The Best Chronographs for Shooters
Chronographs are a somewhat obscure but super important piece of kit that any serious shooter should own. Whether you’re using it to test out new types of ammo or are a hardcore reloader and are trying to dial in your latest loading for hunting season, a chronograph can give you a solid read on what your ammunition is doing and how it will perform in the exact conditions you’ll be shooting in. The chronographs on this list perform in different ways but they all accomplish the same thing more or less – they track the speed of your projectile after it leaves the barrel. So if you haven’t picked up one of these amazing devices, maybe consider one from this list and before you know it you’ll have all the info you need to perfect your shooting craft for your next competition, hunt, or plinking session.
Need for Speed: The Best Chronographs for Shooters
Table of Contents
1. Labradar Doppler Chronograph
The Labradar is the cream of the crop when it comes to chronographs. Using Doppler radar technology, the chronograph can give you great readings as your bullet travels downrange all without needing to line your shot up exactly with a light sensor or attaching the entire rig to your gun. The Labradar can measure bullet velocities up to 100 yards downrange and features an accuracy to within 0.1 percent making it one of the most accurate on the list. The Labradar can also store nearly unlimited amounts of shot data and all of this info can be downloaded directly to your PC for easy cataloging and organization.
Editor’s note: I use the LabRadar all the time, and find it to be an indispensable piece of kit for choreographing multiple loads from multiple firearms in the same range outing. An excellent app makes recording your data onto your phone, as well as controlling the LabRadar, far easier than just using the buttons on the unit itself.
Pros/No need to attach the chronograph to the gun or shoot over the chronograph
Bottom Line/Probably the best option for the hardcore reloader
2. Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph Premium Kit
While it’s not the flashiest chronograph out there, the Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph is high on the list in terms of affordability and features. The chronograph can record shot strips in either FPS or MPS which makes it useful for everything from archery to the highest velocity rifles on the market. The Compatible app also makes this chronograph capable of being observed from afar so you don’t have to rely on the small LCD screen for readings. This kit comes with everything you need to get started including a nice tripod for mounting.
Pros/Affordable and versatile
Cons/Less accurate in terms of velocities recorded
Bottom Line/An affordable alternative for the weekend reloader
3. Competition Electronics ProChrono DLX
I consider the Competition Electronics ProChrono to be one of the best in the business. At least before the Labradar was introduced. The ProChrono has a dedicated app that can record tons of shot strings, features two included sunshades, and is lightweight, and runs off of a single 9volt battery with room to spare for an additional battery in case yours dies while recording.
Pros/Versatile and a great Mobile app that can pair with the chronograph
Cons/construction isn’t as solid as I’d like
Bottom Line/Great for everyday use, very accurate and very simple to use
4. Magneto Speed Sporter Barrel Mounted Chronograph
Last on our list is the MagnetoSpeed Sporter barrel-mounted chronograph. The advantage with the Magneto speed is that you’ll get a good read every time you shoot regardless of any excess smoke or flash that comes out of your barrel. The bayonet-styled sensor links up to a small battery-powered and button-operated display that makes reading your shots super easy to read and records you know what your bullet is doing right as it leaves the barrel.
Pros/Lightweight and easy to use
Cons/Requires you to mount the unit to your barrel (may not work on larger rifles due to size constraints)
Bottom Line/Great for use on multiple types of firearms including revolvers
How do Chronographs Work?
Chronographs can work in a few different ways, each of them has its downsides and benefits but they all generally work by taking two points of data and then interpolating the data to give you a read on the speed of your bullet as it leaves the barrel.
The Labradar works by using the doppler effect to measure the bullet as it travels away from the radar array.
The MagnetoSpeed uses an electromagnetic sensor to measure the speed of the bullet as it travels down the sensor
The ProChrono and Caldwell chronographs both use photoeyes to sense the dip in light as the bullet travels over the two sensors and the onboard computer uses this data to give you the speed of the projectile.
My Chronograph Keeps giving me error messages. What’s wrong?
The most common error people will receive while using their light-sensitive chronographs is a no-read error. This usually happens when the chronograph either has too much (or too little) light entering the sensors or when an excessive amount of high velocity smoke enters the reading area. Most light-sensitive chronographs feature sun shades for use on sunny days. If your gun produces an excess amount of smoke, its probably best to move the chronograph away by several meters so that it can get a good read on the projectile instead of the smoke (just don’t miss!)
Which one of these chronographs is best for a beginner?
My personal recommendation for a beginner’s chronograph is and probably will always be the Competition Electronics ProChrono. It’s cheap, reliable, simple to use, and doesn’t require any setup before first use.
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