Shooting chronographs are valuable tools that can improve your shooting. Not only will using a chronograph reveal the velocity of your shots, but it will also show how reliable your reloading skills are.
Interpreting the data produced by a shooting chronograph is not complicated, but we will explain what each of them means, and how you can use them for your benefit.
In the following article, we review the best shooting chronographs and explain how each of their features can influence your shooting experience.
Using a shooting chronograph is not very complicated, and if you follow the short set of rules we laid out in the last section of the article, you will get accurate and reliable results every time you use a unit.
Overview: Best Shooting Chronographs
|Competition Electronics ProChrono|
Our Top Pick
|Check on Amazon|
|Magnetospeed Sporter Barrel Chronograph||Check on Amazon|
|Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph||Check on Amazon|
|Competition Electronics Pro||Check on Amazon|
|Shooting Chrony Master Chronograph||Check on Amazon|
|Caldwell Ballistic Precision Premium||Check on Amazon|
Best Shooting Chronographs Reviews (Updated List)
1. Competition Electronics ProChrono
The Competition Electronics ProChrono shooting chronograph is one of the best-rated models available on the market today, and it’s easy to see why. This shooting chronograph can store up to 99 shots in its internal memory, and it offers a clear visual on the shot’s velocity, among other data.
One of the best things about the ProChrono is that it’s very user-friendly. The unit’s menu is simple and straightforward, and you won’t have any problem using it. Most of the chronograph’s settings can be accessed with a simple press of a button, and this model is also easy to set up.
The ProChrono is capable of storing 9 shots strings that contain up to 99 shots each. Once you’re satisfied with the number of shots you’ve taken, you can check each shot’s velocity, standard deviation, and the string’s spread.
This model is compatible with a lot of load types. You can use it with good results to measure your rifle, pistol or shotgun shots, but you can also use it to measure your arrows’ data.
Overall, this is a great shooting chronograph, and it comes at a very good price, making it a high-value model.
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2. Magnetospeed Sporter Barrel Chronograph
The Magnetospeed Sporter shooting chronograph can be mounted on any barrel that has a diameter of 1/2 inch – 1 inch. This barrel-mounted chronograph can accommodate flash hiders and barrel brakes, as long as they’re no longer than 2.7 inches.
Even though this shooting chronograph can be used for many types of firearms, its size and design make it perfect for long-barreled revolvers and sporter barrels.
A great thing about this model is that it’s very accurate. Once you mount and adjust the chronograph, you can expect it to have an accuracy of 99.5 – 99.9%. This will allow you to track the data of your shots with precision, so you’ll be able to make any adjustments you deem necessary to improve them.
The Sporter uses a 9-Volt battery for power. Thankfully, you can access the battery compartment without having to handle a screwdriver or any other tools, so you’ll be able to change it on the field, if necessary.
All said, this model is very efficient, and it will prove very accurate once you mount it on a rifle.
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3. Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph
The Caldwell Precision shooting chronograph is an efficient model that comes at a decent price. Despite its low price, this unit is capable of providing valuable feedback about your shots, and it’s very easy to use.
One of the best things about this model is that it’s very easy to calibrate. In fact, all the units that reach the market have already been calibrated in the factory to an accuracy of up to 99.75%.
This model will provide the velocity of your shot in either meters or feet per second. The results are shown on the unit’s large LCD display, and they’re very easy to read.
A great thing about this shooting chronograph is that you can connect it to your smartphone using a simple 15’ audio jack cable. You can download a free app to use the chronograph, and once you do, the velocity of each shot will be displayed directly on your phone screen. The app will also record the load and the environmental conditions, so you can have a clear record of your shots.
All in all, this is a great shooting chronograph that comes at an even better price. This makes it the most valuable model in its price range.
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4. Competition Electronics Pro
The Competition Electronics Pro Pal is a good shooting chronograph that comes at a good price. This model can be used to track your pistol, rifle, or shotgun shots, but you can also use it to record how fast you can shoot an arrow with your bow.
A great thing about this model is that it has a wide velocity range. The chronograph can record anything that has a velocity of 22 – 7000 fps. Once you start using the chronograph, it will accurately display the velocity of your shots, the number of shots it tracked, as well as the high and low-velocity values and your shots’ average velocity.
The Pro-Pal uses a 9-Volt battery for power, and the battery is not included in the original packaging. The battery can be changed with ease, so you will be able to do it in field conditions if necessary.
Even though this shooting chronograph is not flashy, it’s very efficient and it comes at a good price. Despite the lack of bells and whistles, this model is well worth its cost.
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5. Shooting Chrony Master Chronograph
The Shooting Chrony Master shooting chronograph is an efficient model that’s very easy to use. This model is made out of 20 gauge steel, so it’s very durable. Despite the fact that the unit is made out of steel, it weighs only 2.5 lbs, so it’s very easy to transport.
A great thing about this model is that it’s very versatile. The chronograph can track any round or arrow that has a velocity of 30 – 7000 feet per second. This will allow you to keep track of every kind of ammunition you use, from arrows to the rifle, pistol, or shotgun rounds.
The Chrony Master comes with a remote read-out-monitor that will display the shot’s values. The chronograph will keep track of your shot’s velocity, the string’s average velocity, the highest and lowest velocities, and the standard deviation. The monitor also acts as a remote control, so you will be able to make every adjustment you deem fit without leaving your position.
Overall, this is an accurate shooting chronograph that will keep track of any kind of ammunition you use.
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6. Caldwell Ballistic Precision Premium
The Caldwell Precision Premium is a shooting chronograph that comes with a kit which allows you to start recording your rounds without needing additional accessories.
This kit contains an adjustable tripod, a dovetail plate, a carry bag, and of course, the chronograph itself. The tripod has a height that’s adjustable between 15 – 42”. The chronograph is already calibrated in the factory to an accuracy of up to 99.75%.
A great thing about this kit is that it also comes with a 15’ cable that allows connecting the chronograph to your smartphone. The free app on your phone will show the values of each individual round, as well as the string’s values. You will be able to keep track of the string’s highest and lowest velocity, the medium velocity, the standard deviation, as well as the spread.
The Precision Premium can be used for every type of round you have in mind. The chronograph will track anything that has a velocity of 5 – 9,999 feet per second.
All in all, this is a good shooting chronograph that comes with an awesome kit and that doesn’t cost too much. This model is suitable for every kind of shooter, from beginners to the professionals.
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Most Accurate Shooting Chronograph Buying Guide
Shooting chronographs provide valuable data that can improve your shooting accuracy. Using a chronograph can also reveal if your home-made rounds are good, or if you should improve them.
But finding the best shooting chronograph might be more difficult than you would expect. There are a lot of different models available on the market, and all of them are advertised as being the best, which of course, cannot be true.
In the following section, we explain how a shooting chronograph works, and how each of their features can help you improve your shooting.
How A Shooting Chronograph Works
Even though they seem very complicated, shooting chronographs work in a pretty simple way. Once you turn on the chronograph, it will start a high-speed crystal oscillator. Instead of imagining some kind of complicated machine, think of the oscillator as a clock or a stopwatch. The stopwatch will turn on and off when your rounds pass over the photoelectric cells.
You might wonder what photoelectric cells are, and why they matter. Well, these two components come as a set, and they should be positioned at a certain distance from the shooter. Some chronographs come with instruction manuals that specify this distance. If the model you’re using doesn’t offer these specifications, it’s safe to assume a distance of 10 feet will suffice.
Now, when you fire a round or launch an arrow, it will create a shadow when it passes over the first electric cell. The momentary change in light will make the clock start. When the round or arrow passes over the second cell, the stopwatch stops.
Since the chronograph knows the exact distance between the photoelectric cells and how fast the round covered this surface, it can easily calculate the speed of your round.
What Data Can A Shooting Chronograph Provide?
Shooting chronographs can provide valuable data to the shooter. Here is a list of the data you’ll be able to get from most chronograph models.
All shooting chronographs will provide the shot velocity. Most models can display the velocity in either foot per second or meters per second, depending on your preference.
Shot String Data
Most shooting chronographs are able to keep track of multiple shots, also known as a string of shots. This can provide valuable information about your shooting, and it can be very helpful. Here’s the kind of data a chronograph will provide.
- Highest Velocity – This data represents the value of the fastest shot in the string
- Lowest Velocity – This data represents the value of the slowest shot in the string
- Average Velocity – The speed average of all the shots combined
- Extreme Spread – The velocity difference between the fastest and the slowest round
- Standard Deviation – This data measures how close each shot was to the average value
- Power – Not all chronographs can measure the power factor, but some of them do. This data multiplies the shot’s velocity with the bullet’s grain (which you have to enter manually) to calculate the shot’s power.
How To Interpret The Shooting Chronograph’s Data
Now that you know what to expect when using a shooting chronograph, let’s see how this data can help your shooting. Well, it’s clear that the shot’s velocity and the string’s velocity values are easy to understand, so they won’t need any explanations.
- Extreme Spread
You should know that the extreme spread of your rounds should be small. If you notice that your extreme spread is high, it’s almost always a sign that you’re not reloading your rounds properly. If the spread is high, it means your fastest and your slowest rounds were traveling at different speeds, so you should try to improve your reloading skills.
- Standard Deviation
The standard deviation data measures how close each of the rounds you’ve fired came to the average shot. Standard Deviation is a common method used in statistics, and it’s very useful when it comes to interpreting data.
The Standard Deviation is the most important piece of data you can get from using a chronograph. This data can reveal how consistent your rounds actually are, and it’s an accurate proof of your reloading skills.
If you want to obtain a reliable value for the Standard Deviation, you should fire at least 10 shots in a string. Having fewer shots in a string will be unreliable when the chronograph is calculating the Standard Deviation, and some units will actually produce an error instead of a value. If you want a better value, you should shoot more rounds.
- Power Factor
The Power Factor is a ranking system that’s commonly used in shooting competitions. This factor measures the round’s momentum and scales it to its weight. The Power factor is calculated in Newton-seconds, and it determines a competitor’s score. Some organizations won’t allow you to enter their competitions unless your handgun produces a minimum Power Factor
Features To Look For In A Shooting Chronograph
Each shooting chronograph we presented can be used to provide valuable data about your shooting. However, not all of them are built in the same way. Let’s take a look at the different features each model offers, and how they influence your shooting experience.
Accuracy is the most important factor in a shooting chronograph. All the chronographs we presented are highly accurate, but even between them, there are some differences.
Most chronographs are calibrated before they leave the factory. Some of them will be reliable 99.5% of the time, while others can be accurate 99.9% of the time. Having an accurate chronograph is very important if you want to find out your actual bullet velocity and the real Standard Deviation.
Obtaining accurate results every time you use the chronograph will allow you to compare the data you receive from each shot, and it will allow you to see how small changes in the powder quantity or quality will affect your reloading. Click to see how to use a chronograph in more detail.
Using an accurate shooting chronograph will also calculate a reliable Power Factor, which will allow you to enter competitions.
The design of the shooting chronograph will also influence your experience. Some models are bulky, and they’re harder to transport. Other models have to be mounted on your barrel, so you will have to compensate for its weight, albeit small, when you should.
The best shooting chronographs are made out of durable materials, and they’re lightweight, so you can carry them with ease. They can be mounted on most tripods available on the market, and they’re easy to use.
- Ease Of Use
One of the most important qualities of a shooting chronograph is to be easy to use. Some models come with large LCD displays that show you the data they collected, while others use remote controls for the same purpose.
A user-friendly solution that started to be used by more and more manufacturers is to allow the chronograph to connect directly to your smartphone. Instead of showing the data on an LCD display, these chronographs will send it to your phone through an app. The app has many useful features, and it’s very easy to use. Not only will this feature allow you to read the data with ease, but it will also allow you to keep records of every shooting session.
Another important feature for every chronograph, the unit’s performance will influence how it behaves when you use it.
All the models we presented in this article offer a good performance. They can track every type of round you fire, and they can even track arrows. In fact, some of them are so sensitive, they are capable of keeping track of paintballs, pellets, BBs, and even rocks if you’re so inclined as to see how fast you can throw them.
How To Set Up A Shooting Chronograph
Now that you know how a chronograph works and what to look for in a model, let’s see how you should set it up so it can produce valuable data from your shots.
First of all, here are some general rules you should follow when you’re using a shooting chronograph.
- Don’t Shoot The Chronograph – This might sound like a no-brainer, but unfortunately, it’s one of the most common accidents that happen when people start using chronographs.
Remember, the chronograph is not the target. You have to fire over the photoelectric cells if you want to get an accurate reading.
- Shoot From A Stable Position – If you want to get an accurate reading for your shots, you should shoot all your rounds or fire all your arrows from the same position. To do this, you can either use a bipod or a sack of sand.
- Try To Group Your Shots – If you manage to fire consistently over the same spot of the photoelectric cells, the chronograph’s reading might be more accurate than if you fire all over the place. Red dot sights, lasers, boresights or scopes can be really helpful in this matter.
- Shoot Over The Sensors – Your shots should pass over the light sensors, but no less than 5” above them. If the shot passes far above the sensor, the chronograph might not detect it. Make sure you adjust the bipod’s height accordingly.
If you use a scope or a red dot sight, make sure you don’t set up the chronograph’s height according to them. They are usually positioned one or two inches above the bore, so keep that in mind. Even the iron sights are usually located one or two inches above the bore, so be careful.
- Set Up The Chronograph According To The Instructions – You should follow the manufacturer’s instructions when you set up the chronograph. If the instructions don’t specify how far you should stay from the chronograph while you shoot, you should place it at least 10 feet away from your firearm’s muzzle.
Now that you know the general rules you should follow when using a shooting chronograph, let’s see how you can get the most reliable results.
- Fire Multiple Rounds – Shooting strings provide more reliable data than single shots. The more shots you make, the more accurate your readings will be.
- If You Make Your Own Rounds, Try Multiple Batches – Many shooters prefer making their own rounds using a reloading press since it’s cheaper and they can customize their ammunition. If you’re one of the people doing this, shoot rounds created in different when you test the chronograph. This will reveal the consistency of your reloading skills.
- Avoid Using The Chronograph When Its Battery Is Low – If you use the chronograph when its battery is low, you might get unreliable results.
Factors That Can Influence Your Chronograph’s Readings
- Temperature – The bullets’ powder burns more slowly when it’s cold, so it’s normal to record lower velocities than you would have in high temperatures. However, you should be careful not to top off your rounds in the cold season as they might produce dangerous pressures when it’s warm outside
- Barrel and Ammunition Temperature – Your first shots of the day will produce results than your other shots because the firearm’s barrel is cold. This is also for the ammunition.
- Light – Make sure both light sensors receive a similar amount of light. Do not allow the sensors to sit in direct sunlight in bright days. Use the top screen when necessary.
- Muzzle Blast – The muzzle blast will mess up your results if it reaches the sensors before the shot, so make sure you place the chronograph at a suitable distance from the muzzle.
- Reflections – If metal objects, bright concrete, or water reflect light onto the sensors, they will lower the results’ accuracy
Best Shooting Chronograph Comparison Chart
|Competition Electronics ProChrono||$$||Durable plastic light diffusers included||16 x 4 x 3.2 inches||21-7,000 feet per second velocity range / Store 9 shot strings with up to 99 shots|
|Magnetospeed Sporter Barrel Chronograph||$$$$||Simple, one-button cycling display||up to 2.7 inches in length||Three sensitivity settings for fine-tuning / Integral 3.5 foot sensor cord|
|Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph||$||The unit is designed to be simple to operate||21.5 x 10 x 4 inches||Accurate velocity reading from speeds of 5 to 9,999 fps / 15' audio jack cable|
|Competition Electronics Pro||$$||Use with M100 Series Stands||16 x 4 x 3.2 inches||22 - 7000 F.P.S. Velocity range / 33 to 100 degrees temperature range|
|Shooting Chrony Master Chronograph||$$$||Made of 20 gauge steel||255 x 125 x 85mm||Speed of any projectile from 30 feet per second to 7000 feet per second / .5-Percent accuracy|
|Caldwell Ballistic Precision Premium||$$$||Heavy duty dual zipper design||4.2 x 10 x 17.5 inches||+/- 0.25% accuracy / Meters Per Second (MPS) or Feet Per Second (FPS) readings|
As you can see, using a shooting chronograph can be really useful, especially if you’re preparing for a shooting competition. Even if you’re not planning on entering any competitions in the near future, using these devices can improve the quality of your rounds and your reloading skills.
Finding the best shooting chronograph might not be easy, but we’re certain that after reading this article you have a clear idea of what you should look for in a unit. Keep in mind that you should be careful not to shoot the chronograph when you use it.