I have been reloading for a long time but it was usually just to save money for target practice, so I usually just used the starting load in many of the books. Sometimes I would modify a few things to see what would happen but for the most part if went boom when I pulled the trigger it was good.
For a number of reasons I wanted to collect some data on how my reloads were performing, so I decided to buy a chronograph. I was doing a lot of research on what kind to buy and I was leaning towards a particular model when I received an email from Midway and the Shooting Chrony Beta Master was on sale for $99!. The one I was considering was quite a bit more and that was why I was hesitating. For $99 I went for it.
Shooting Chrony has quite a number of different models available. The three main models are the Alpha, Beta, and the Gamma. The biggest difference between the three is the amount of memory for storing velocity readings. Each of the three models are available in the base model and the Master model. The base model has the LCD screen on the unit and the Master model comes with a remote control that housed the LCD screen and about 15 ft of phone cable to connect the remote to the main unit.
On opening up the box I was amazed at how small the box was. I had imagined that it would be larger but apparently that is one of the selling points of the chrony. It folds up into a small package.
As I mentioned earlier I opted for the Beta Master. This means that I have room for storing the velocities of 60 shots divided into six strings of 2 to 10 shots each.
I opened up the box to see what was inside. The obligatory instructions, the chrony itself, the multi-part diffusers, and the support rods.
I unfolded the Chrony to take a look at the inside. You can see the remote unit and the phone cord rolled up nice and neat. I was not able to get the cable and remote rolled up tight enough to fit back in there once I took it out. You can also see the two sensors that detect the bullet passing over them.
Here you can see the remote unit and the phone cable pulled out. For normal use the battery is plugged into the main housing. But you can take the remote unit and plug in the battery and read off you velocities at home without having to hook everything up.
In this closeup of the remote unit I have plugged in the battery and turned it on. It is displaying BE for Beta. Once it has passed its power on test it displays the BE and it is ready for business.
To test the chrony I set it up on a camera tripod so that it was level with the rifle rest on the shooting bench and the center of the two sensors was 10 ft away from where I was shooting. The instructions stated that 10ft away should be far enough away to avoid issues with the muzzle blast causing erroneous readings. I plugged in the remote unit and set it on the shooting bench and prepared to have some fun. For these tests the temperature was 48 degrees Fahrenheit and it was overcast.
Due to the fact that I only have one chronograph I could not directly compare reading between two different models. I figured the next best thing to test the accuracy of the chronograph was to use some factory ammunition for which I had published velocity information available. I also had some reloads that I wanted to try out along with the factory ammunition.
In order to familiarize myself with the operation of the chrony and make sure that I could shoot with out hitting it I decided to start with my Kimber 82G .22 rifle first. This rifle has a 25″ barrel and I was firing .22 long rifle that I purchased from the CMP. Supposedly the CMP currently gets its 22 ammo from Aquila and what I am using is Golden Eagle Target with a velocity of 1100fps out of a 20″ barrel. I fired my first shot and the chrony displayed the velocity of 1301fps. A little high but I fired nine more for the following results.
Mean Velocity: 1262 fps
Standard Deviation: 27.4 fps
Now 1262fps is a little over the published velocity of 1100fps but my barrel is 5 inches longer than the test barrel. These velocities are comparable to what this guy in the CMP forums is getting with this ammo. I have also read that a standard deviation of 30 is normal for factory ammunition. Next I tried the same ammo out of my Ruger 22/45 with a 4.5″ barrel and we see that the velocities are quite different out of the shorter barrel.
Mean Velocity: 979 fps
Standard Deviation: 29.5 fps
I then wanted to try some 223 out of my AR15 that I recently put together. For the first string of shots I fired 10 rounds of M193. If I read the specification correctly M193 should have a velocity of 3250fps out of a 20″ barrel.
AR15 18" Barrel
Mean Velocity: 3213 fps
Standard Deviation: 32.7 fps
Not bad at all. 10 rounds with an average velocity of 3213 fps. The next string is some Bulk Black Hills 223 that I got on sale back before the 2008 election. It is rated at 3200fps.
AR15 18" Barrel
Black Hill 55gr
Mean Velocity: 2983 fps
Standard Deviation: 34.9 fps
Looks like the Black Hills stuff is a little slower than advertised. For a twist I have some Prvi Partizan 75gr Match ammo that is advertised as 830m/s. Converting that to fps by multiplying by 3.28 yields a velocity of 2722fps.
AR15 18" Barrel
Prvi PPU 75gr Match
Mean Velocity: 2584 fps
Standard Deviation: 15.3 fps
Again my readings are a bit lower than advertised although I am firing these shots out of a barrel that is 2 inches shorter than the test barrels. Time to move up in the caliber world. I am going to fire some surplus HXP M2 ball out of my Garand. The M2 ball is supposed to be 2805fps. I am only going to fire 8 shot strings out of the Garand.
Mean Velocity: 2810 fps
Standard Deviation: 23.9 fps
That is looking pretty good. Now for the first of my reloads. I have a 168gr Sierra Match King over 44gr of IMR 4895. This should be a little on the light side of a full power load but this is one of the reasons I wanted a chronograph.
168gr SMK 44gr IMR 4895
Mean Velocity: 2549 fps
Standard Deviation: 21.3 fps
The velocities are higher than I expected but I am pleased with the results. Now for another rifle that prompted me to buy a chronograph. My 1899 Krag Carbine is over 110 years old now and I do not want to push the envelope on this one. These loads are 220gr Round Nose on top of 40grs of H4350.
220gr RN 40gr H4350
Mean Velocity: 1830 fps
Standard Deviation: 21.7 fps
I also wanted to test my 9mm and see how the velocities compared. The first ten shots are Federal HST 124gr and should have a velocity of 1150fps out of a 4″ barrel. Today I am using a M&P9C that has a 3.5″ barrel.
Federal HST 124
Mean Velocity: 1083 fps
Standard Deviation: 23.2 fps
The velocity is pretty close. While I was at it I tried a string of Federal HST+P 124gr that should have a velocity of 1200fps.
Federal HST 124+P
Mean Velocity: 1164 fps
Standard Deviation: 7.7 fps
For comparison I shot some factory Federal American Eagle that should have a velocity of 1150 fps.
Federal American Eagle 124
Mean Velocity: 1053 fps
Standard Deviation: 20.7 fps
That was lower than I expected but this is the “value” ammo from Federal. Now I want to try one of my pet reloads for the 9mm. I like to use 4.0 grs of Titegroup under a 124gr FMJ. This should make power factor for IDPA and it is a nice shooting round that won’t kill my hand after shooting a few hundred rounds.
124gr FMJ 4.0gr Titegroup
Mean Velocity: 983 fps
Standard Deviation: 11.8 fps
Out of my 3.5″ barrel M&P9C my reload is making 983fps. I need to reach 1009fps to meet the Power Factor for IDPA. Since the rules call for measuring the velocity out of the longest legal barrel allowable, I think that these reloads will reach 1009fps in a 5″ barrel but I will have to test and make sure.
Most chronographs work by sensing a disturbance in the amount of light entering the sensors. Since it was overcast the day I did the testing the light was rather diffuse and I did not use the diffusers. On a sunny day or if there are partial clouds the amount of light entering the sensors can change and cause erroneous readings. The diffusers are there to help eliminate the problems caused by erratic lighting. I have even seen some people put a white piece of poster board of cardboard over top of the entire chronograph so that only reflected light gets to the sensors instead of direct light.
Overall I am rather pleased with the Shooting Chrony Beta Master. If I had to pick one thing to complain about is that to get the velocity statistics out of the unit you have to press a combination of buttons that is just not intuitive at all. I ended up entering all of the velocities into a spreadsheet and calculating the results there. I understand that they probably used less buttons to keep the costs down but the menu system was kind of convoluted. I am going to continue using the chrony and see what some of my other firearms and loads can do. I would like to get out to the range with some one that has a different chronograph ans set the two of them up serially. Then fire through both at the same time and compare velocity readings to see if they both read the same or if there are differences.