I’m finally getting around to this one, How To Read The Wind – The Ultimate Guide! I’m going to stress from the get go that this is merely one of several ways of going reading, or doping, the wind. The idea is to observe what is happening around you, come up with an idea of how that will affect your bullet’s path during flight, and apply a correction or hold in order to ensure a hit. How people go about this is subject to a lot of lore and superstition. If you have your own technique that works for you, that’s great! In fact, add it to the comments, the more information people have at their disposal, the better! This is just how I do it. It’s meant to give newer, or less experienced shooters, an idea and a way to get started. This is a broad topic, with many components, so it’s going to be broken up into several posts!
- How to Read the Wind – The Ultimate Guide – 1 – Getting Started
- How to Read the Wind – The Ultimate Guide – 2 – Wind Angles
- How to Read the Wind – The Ultimate Guide – 3 – Wind Speed
- How to Read the Wind – The Ultimate Guide – 4 – Equipment & Terrain Effects
- How to Read the Wind – The Ultimate Guide – 5 – Putting It All Together
Wind Reading – Getting Started
You really need a Kestrel for this. It doesn’t have to be a $650 Applied Ballistics model, but you do need one that will at a minimum give you wind speed, and ideally also display Density Altitude. You need wind speed to be able to calibrate your senses so that what you feel matches up with what’s actually happening. Many people will get hit with a gust of a wind and say, “Hey, that feels like a 10mph wind!” Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Without a Kestrel to practice with and verify what you feel is actually what’s happening, you’ll never know. Hence the necessity of a Kestrel or some kind of wind reading device. The most affordable Kestrel that will give you Density Altitude is the Kestrel 4000.
The reason I would prefer you purchase a model that displays Density Altitude is because it is a very accurate measurement of the air’s density. This is what really affects the flight of your projectile. You can measure humidity, temperature, altitude, barometric pressure, etc. but all those components are factored into and help to determine what your Density Altitude is. To put it simply, it’s one all encompassing measurement that simplifies things for the shooter. It also makes printing dope charts easier because you can print them for the Density Altitudes you shoot in most. Rather than trying to constantly adjust a half dozen parameters every time you shoot in a different place, just look at the Density Altitude, or DA, and roll with that.
If you aren’t sure how to go about generating a drop chart, we have an article for that! Our article on Generating a Drop Chart takes all factors into account. JBM Ballistics has a simplified generator that works the same way as what we describe in our article. The difference? It goes off of Density Altitude! Rather than plugging in all the environmental data, you specify the specific Density Altitude that you want the chart generated off of and the calculator will do the rest of the work. You still need to input data for your rifle and bullet, muzzle velocity, etc. but it’s a much simpler way of generating charts for use in the field!
Establishing a Baseline
We wrote an article on Proper Wind Call Communication a while back, if you haven’t read it yet, please do so now as it directly applies to learning to read the wind. The premise of that article, and something you need to do moving forward as you learn to read the wind, is to establish and use a baseline. You need some kind of standard with which to compare the effects of wind on the world around you. You need a standard to be able to relate what you see to your friends and shooting buddies. You especially need a way to relate what you know in any professional or competitive environments. That standard is the 10mph Full Value Wind!
Run all your drop charts with the values for wind set to 10mph for speed, and full value, or 90 degrees, for the wind angle. That establishes a clear, concise, baseline of the wind’s effects that is universally translatable. You can take two shooters using completely different calibers where the muzzle velocities, ballistic coefficients, even the angular measurements of their optics can all be different…and teach them to communicate. If I tell you that I just hit my target using three quarters of my 10mph Full Value wind adjustment at 1000 yards, that’s all you need to know. It doesn’t matter if I’m using MILs and you’re using MOA, caliber is irrelevant, even muzzle velocity. I just told you all you need to know! You look up what your 10mph Full Value wind adjustment is for the same range, and use three quarters of what it calls for like I did, and you’re almost guaranteed a hit! I only say almost because conditions do change, often, but more than likely that information will get you on target. So get in the habit of talking in the context of your 10mph Full Value wind and running your dope charts based off that as a baseline!
In the next installment of the How to Read The Wind – The Ultimate Guide series we’re going to get into wind angles. How to dope the angle of the wind and compensate for the effects of different angle changes on our adjustments. Remember, the best thing you can do with regard to practice as we go through these articles is to get out there and do it! Take your Kestrel out, leave the rifle at home, and just observe what is happening around you. Make a guess as to what the wind speed is and check it with your Kestrel! This is a complex, multi-faceted, topic…so if you have questions, ask them in the comments below!