pull data from local weather [reporting sources] or connect to a Kestrel, and they can view a chart that shows drop and loss of energy over distance.”
When hunters input the range at which they zeroed their rifles, the app will provide the entire point-blank range of a five-inch “vital area.” For example, Ballistic may calculate that a particular load zeroed at 200 yards will land shots within a five-inch circle from 0 to 307 yards. And the app will calculate lead for a moving target at any distance once the hunter inputs the target speed—say, three miles per hour for a walking deer.
In addition to charts, Ballistic features a unique heads-up display (HUD). “The HUD feature takes your inputs, trajectory calculations, wind speed and direction and everything else to give you quick, real-time adjustments,” Shaun said. The display presents solutions in a visual “spin dial” visual format, with an output that clearly shows adjustments needed to compensate for changing wind drift.
Other cool features include the aforementioned wind doping tool, the Advanced Wind Kit, that can compensate for complex wind scenarios. Using your iPhone’s GPS, the app will connect to the closest weather information site to automatically input and compensate for atmospheric conditions. A Target Log keeps a record of shooter/load performance. There are three separate libraries, one for projectiles, another for factory loads and a custom library. A yellow band across the trajectory table shows the distance at which the bullet from your selected load goes subsonic. Downloading to an iPad brings a few more features, such as split screens. And there’s a lot more, which you can check out at the Ballistic website.
Fair warning—the Ballistic app has so many capabilities that, especially if you have no experience with them, there’s going to be some learning curve. Since the firing line isn’t the place to figure it out, homework is in order. Fortunately, the Ballistic website has plenty of video tutorials, explanations, a user’s guide and a “Tips & Tricks” section. Learning is easy with the app running on your iPhone and a tutorial in front of you on a home computer or laptop. The site also features FAQs, a blog and user support via email.Apple devices can download the Ballistic app directly from the iOS App Store which takes about two seconds; it’s also available online at ballisticapp.com.