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Comparing Chronographs

Many shooters use chronographs.  If you load your own cartridges, be it for volume (think lots of range practice), hunting, or precision long range shooting reasons, knowing the velocity of your cartridge is a must.  Technology has driven down the cost of the chronograph but we still see a fairly wide spread on prices for different brand and models.  Does it make a difference how much you pay?  You certainly do get what you pay for in terms of features and options, but what about the basic task of the chronograph....measuring the velocity of the bullet.  Is one as good as the next?  In this short write-up, I took the liberty of comparing two different chronographs.  I used my CED M2 Chronograph and a friend's chrono, a Prochrono Digital made by Competition Electronics.


two chronographs

Here are the two chronographs set up on my club's 100 yd rifle bay.  I stacked them one in front of the other, allowing both to record the same shot each time I pulled the trigger.  Yes, I realize that the bullet will be going a tiny bit slower by the time it gets to the CED M2 sky screens, but I doubt the two foot difference in screen placement is going to make that much impact on the numbers. 


shooter's view of the two chronographs

Here is the dual chronograph setup as seen from behind my Savage 10 FCP-HS .308 Win rifle which is what I used for the brief test.  I was shooting my hand loads that I'd worked up for this rifle, a Sierra 175 gr Matchking bullet over 42.9 grains of Varget with a CCI 200 primer and new Winchester brass.  Here are the results of a single 5 shot string. 

Shot CED M2 Prochrono Difference (FPS)
1 2625 2609 16
2 2619 2604 15
3 2628 2614 14
4 2641 error ---
5 2613 2594 19
Average 2625 2606 16

Since I have no "velocity standard" to use as a baseline, I can't say which chronograph is closer to the true velocity.  If you do some quick math, they are within 1% of each other which is a typical spec for consumer grade chronographs.  For my shooting/load development, the accuracy of the above readings would be adequate.  Both will record velocities ranging from well under 100 FPS up to 7000 FPS.  Based on this simple comparison, the difference in price gets you more features and functions.   Do you want a model where the computer and sky screens are in an integrated unit sitting in front of your firing position or do you want the computer sitting on the shooting table with cables attaching it to the sky screens?  Do you want 9 shot strings with up to 99 shots per string or do you require up to 500 shot strings with up to 500 shots per string?  How about a synthesized voice announcing the velocity of each shot?  The bells and whistles are limited, for the most part, only by the software engineer.

In summary, unless one is doing lab grade testing, I believe it is safe to say that the current crop of consumer chronographs should meet most any shooter's needs.  Look through the available offerings that fit your chronograph budget.  Once you have a couple of candidates, narrow it down based on the features and options you want.  I've been very satisfied with my CED M2 chronograph.  Good luck! 




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