Is it possible to see a flying bullet?

I was at a gun range today with a friend, shooting a 9mm hand gun.

When he was shooting, I was standing behind him, watching. After a few shots, I realized that I may have seen a glimpse of the bullets as they flew downrange.

I watched some more, and it did seem this way, although it was hard to see them and the barrel flash did not clarify things.

I am wondering, if, perhaps, it is known that flying bullets of that sort of size and speed can be actually seen.

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I don't know & have never even fired a gun, however:

If you are standing close to directly behind the shooter your odds are increased. You can probably see a bullet out to 10 meters or so from behind. What is the bullet's speed? How long would it take to travel the "visible" 10m?

1000 fps ~= 300m/s T = 10/300 ~= 33mS

Not very long.

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If you stand in the middle of the firing range, so that the bullet passes by you at, say, 10-30 ft away, and you rotate yer head so that the angular velocity subtended by yer eyes matches the angular velocity of the bullet wrt to yer head, you have the best, uh, shot at actually seeing the bullet.

I believe you could, with some practice. Simple enough to do the calcs. If 10-30 ft away requires an angular velocity/acceleration of the head/neck that is muscularly unmanageable, this can be slowed by simply moving further back (but still staying in the middle of the firing range), and mebbe with a 'scope or sumpn. You would also need a visual signal for when the trigger is actually squeezed.

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Existential Angst

Depends on the background illumination -- but looking along the flight path is probably the best bet for seeing one before the size dwindles too small to be seen as it leaves your vicinity.

[ ... ]

But very short times can seem longer in the excitement of the moment. :-0

You need a varying angular rate, as the angle goes fastest when the bullet is at right angles to you.

If you want to try this (and have plenty of steel between you and *all* of the guns uprange :-) the best bet would be a small rotating mirror triggered by the sound of the gun firing. Even with that, it is rather tricky to control the angle rate to keep the bullet in view. A spring driven one would be accelerating the whole time from release, unless the spring is at neutral near the right angle point. Perhaps add on a small flywheel to control the rate of acceleration and deceleration.

But personally -- I would not want to be in that part of the range, no matter how good the steel between me and the firing line was. :-)

Enjoy, DoN.

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DoN. Nichols

Agreed! Much safer to flick your vision across the screen of a CRT TV or the muliplexed LEDs on a bedside clock or similar appliance.

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Low velocity pistol bullets can be seen from behind . I've seen muzzleloader balls/bullets myself - these are larger diameter and slower than most pistol bullets however . A guy with keen eyesight and fast reflexes might very well be able to see 9mm slugs in flight if conditions are right . Neither my eyes nor my reflexes are capable of it ...

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Very few shooters here?

Of course one can see a bullet fly, with the right lighting it's very common thing with 22 caliber and 45 caliber handguns.

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T.Alan Kraus

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I've watched pistol tracers and was surprised by how slow they seem.

Brass-plated "Golden" BBs are visible in flight in bright sun against a dark background. I think bullets could be if the jacket is plated across the back, instead of dark lead. I've seen them as streaks on a video and -maybe- at the range, as a bubble of distortion in the humid air. My eyes can barely make out a 4" black bullseye at 100 meters.

Reply to
Jim Wilkins

A _Most_Excellent_ Movie, Ted. (Or was that Bill?)

-- In an industrial society which confuses work and productivity, the necessity of producing has always been an enemy of the desire to create. -- Raoul Vaneigem

Reply to
Larry Jaques

If you are behind the shooter and in line or very close to the centerline of his shots you can see the bullet as it travels. Larger diameter is easier to see.

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Steve W.

Or .22 match ammo in bright sunlight. My friend used to bring his match rifle and Eley target ammo to a quarry where we'd shoot targets. If I stood behind him, I could watch every round going downrange.

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Ed Huntress

"Steve W." fired this volley in news:jor08d$d7j$1

I carried an M1 "Grease Gun" for part of my tour in 'Nam. You definitely could see the rounds going downrange with that weapon. Of course, .45ACP ain't a very high velocity round to start with.

OTOH, it was a good "brush gun".


Reply to
Lloyd E. Sponenburgh

I've seen bullets in flight as well, many times. Specifically, a 22 long rifle round flying out over a lake, so the background was distant.

Joe Gwinn

Reply to
Joseph Gwinn

I'll bet you could text on your smart phone and not miss a single round, either.

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I've certainly seen BB's coming out of a moderately good gun -- a clear day with the sun at your back seems to help. Basically if the trajectory is flat and your eye is close to the axis of the barrel, the bullet doesn't move in your field of vision, no matter how rapidly it may be shrinking.

But I haven't shot many 'real' guns, so I don't have direct experience.

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Tim Wescott

I quite often see bullets in flight. With rifles, I see them though the scope dropping in on the target from outside my cone of vision. With pistols I need to be close to the line of travel, have back lighting, and .45's are easier to see than smaller stuff.


-- "Additionally as a security officer, I carry a gun to protect government officials but my life isn't worth protecting at home in their eyes." Dick Anthony Heller

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Certainly. I recall watching .22 bullets from my rifle when shooting with a low setting sun at my back. Does that count?


Reply to
Paul Drahn

Sure. You can see bright objects that are much smaller than your eyes can resolve, like stars.


Reply to
Jim Wilkins

shock wave radiating out behind the bullet. That is a much larger phenomenon than the bullet itself. If the light is polarized, as when reflected off water, windshields, etc. it turns the range into a Schlieren camera which easily detects variations in air density, and would make the effect much more visible.


Reply to
Jon Elson

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