We all know that a bullet fired from a gun is one of the fastest projectile weapons out there. The concussive force of a bullet is insane, and the speed at which they travel makes them basically invisible to the human eye.
There are few things comparable to the speed of an exploding projectile, but two of them we use every day. One is light, in any form, whether that be retractions, reflections, or just light itself, and the other is sound.
The speed of sound and our ability to interpret it is an incredible thing.
It has made sound based language possible and given rise to incredible music, but that doesn’t mean, nothing can surpass the speed at which sound happens.
Humans have managed to invent a few devices that travel faster than the speed of sound, in effect breaking the sound barrier. But are bullets fired from a gun one of those things?
In this article, we seek to answer that very question.
What Is The Sound Barrier?
The sound barrier is an effect that happens to any object that is approaching the speed of sound, but has yet to pass it.
This effect basically acts – as the name suggests – as a barrier and often prevents objects from going faster.
As an object approaches the speed of sound, it will start to get buffeted by aerodynamic drag. The increased drag on the object pulls it back and decreases control of the object.
For the object, this means that it will struggle to maintain its speed and therefore also struggle to increase it to the point of passing the barrier.
This is the problem that airplane engineers faced when trying to make a craft that could surpass the sound barrier and engage in supersonic flight.
The first plane to break the sound barrier was in 1947 by Charles Yeager in the Bell X-1.
The way they managed this was to streamline the craft, make it rocket propelled – thus giving it a greater thrust -, and then increase its fuel supply to a far greater capacity, letting the rocket continue firing for longer.
Since that time, there have been quite a few vehicles to break the sound barrier, and they always leave a tell-tell sign that they have once they breach it.
That sign is a white cloud that envelops the craft before it speeds away.
This cloud forms due to decreased air pressure, where the craft has broken the speed of sound and has created a shockwave that pushes the air aside.
This marks the point at which the speed of sound – 767 mph – has been broken.
How Fast Do Bullets Travel?
Bullets travel at a speed of about 3,000 feet per second or 2000 miles per hour.
This is known as the muzzle velocity, and it is the speed at which the bullet leaves the gun and travels before the force pushing it dissipates.
The speed at which the bullet travels and the range at which the bullet can be heard are dependent on a number of factors.
The first one is the type of gun used. A pistol shot will travel at a much lower velocity than a rifle shot, as the pistol is a much shorter gun.
This is not the only factor that determines the speed of a bullet. The weight of the bullet itself is a factor, and it is determined by the number of grams of metal in the bullet.
The shape of the bullet’s nose and the type of gun used determines the amount of drag on the bullet. The heavier the bullet and the faster it moves, the more drag it produces.
Do Bullets Break The Sound Barrier?
Yes. Bullets fired from a gun are one of the fastest projectiles known to man. They travel at over 3,000 feet per second or 2000 miles per hour, which is faster than the speed of sound – 767 mph – through air.
If you were to shoot a bullet at a person and hear the crack of the sound it makes as it enters the barrel, you were actually hearing the speed at which the bullet was traveling.
Just like the shockwave and boom of a plane breaking the speed of sound, you are also hearing the bullets break the speed of sound when they fire.
There are several circumstances that can change the speed of a bullet.
The first one is that the gun used can change the velocity of the bullet, but this can also be done by other types of guns.
The second change is that the shape of the bullet itself can change the speed of the bullet. The heavier the bullet, the slower it moves.
However, generally this changes little and bullets will travel beyond the speed of sound regardless.
What Other Things Break The Sound Barrier?
While it is strange for things to break the sound barrier, there are quite a few naturally and man-made objects that do routinely break it:
-The Speed of Light – Yep. The speed of light is known to exceed Mach 1, which is the speed at which sound cannot be heard.
Light travels at the speed of 186,282 miles per second, and it is impossible to slow it down.
-Whips – So, this is an odd one, but you know that cracking noise that happens when you whip a whip? That is the whip breaking the sound barrier.
We know, strange, right? But when you crack a whip, the force travels up the entire length and increases with time, so by the time it reaches the end of a whip, it breaks the sound barrier.
Bullets fired from a gun go far past the speed of sound when fired and are one of the fastest projectiles known to man.
They travel at over 3,000 feet per second or 2000 miles per hour, and though they could never reach the speed of light, that is so fast that it is difficult to comprehend.
With the speed of sound being broken regularly, by vehicles, weaponry, and tools, it would be interesting to see what the next object to break the sound barrier will be.