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One thing that will help you shoot more accurately is if you know your ammunition’s velocity and other related data. Luckily, there’s a tool for that — a shooting chronograph. Not only can it measure the velocity of your shots but its data can also help you assess your reloading skills. No longer are chronographs only to be found in ballistics labs, but are now priced so as to be a regular part of a shooter’s kit. Shooting chronographs are easy to use and show you valuable data. In turn, these data can help you improve your reloading skills and the quality of your shots. Get that bullet to land where you want to with this shortlist of the best shooting chronographs. We’ll take a look at seven great options.
- Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph: A solid choice with 99.7% accuracy.
- Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph G2: A shooting chronograph that provides easy-to-read data and has a Bluetooth function.
- Gun Gear Depot Precision Chronograph: A great budget option
- Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph: It can measure any projectile’s velocity.
- LaBradar Ballistic Velocity Doppler Radar Chronograph: It’s pricey but provides the most accurate velocities.
- MagnetoSpeed V3 Ballistic Chronograph: It’s popular for its data logging feature and portability.
- Shooting Chrony 7000129 Beta Master Chronograph: This has .5% accuracy and long battery life.
Shooting chronographs offer help when firing long-range shots in target shooting and before hunting trips. In addition, chronographs could calculate a gun’s load data within seconds. Talk about a time (no pun intended!) and a life-saver!
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Some of you may already know that I have been in the gun industry for more than 40 years now. Over the last few years, I have tried and tested over 15 different chronographs. So, if you are unsure about getting one, then this article might serve as your ultimate buyer’s guide. Here’s the summary of the chronographs that I will discuss in this review:
|Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph|| ||$114 Shop NowClick to read my review|
|Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph G2|| ||$207 Shop NowClick to read my review|
|Gun Gear Depot Precision Chronograph|| ||$64 Shop NowClick to read my review|
|Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph|| ||$110 Shop NowClick to read my review|
|LaBradar Ballistic Velocity Doppler Radar Chronograph|| ||$559 Shop NowClick to read my review|
|MagnetoSpeed V3 Ballistic Chronograph|| ||$380 Shop NowClick to read my review|
|Shooting Chrony 7000129 Beta Master Chronograph|| ||$159 Shop NowClick to read my review|
Why Is a Chronograph Essential?
I have heard many people ask: “Why should we even bother buying a chronograph anyway?” Chronographs are useful, especially for long-range shooters attempting to test their loads’ accuracy. Moreover, these devices aim to give you data calculations of the load you use. Below are the three types of data that a chronograph measures:
- Velocity. A chronograph’s main function is to gauge how fast shots (e.g. bullets, arrows, pellets, etc.) move after firing. Once you determine a projectile’s velocity, the two remaining measurements will follow.
- Standard Deviation (SD). In a technical sense, a scientific deviation (SD) assesses a set of values’ dispersion. In simpler terms, SD tells you how spread out a data is. Low SDs state the values’ closeness to the expected value (also known as the mean). High SDs, meanwhile, show how the data stretches out over a larger range of values. Within the gun industry, smaller standard deviations also mean more accurate loads.
- Extreme Spread (ES). The ES aims to determine the highest and lowest velocities marked on a target. Combined with the SD, a smaller ES shows a more accurate load. In short, the higher ES you have, the less accurate your load becomes.
For beginners, you may find yourself confused by all this (trust me, I was too). Trying to calculate the data of how your load does at the range is a lot of work. Additionally, chronographs help find the right load for you by doing all the painful calculations. For shooters, you can test this out by putting out your 400-meter target and firing your shots.
How a Chronograph Operates
We all are aware that not everyone here is a math wizard, myself included. As such, we will only discuss easy-to-use and portable chronographs. In addition, some of them have accessories that you need to buy separately. But first, let us look at how a chronograph does its job.
By default, a chronograph’s main goal is to measure time. This is also true for shooting chronographs. A shooting chronograph produces high-frequency vibrations through housing circuitry, serving as its clock. It also uses skyscreens or sensors to determine a projectile’s speed by recording its shadow. These sensors are below the shooting-defining areas of the chrony. Additionally, chronographs usually have two sensors in them but some models have three.
The basic data are displayed on the chronograph’s display screen. The location of your display screen depends on what unit you have, either on the front or on the receiver. Chronographs often convert recorded time results into feet or meters per second. Their easy-to-use digital interface grants you the option to adjust your settings. But – you must be careful. Missed shots would not destroy your remotely-placed chronograph, but would damage your sensing unit instead (unless the unit is an all-in-one – I’ve shot one of those. In that case it’s time for a new chrony). My experiences on the range have convinced me that a bullet-proof chrony does not exist.
Where to Use and Store Chronographs
You can use shooting chronographs almost anywhere you wish. Displays are usually easier to read indoors, but I have never had a problem using them outdoors. My best recommendation is to use your chronograph on a cloudy day. Direct sunlight can sometimes interfere and make your chronograph give “err3” or shadow error feedback.
Like guns, you also need to take extra care of your chronograph. You can use a carry bag or kit to store all your chronograph’s accessories in one place.
7 Best Shooting Chronographs
I have chosen seven of the best shooting chronographs to buy this year. Before we talk about them in greater detail, I have summarized a neat table for you to look at. The table includes the dimensions, weight, and price of each featured chronograph:
|Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph||21.5 x 10 x 4 inches||3.2 lbs||$114.99|
|Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph G2||60 x 36 x 36 inches||8 lbs||$207.00|
|Gun Gear Depot Precision Chronograph||5.1 x 3.1 x 2.0 inches||0.4 lbs||$64.99|
|Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph||16 x 4 x 32 inches||2 lbs||$110.49|
|LaBradar Ballistic Velocity Doppler Radar Chronograph||11 x 10 x 2 inches||2.1 lbs||$559.99|
|MagnetoSpeed V3 Ballistic Chronograph||12 x 4 x 2 inches||2 lbs||$380.00|
|Shooting Chrony 700129 Beta Master Chronograph||20 x 20 x 3 inches||7 lbs||$159.99|
Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph
Let’s start with the Caldwell Ballistic. Its decent price offers strong reliability. In addition, this is one of my first chronos and its high performance is not reflected in its relatively modest price. The Ballistic also includes ¼-20 threads for tripod mounting and a 15-ft audio jack cable for data transfer. Plus, it also has a carry bag suited for portable travel.
The Caldwell Ballistic’s highlight feature is its pinpoint velocity. It has the ability to record readings of 5 to 9,999 fps (frames per second). Additionally, it is also factory calibrated and is easy to operate for newbies. Due to its calibrated design, it has a dependable accuracy of +/-.25%. Furthermore, this chronograph also caters to different types of shooters’ needs. Airguns, arrows, firearms, paintball rifles – you name it! As an archery enthusiast, this chronograph is the one for me.
Next, let’s discuss how this chronograph records and interprets data. The Ballistic has a decently sized LCD screen that makes it easy to read. It measures its velocity by MPS (meters per second) or FPS (feet per second). It records the velocity, SD, and ES of every projectile you fire from your gun. Since it is factory calibrated, its accuracy could reach up to 99.75%. Like other Caldwells, the Ballistic’s effective accuracy lies at its 48 MHz processor. I saw how it generates quick data when I took my AK-47 rifle out at my local range. Its 15ft jack audio cable allows you to transfer data to all smartphone types. When I paired it with my iPhone, I read my stats through an Excel sheet format.
Not all chronographs are flawless machines and the Caldwell Ballistic is no exception. Its oversized sunscreen rays make it ideal for the outdoors, but its thin rods are bendable. Several of the Ballistic’s parts are plastic-like its oversized sunscreen rays. They could break if you mishandle your chronograph. So make sure to always pick it up with care! I have even used my Ballistic Precision without the skyscreens on cloudy days – that way, there’s no way you can shoot one of the rods. Your results may vary, but it usually works for me.
- Can adjust accuracy up to 99.75%
- Ideal for beginners due to its ease of use
- Compatible with archery, airguns, firearms, and rifles
- Perfect for daylight shooting
- Oversized sunscreens made of plastic
- Thin metal rods are bendable
- Lots of adjustments needed to make for several pistols
Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph G2
Compared to the Ballistic, the G2 has a more expensive price in the market ($200+). But this chronograph’s high price equates to its high performance on the range. It has a +/-.25% accuracy like the other Caldwells. The G2’s upside-down design allows shooters to place it either on a tabletop or with a tripod. Whenever I like to do my shooting test sitting down, I use my G2 instead. It is also compatible with a wide variety of weapons. Examples are airguns, firearms, arrows, and paintball rifles. If you’re looking for versatile chronographs, the G2 is your best choice!
The G2 can also calculate more different types of data. This includes the average velocity, extreme spread, minimum, maximum, and standard deviation. It can also measure 5 to 9,999 feet per second (FPS) like the rest of its Caldwell counterparts. Unlike the Ballistic, G2 has its Bluetooth and SMS (text) features. You can transfer your data using Bluetooth without using a cable jack. Also, you can share your data via SMS (text) or email. I can borrow my friend’s laptop, computer, or tablet to view my emailed data at any time. The G2 also includes a carry bag and a rechargeable Li-Ion battery. Click on the video below to see how the G2 works at the range:
The only downside to the G2 is its need for mobile devices. You need a phone, tablet, or laptop to view your advanced data analysis. Its tripod design is also average like other tripods in the market. Due to its collapsible feature, you can also use the G2 for indoor and outdoor shooting.
- Has Bluetooth, SMS (text), and email features for data transfer
- Accuracy of +/-.25%
- Can measure 5 to 9,999 FPS (frames per second)
- Collapsible and easy-to-carry
- Good for indoor and outdoor shooting
- Uses a rechargeable Li-Ion battery
- Compatible with airguns, archery, firearms, and paintball rifles
- Connect to a mobile device to view advanced statistical data
- Tripod has an average design
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Gun Gear Depot Precision Chronograph
If you want a feature-rich shooting chronograph but you’re on a budget, you really can’t go wrong with this one from Gun Gear Depot.
With a velocity range of 999m/s (~3200 fps) it offers an excellent range for an enthusiast. It also records groups of up to forty rounds and will calculate kinetic energy (a feature of the much more expensive LabRadar chronograph).
It is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery (USB cable provided) and is portable and versatile. Its LED display is bright and the chronograph works confidently in most weather conditions – the design incorporates its own ‘sky screen’ over the chronograph.
If you want to improve your shooting this chronograph is a great entry-point – it’s affordable, simple to operate, and has a solid design. Decent data with no-nonsense. At the current sale price of $64.99 we highly recommend it.
- Unbeatable price
- Wide velocity range
- Solid design
- Not as durable as some of the others
Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph
If you prefer a simple yet reliable chronograph, then ProChrono is your best bet. This unit is one of the top-rated models in today’s market due to its wide array of features. It also comes with a decent price of $115.99. Its accessible interface is also fitting for amateur and expert shooters. The ProChrono is also compatible with arrows, pistols, shotguns, and rifles.
One of the ProChrono’s best attributes is its shot string data. Its power-down memory can store up to 99 string shots. The data shows a bullet’s average velocity, standard deviation, and extreme spread. You can also delete an individual or an entire string by touching a button on its easy-to-use keypad. The ProChrono’s clear 4-digit LCD screen records both meters per second (MPS) and frames per second (FPS). I use this chrony most of the time because I can view my shot string data in greater detail. The ProChrono’s ability to track 21 feet to 7,000 FPS makes it suitable for large shooting areas. You can check out the model’s review below:
This little guy’s shot timing resolution runs up to 750 nanoseconds. As such, it could display shot string data right away. The ProChrono’s only downfall is its speed recording time on sunny days. Outdoor shooting with this chrony slows down the generation of your projectile data.
- Accessible interface accompanied with functional buttons and an easy-to-use keypad
- Records up to 99 string shot data in its internal memory
- Compatible with pistols, shotguns, rifles, and arrows
- Has a velocity range of 21 feet up to 7,000 FPS
- Speedy recording time of 750 nanoseconds per shot
- Great for both experienced and novice shooters
- Slower speed recording time when used in outdoor shooting
- Need to buy other accessories (e.g., Indoor Lighting System) for better performance
LabRadar Ballistic Velocity Doppler Radar Chronograph
The LabRadar is the most expensive chronograph ($559.95) included in this review (but with good purpose!). Unlike other chronographs, this uses radar instead of sunscreens to measure a bullet’s flight. The LabRadar comes with a set of accessories. This includes a USB cable, warranty card, instructions manual, and carrying cases.
This unit can run either using an external USB power source or 6 AA batteries. When using batteries, it only wastes ¾ of their power after 4 hours of use at the shooting range. My friend who owns one of the chronys also commented on how easy the LabRadar’s setup is. It only took him less than 5 minutes to set it ready and 2 minutes to adjust between various loads. You can watch an unboxing and review of this chrony here:
The LabRadar also has the ability to track and gain velocities 100 yards and beyond. To test it, I went over to my friend’s place (the same person before) and used my .308 with it. I got my projectile’s maximum range result of 7.62mm per 100 yards! In addition, it also calculates a bullet’s SD, ES, maximum, minimum, and average velocities. Talk about an all-rounder in stats!
I have noticed a few setbacks with the LabRadar. We start off by talking about its price. The LabRadar costs at least $500 or up on average which causes shooters to spend hundreds for this bad boy. Another downside is the radiation it lets out. It emits harmful radiation every time it measures a fired projectile. Thus, the LabRadar is not suitable to use for lengthy field testing sessions.
- Powers up either by using AA batteries or an external USB power source
- Can track and record different types of statistical data
- Good for both outdoor and indoor use
- Comes with a set of accessories
- Pricier than many other chronographs
- Exposure to radiation
- Not suitable to use for long periods of time
MagnetoSpeed V3 Ballistic Chronograph
MagnetoSpeed produces reliable chronographs and the V3 is one of them. The V3 comes at a reasonable price ($380) with great inclusions like its data logging feature. It can collect data up to 1,100 rounds per minute, earning its top speed and accuracy ratings. This unit is suitable for muzzles and suppressors from ½ to 2 inches in diameter. True to its name, the V3 uses electromagnetic sensors to measure velocities by FPS.
Like many chronographs, you can use the V3 on various kinds of weapons, including airguns. The unit comes with a Bayonet that you attach to the muzzle of your gun to track its load data. This is one of V3’s straightforward qualities as you can fire your shots away and it generates the data you need. Also, you can adjust the unit to rapid mode if you want to take quick shots. I had a lot of fun using it on my Spring Piston at my local range.
The V3 has a kit that includes a lot of accessories. It has a display unit, a Bayonet sensor, an alignment rod, and an instructions manual. It also has downloadable firmware updates and a troubleshooting guide. If you ever run into problems, you can do the troubleshooting on your own. Scroll down to watch an overview and unboxing video of the V3:
Although it has many advantages, the V3 also has its flaws. One of its setbacks is its effect on a shooter’s firing performance. When I attached the bayonet to my Spring Piston’s muzzle, I couldn’t help but feel its weight on my gun. This caused me to fire vertical shots on my targets instead. Another thing to mention is how complex it is to use the V3. From its data analysis to troubleshooting, I recommend the V3 more for experts than beginners.
- Can record data up to 1,100 rounds per minute
- Compatible with many firearms, including airguns
- Downloadable firmwares
- Has its own troubleshooting guide
- Great for pro shooters
- The Bayonet’s weight affects shooting
- Data is hard-to-read
- Not suitable for newbies
Shooting Chrony 7000129 Beta Master Chronograph
Long-range shooter enthusiasts, you might want to read this one out. The Beta Master is one of the best long-range shooting chronographs in the market right now. Along with its top performance, this chrony costs less than two hundred bucks ($149.99). Regardless of what gun you use, the Beta Master has an outstanding accuracy of .5%.
The Beta Master tracks a bullet’s speed from 30 to 7,000 feet per second which makes it ideal for long-range shooting. It also uses one 9 volt alkaline battery as its power source that could last up to 48 hours when used for long periods. From my personal experience, I don’t charge the Beta Master often because of its long battery life.
This unit can perform a lot of actions, one of which includes its string shot memory. The Beta Master can store up to 60 shots in its internal memory. Like the ProChrono, you can delete an individual or a whole set of string shot data. Also, this chronograph only weighs less than 3 pounds which makes it convenient to carry around. If you’re curious about how it does on the field, you can click on the video below:
The only major downside that the Beta Master has is its design. This might overwhelm the first-time users but its manual could help you get past that. Speaking of the design’s downside, I had two of them and found that I had to be careful when closing the unit (it folds in half, like a clam shell) not to get the power cable from the battery caught between the halves. I practically cut the cable on one my units before I’d determined what was happening. Turns out it didn’t matter much, as I shot the thing a short time later… go figure! But, give it a little bit of practice and you can see how powerful this bad boy can get.
- Has an accuracy of up to .5%
- Can track a projectile’s flight from 30 to 7,000 feet per second
- Long battery life up to 48 hours of continuous use
- Can store up to 60 shots in its internal memory
- Complex design
- Read the full manual to achieve best results
If you wish to buy a cheap yet reliable chronograph, the Gun Gear Depot Precision Chronograph has the capacity to record accurate readings with a sale price of $64.99. For newbies, I recommend the Competition Electronics ProChrono for its ease-of-use operation. MagnetoSpeed V3 goes well with experienced shooters for its complex data calculation. Which chronograph do you prefer? Share your thoughts below in the comments section!