Is a Chronograph Necessary


October 27, 2008, 10:10 AM
Hi, I've been only reloading for a month and feel very comfortable with the process. I read all I could before I started and can now turn out very consistent loads. Now, my question is - Do I need a chronograph?

I am not doing any competitive shooting, just practice and pleasure. However, I have been trying to sort out a few issues with my Springfield EMP 9mm and I believe it is the factory ammunition I've been using.

I've had problems getting the slide to lock with Remington UMC 115gr, though Winchester white-box 115gr and my hand-loads work fine. Anecdotally, the WWBs and my hand-loads sound and feel similar, or at least consistently louder and more recoil than the UMCs.

Someone on a 1911 board suggested getting a chronograph. I like gadgets and stuff, but I'm a little shy about setting up "fancy equipment" at a public range where I've never seen one. Obviously a true need will outweigh my shyness/anxieties.

Any opinions? Is a chronograph like the Chrony Alpha and Beta I've seen talked about here "required equipment" for reloaders? Thanks!


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October 27, 2008, 10:20 AM
You do not need one, but they are real handy and fun. Most reloaders don't have one, or did without one for years before getting one. You can work up some great loads without them.

The thing is, you realy don't know what velocity you are getting without one. The data sheets velocities seldom match your actual results, although sometimes they are very close. Also, some guns have "fast" barrels, and some have "slow" barrels.

I have a 6" M-28 with a "slow" barrel that consistently gives velocities at or below my 4" guns. The 4" GP-100 I traded had the fastest barrel of my 4 inchers. Not by a lot, but faster. It would out do the M-28 every time.

Welcome to THR Ed

October 27, 2008, 10:39 AM
It completes the picture when making up loads and can explain differences between loads. It's a toy, but a very informative and handy one. I have seen very few of them at the ranges.

October 27, 2008, 04:47 PM
They have their uses, most definitely. When I started reloading cast and looking for specific velocity ranges mine became more of a useful tool. But I wouldn't list one as a must have requirement if you're using solid data and practices and marking your targets. I have a couple of loads that don't have the best spread or standard deviation but just flat group the best. It's another tool that can point you in the right direction.

On the toy side: At my club on a range day I'll generally have 2-5 guys ask if they can run their loads over my chrony when I have it set up. I politely tell 'em I'd be glad to try not to shoot my chrony with their gun and get velocity for 'em. I've gotten to try out some neat rifles that way.

(I do ask some other questions too, like are we checking factory or reloads and have they tested them out in their rifle some that day. Told a guy once that had some 7-08 reloaded by a friend that he'd never fired to go off to the end of the range and find out if they were a bomb or not and then come back.)

October 27, 2008, 05:07 PM
Sometimes it's better not to know!

If I have a good load that shoots tiny groups, and kills coyotes like lightening hit them, I don't really care how fast it is.


October 27, 2008, 05:30 PM
no not necessary but a very good tool for reloading if you ask me.

October 27, 2008, 05:56 PM
If youplan on shooting at extended range and don't have access to a 300-600 yd. range, a chrono is a big help.
If you know the velocity and ballistic coefficient of your bullet/load, you can see what the drop is in the drop tables in back of some reloading manuals.
I've found this information to be pretty close to what actually happens on the range.

October 27, 2008, 08:39 PM
Hi Ed, I reloaded for quite a few years prior to buying my own chrono. Although I did borrow one from time to time. If money isn't an issue, buy a decent one, I have a pro-chrono and really like it. Mac

October 27, 2008, 08:52 PM
Hey There;
My self I would not be with out one. But that is me. You said you made "Very consistant" Loads.. How do you know that????
Consistant loads are when the velocity spread is very close. You have no way of knowing that. Just the sound and feel means nothing.

When playing with near max loads you should have one. Reading PSI signs is pretty much so a guessing game and can be a Hottly debated issue. Which I do not want to play with here. There has to be at least 1000 threads on that already. Kind of up to you . Thye really do not cost that much. They last forever or till you shoot it.
Have fun.

October 27, 2008, 09:47 PM
Okay, you have two good questions:

1) "Is a Chronograph Necessary" - No. If it were none of us would not have been handloading prior to maybe 20 years ago. I've been doing it since '65 and did quite well without a chronograph until about 12 years ago.

2) " Do I need a chronograph?" - No, at least not now. New reloaders have enough new stuff to deal with without adding that additional complexity. Later, maybe much later, you may find one to be helpful.

A chronograph IS a neat toy. But it's certainly not neccessary to have one to develop good reloads and it may even be a hinderance to you to get wound up with velocity concerns at this point. A chronograph is far less useful for handgun ammo than it is for rifle anyway.

October 28, 2008, 11:33 AM
Thanks, all, for the helpful advice.

October 30, 2008, 09:46 AM
Would you operate your car without a speedometer or tachometer?

Chronographs are a necessity if you care about standard deviations and extreme spread. I've owned the most expensive chronographs, the least expensive, and had them in line with the results being almost identical. Get the Shooting Chrony as it won't break your budget and I feel it's the best one for the money.

October 30, 2008, 11:35 PM
I think its more like having a tack and spedometer but not having it checked by radar is all. I have been loading for over 30 years and dont have one. Would be nice but its always other things I have more real use for first.

October 30, 2008, 11:48 PM
However if Obama is elected, we can all discard our chronographs and reliquish our firearms and ammo as well. Then we can all learn about what's really happening to America. cliffy

October 30, 2008, 11:54 PM
I think its more like having a tack and spedometer but not having it checked by radar is all.

I think it's more like having a car without a tach or a speedometer.

uk roe hunter
November 1, 2008, 05:04 PM
the consistancy of your loads can be checked by thier accuracy at a longer range. If they are all nice and tightly grouping then it is likely they are very consistant. and similar

XD-40 Shooter
November 1, 2008, 05:31 PM
I have a shooting chrony that I bought at Sportsmans Warehouse for $75, I really like it. Its very useful for checking extreme spread's on my reloaded ammo, plus I like to know what kind of velocity I'm getting for a given charge.:) I checked my Speer 165 gr Gold Dot's against the claimed 1150 fps, I was getting 1125-1135 over 3 shots, so they are pretty close.:D

November 1, 2008, 05:56 PM
I think its more like putting your pants on in the morning without getting on the scale.

I trust the load data on the back. If it says 34 32. I know its is reasonably going to fit. Some brands are off and I avoid them.

Same with your reloading. You say you have consistent loads. If velocity is what your basing consistency, I think you really have no clue. If your definition is tight groups, well then I think your there and could skip it.


November 2, 2008, 10:28 PM
I wouldn't be without one. I also use it for testing my arrows for target and hunting.
You can (obviously) reload without one, but for me, it is very useful when developing loads, ESPECIALLY if one is working with components that are not listed together in a reloading manual or working at close to max loads (which I mostly avoid).

If one sticks to published reloading manual data and is careful/methodical about things, you may be just fine without one. I just finished reading some threads on another board where someone discovered (thankfully rifle held together) they had made a big error on weighing powder charge (scale was determined to be wacked) and didn't notice the issue until they saw the extremely high velocity measurements on the first shots at the range. So, I think they can be helpful from a safety perspective, too - but obviously are not a replacement for being careful and getting things right when assembling cartridges.

November 2, 2008, 10:40 PM
I think you really do need one to see what's going on with your loads. They're a lot of fun, too, but they are something of a pain to set up. Add another 30 mins to your range trip if you bring one along.

November 4, 2008, 10:49 AM
A chono is not needed or directly helpful.

I have shot a hole through 3 of them, and am only using rifles over my 4th to protect it from my lousy pistol markmanship.

The Chono is good for on line bragging.
Did you know my Ruger #1 .223 has reached 4200 fps with Vmax bullets?

Yeah, that's right, 4200 fps.
That's because I'm cool.

See how it works?

November 4, 2008, 11:22 AM
Clark, what your photo shows is pretty much what I am trying to avoid. Even if I were to upgrade to an electronic powder measure, I would worry about how much is too much when metering out my powder.

I don't think increasing your charge until you rupture a case and then back off a fraction of a grain is a good idea. On the other hand, I want to make sure that my conservative charges are performing up to published "expectations". I would like to correlate what I am doing with what others like Speer have documented. As of now I only have perceived accuracy and repeatability as my anecdotal measure.

November 4, 2008, 12:10 PM
I was trying to be funny.
To a certain extent, measuring the velocity is taking leave of the senses.

One can see the brass and see the holes in the targets.
One can find loads in load books.
You can make small groups, sight in the gun, and kill things effectively.

What do you need the chrono data for?
You don't.
But with millions in your trust fund [or a little space on your credit card], you afford the luxury.

What will you do with the data?
You can post it on the internet.

Speer huh?
Vernon Speer wrote in 1956 about increasing loads in rifles until the brass expanded and then backing off 6% for a practical load.
He was a great man.
If he could read "Speer 12" "Speer 13", or "Speer 14", he would roll over in his grave in the disgust of the stupidity and deceit.

November 4, 2008, 12:12 PM
If you stick with loads from a good manual, you will be fine. If you work up your loads like you are supposed to, there will be plenty of signs to stop you before you get to badly blown primers like Clark showed.

You don't need a chrono to keep you out of trouble, but if you want to work up a load that gets you the FPS you want for absolutely sure, then you need a chrono. :)

November 4, 2008, 02:47 PM
Thanks, Walkalong, for the helpful information.

Mods, please lock this thread.

It's obvious that I don't need a chronograph, especially since the millions in my trust fund allow me to blow up handguns without breaking a financial sweat. Now if you will pardon me, I need to burn some books and post useless data on websites as I rage against the machine.

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