The Physics
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Range of a Handgun Bullet

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NRA Firearms Fact Book. Yew York. Second Edition. 1983. "a 9 mm 120 grain bullet fired out of an average sized handgun at 45 degrees elevation will travel about 2300 meters before falling." 2300 m
Williams, Anthony. Basic Ballistics. Version I: 7 June 2002. "The benefit of boat-tailing at very long range can be demonstrated by two .30-06 bullets, both weighing 180 grains (11.7 g) and fired at 2,700 fps (823 m/s). At sea level, the flat-based bullet will travel a maximum of 3,800 m, the boat-tail 5,200 M." 3800 m*
5200 m*
Kelly, Kenneth Sergeant. 60th Precinct, City of New York. Personal Interview. 21 May 2002. "A 9mm bullet travels around 1500 ft/s. It will travel around 2500 yards before it falls." 2300 m
Carter K. Lord. Maximum Range of Ammunition. National Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology Center. January 1998. "The table below shows the average maximum range in yards of several types of popular handgun and rifle ammunition. The calculations were made for Sea Level and 72 °F. Warmer temperatures and higher elevations will significantly increase the maximum range of the bullets. [see table below]" 2200 m
Maximum Range of Ammunition Abbreviations: ACP - Automatic Colt Pistol, BT - Boat tail, gr - grains (7000 gr per pound), RN - Round Nose, SP - Soft Point, FP - Flat Point
Caliber Weight/Type Muzzle
Velocity (ft/s)
Range (yd)
Velocity at
Impact (ft/s)
.22 Long Rifle 40 gr RN 1255 2000 300
.223 Remington 55 gr SP BT 3240 3875 545
30-06* Springfield 180 gr SP BT 2700 5675 800
9mm Luger 124 gr RN 1120 2400 350
45 ACP 230 gr RN 850 1800 330
44 Magnum 240 gr FP 1760 2500 350

Handguns are an extremely diverse type of weapon. Each is unique and varies in its capabilities. The maximum range of a bullet fired out of a handgun is different for each type of gun. A bullet shot out of a gun will eventually slow down due to the drag factor. The drag factor is due to the gradual accumulation of air resistance as the bullet loses momentum. The maximum range of a handgun is determined by the muzzle velocity, ballistic coefficient, air temperature, amount of gun powder, angle shot and form factor. The following formula can be used to determine an individual gun's maximum range:

Muzzle Velocity * Ballistic Coefficient (BC) = Maximum Range
Ballistic Coefficient is determined by Form Factor (FF) and Sectional Density (SD)
SD = (Projectile Weight (grams) * (1.422)/square of caliber (mm)

For example

12.7 mm bullet weights 40 grams (40*1.422)/(12.7)2 = 0.353

It is extremely difficult to find the form factor of a bullet without careful calculations. However if the type of bullet is know then the form factor can be looked up in the following table.

Type of Bullet Form Factor
Flat nose lead 0.8
Round nose lead 0.9
Round nose jacketed 1.0
Semi Pointed soft point 0.9–1.1
Pointed Soft Point 1.2–1.6
Pointed Full Jacket 1.5–1.8
Pointed Full Jacket Boat Tailed 1.9–2.0

The ballistic coefficient can now be determined. The final step is to learn the muzzle velocity of the gun and multiply it by the ballistic coefficient.

Typically a 9 mm bullet shot out of a medium sized handgun will travel 2200 meters before it will fall to the ground. A bullet almost never travels this far before it actually hits something. So don't test this theory because chances are you will shoot someone or break something.

Domna Antoniadis -- 2002

* The .30-06 (thirty ought six) is a type of rifle ammunition. Handguns do not use this caliber.

Editor's Supplement -- 2006

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