Best Shooting Chronographs of 2019 – Comprehensive Buyer’s Guide

If you are serious about firearms and shooting, investing in equipment that improves your performance should not need much thinking. One of the more essential pieces of gear for gun aficionados is shooting, or gun chronograph designed to measure bullet velocity as fired from a gun.

With their history dating back to the late 19th Century, today chronographs feature optical sensors or radio waves to determine the velocity of projectiles. Actually, some of the best devices from our list are so sensitive, that besides measuring fastest commercially available rifle cartridges (some can reach speeds of over 4,400 feet per second), they are also capable of keeping track of paintballs, BBs and even rocks were thrown by hand. 

Comparison Chart of the Best Shooting Chronographs

PRODUCT DETAILS
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Caldwell - Ballistic Precision Chronograph Premium Kit

  • Best Overall chronograph is a Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph Premium Kit
  • It provides an accurate velocity reading from speeds of 5 to 9,999 fps within .25% accuracy
  • The package consists of the chronograph, a tripod, IR LED Light kits and a custom carry case
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Magnetospeed Barrel-mounted Chronograph

  • This type of mounting enables using a device at a shooting range
  • Magnetospeed Barrel-mounted Chronograph is a runner-up in this list
  • It is proven MagnetoSpeed technology, but with updated sensor design, which features 99.5% accuracy
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Shooting Chrony - Beta Master

  • This device measures velocity within 0.5-percent accuracy
  • Best for the Money is Shooting Chrony model Beta Master
  • It can measure the velocity of any projectile from 30 feet per second to 7,000 FPS
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Labradar Doppler Chronograph

  • Definitely, the Labradar Doppler chronograph is the most accurate shooting chronograph
  • It uses continuous wave Doppler radar and advanced digital signal processing technologies
  • It records velocities with 0.1% accuracy, offering a degree of precision unlike any other chrono on the market
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Competition Electronics - Prochrono Digital Chronograph

  • Store 9 shot strings with up to 99 shots per string with +/-1 percent accuracy of the measured velocity
  • The velocity range is 21-7,000 feet per second and the temperature range is 32-100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Competition Electronics model Prochrono Digital Chronograph measures the velocity of almost anything that shoots
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Sportsman Supply Inc. Shooting Chrony Gamma Master Chronograph

  • The Gamma Master measures velocity from 30 to 7,000 feet per second
  • It measures speed within .5-Percent accuracy with memory for 500 individual Timer Read-Outs
  • Sportsman Supply Inc. is offering Gamma Master chronograph as a kit, ready to roll from the Shooting Chrony
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What is a Chronograph Used For in Shooting?

As an essential performance evaluation tool, shooting chronograph is a perfect instrument for the gun enthusiast and experts as well handloaders since it plays a vital role in diagnosing shooting problems or testing new loads.

Today, a shooting chronograph measures the speed at which bullets leave the barrel of your gun, a spec that we usually call a muzzle velocity. 

The chronograph is a great instrument to find out if your firearm/ammo combination actually delivers the muzzle velocity in feet per second (FPS) advertised by the manufacturer or if you need to change it.

Besides projectile's velocity, the best modern chronographs are also able to give you a wealth of other information. They will keep track of multiple shots, known as a string of shots, and also will provide you with a peak velocity (HV), lowest velocity (LV), average velocity (AV), standard deviation (SD), extreme spread (ES) and even power factor (PF).

When we thought of handloaders, then the shooting chronographs are the crucial instruments because the bullets have a different performance at different speeds, barrels or under particular weather conditions.

How Does a Shooting Chronograph Work?

The shooting chronographs are usually no-frills instruments, so you can imagine them as a clock or a stopwatch that will turn on and off when your rounds pass over sensors. Designed to measure projectile velocity, chronographs are either built around proven 40-year-old high-speed crystal oscillator with pair of photoelectric sensors or utilize newer acoustic and electromagnetic systems or they are based on an entirely different technology called Doppler radar.

The first type is called an optical chronograph is more prevalent among the gun community because it is more affordable and provides you with sufficient accuracy while measuring “almost anything that shoots”.

Unlike radar-based chronograph using radio waves instead of light, an optical chronograph (timer tripped by the bullet shadow) consists of two sensors called chronographic screens.  These optical light trap systems have screens designed in such a way that bullet will create a shadow when it passes over the first electric cell making the clock start. When the projectile passes over the second cell, the stopwatch stops and accurately displays velocity on its digital readout.

Aspects to Consider Before Buying a Shooting Chronograph

Over recent years, more companies entered the chronograph market with similar optical or electromagnetic systems with prices ranging from $55 to $800. Considering a vast 1400% price differential, there should be some differences in the performance and quality of these devices.

Accuracy

When you are buying the shooting chronograph, the main factor that you should look for is an accurate reading. Therefore, you should select a shooting chronograph that is known for a high level of accuracy, because anything less than plus or minus 1% is unacceptable.

Type of Mounting System

Another consideration is connected to design and type of mounting systems on the shooting chronographs. The most common optical light trap systems can be attached to any type of tripod available on the market or mounted directly to the barrel of the weapon.  Both designs have advantages and disadvantages depending on firearms and kind of shooting range.

Velocity Range

While we have reviewed on our list several mainstream representatives and established performers capable of keeping track of all kinds of projectiles ranging from paintballs to high-velocity cartridges where the powder load is often heavier than the bullet weight, there are some shooting chronographs that are not made to be used with all different types of weapons. You may encounter some gun chronographs designed only for use on paintball and air guns.

Ease of Use

The best shooting chronographs are those that are user-friendly to get all set up as well as straightforward to operate. While sometimes a wider window of the LCD display on the chronograph was desirable, today it is the connectivity and an option for uploading the information to your smartphone or laptop.

Quick Take - The Best Shooting Chronographs

Review of the Best Shooting Chronographs

Here are our top picks and the factors that make them stand out:

Pros

  • It operates on a 9 Volt battery.
  • It provides accuracy within +/- .25%.
  • The kit includes a tripod, IR LED light kits and carry bag.
  • It has two sunscreens to offer more shading in outdoors.
  • A high speed 48 MHz processor measures from 5 to 9,999 FPS.
  • It comes with a 15' foot audio jack cable for cell phone connection.
  • The app calculates AV, SD, Min, Max and Velocity Spread for the shot string.

Cons

  • It may be activated while in the carrying case.
  • Not as reliable as some of the gun chronographs on the market.

Almost without a doubt, Caldwell Precision Premium Chrono deserves to bear the title of the best shooting chronograph on the market. This shooting chronograph comes in full kit that contains an adjustable tripod, a dovetail plate; an IR led screens with AC power, extra wide sunscreens, 15-foot audio jack cable and a carry bag.

In addition, each model is calibrated at the factory before being shipped out to an accuracy of up to 99.75%. Actually, due to the 48 MHz processor, this Caldwell 721122 model is offering precision in the range of a plus or negative of only about .25% at maximum. The chronograph will measure the velocity of any bullet that travels between 5 and 9,999 feet per second.

For easier data reading this Chrono boasts large LCD screen, but it also comes with the option to interface with your smartphone via a 15' audio jack cable. Using a free application, you will be able to track the velocity of each shot directly on your phone screen.

While the Caldwell Precision Chronograph provides velocity of each shot, their app displays average velocity, standard deviation, minimum and maximum velocity and velocity spread for shot string. The Chrono can also record the load and the environmental conditions, but it will also give you energy as well.

With a ¼-20 threaded insert on the bottom of the housing, this Caldwell comes with a quality and height adjustable tripod that can be set from 15 to 42”, making it entirely appropriate for various types of weapons (handguns, rifles, archery, airgun and paintball).

Although the manufacturer claims this affordable chronograph is ideal for all firearms types, some users complaint on reliability, especially when measuring handgun velocities in bad weather conditions.

Bottom Line

If you want something that allows you to start recording your shots without needing additional accessories, the Caldwell Ballistic Precision Premium kit is very tempted solution, especially looking at the price that won't break the bank.

Pros

  • Simple, one-button cycling display
  • It can be used at a shooting ranges
  • The V3 uses a 9-Volt battery for power
  • External display with app functionality
  • Three sensitivity settings for fine-tuning
  • Velocity range is 5 – 7,000 fps with 0.5% accuracy
  • It is compatible with muzzle brakes and flash hiders
  • Barrel mounted the unit at barrels ranging from 0.5-inch to 1-inch in diameter

Cons

  • It’s a bit expensive
  • Its fit is a bit finicky on the semi pistols
  • There is a little bit of a learning curve when using the V3

The MagnetoSpeed V3 Chronograph is a bit different from the other shooting chronographs. Unlike classic shooting chronographs utilizing the optical sensors to note the passage of a projectile, Magnetospeed V3 Chronograph features an electromagnetic sensor system in the form of magnetic start/stop sensors that are closely spaced and embedded in a short plastic housing.

Instead of sitting this chronograph in front of you and shooting through its screens, the Magnetospeed sports the more advanced system for mounting. It is clamped directly to the rifle muzzle providing you highly accurate muzzle velocity readings and solving the problem for those who want to use it at shooting ranges.

Furthermore, it isn't significantly affected by wind or high light conditions because it will work under any light condition without artificial illumination. It will measure the bullet velocity with an accuracy of 99.5% or more.

The product fits easily on barrels measuring between ½ inch and 1 inch in diameter. It can also accommodate muzzle brakes as well as flash hiders no larger than 2.7 inches in length.

However, Magnetospeed has some disadvantages since it takes a little time to get used to this arrangement, but of course, it can be learned with some time and patience.

While its size and design make it perfect for rifles and long-barreled revolvers, it can't be mounted on most semi-automatic pistols or weapons where this chronograph can't be positioned 1/4 inch under the bore.

This barrel-mount chronograph is swift to set up because the display that comes with the kit features one button and with three settings for fine-tuning.

Using the option to measure both very high and very low velocities, you will be able to use Magnetospeed V3 chronograph with air pistols, shotguns and high-powered rifles.

Bottom Line

The V3 MagnetoSpeed uses a 9-Volt battery to power external display unit. It stores up to 99 shots per string, but you will get full data capabilities downloading the XFR app that will offer you more useful velocity statistics such as FPS, Standard Deviation, and extreme spread.

Best for the Money:
Shooting Chrony - Beta Master

Pros

  • Three years limited warranty
  • It provides accuracy within +/- 0.5%
  • Built of rugged 20-gauge steel and weighs 2.5lb
  • With a 9V battery, it offers performance for up to 48 hours
  • Chrony comes with a remote read-out-monitor and 16 ft. cord
  • A high speed 48 MHz processor measures from 30 to 7,000 FPS
  • It can store 60 shot memory (divided into 6 numbered strings of 10 shots each)

Cons

  • Outdated display and controls
  • With a complex instruction manual, it is not user-friendly

Shooting Chrony Chronographs are available in three main models called Alpha, Beta and Gamma with two subcategories known as the base model and the Master model. 

The main difference is that the base model sports the LCD screen on the unit, whereas the Master model has a remote control that housed the ½- inch LCD display screen. Besides that, the Beta Master model comes with a larger memory for storing velocity readings. It has room for storing the velocities of 60 shots divided into 6 numbered strings of 2 to 10 shots each.

Shooting Chrony Beta Master measures the velocity of bullets, arrows, shotgun and airgun pellets and paintballs ranging from 30 feet per second to 7,000 feet per second within (+/-) 0.5% accuracy.

The durable and solid chrono housing is constructed from 20-gauge steel, but at 2.5-pound it is still lightweight, making it very easy to handle and transport. The Beta Master Chrony has a wide shooting window, triangular in shape, with shooting area adjustable in size from 8" to 14-1/2".

This compact unit features a simple fold-down design and it mounts easily on any tripod or place on a table. It comes with multi-part 2" wide diffusers and the support wire-rods. It is advisable to use on clear, sunny days the white plastic diffusers to simulate clouds.

However, the Beta Master is not for use with Neon or another fluorescent lighting, as for indoor use, this unit requires optional a light-diffuser, an Indoor Shooting Light Fixture that you must purchase separately.

Since the manufacturer recommends placing the unit 10ft away from the muzzle, the Master Series line chronographs come with the 16-foot cord to connect the Control Monitor/ Remote Control.

As the main drawback, users mention complicated manual and the outdated computer technology used in Shooting Chrony making device not user-friendly.

The Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph uses one 9-volt alkaline battery and it also stores data when turned off, a handy feature.

Bottom Line

For starters and those shooters who need accurate information but looking for a classic chronograph with all-metal heavy-duty construction, a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph is an ideal solution which is covered under a 3-year limited factory warranty when returned to the manufacturer.

Most Accurate Shooting Chronograph:
Labradar Doppler Chronograph

Pros

  • Powered by six  AA batteries
  • Works under any light conditions
  • It provides accuracy within +/-0.1%
  • Track and obtain velocities up to 100 yards
  • It records velocities ranging from 65 fps to 3,900 fps
  • Has internal memory and SD card slot for storing data 
  • It records up to 100 shot per series with up to 9,999 series
  • Tracks pistol, rifle, shotgun slugs, bow and crossbow shots

Cons

  • The manual is not so clear
  • It is hardly the most expensive device
  • Battery life is only 3 to 4 hours at the range

The LabRadar from Infinition Inc of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada is an excellent addition to shooting sports for many reasons. First, it is not a chronograph with a pair of photoelectric sensors but rather an extremely accurate Doppler radar. Currently, with an accuracy variance of better than 0.1%, Doppler radar is the most precise method of measuring velocities available.

LabRadar measures velocities from 65 fps up to 3,900 fps and records series statistics for maximum velocity, minimum velocity, average velocity (AV), standard deviation (SD) and extreme spread (ES). Offering also Kinetic Energy calculation, this advanced tracking radar records up to 100 shots per series, up to 9,999 series.

The LabRadar Doppler Chronograph is the perfect device for measuring velocities of subsonic, transonic and supersonic projectiles fired from your rifle, pistol, or shotgun (slugs only). The LabRadar will even measure the velocity of airgun pellets, paintballs and arrows.

In addition, it continually measures actual velocities at various distances, up to 100 yards, depending upon the size of the bullet. That feature is useful for validating the bullet's ballistic coefficient

No more shooting through the small confined window/screens, nor placing the unit in front of your rifle in the firing line. Now you put the LabRadar to the side of your gun, not downrange where classic optical chronographs require back and forth alignment of the unit and firearm.

However, this radar system requires a slight learning curve since the instructions are a slight bit ambiguous and user interface needs to be simplified. On the flip side, the LabRadar is one of the most expensive chronographs on the market.

Bottom Line

LabRadar is powered by six AA batteries and developed to work in any light conditions. You can put it next to your rifle mounting it on standard ¼ x 20 tripod thread.

Pros

  • Powered by one  9-volt battery
  • It comes with a user-friendly interface
  • Connection to mobile devices can also be made wirelessly
  • It can store 9 shots strings that contain up to 99 shots each
  • Capable of measuring shots from 21 to 7,700 feet per second
  • A very accurate down range shooting chronograph with +/-1% accuracy
  • Accurate velocity measurement for rifles, airguns, pistols, arrows and shotguns

Cons

  • It doesn't include a tripod stand
  • May miss some shots and readings 
  • Using it indoors may be impossible without optional light sources 

The Competition Electronics ProChrono digital chronograph is the most affordable option on this list, but this entry-level chronograph also gives a lot of the higher-end chronographs a run for their money.

While the Pro Chrono provides +/-1% or better accuracy of measured velocity, it is an extremely flexible unit, with a velocity range of from 21 fps to 7,000 fps. It means that Competition Electronics CE1-3800 chrony is great for archery, handguns, center-fire and rimfire rifles, shotguns, paintball and pellet guns as well.

This optical shooting chronograph is created with a sensing system compatible with a wide variety of light conditions, but fluorescent lights won't work with this chrono unless you invest in optional light sources.

The Competition Electronics model is also straightforward to operate with touch screen and sizeable 4-digit LCD readout. The Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital is powered by a 9-volt battery and encapsulated in plastic one-piece housing which won't corrode. 

This basic shooting chrony package includes the wire support rods of size 3/16" x 16, durable plastic light diffusers, and 1/4"x20 mounting hole thread for standard camera tripod, but it doesn’t include tripod. Since some users have issues with low or missed readings, it is advisable to shoot in the upper 1/3 of the triangle screen.

Nevertheless, most of the buyer evaluations agree that the Competition Electronics ProChrono is a great choice in the world of budget chronographs as it can store up to 99 shots in its internal memory in 9-shot firing strings.

Besides providing you with the basic velocity, using the USB port or upgrading it with an optional Bluetooth adapter to transfer the data, you can get detailed shot information and statistics. Along with an analysis of the spread, standard deviation, and the average speed you can compute ft./lbs. of energy, power factor, and even create graphs for easier interpretation.

Bottom Line

A solid performer for the price, the Pro Chrono is well known for its accuracy and respected in the shooting industry, as well in the professional and amateur gun community. Used for the casual acquisition of velocities, the Pro Chrono is a great shooting chronograph that comes at a very good price. 

Sportsman Supply Inc. Shooting Chrony 7000136 Gamma Master Chronograph with Ballistic Chrony Printer, Silver Green

Pros

  • Ballistic Printer
  • Tripod mountable
  • Handy  Remote with a 16-foot cable
  • The Gamma Master is accurate to within 0.5% accuracy
  • Powered by a single 9-volt battery and 4 AA batteries for printer
  • It can be used Indoors, outdoors, on overcast days or in the shade.
  • It has 500 shot memory (divided into 50 numbered strings of 2 to 10 shots each).
  • It measures velocity (feet per second or meters per second) from 30 fps to 7,000 fps

Cons

  • Expensive device
  • The software interface is outdated
  • With poor manual, it is complicated to use

As we mentioned, earlier Shooting Chrony has several different offerings called Alpha, Beta and Gamma and divided to the base Shooting and Master models. Master Chrony models differ from basics as they come with Remote Control with close-up read-out monitor.

The Shooting Chrony’s flagship model and most advanced line are Gamma Master Chronograph which includes all of the features of the Beta model plus, 500-shot memory, timer button and rapid-fire mode which measures the velocity of 1,800 rounds per minute. 

As the most expensive device in the Shooting Chrony catalogue, the 7000136 model comes as a kit, ready to roll, making it a well worth the investment. The package includes all needed attachments like Chrony, remote control monitor, a printer with roll of paper, generous 16-foot long interface cable, tripod and carry sack.

The chrony housing is made of 20-gauge steel but weighing less than 2 1/2 pounds and can be easily attached to a 1/4"-20 tpi camera tripod for fast, easy setup.

Utilizing a simple fold-down design, this lightweight chronograph is easy to set up installing the included support rods and plastic diffusers. While the diffusers are needed only in very bright sunshine to create a uniform background to the photocells, for the indoor using there is optional Chrony LED Lamp diffusers.

The Shooting Chrony Gamma Master Chrony measures the velocityof any projectile from 30 to 7,000 feet per second within 0.5-percent accuracy. Compared to Beta`s 60-shot memory, this Gamma model has 500 shot memory (divided into 50 numbered strings of 2 to 10 shots each).

The Shooting Chrony Gamma Master measures, stores and prints shot not only velocities but also time elapsed between shots and statistics such as LO, HI and Average velocities, Extreme Spread and Standard Deviation.

Most of the buyer`s testimonials and reviews claim that the Sportsman Supply Inc offers an excellent product in the form of Shooting Chrony 7000136 Gamma Master Chronograph known for the quality and dependability. However, there are some complaints about outdated software and unfriendly user Interface that make the unit unspeakably challenging to use.

Bottom Line

Although for indoor use you can power this kit with a standard AC power adapter, for the outdoor usage, you will need a 9-volt battery to power the Gamma Master and four AA batteries for Ballistic Printer.

How to Set Up a Shooting Chronograph 

Shooting chronographs are valuable tools and most of the decent gun chronographs are calibrated before they leave the factory, but anyway, when you open the box, it will take some time to set them up before you can use them.

Though we have suggested six chronograph models that set up easy, there are few things you should pay attention to.

1. First of all, you have to avoid shooting your expensive new chronograph as it is one of the most common accidents that happen when people start using chronographs. The best way to avoid shooting at gun chronograph is to use bore-sighting technique and shoot from a stable position. 

2. In order to get reliable readings, the next thing to pay attention to is a parallel position of the chronograph`s housing and the path of the bullet.

3. Obviously, you can't shoot too low, but also your shots shouldn’t pass far above the sensors because the chronograph might not detect it. The useful trick that would work is to mark an aiming point of no more than 2″ in diameter on your target. It will provide you with consistent shot grouping and reduce the chance of screen hitting.

4. The most of gun chronographs are user-friendly with a simple mode of operation, boils down to simply connect the wire rods to the unit, power it on and fire a round through the screens. However, if you cannot found in the manuals the optimal distance of chronograph from your gun, the rule of thumb is to place it at 10 feet to 15 feet away from your gun’s muzzle.

5. Another general rule is not to skimp on ammo but to fire multiple rounds since shooting strings would provide more reliable data than single shots. 

6. Finally, to avoid getting unreliable results, you should not use the chronograph when its battery is low.

While the instructions don’t specify some details, using the YouTube video like the one we have suggested makes shooting chronograph setup a very straightforward.

How to Read Shooting Chronograph Data  

A shooting chronograph is a precision instrument that efficiently measures and displays velocity of your shots in either feet per second or meters per second, depending on your preference. As earlier mentioned, most models can display the highest, lowest and average velocity of the projectile. Shooters would also appreciate additional features like extreme spread, standard deviation and power factor.

Whereas the first three features are mostly self-explaining, let’s see what the last three information means and how they can help and improve your shooting.

Extreme Spread

Extreme Spread describes the velocity difference between your the fastest and the slowest round and it should be small.

Standard Deviation

Standard Deviation is the most valuable data to the shooter as it measures how close each shot was to the average value. This data can reveal how consistent your ammo batch series actually are; no matter is it factory or hand loaded ammunition. 

Power Factor

Power Factor is a ranking system is a much-appreciated feature by shooting competitors, as it enables the shooter to measure the round's momentum and scales it to its weight. Calculating the shot’s power is based on the shot’s velocity multiplied with the bullet’s grain.

If you want to obtain a reliable value for all of these shooting chronograph's data, you should fire at least 10 shots in a string.

Conclusion

As you can see, using a shooting chronograph can improve accuracy, the quality of your rounds and your reloading skills.

But do not forget! After you have decided, which make and model to purchase you should also know that for improving your shooting skills is not only enough to possess chronograph but to use one regularly.

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