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Precision of a sphere impact and velocity forces

  1. May 29, 2012 #1
    I am a police officer specializing in less lethal weapons. This question has come up many times and is beyond my understanding of physics to explain it. Please help:

    We use a tool called a PepperBall. It is the same shape and diameter of a paintball. This sphere however is rigid plastic instead of the flexible paintball rubber. When it impacts the sphere breaks, releasing a pharmaceutical grade pepper powder. This powder is an irritant to the human eyes, nose, lungs and so on.

    The projectile is fired from an air compressed launcher- similar to a paintball gun. The projectiles are launched at (+ or -) 350 feet per second. We have found through altering the air pressure we can increase the velocity of the projectile to over 500 feet per second. However, at about 400-425 feet per second the round projectile starts veering off target and looks like a knuckleball for lack of a better explanation. At 275-350 feet per second the round is generally point of aim-point of impact at constant distances.

    We have controlled the variables we can such as shooting them inside with little to no wind. We have also tried to shoot them in similar conditions such as relative humidity. But for some reason these veer off target dramatically with higher velocities. The mass of the projectile is constant at about 4 grams.

    Can anyone explain in relative lay terms what causes a spherical object to be less accurate and veer off in flight with higher velocities? Thanks for your time. I will include attributions to anyone that can help me understand this phenomenon.
  2. jcsd
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