The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Speed of a Bullet

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Bibliographic Entry Result
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Cutnell, John D. & Johnson, Kenneth W. Physics.3rd ed. New York: Wiley, 208-209. "With this value for vf, it is now possible to determine the speed of the bullet … +896 m/s" 896 m/s
Ballistics. The World Book Encyclopedia. New York: World Book, 1998. "With modern propulsion techniques, the projectile's initial velocity may be as high as 4000 feet (1200 meters) per second for some rifles and 5000 feet (1500 meters) per second for some large guns." 1200–1500 m/s
Bullet. The World Book Encyclopedia. New York: World Book, 1998. "The velocity (speed) of rifle bullets varies between 600 and 5000 feet (180 and 1500 meters) per second. Some bullets can hit targets as far away as 6000 yards (5000 meters)." 180–1500 m/s
Petzal, David E. "How fast is a speeding bullet." Field and Stream. 97 (1992): 23.
.22 rimfire cartridge 1200–1500 fps
.22 centerfire cartridge 2400–3000 fps
.22 Swift 4000 fps
.38 Special 600 fps
.221 Fireball 2650 fps
180–1220 m/s

Everyone knows that Superman is faster than a speeding bullet, but how fast does a speeding bullet travel? Speeds fluctuate and depend upon several factors.

Gravity makes a projectile fall toward the earth while in flight. The projectile's size, shape, and the air density affect the speed by which it travels. Air resistance slows the speed of a bullet and reduces the distance by which it travels.

The velocity of a bullet is given in feet per second (fps) in the United States. The 0.22 rimfire cartridge, which has a very small powder charge, sends its bullets on their way at between 370 m/s and 460 m/s. Cartridges in rifles -- centerfire cartridges -- propel their bullets at a much faster rate. The 0.220 Swift, which drives a very small bullet at over 1220 m/s, is the cartridge with the highest velocity.

Shotgun pellets vary very little in velocity. The slowest speed at 335 m/s, while the fastest travel at close to 427 m/s.

Given all the above information about bullet speeds, I can't help but feel amazed at how fast Superman flies, considering that he travels faster than a speeding bullet -- if there is a Superman.

Maria Pereyra -- 1999

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