Up To Speed On Chronographs
Speeding Through Chronographs
“Speed kills.” Says right on the ammo box sitting adjacent my amber-hued glass as I type. True, yes. But knowledge is power, and with a desire to shoot precisely at longer distances, knowing your velocity is as deadly as speed itself. Simply put, you can’t shoot long range (accurately and consistently) without a verified and consistent velocity. It is a pivotal datapoint that without, renders any calculator, D.O.P.E. chart, riflescope turret, or ballistically-equipped range-finding device less effective.
This in mind, it’s time to get up to speed on chronographs by covering the different styles, how they operate, and their pros and cons so you can pick the right one to fit your shooting needs.
Light Based: This style of chronograph features two light-based sensors to detect and measure the time it takes a bullet to pass across both sensors. Coincidently, light-based chronographs can be sensitive to ambient light conditions. Moderate lighting will be your best friend. Think an overcast day. External light sources at your indoor range, dappled sunlight/shadows from trees and high sun can negatively affect its performance. Models may have features built in, or available accessories to mitigate potential issues. Be mindful your shooting position setoff is the recommended distance from the sensors, make sure the unit is level, sensors are spaced the proper distance apart, you are shooting horizontal over the sensors, don’t shoot the unit itself and you’re off to the races. The biggest factor putting this style of chronograph in the “add-to-cart” category is price. They are generally the most affordable. They can also be used for arrow velocities – increasing versatility.
MagnetoSpeed: Compact, accurate, lightweight and user friendly, the MagnetoSpeed is a great option at indoor and outdoor ranges. As the name implies, the MagnetoSpeed uses electromagnetic sensors contained within the highly durable bayonet-style unit to accurately measure the time it takes the bullet to pass between both sensors. The most common version straps directly to the barrel. Shims let you customize for proper fit. Works great – even when shooting near others at the range. Point of impact will shift with the unit in place, so shoot for groups and velocity separately – this may be the only drawback.
Labradar: Labradar is the newest tech when it comes to measuring bullet velocity. It uses Doppler Radar (sound waves) and is proven to be highly accurate - possibly the most accurate. To a degree, we are splitting hairs here. A Labradar can give multiple velocity data points out to 100 yards. A handy feature for the super-geeks of the shooting word. Lab Radar isn’t a one trick pony. It works great for bows and crossbows as well. An app lets you run the unit from your phone. From a multiple user standpoint, transitioning the unit from person to person is as simple as setting it down and getting to work. Chronographing more than one rifle per range sessions is a more fluid process with this unit as well. Downsides of Labradar are it is the most expensive of the bunch, can pick up shots from shooters around you giving false readings (accessories available to trigger the unit off only your shot), consumes comparatively more battery, and may not work on some indoor ranges.
For a deep dive with inhouse experts Ian Klemm and Tony Palzkill all about chronographs tune in to Vortex Nation Podcast Episode 199 Get Up to Speed On Chronographs.
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