If you want to become or already are a serious precision shooter, you must have a good chronograph in your collection of range equipment. The information that a good chronograph provides is a critical factor in developing loads for your favorite firearm that perform to your expectations.
Even the average hunter who may only fire a handful of rounds during a hunting season will benefit from chronographing their custom loads.
Chronographs are scientific instruments for measuring the speed of a bullet as it passes through a known distance.
Shooters use the information gathered by their chronographs for developing custom cartridge loads that give known performance such as speed, bullet drop, and aiming information for better accuracy.
Good chronographs typically measure bullet speed a few feet from the muzzle of the gun. When this information is combined with other data such as bullet drop over a known distance, the standard deviation in the loads, and bullet flight characteristics, shooters can more accurately predict where a given bullet will impact under known conditions.
Serious shooters should have a good chronograph in their range kit.
Comparison Table for the Best Chronograph for Shooters
If you’re in a hurry, below is a quick comparison table of the best chronographs for shooting, that you could get as of 2022:
The Best Shooting Chronographs
Chronographs can range in price from just over $100 to more than $500. Fortunately, you don’t have to invest the cost of a new gun in a good chronograph that will give you accurate readings and data on your custom cartridge loads.
In many instances, the cost difference is based on features and accessories and not the quality of the device.
Our list of Best Chronographs should give you an idea of what to expect from a reasonably priced chronograph in the way of features and performance. Some chronographs work better with rifles, and others are particularly good with pistols.
Whatever your favorite firearm, one of these chronographs should fill your needs perfectly.
Best Beginners Chronograph – Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph Premium Kit
- ACCURACY: Each unit is factory calibrated within +/- 0.25%
- EASE OF USE: Measures Meters per Second (MPS) and 5 to 9,999 Feet per Second (FPS)
- VERSATILITY: Ideal for firearms, archery, airgun and paintball rifles
For the first-time chronograph buyer and user, the Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph premium kit is the choice. Buying a chronograph for the first time is often a quest to find all the necessary accessories and parts.
Just getting set up to use a new chronograph can be a challenge for a first-time user.
Caldwell anticipated these problems and offered a solution. The premium Caldwell Chronograph Kit comes with everything you need to go to the range. The accessories included with the Caldwell Premium Kit include:
- Factory Calibrated Caldwell Precision Chronograph
- Extra-wide sunscreens and support rods
- Large LCD
- 25’ Audio Cable
- Light kit
- Carry Case.
To gather your data from the Caldwell Premium Chronograph, Caldwell has an app that works with your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android 2.0 or greater smartphones, and Kindle tablets.
The free app provides the average shooter with all the calculations you will need for essential load development, including:
- Average Velocity for the shot group
- Standard deviation
- Minimum, maximum, and velocity spread for the shot group
All the data is stored and can be exported in a variety of formats.
Our Take on the Caldwell Precision Chronograph Premium Kit
If you look in my range box, the Caldwell Precision Chronograph is still there. I use this chronograph as my go-to instrument when I am developing loads. It does have minor issues.
It may not get enough light on cloudy days without some extra help to accurately read a bullet velocity. However, I live in West Texas, where the bright sun is the norm.
Check out the Caldwell Precision Chronograph Premium Kit on Amazon
Best Chronograph Upgrade – Caldwell G2 Ballistic Precision Chronograph
- SPECS: 18” sensor spacing for maximum accuracy and each unit is factory calibrated to within...
- EASE OF USE: Front LED display shows velocity information, the inverted LED light panels make...
- VERSATILITY: Meters per Second (MPS) or Feet per Second (FPS) reading and is ideal for firearms,...
If you started your reloading chronograph journey with one of the smaller or less expensive models but want more precision and more features, Caldwell has answered your call.
The Caldwell G2 Precision Chronograph is the upgraded model in their lineup of ballistic chronographs.
The differences in the two chronographs are not just cosmetic or minor tweaks to the sensors or software. The Caldwell G2 Precision Ballistic Chronograph is a different design concept and offers a range of features that puts it in a class by itself.
Consider the additional features that you get with the Caldwell G2 Ballistic Precision Chronograph
- Bluetooth connectivity with your smartphone eliminates the need for the connection cable to the chronograph
- Rechargeable internal lithium-ion batteries for extended time on the range use. No more changing 9-volt batteries in the middle of a session.
- Factory tuning for accuracy up to 99.79 percent
- Sunscreens include self-contained LED lights for consistent results despite adverse light conditions
- 18” sensor spacing means more accurate results
- Battery life without the LED lights is 12 hours, with the LED lights 3 hours.
The Caldwell G2 ballistic chronograph accuracy is unparalleled. The longer trap area between the sensors and placing the sensors on top pointing down gives better results overall and allows even greater accuracy.
The new Caldwell G2 chronograph app offers more flexibility and a great range of options to the user. Bluetooth connectivity means no more wires attached to your smartphone.
Our Take on the Caldwell G2 Ballistic Chronograph
The Caldwell G2 chronograph will set you back about a few benjamins more than the Caldwell Ballistic Precision chronograph kit. In our opinion, if you can fit the extra cost into your budget, the upgrade is well worth the cost. The G2 from Caldwell packs a lot of features and offers improved performance and accuracy.
The one downside some user reviews mention is with the sensor unit above the trap; you have a slightly higher chance of accidentally shooting the sensor.
To learn more about the Caldwell G2 Ballistic chronograph, visit this link to Amazon.
Best Rifle Mounted Chronograph – MagnetoSpeed Sporter
- Use with barrels from ½ inch to 1 inch in diameter
- Accommodates muzzle brakes and flash hiders up to 2.7 inches in length
- Ideal for contoured rifle barrels and long-barreled revolvers
One of the challenges to using a traditional chronograph at the range is the need to set the chronograph up a measured distance from the muzzle of the rifle.
This often requires tripods, cables, and making sure you don’t shoot the housing of the chronograph in the process. Nothing ruins a day at the range quicker than putting a round through your chronograph, literally, and seeing it become another piece of junk to toss away.
MagnetoSpeed solves most of these issues with the Sporter Chronograph. Unlike most other chronographs that use optical sensors to see the bullet as it travels through a set distance, the MagnetoSpeed Sporter chronograph uses electromagnetic fields to detect the pullet as it passes the sensors.
And no more tripods. The MagnetoSpeed Sporter attaches to the barrel of your rifle using non-marring rubber V-shaped spacers and a Cordura strap.
This puts the sensors in line with the rifle’s bore and a precise distance from the muzzle. There is no more shooting through a small window on a chronograph. Everything is attached to your rifle.
When you purchase the MagnetoSpeed Sporter, you get the whole package. Nothing else to buy.
Open the box, and you are ready to shoot and measure your loads. The MagnetoSpeed Sporter chronograph includes:
- The display unit
- One nine-volt battery
- MagnetoSpeed barrel attached sensor
- Straps and connectors
- Storage container
Feature-wise, you won’t find the MagnetoSpeed Sporter lacking in any area. This chronograph is designed for easy and intuitive operation for any shooter.
Consider the features MagnetoSpeed builds into this chronograph.
- Simple, one-button operation of the display scrolls through the available data quickly.
- Easy battery changes requiring no tools
- Three sensitivity settings for the most precise measurements
- Quick detach mounting system that won’t mar or mark your rifle
- Updated sensor design for more accurate readings
You can transfer the data from the MagnetoSpeed Sporter to your smartphone using the data Optional data cable.
Using the app on your smartphone, the data can be exported as a CSV file for use with other ballistic programs on a spreadsheet.
Our Take on the MagnetoSpeed Sporter Chronograph
For ease of use and convenience, the MagnetoSpeed Sporter is the winner hands-down. Convenience is a key issue, but accuracy is a necessity.
Fortunately, the technology and the design of the MagnetoSpeed Sporter meet this requirement as well. This chronograph is one of the most accurate available in this price range.
The one downside to the MagnetoSpeed Sporter is the barrel diameter limitations. If you shoot rifles with large diameter barrels or suppressors, the Sporter model just won’t fit.
MagnetoSpeed does offer an upgraded model that will adapt to large diameter barrels or suppressors.
You can check out more about the MagnetoSpeed Sporter on Amazon at this link.
Another Upgraded Model – The MagnetoSpeed V3
- Use with barrels and suppressors between ½ inch to 2 inches
- Improved shooting modes, now with the ability to operate with air guns
- New bracketing system allows for future alternative attachments
One challenge when using a barrel-mounted chronograph is any muzzle attachments that can prevent the chronograph from being attached close to the muzzle.
The MagnetoSpeed V3 solves these types of problems quickly and easily.
The new MagnetoSpeed V3 easily adapts to barrels, suppressors, or muzzle breaks up to two inches in diameter.
The ability to adjust to larger diameter barrels and suppressors is not the only improvement in the MagnetoSpeed V3 chronograph.
- Larger and improved display
- New battery options. You can now use either a single 9-volt battery or two CR123 batteries.
- Toolless battery swaps
- Downloadable firmware updates allow you always to have the best possible results from your chronograph
- Advanced logging and troubleshooting capabilities
- A new bracketing system for alternative attachment options
- Dual data connection points
Reviews of the MagnetoSpeed V3 ballistic chronograph mention rate this chronograph among one of the best on the market.
Users are particularly impressed with several of the V3 features.
- Excellent accuracy and reliability.
- Includes spacers that allow the chronograph to be easily adapted to any barrel size—even adapters for tapered barrels.
- No issue with light. The MagnetoSpeed picks up everything that comes out of the barrel.
- Rugged construction withstands the recoil from even the biggest caliber guns.
Our Take on the MagnetoSpeed V3 Barrel-Mounted Chronograph
This is an impressive piece of kit. Shooters routinely wanted to use their MagnetoSpeed Sporter models on suppressed or bull barrels. MagnetoSpeed stepped up and brought the V3 model.
The adapters are well designed and easy to use. The chronograph is rugged, reliable, and accurate. The hard case is a great addition and keeps your chronograph and the accessories secure and together.
The only negative we find with this chronograph kit is the price.
However, when looking at the MagnetoSpeed V3 vs. the Sporter model, we can easily see good reasons to spend the extra money for the V3.
The additional features make the upgrade to the V3 model much easier to justify.
Learn more about the MagnetoSpeed Ballistic Chronograph on Amazon at this link.
The Ultimate Ballistic Chronograph – Labradar Doppler Radar Chronograph
If you want the ultimate in chronograph technology for your load development tasks, the Labradar Doppler Radar Chronograph should be on your radar. Pun intended. Using Doppler radar to measure the speed of a projectile as it moves downrange is nothing new.
The police have been using this technology to give you speeding tickets for years.
What is new and exciting about the Labrador Doppler Radar Chronograph is the technology that brings this option to the shooting range in size and at a price that almost any shooter can afford.
Doppler radar brings a new level of precision and features to the ballistic chronograph market.
- High precision data that is not affected by sunlight or weather
- Continuous velocity measurement from the muzzle to one hundred yards
- Data chapter to an onboard SD card for easy data retrieval and transfer
- Easy setup. Simply point the unit at the target and fire your rifle
- The independent light operation can be used in bright sun or low light conditions equally well
- Useable with almost any rifle, pistol, shotgun, bow and arrow, pellet gun, or crossbows
Labradar also has a mobile app for your smartphone that connects wirelessly using Bluetooth technology. You can manage the vast amount of data you collect seamlessly and effortlessly on your smart device.
If you purchase a Labradar Doppler Radar Chronograph, be prepared to make some additional purchases before you are ready to chronograph your loads.
You must provide some sort of stand or tripod to support the chronograph and the necessary batteries, which are not included.
If you want to store data on an SD card, you must also supply this as well.
Our Take on the Labradar Doppler Radar Chronograph
I love technology, and the thought of using something as sophisticated as doppler radar to chronograph my loads is almost too good to pass up.
However, checking on what other Labradar Doppler Radar Chronograph users have to say may dampen the enthusiasm just a bit.
Many users find the setup of the Labradar chronograph to be difficult. The radar unit must be precisely aimed at your target, which can be a problem at 100 yards. Some users reported issues with the microphone failing to trigger the radar, especially in noisy environments.
Ever been to a shooting range that wasn’t noisy?
If you have don’t mind the finicky setup and buying extra accessories to make your chronograph reasonably easy to use, then the additional benefits you get from the Labradar Doppler Radar Chronograph may be just the ticket.
The one thing that stands out to me is the ability to get an accurate velocity reading at any point along the 100-yard flight path of your bullet.
Which Chronograph Do I Recommend?
In truth, no one chronograph fits every shooter’s needs. There are so many variables and factors that affect that decision that offering a one size fits all solution is never a wise idea.
The best recommendation I can make is to consider your own needs and expectations and choose the best chronograph to meet those goals.
My choice for my range kit is the Caldwell Precision Ballistic Chronograph. I have used this model for many years with great success and satisfaction. I don’t load for precision long-range shooting.
My reloading is geared more toward reliability and consistency. Therefore, my chronograph is used to check for that kind of data.
Were I to be more interested in precision shooting where ballistic consistency is more important, I am sure I would upgrade my chronograph to a more sophisticated piece of equipment.
One Tool Every Serious Shooter Should Have
If you are a serious shooter and reloader, a chronograph is one tool that must be in your range box.
The ability to measure and analyze velocities is the basis for almost every other aspect of load development and accurate shooting.
There are many chronographs on the market. Some of the manufacturers we have chosen for our list have other, more sophisticated models that may serve your needs better.
Finding the chronograph that serves your needs and expectations is the key to becoming a better reloader and shooter. Have fun and shoot safely.
Over and Out.
Also Read: The 4 Best Shooting Rests: Tested & Reviewed