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Chronographs - what to buy?

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by locobob, Jun 19, 2012.

  1. locobob

    locobob Beaverton, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    So I'm planning to start loading again soon and have decided it's time I buy a chronograph. What do you guys recommend for a solid unit? Will mostly be using it at Tri-County to develop rifle loads.
     
  2. DALE

    DALE Boring, Oregon Member

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    Look at the Magnetospeed. I've got one coming in tomorrow, so far they have been getting rave reviews.
     
  3. locobob

    locobob Beaverton, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    That looks really interesting, I like the quick and easy set-up. Like to hear how it works out for you.
     
  4. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    I test my loads for accuracy as well as speed at the same time so the magnetospeed isn't really practical. I don't want the extra weight on the end of the barrel.

    For my needs I've found the Pact XP Professional to be great. The brains are back at the bench and if I were unlucky enough to hit a sensor it's a minor replacement cost. I also have the I/R sensors so I don't have to worry about low light, bright light, changing light, or for that matter, total darkness. Indoors, Outdoors, shade, etc, they work just fine and readings are very consistent. Also like the printer. Go to the range, shoot my groups, print a tape for each, and then go home to evaluate the results.

    Whatever brand you buy (with the exception of the Magnetospeed), do yourself a favor and buy a sturdy tripod to support it. Look at some pawn shops and see if a heavy duty professional grade one is available. If not get one that you can steady by hanging a sandbag or weight from the center. Many have hooks for this purpose now. A flimsy tripod will give you inaccurate speed readings as it waves in the breeze caused by the muzzle blast.
     
  5. Spitpatch

    Spitpatch Forest Grove, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    My workhorse has been an Oehler 33 now for 20+ years, and utilized an identical one (borrowed from a friend "doing time" as a schoolteacher in Alaska) for a decade or so previous to that. I have upgraded mine with the newer (Polystyrene) sky skreens, and certainly have learned (with one close shave) the value of having the "brains on the bench" rather than in front of a rifle muzzle, as deadshot relates.

    The 33 will measure everything from a thrown tennis ball to a .220 Swift, and anything in between. Once, a barnstorming bumblebee made it through both screens, and the 33 dutifully recorded his airspeed.

    A printer would be a great feature, but I would still have my trusty steno pad on the bench, as I document any anomalies or items of interest during a session ("cold,clean bore", "wind speed", "light rain", "extraction mark", "firm hold-or light hold-on the bags" are some examples).

    Were I to purchase a chrono today (after over 30 years of using one), I would buy the Oehler 35P. ("P" for Printer). Never a bad idea to go with the name and reputation that started it all, warranty second to none. I do have a great deal of respect for the PACT company, and doubt that any product from that firm would not be of top drawer quality and backing.
     
  6. locobob

    locobob Beaverton, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the input guys! I was kinda secretly hoping I could get away with something in the $100 ballpark but I guess the old saying you get what you pay for always applies. I might be better served in the long run by spending a bit more. I like the units with remotes for the public range, might be hard to see your readings from 10ft. I also noticed some are now using IR screens - are the standard screens really that much of a problem for outdoor use? The Magnetospeed unit looks neat but not sure if its for me... might want to clock some 10mm out of an auto pistol once in a while.
     
  7. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    I know exactly where you are coming from as it's territory I've explored myself. I went out and bought a $100 Chronograph (which coincidentally sells for somewhat less today if you shop around) It was a Shooting Chrony which I can't really say it's a bad unit, it was just a mild pain in the @$$. On some days it would work fine for all shots and then on another day it had to be totally reset every 20-30 shots. It was the most cantankerous unit I've ever seen. It was totally dependent on good, steady, lighting. Clouds or shadows rendered it unreliable. Sometimes it came up with unbelievable readings. 15-20 rounds at 2500-2600 fps and suddenly one at over 4,000fps. Then it has a tendency to show a couple of 800-900 fps readings. I finally uttered the famous hyphenated word involving the letters F and I and bought a Pact with IR sensors. Spent just under $300 total but unfortunately that was AFTER I spent the original $100. Can't seem to unload the first one so I just keep it on the shelf as a spare or for a day when I want something to get frustrated over. I may keep it for "clocking" spit-wads with my great grandkids.

    The moral to the story is that whenever one purchases something to fit a price point they are often short of a "reliability and performance" point. Give some thought to one of the more reliable units like CED or PACT. If you've got the extra sheckels go for the "Gold Standard" Oehler. Magnetospeed is nice but it has several limitations as you noticed. Unless you want to add a support, it could be difficult to use it with an auto pistol. There's also another German made unit that uses a couple of "U" shaped plates and IR beams. Can't remember the name but I do remember the price was a little "up there".

    You can always start out with a Pact XP and down the road add the IR sensors if you don't care about a printer. Should be right about the $200 mark or so. Just under $300 for the XP Professional with printer and IR screens.

    Can't overemphasize that one doesn't go cheap unless they're prepared to put up with the limitations of a low end chronograph. Usually they are only Fair Weather (like nice clear sunny days) friends. $50-$100 more get you so much more quality and performance and it beats ending up owning two.
     
  8. 2506

    2506 Seattle Well-Known Member

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    Whatever one you buy, make sure it's got illuminated sensors. I'll echo what Deadshot said about the Chrony. I've got one and it's cantakerous at best. Fortunately, RFGC has lighted sensors they'll let you borrow.
     
  9. HotRod61

    HotRod61 Happy Valley Active Member

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    The one I purchased was the Competition Electronics ProChorno Digital Chorongragh. I've have good luck with it. Midway sells them for $ 119.00 and I purchased a $ 20.00 tripod from Bimart.
    Hope this helps.
    HodRod
     
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  10. ripcity

    ripcity Milwaukie Active Member

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    I have the same one Hotrod61 has. When I bought mine from midway it was on sale for $99.99. It works pretty good. If I had one complaint it would be that you have to have a lot of sunlight. It errors if you don't have a good light source.
     
  11. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    If the light is low, try tilting the chronograph on the tripod head so the sensors are pointed more to the light source. However this only works if the light is coming more from the right or left. Not a big help if more light is at 12 or 6 as the sensors have to be parallel to the bullet path to be accurate.
     
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  12. ripcity

    ripcity Milwaukie Active Member

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    Thanks for the help. That's what I did, I have mine on a tripod and I will tilt it directly to the light source.
     
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  13. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    I have one and it's just fine. We do have a lot more sunny days in S. Oregon than one would in the Willamette Valley, but I'm not much for doing precision or test firing in bad weather anyway.
     
  14. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    If we shot on only good days up here, our ammo bills would be a lot smaller. Those "fair weather shooters" would be able to get by on a box or two a year:cool:

    I kind of like going to the range when it's crappy weather. I get the place to myself. Had one range day last year where I came in just after the caretaker finished plowing the snow off the lot. First trip downrange was a little difficult but from there I just followed the tracks. Some of the calmest air up here is on rainy days or when it's snowed. Ditto for those "well below freezing" days.
     
  15. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    Well, we do get only about 1/2 the rainfall that the Willamette Valley gets. I also have a range on my property and so does a neighbor so I can wait it out if I want to test some loads. Our county's firing range also has covered bench areas but I don't like to set my chrony out in the rain.

    When I was a kid we moved from S. Oregon to Aberdeen Wa. for a while. I swear it rained in Aberdeen every single day we were there, LOL. My folks would put off doing some things because it was raining. Finally some locals told them if they wanted to get anything done, they'd need to get used to doing it in the rain, LOL.

    If I'm not using my chrony but rather just target practicing, I'm less fussy about weather.
     
  16. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    I just went to my local Window/Glass shop and they gave me a piece of clear plastic from their "Free Bin". All their scraps are tossed in it for the "locals" to freeload from. The piece of plastic sets on top of the screen supports and keeps the rain off the sensors. Another benefit of the IR sensors is that any cover like this doesn't even have to be clear. One can even put the chronograph in a box with holes to shoot through. Just knock a "back door" in a Dog House and set it up on sawhorses:thumbup:
     
  17. locobob

    locobob Beaverton, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Been poking around the online reviews, the newer PACT unit is really getting beat up on, sounds like PACT may have some QC issues. Think Oehler is probably more cash than I'm willing to spend... anyone have a CED M2?
     
  18. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    Pick a product and you'll find it has it's detractors. I have a PACT that's a year old and it's been just fine. One has to read the instructions that come with it though. Most of those who are trashing it have not. Simple things like avoiding electrical interference, making sure the battery isn't dead, and making sure the unit isn't swaying in the breeze. Our club has a PACt that they loan out to members and it survives that. Also have numerous "near professional" shooters at the club that use one too. So much for the accuracy of the "online critics".
     
  19. maddog

    maddog Portland, OR USA Active Member

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    Does the Pact work on cloudy days? I've read on Brian Enos forum that using the skyscreens on the Chronys cured a Maine shooters issues with insufficient lighting, but Maine isn't the PNW!
     
  20. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    My Pact works great on cloudy days. I just don't put the "screens" over the sensors. With the Infra Red sensors the Pact will even work in total darkness. I've seen the Pact units set up under fluorescent lights that work just fine. Their new sensor design uses a longer "shade" within the sensor housing so there is less effect from the lights or from the "glint" that can come from shiny bullets, ambient light flashes, etc.

    The general rule is that no skyscreens are required when the sky is overcast and can form some contrast with the bullet passing overhead. When the sky's clear, skyscreens are often, if not always required. With I/R, the screens are reflective and used all the time.

    I'm not so sure the screens actually provided more lighting on the Shooting Chrony as much as they provided a contrasting background closer than the "sky". With mine, nothing made the Chrony work reliably with the lighting conditions at my range.