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How To Read The Wind – The Ultimate Guide – 1

In Blog by Rich18 Comments

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!

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.

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The Kestrel is an invaluable tool for learning to read the wind and weather conditions in your respective area!

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.

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A printed Density Altitude card will give you a drop chart or list of “come ups” to dial for different ranges based on the Density Altitude you specify

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!

Wrapping Up

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!

Owner and Proprietor of AccuracyTech, LLC. Rich is a Firearms Enthusiast, Precision Rifle Competitor, and Writer. He is committed to bringing readers quality reviews and articles related to the Precision Shooting Sports. If you have any questions for him, please use the contact form on the site.

Comments

  1. I recently purchased a Remington 700 with a Shilen match barrel, B&C stock, and a couple other things. It was built for a friend that ended up not getting to do much if any long distance shooting. My first time out, we zeroed at 100. My scope has a mil reticle with MOA adjustments. My 5th shot, using 168gr SMK rang the steel at 600 yards. Obviously being new to precision shooting, I needed a spotter. We got my distance dopes down, and the wind was all over the place. I ended up adjusting for distance and holding for windage based on the angle of the flags, and I had tremendous success, whether it was luck or intuition from hunting. Eventually we moved out to 900 and 1000 yards, my friend gave me a few boxes of 175gr, and we started dialing into the greater distances. 1000 eluded me for a bit, but with my distance adjustments and windage holds, I was able to ring 900 with relative ease, seeing as it was my first time beyond 300. I now have a newfound love for precision shooting, by far my favorite platform and shooting style. Great articles here, and I look forward to Implementing a few things I learned here next Sunday. Take care.

      1. I’m lucky I have a friend that has been doing it for a decent amount of time. He’s already offered to let me work up a custom load with his equipment and supplies so long as I reimburse him. Starting with 175gr SMKs and around 43.6gr vargot. 1k range is only a 90 minute drive.

        1. Author

          It definitely helps to have some help from friends already in the know!

          Always start low and work up with your handloads, be safe, buddy!

    1. Author

      Not so much, the main thing that changes with seasons is indicators. Leaves on the ground in the fall help, no leaves in the winter and snow covering the grass makes it more difficult.

  2. Dens Alt What difference does the numbers have to make? Can I get a ticket?…

    1. Author

      You’ll start to see a difference in DOPE with a change of around 2000ft DA, and the longer the shot…the sooner it will matter

      1. I want to know Dens Alt data. Is there any way? Do I have to lower the scope creek by 0.1mil when the Dens Alt increases to 2000?

        1. Author

          You need a Kestrel to measure density altitude. You’ll need to use a ballistics calculator, like JBM, to know how it will affect the bullet’s flight.

          1. I am using the kestrel 4500 ballistic version
            However, measurement of Dens Alt is possible. Do you change my creek if you make a difference of 2000 feet?

          2. Author

            If you’re using a ballistic Kestrel just dial whatever the Kestrel tells you.

    1. Author

      The sensor probably isn’t as accurate as a Kestrel but it’s better than using data from a station miles away.

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