Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph Review ~ Video

by Dr. Jim and Mary Clary

Illustration courtesy of Caldwell Shooting Supplies
Illustration courtesy of Caldwell Shooting Supplies

AmmoLand Gun News

Los Lunas, NM -(AmmoLand.com)- Why should you consider buying a new Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph when the one that you already have seems to work just fine?

Putting aside the idea that it works fine and is still accurate, the answer is simple. Why did we trade in our old cell phones for one of the newer smart phones? Technology! We wanted the most up-to-date equipment with more versatility and convenience. The same line of reasoning applies to chronographs.

We have been using our chronograph for ten years. We have assumed that it's level of accuracy has remained the same and were satisfied with its performance. That was until we asked a friend to compare the results from his new chrony with ours, side-by-side. Surprise, surprise…. they were not the same. His machine has just been factory calibrated and ours; well, over ten years of use, it had lost almost 15% in accuracy.

Because we do a lot of chronograph testing in preparing our target rounds as well in testing new powder/bullet/rifle combinations, we determined that a new chronograph was in order. We wanted one that was accurate, but one that would not bust our budget.

With that in mind, we ordered the new Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph. ( http://goo.gl/XX85z5 )

The first thing that caught our attention with this machine is the use of a high speed 48 MHz processor that is coupled with a very sophisticated data interface. Translated, that means that the chronograph can be computer calibrated at the factory after assembly to guarantee an accuracy of +/- 0.25%. That by itself, was enough to convince us that we made the right decision.

Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph App
Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph App

However, it got better. Unlike some of the other chronographs on the market which required one to buy an extra piece of equipment to print out the results, the Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph comes with a 15′ audio jack which plugs into an iPhone, iPad or Android 4G phone. With the free Caldwell App downloaded, the chronograph delivers the shot string velocity data directly to your phone. The App automatically calculates the average velocity, standard deviation, maximum and minimum velocity and spread. And, the App allows you to add notes to the file after it is in your phone. That is really cool! Oh yea, almost forgot…. you can record in metric or standard units, Co or Fo and add your zip code into the system.

To get the App, go to either the “Play Store” on your phone or the Caldwell website and download: Caldwell Ballistic Chronometer

We also decided to test the claim that the Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph was capable of measuring velocities from 5 fps to 9,999 fps. Since we don't have access to a Rail Gun, we could not test the upper end, but we did want to find out if it would test slower speeds and smaller projectiles. The reason for that is when we were testing airguns a couple of years ago, our Chrony would not register any readings for the 5 grain pellets and it was very sporadic for arrows from our compound bow.

We set up the chronograph and fired a string of five pellets. Bingo…. it worked:

Caldwell Ballistic app
Airgun results recorded by Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronometer App

We repeated our tests with a 55 lb draw weight compound bow and it recorded a consistent velocity of 242 fps (+/- 7 fps). We don't own any paintball guns, but feel confident that this machine will record their velocities as well.

The Caldwell “basic” chronograph includes:

  • Operates on a 9 volt battery (not included)
  • Two wide sun screens for added shading in full sunlight
  • With an MSRP of $99.99

Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph Kit

For an extra 50 bucks (internet prices maybe lower) you can buy the premium kit, which we highly recommend. This kit includes all of the above and:

  • ¼-20 threaded insert on the bottom for tripod mounting
  • Two IR LED sun screens low light and indoor use
  • 36 IR LEDs in each strip with 1 red LED indicating power
  • 110 volt AC adaptor included for LED strips
  • 4-AA battery pack for LED strips included
  • Tripod adjustable from 15″ to 42″
  • Carrying case for the chrony and all components; which is really convenient and very well made with a dual zipper design.

Caldwell recommends that if you intend to utilize the IR LED strips for an extended period, plug in the 110 volt adaptor, as the IR LED lights will rapidly suck AA batteries dry.

The only criticism that we have with the machine is that in order to record a shot string, you must hook it up to your iPhone, iPad or Android phone. Otherwise, it will simply record single shot velocities each time. It does not keep an internal record for recall via a button on the machine. However, that is a very minor point, as most shooters want a permanent record of their chronograph results and will use their phones.

With an MSRP of $169.99, the Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph premium kit is an excellent buy which should provide years of accurate service.

James R. Clary, Ph.D.
Contributing Editor, Guns & Shooting Online
Field Editor, Universal Hunter Magazine
Associate Editor, N.A. Muzzleloader Hunting Assoc.

Mary H. Clary, B.S., R.N.
Women’s Editor, Guns & Shooting Online
Associate Editor, N.A. Muzzleloader Hunting Assoc.
Field Editor, Universal Hunter Magazine

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