Localizing the Threat

For all of our many-splendored modern accomplishments man has really not advanced much farther than his primitive forebears when it comes to rending the very life from his enemies. Where our cave-dwelling precursors might have de-brained an erstwhile neighbor that was making goo-goo eyes at his comparably primitive woman with a handy rock, nowadays we just zip a carefully crafted bit of metal out to do the same job at a substantial distance. Whether the tool is an 18th century .75-caliber Brown Bess flintlock musket or an Information Age FN SCAR, the basic concept remains the same.

In modern combat the first challenge is usually finding the guy who is trying to kill you. While God gave us some remarkably effective tools to help us accomplish that mission, modern technology has now enhanced that capability substantially. To understand gunshot locating, however, we must first appreciate a spot of science.

A Quick Bit of Physics

All modern small arms accelerate a projectile to high velocity by means of an exothermic chemical reaction contained within a pressure vessel. Where the Terminator’s phased plasma rifle may indeed be just around the corner, for now it is still all just good old-fashioned guns and bullets. The detectable byproducts of this process can be broken down into three broad categories. The guns and their projectiles produce noise, there is typically some degree of muzzle flash, and the transiting bullet, if traveling faster than sound, creates a shockwave. All three of these signatures can be analyzed to localize the source of a gunshot.

The science of gunfire location was first used during World War I to identify the source of artillery fire based upon its unique sonic signature. Microphones arrayed kilometers apart would register the low-frequency report of artillery pieces firing and then, by applying a little acoustical science along …read more

Read more here:: Small Arms Defense Journal (Land)

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