Having the right rifle for the job is important. Using the correct ammo is critical, too. However, neither of those things matter if you don’t know how the two interact with one another in a real-world situation. Without that knowledge, your gun and cartridge of choice are not living up to their fullest potential.
Ballistic calculators are a great way to help you work up the proper data for a specifically paired firearm and round. They have taken the know-how behind doing this out of the heads of experienced shooters with a mind for math and made it so that any layperson can have the info they need, and accurate info at that, in an instant.
Of course, these calculators were (and still are) standalone units. That meant you had one more piece of gear to take with you to the range or into the field—and often an expensive piece of gear at that. Smartphones and apps have changed all of this.
There are dozens of ballistic calculator apps on the market, so let’s take a look at just 10 of them and go over their similarities, differences, and types of shooters they appeal to most.
Ballistic Advanced Edition
This app is the number one shooting app in the Apple app story by downloads and ratings. The core Ballistic app uses the world renowned JBM Ballistics engine for the most precise, accurate calculations in the industry. It includes a library of over 5,000 commercial and military projectiles and factory loads along with one-touch atmospheric correction and ballistic charts to show drop, energy, velocity and compare wind drift.
The app’s target log keeps a journal of all hunts, shoots, scores, and groupings, you can estimate distance using Mil-Dot or MOA reticle measurements, and you can calculate your own ballistic coefficients.
The Advanced Edition is designed for advanced shooters, law enforcement, and military personnel with an advanced heads-up display (HUD) for real-time angle acquisition and one-touch atmospheric correction. It also features 3D Trajectory Imaging for visualizing bullet path in a three dimensional layout and The Advanced Wind Kit for creating complex wind simulations. That’s a lot for a very reasonable price, but this one is for iPhone and iPad users only.
The Ballistic Advanced Edition app is only available from the Apple Store for iOS. Price: $9.99. —D. Maccar
To me, the coolest thing about the Applied Ballistics app is the way that it interacts with other tools. For example, you can use GPS coordinates to find the nearest weather station and use that information to better assist in your data.
You can also use Bluetooth to link it with stand-alone weather meters like those from Kestrel.
There’s even an option for a “reticle view” display, which accounts for scope magnification and the settings on your turrets, allowing for super-accurate and foolproof information for you to use.
If you’re a hardcore shooter who spends a lot of time working up the perfect load for the perfect rifle so that you can put the perfect shot on the perfect target? Well then, iSnipe is just the tool you’re looking for!
It is, without a doubt, the most robust option on this list in terms of features and detail. However, if you’re not super technically inclined and have no desire to learn a rather complex app, then this is not the choice for you. Go with one of the simpler options on this list.
The most important thing to note with iSnipe is this: if you classify yourself as the person in the first paragraph, but you’re an Android user, then this app is a no-go. It is only [available from the Apple Store for iOS] (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/isnipe/id297093432). Price: $14.99
KAC BulletFlight M
Knight’s Armament Company has been known for years to produce some of the finest weapons systems available, as has been made evident by their numerous military contracts. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that they have their own ballistic calculator app: BulletFlight M (M for military).
You can choose from one of the many pre-loaded military firearm profiles—such as the 50 BMG M107, .308 M40A3, .308 M24—or you can build your own to fit your exact firearm.
A built-in bullet database contains myriad selections from some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Hornady, Nosler, Sierra, etc. Don’t see yours listed? Pull the stats yourself and make a custom ammo profile with ease.
The app can provide accurate dope out to 3,000 meters with readouts in inches, centimeters, MOA, Mils, or scope clicks. You can also input your specific weather conditions to get the most precise information.
Winchester Ballistics Calculator
Winchester ammunition has built a solid reputation in the hunting community over the decades, and their ballistics calculator app compliments this nicely. If you’re not exactly sure what kind of load to go with, you can input your hunt information and compare up to four different ammo options at once. Then, when you figure out which one is right, you can start dialing in your hunt conditions.
Setting up the wind, temperature, elevation, shot and sight-in distance, and more help ensure you get the right data for your shot. After all that’s squared away, you can even call up a digital scope picture showing your shot’s impact.
It uses the info you provided and overlays it on your choice of game silhouette and background, giving you as accurate of a readout to set up the shot for success.
Available from Google Play](https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.winchester.WBC2&hl=en_US) and the Apple Store. Price: FREE
The Shooter is simple. The screens are uncluttered and easy to decipher, even to the novice.
Despite being basic, it’s still robust. There’s a built-in bullet library, areas for custom loads and firearms, input for weather data, and more. To me, though, the best part is that you can input your custom data on your computer if you’d like. That’s way better than having to navigate and fill out everything on your phone in the field—but you can still do it like that if you want or need to.
If you have any reason to doubt this app’s capabilities, consider this: Robert Brantley won the 2018 “King of 2 Mile” match using this app. Chances are, you won’t be shooting anywhere near two miles, so I think this will do just fine for all of your needs.
Begun as an online-only resource in 2016, Hornady’s 4DOF (4 Degrees of Freedom) system is now available as an app, allowing use in areas without cell service.
4DOF is able to connect via Bluetooth with wind meters and has a built-in library that includes (of course) the best Hornady loads, as well as other popular offerings from Berger, Sierra, etc.
Hornady bills the 4DOF as being the first calculator to “correct vertical shift a bullet experiences as it encounters a crosswind; referred to as Aerodynamic Jump (AJ).”
(Oh, and for those who are wondering: the four degrees of freedom are windage, range, elevation, and angle of attack.)
Hornady 4DOF is available from Google Play and the Apple Store, but it’s also [available online] https://www.hornady.com/team-hornady/ballistic-calculators/#!/) for people who would prefer not to download a bunch of apps. Price: FREE w/ in-app purchases
While Hornady hangs its hat on 4DOF, Lapua has upped the game with 6DOF. They describe the six degrees as “moving up and down (elevating/heaving); moving left and right (strafing/swaying); moving forward and backward (walking/surging); swivelling left and right (yawing); tilting forward and backward (pitching); and pivoting from side to side (rolling).”
Obviously, the app with always be up-to-date with the latest offerings from Lapua, but it also has plenty of other options to choose from and you can certainly add your own if the load of your choice is not listed.
The user interface is easy to navigate and visually pleasing as well. That might seem like a silly thing to consider, but it really does make a difference.
Federal’s app is different from all of the others on this list. Not only is it a ballistic calculator with all of the basic capabilities you’d expect, but it can also recommend the right type of Federal ammo for your needs. Then, it can use GPS to find the nearest location where you can purchase the ammo.
Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, the National Shooting Sports Foundation has teamed up with Federal to use your GPS location and provide you with the nearest location where you can go shoot that newly purchased Federal ammo and try out their ballistic calculator!
The app is available from Google Play and the Apple Store. Price: FREE
Choose from one of 2,500 bullets in the BallisticsARC library and pair it with the data from your specific rifle. Then, connect via Bluetooth to weather meters or use BallisticArc’s own Weather API system online to get accurate conditions right from the FAA. From there, the data will roll in and provide you with the dope you need to put your shots right on target.
By using your phone’s GPS, the app can also pinpoint your location and provide detailed map overlays that allow you to track your exact shooting and impact locations.
Honorable Mention: Strelok
Strelok’s interface is super simple. Punch in your load data, distance, and rifle specs, and then press “Calculate!” That’s it. No muss, no fuss.
What I think is the coolest feature, however, is the ability to pull up and manipulate reticles from more than 100 of the most popular scopes/optics on the market today. This will allow you to see accurate wind and distance corrections on your phone screen so that you can instantly make the corrections without touching your scope settings.
Sure, you can always adjust the turrets, too, but this allows you to quickly adapt without fussing with caps. Pretty cool.
Technology is a wonderful thing. The vast majority of us never go anywhere without our phones, so these apps are incredibly convenient. That’s not to say, though, that the standalone units don’t still have their place because they absolutely do.
Most notably is battery life. Running these apps on your phone will definitely take a toll on the battery, so if you’re concerned about this, a dedicated unit may be a better option for you, or some kind of backup battery setup for your phone.
Don’t miss your shot or have your day at the range cut short because your phone died.