Best Ballistic Calculators: Get Dialed In!

by Kat Ainsworth-Stevens

February 2, 2024

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Sport shooters, precision rifle competitors, hunters, and others can all benefit from using a good ballistic calculator. The right ballistic calculator can help you calculate everything from drift and drop to range and velocity. That means shooters have the ability to make precise shots through careful calculations instead of guesswork, and that’s important when you’re making longer range shots. But how do you know which ballistic calculator to use? There are quite a few on the market, and we’ve done the homework to figure out which ones are the best ballistic calculators for various applications. 

Best Ballistic Calculator

Types of Ballistic Calculator

When selecting a ballistic calculator, it helps to understand the different types. The type determines portability, accuracy, and accessibility, so it’s wise to take note of the type of calculator before you choose one. The various types of ballistic calculator include:

  • Apps/Software
  • Web-based tools
  • Handheld devices

Applications and software: These ballistics calculators are the kind you can download to your smart phone. They might be free or paid for and their accuracy depends on the specific program. Some apps work independently of any outside device, relying instead on the shooter to input calculations, while others connect to a device. 

Web-based tools: A ballistic calculator that is web-based requires you to visit a website on your handheld device or laptop computer to enter certain details. After you enter details, the tool makes a calculation on the expected outcome at varying distances and with whatever wind or weather you entered for conditions. Most, but not all, web-based ballistic calculators work with whatever load data you entered. Some of these tools are brand-specific and limited to only the loads made by the brand hosting the tool.

Handheld devices: If the ballistic calculator is its own unit, rather than being a program downloaded to your smartphone, it’s a handheld device. These meters usually monitor the weather where you are—meaning there needs to be some sort of signal available—and give you real-time information based on weather conditions. You’ll still need to enter basic load data, but the device handles the calculations based on your environment at the time.

Gun University’s Choices of the Best Ballistic Calculator

Best Ballistic Calculator

Hornady Ballistics
  • Free!
  • 4DOF system
  • Big ammo library
Get the App
Applied Ballistics
  • Highly detailed ballistics app for your phone
  • Android or Apple
  • Huge bullet library
Get the App
Kestrel 5700X Elite Weather Meter
  • Uses Applied Ballistics
  • Stores up to 30 guns
  • Connects with LiNK compatible devices
Buy on Amazon
Shooter’s Calculator Ballistic Trajectory Calculator
  • Free to use
  • Ballistics, KE, recoil, and point blank range calculations
Check it out

The Best Ballistic Calculators

The ballistic calculator that works best for you depends on what you’re doing with it. If you require the greatest precision possible, you’re going to want a ballistic calculator that does more than calculate numbers online. If you’re fine with generalities, an online tool might be fine. It simply depends on the application and how much precision you require. These are our top choices for the best ballistic calculators:

  1. Best free app: Hornady Ballistics
  2. Best paid app: Applied Ballistics
  3. Best handheld: Kestrel 5700X Elite Weather Meter
  4. Best free web-based: Shooter’s Calculator Ballistic Trajectory Calculator

Best Ballistic Calculator – Reviews 

1 Hornady Ballistics : Best free ballistic calculator app

Hornady Ballistic Calculator App

Hornady Ballistics

A free ballistics app from Hornady to help get you started with longer ranger shooting.

Hornady Ballistics Review

The Hornady Ballistics app is a ballistic calculator that you download to your Android through Google Play or to your iPhone through the App Store. According to the company, the app uses 4DOF trajectory and ballistic calculations. The 4DOF stands for Four Degrees of Freedom and, at the time of its launch, it was the first of its kind to offer the calculations for aerodynamic jump (the vertical changes in a bullet caused by a crosswind). It calculates windage, elevation, range, and movement as it relates to line of flight. This is a great app for basic needs and it’s designed to be accurate out to extreme long range distances.

This app is free to download and use, although there are some in-app purchases. To use the app effectively, you need to input the following information:  bullet manufacturer, name, caliber and weight, muzzle velocity, sight height, barrel twist rate, and axial form factor. Information is displayed in standard or metric units and output units can be displayed as MOA, MRADS, inches, or centimeters. There’s also an optional Temperature Sensitivity Factor (TSF) that you can add to further fine-tune results.

You can customize the output to your preferences. Default options include range, total come up, total windage, and gyroscopic stability, while optional options include no wind trajectory, aerodynamic jump, wind drift, spin drift, velocity, energy, and time of flight (TOF). Thanks to the fact that Hornady engineers used Doppler radar to help construct this program, it’s quite accurate. So it might be free, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t well-made and worth using for your ballistic calculations.

Hornady Ballistics Pros and Cons

  • Free!
  • Features 4DOF
  • Less features than purchased apps

2 Applied Ballistics : Best paid ballistic calculator app

Applied Ballistics App

Applied Ballistics

A premium ballistics app for your phone for those that are very serious about long range shooting.

Applied Ballistics Review

If you’re in need of extreme precision and a vast array of calculation options, the Applied Ballistics app might be a fantastic fit. This app can be downloaded to your Android through Google Play or to your iPhone through the App Store. At the time of this writing, it costs $29.99 to download. It’s geared toward dedicated long-range shooters and competitors, and the features—and results—prove it. There is an additional benefit of utilizing Applied Ballistics that’s worth mentioning here even though it isn’t for the app. On the company’s website, there’s extensive educational material available for free to teach you about everything from measuring muzzle velocity to weapon employment zone analysis. You can also check out the most recent bullet library, which is currently listing 830 centerfire bullets, 17 rimfire bullets, and 65 PDM bullets. The site is a wealth of information.

This app includes some great features like bullet comparison graphs, reticle output view, and interactive heads-up. Input includes access to a rifle library, ammo library, custom drag curves, environment, and profiles (yes, you can create profiles for specific rifles, ammo, and sights). As for input details, you need to name the profile and add the barrel twist rate, twist direction, sight height, sight offset, reticle, reticle true magnification, reticle high magnification, elevation unit, elevation turret grad, windage unit, windage turret grad, lead unit, elevation correct factor, and windage correction factor. Yes, it’s a lot, and that’s only for the rifle and optic.

For the ammo itself, you name the profile, then add the bullet diameter, weight, and length, along with the muzzle velocity, MV variation, powder temperature, atmosphere standard, and drag model. There’s more, but you get the idea. You have the ability to add an enormous amount of information to the Applied Ballistics app and the more detail you provide, the better the results. This is the same app used for many handhelds, such as the understandably popular Kestrel brand. When you pair it with a handheld device, you’re able to get real-time weather input, which is valuable. The Applied Ballistics app is fantastic.

Applied Ballistics Pros and Cons

  • Extremely detailed
  • Same system used in some handhelds
  • Not Free
  • May be too complicated for non tech savvy users
Kestrel 5700X Elite Weather Meter

Kestrel 5700X Elite Weather Meter with Applied Ballistics and LiNK

Kestrel 5700X Elite Weather Meter with Applied Ballistics and LiNK

For data on the weather where you are at that moment in time, you’re best served by a handheld ballistic calculator. Kestrel brand calculators are inarguably the most widely trusted, and for good reason. They’re well-made, reliable, and produce excellent results. The Kestrel 5700X Elite Weather Meter with Applied Ballistics and LiNK is designed for superior results in the field and can be used for multiple long-range targets. It uses the Applied Ballistics program to make calculations and LiNK for wireless Bluetooth connectivity to Android (at this time it doesn’t connect to iPhone). The unit itself is drop-proof, dust-proof, waterproof, and made to withstand serious use and exposure to the elements. It runs off a single AA battery and has a battery life indicator, so you’re aware of how much life is left.

Features of the Kestrel 5700X Elite Weather Meter include an intuitive, tactical menu, multilingual capabilities, pressure sensor, temperature sensor, aerodynamic jump correct, connectivity with LiNK  compatible range finders, G1/G7 drag models, MV-temp table, spin drift correction, subsonic range drop  scale factor calibration, and target range estimator. Environmental measures include altitude, barometric pressure, crosswind, density altitude, dew point temperature, headwind and tailwind, heat stress index, relative humidity, absolute pressure, temperature, wet bulb temperature, wind chill, wind direction, and wind speed. This handheld offers all the features of the Applied Ballistics app, only better, because it also measures every imaginable aspect of your environment. The pros trust Kestrel.

  • Can link to compatible systems
  • Factors in exact weather conditions at location
  • Expensive

4 Shooter’s Calculator Ballistic Trajectory Calculator : Best free web-based ballistic calculator

Shooter’s Calculator Ballistic Trajectory Calculator

Shooter’s Calculator Ballistic Trajectory Calculator

A web based ballistics calculator that is free to use.

Shooter’s Calculator Ballistic Trajectory Calculator Review

If a basic, web-based ballistic calculator is all you need, check out the Shooter’s Calculator Ballistic Trajectory Calculator. Simply visit the Shooter’s Calculator website to access it, and enter in the details. Keep in mind that this calculator is more of an estimation and isn’t going to be as precise in its results as the other programs. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its uses, though. It’s a great basic tool for random queries about ballistics or entry-level information. Using this calculator can be a good starting point to get a feel for how a ballistics calculator works and to get an idea of the general performance of a load.

Input data for the Shooter’s Calculator single trajectory graph and chart includes a profile name, drag function, ballistic coefficient, bullet weight, velocity, zero range, sight height, shooting angle, wind speed, and wind angle. If you have the atmospheric information, you can add altitude, temperature, barometric pressure, and relative humidity. The resulting chart can be set to MOA, MIL, metric units, or a combination. Chart columns include range in yards, elevation in inches, elevation in MOA, elevation in MIL, windage in inches, windage in MOA, windage in MIL, time, energy, and velocity. It’s a fairly comprehensive chart and works fine for estimating ballistic calculations.

Shooter’s Calculator Ballistic Trajectory Calculator Pros and Cons

  • Free to use
  • Has more than ballistics calculators
  • Cant bring it with you

Should you get a ballistic calculator?

It’s a good idea to get a ballistic calculator if you’re spending much time doing long-range shooting or hunting. A calculator saves you a lot of guesswork and hand calculations, and using the right one correctly means greater accuracy on target with faster speed. Whether you choose a basic app or an in-depth handheld device depends on how much use you’re really going to get out of it. And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with starting with the most basic program out there and eventually upgrading. The right ballistic calculator can change your long-range shooting game for the better.

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About Kat Ainsworth-Stevens

Kat is a respected author and dedicated student of the gun. To date, she has published three books and written thousands of articles on firearms and self-defense in print and online.

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