What Happens To A Bullet After You Pull The Trigger?

By now, most of us are familiar with the resulting impact of a bullet shot; in fact, so familiar that we have since readily accepted the powerful impact the bullet can bring about. If we take a moment to ponder, it is quite amazing to note that a tiny bullet can travel far distances within seconds of firing, and also cause such extensive damage. What exactly is the science behind how bullets work?

The concept behind the design

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To fully comprehend the workings of the bullet, it is pertinent to first understand how the bullet is deliberately crafted in order to make it fulfil its desired impact.

Firstly, it is important to note that the term ‘bullet’ is often misunderstood to represent the entire cartridge. In fact, the bullet only refers to the head of the cartridge, and will work with other components contained within the cartridge to bring about its final effect.

There are four main components of a cartridge: the bullet, located at the head of the cartridge and will hit the intended target; the propellant, which bears an explosive nature (usually gunpowder) and burns swiftly to release a substantial amount of pressure, which in turn provides the force to push the bullet forward; the primer, which lies at the base of the cartridge and also constitutes a combustible substance which explodes to set the propellant burning; and lastly, the case, usually made of brass, which holds all components together.

The trigger is pulled

Let’s break down the split-second processes for clearer understanding. First, the gun has to be loaded by placing the bullet cartridge into the firing chamber of the gun. The cartridge is designed to fit snugly into the gun barrel, to prevent the explosive gas from escaping through the front of the barrel. The trigger is then pulled, which drives the firing pin forward into the barrel, hitting the primer of the cartridge. The explosive component in the primer is then set ablaze.

In the second stage, due to the burning primer, the gunpowder in the propellant catches fire and explodes, releasing gases which builds the huge amount of pressure behind the bullet.

Thirdly, the firing process is explained by Newton’s third law of motion. This law states that for every course of action taken, an equal amount of force will be created in the opposite direction. In this case, when the primer is ignited, the huge amount of gas and pressure created will push against the back of the barrel.

Due to the lack of escape for this amount of pressure, it will then be directed to push the bullet cartridge out of the barrel, along with its course of escape. During this time, the propellant will continue to burn while the bullet is moving through the barrel of the gun. The tight-fitting design of the barrel will ensure that this pressure will result in high velocity of the bullet. The cartridge and exhaust will then be left behind after the bullet is being shot out.

Ensuring optimal impact of a gunshot

The optimal performance of a bullet is to bring about maximum damage on its intended target. To do this, the bullet will have to be sure to hit as accurately as possible, while also having sufficient force to penetrate the target. However, since bullets are mostly fired from a distance away from the target, bullets are not able to fly in a perfect straight line throughout the whole course of flight in the air. Many features are hence added to ensure as perfect a flight as possible.

Starting from the gun itself, the barrel is not merely a passageway for the bullet to travel through; it can also be deliberately designed to ensure optimal shooting. Many gun barrels have specially crafted grooves which spins the bullet as it moves through the barrel, and in the air when it leaves the barrels. The purpose of spinning the bullet is to stabilize its course, so it can fly as straight through the air as possible.

Gravity acts as an obstacle in the flight of a bullet by pulling it toward the ground. In addition, there is also air resistance in the air, contributed by the presence of air molecules. This is termed as drag, which will deter the traveling speed of the bullet. To counter these for optimal performance, the bullets are carefully designed with a pointed head and a boat-tail, with a streamlined body. This aerodynamic design will allow the bullet to travel through the air with minimal air resistance.

The penetrative and damage-causing capability of a bullet is dependent on its size and traveling speed. Despite the small size of the bullet, great damage can result due to the high traveling speed. This speed is converted into high momentum (which is the multiplication of velocity and mass), granting the bullet sufficient damaging power to penetrate into the target. This explains why some bullets are powerful enough to penetrate through numerous layers of objects.

The whole process explained above happens within split seconds, which cannot be observed through naked eyes, adding to its amazing ability when we consider the destruction it can result in.

If you interested in learning how to fire a firearm, you should first learn the safety aspects of it. At ReadyAim Firearms Safety, we provide lessons for the aforementioned. Call us today to arrange your lessons.