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How important is the ability to chronograph?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Sypher...., Jun 1, 2020.

  1. Sypher....

    Sypher.... Member

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    I'm new to reloading. I'm hoping to have everything I need by July to start reloading. How important is a chronograph when it comes to reloading? I ask because I don't see funds in my future for one anytime soon.
     
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  2. taliv

    taliv Moderator Staff Member

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    precision rifle? critical
    pistol? eh not so much

    carbines, etc, are in the middle. lot of people live without it

    there are alternatives. you can calculate the speed the old fashioned way, measuring how far a plate of known mass moves.
    or if you are a good shot and know the BC of the bullet, you can shoot at distance and measure the drop and calculate speed.
    you can go to a range with electronic targets, as some of them will measure velocity at the target, then you can back into muzzle velocity
     
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  3. mcb

    mcb Member

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    Not required if you are staying within published data. That said it give you insights and feedback that you cannot get any other way. You can get a chronograph fairly inexpensively (~$100) if you shop around. It would be good to get eventually but if you're just starting out its not required and might just add more complexity than needed as you learn the fundamentals of reloading.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2020
  4. buck460XVR

    buck460XVR Member

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    Reloaders went for decades without chronos being readily available or affordable to them. Folks still created accurate, safe and reliable ammo. As mcb said, stay within published data and you will be fine. I have a chrono and yet very seldom use it.
     
  5. Arkansas Paul

    Arkansas Paul Member

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    Like taliv said, if you shoot competition rifle, it's important.

    I target shoot for fun and deer hunt with rifles. I've never chronographed a single load. I load by the book and find a load that is accurate enough for my purposes.
    If I were trying to shoot one hole groups at 300 yards, I'd buy one.
     
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  6. Sypher....

    Sypher.... Member

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    Plinking ammo is all I plan to start with, so it sounds like I'm good to go.
    Thanks guys
     
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  7. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    If you are shooting USPSA or IDPA you need the use of a chronograph to be sure you are at the required power factor.
    If you are shooting Long Range, a chronograph will let you precalculate sight settings.

    Otherwise, hardly at all. Load within the published range and if your automatic functions and your bullets hit the target, you are good for nearly all other purposes.
     
  8. Ruger 15151

    Ruger 15151 Member

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    It depends on what you are reloading for. You can get accurate pistol by reading groups. You will need a Chrono to develop accurate rifle loads. People have developed loads for years without a chrono and long range shooters have used trial and error to identify their DOPE setting. However, they use ballistic calcultors now because it is much quicker and you spend less on testing.

    Load data just tells you the min and a very conservative max, but not what is an accurate load for your riffle. If you use a chrono properly, you can develop accurate rifle loads using a lot less time, powder, primers, and bullets.

    If you decide to purchase a Chrono, look at the MagnetSpeed Sporter. It takes about 30 seconds to mount it on your barrel and doesn't care if the sun is shining or its raining. I saw them on say at MidSouth shooters for $159.
     
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  9. hossfly

    hossfly Member

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    Chrony's aren't very expensive these days. Personally I use one all the time. While the manuals are USUALLY in the ballpark, I've had instances where they weren't.

    But you can certainly load and shoot without them.
     
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  10. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Member

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    I hand loaded 35 years without one, and still had very accurate loads. A crony is just another tool to help you in some cases. It's good for knowing how consistent your ammo is if your wanting max precision. Required No. Can it be useful, Yes.
     
  11. magyars4

    magyars4 Member

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    I'm with blue68
    I've got close to 40 years reloading. Never had one, never felt I needed one.
     
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  12. dgod
    • Contributing Member

    dgod Contributing Member

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    I started reloading in 1985, now reload several piston and rifle loads. I HIGHLY recommend a Chrony, with your known data, Bullet Weight, Ballistic Coeffecient, if you determine velocity (With a Chrony), you can determine the balliatic path of any load.

    Good Luck
    Dan
     
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  13. .38 Special

    .38 Special Member

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    Good replies.

    Certainly, for the OP's "plinking ammo" there is no need for a chronograph whatsoever.

    For the most part I no longer chrono any handgun rounds. I found the right loads for me many years ago and don't see the need to change them.

    Rifle ammunition is a slightly different story. I no longer try to get the last bit of velocity from my rifles - I consider a chronograph crucial for that sort of work - but I do like to know that my rifle round is doing what it is supposed to, both for purposes of range estimation and of bullet performance.

    Having written all of that, it still is important to note that chronographs for personal use are a relatively recent development and that very good work was done without them for many decades.
     
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  14. Swampman

    Swampman Old Fart

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    The only time I consider a chronograph really necessary is when developing subsonic loads, particularly with jacketed bullets in semi auto rifles.
    I strongly disagree with both statements.
     
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  15. Ruger 15151

    Ruger 15151 Member

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    And you can understand how things like neck tension and different primers effect velocity consistency. In the past, we had no way to test either of these nor could we measure Standard Deviation or Extreme Velocity spread to predict how repeatable a load will be down range.

    We used to shoot rifles without scopes. They are not essential to hitting a target. However, now that we have them, look at how much more effective we shoot. :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2020
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  16. Ruger 15151

    Ruger 15151 Member

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    Fair enough. But I think that’s because you may not know how to effectively use the data a chrono can provide. That’s not a dig in any way.

    I use my chrono to adjust powder charge when changing bullets from lot to lot ( yes... they can vary greatly). I use it to adjust a powder charge when starting a new jug of powder because they vary from lot to lot. I use a chrono to identify what velocity a bullet want to be shot from my barrel. A chrono tells me which primer works best with the powder and load charge I am using. It will also tell me why a powder and bullet combination shoots groups under .5 inches at 100 yards but is all over the place at 500 yards.

    If you are a hunter and you have no idea what velocity your load is shooting at, how do you know what energy your bullet will have when it reaches the animal you are hunting at 300, 500, or 700 yards to make sure it is enough for a humane kill? I could list another 10 ways a chrono helps me with my loads.

    However, to each his own. The OP originally asked if a chrono is valuable. The answer is... it really depends... on the level of shooting you do and the type of ammo you are looking to develop.

    BTW- you don’t need a Chrono to develop a subsonic load. Most load books can estimate how much powder is needed to stay below 1,126 fps.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2020
  17. .308 Norma

    .308 Norma Member

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    I done real well handloading without a chronograph for the first 20 years or so, and at 40+ years of handloading, I still don't use it very often. However, I don't shoot "precision" anything. Most of my handloads are handgun practice loads, or big game and varmint hunting loads. I don't even build self-defense handgun loads because the Instructor for our CCW Class said it wasn't a good idea to use handloads for self-defense.
     
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  18. mokin

    mokin Member

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    A chronograph isn't necessary. Several members have already testified to that. I have one and use it fairly regularly. It's a personal thing. I went a long time without one but eventually I got some kind of bug and had to know the velocity of the ammo I loaded. Like mcb suggested, focus on the basics first. Then see where your new hobby takes you.
     
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  19. mcb

    mcb Member

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    The chrono does give you useful data. It is very satisfying to zero you rifle at 100 yards, get chronograph data for the load, plug that velocity data with a good BC value into your favorite ballistics calculator and then reach up and dial your scope for several different ranges from 200 - 1000 yards and get first shot hits. I had been using a chrono for years for USPSA/IDPA pistol ammo but that first time using it for long range shooting was very satisfying.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2020
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  20. Captcurt

    Captcurt Member

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    For the average Joe a Chrono is something to play with. I got a wild hare last year and bought a 338 Federal. All of my loading manuals had 200 gr. max loads running 2500-2600 fps depending on the powder. Federal Fusions quoted 2700 fps with a 200 gr. I had my doubts so I set the chrono up and checked. My loads where right with the manuals. The Fusions were off a little. They averaged 2750 fps. I could never get close to that with my loads. I still scratch my head over that one.
     
  21. TonyAngel

    TonyAngel Member

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    You can do without it for handgun. If you're shooting handguns in competition and have to make a power factor, you'll need to know how fast your bullets are flying. Other than that, the gun cycling without indication of over pressure are all that you need to worry about.

    With rifle, it depends. It's pretty handy to be able to use a ballistic calculator to figure your dope and you need to know your velocity to do this. If you're just blasting out of an AR or only shooting to a few hundred yards, a chrony isn't needed.
     
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  22. Milt1

    Milt1 Member

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    I have a Crony but have never used it since purchasing but will eventually. I bought it just to see how close my handloads are to published data as I think that's interesting.
    .
     
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  23. .308 Norma

    .308 Norma Member

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    I too have always found that interesting. And many times I've found comparing my handloads to published data quite surprising.;)
    Also, I once amused myself by shooting my Sheridan pellet rifle across my chronograph. I don't remember the results now, but I had it figured out how many FPS I gained for each additional pump - up to a maximum of 10 pumps.:)
     
  24. lordpaxman

    lordpaxman Member

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    You can always find someone who has one, make a friend, do them a favor!
    I reloaded for years without one, and still have all my digits, but I stayed within the lines. And I wasn’t shooting competition back then.
    If you need to know what the bullet’s velocity is, you need a chrono. Good luck!
     
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  25. Demi-human

    Demi-human Member

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    I second this.

    It is not paramount to an accurate load. It’s necessary to finding how fast that load moves.

    That some barrels are faster or slower than book velocities is independent of the pressure in the chamber.
    That chamber and that amount of powder will make that pressure. What the barrel does with it is secondary.
    The books are not ‘very conservative’. That a rifle can handle more than that does not make their pressure equipment wrong. It makes the rifle built to a safety factor.

    A well worn barrel can be overloaded trying to make book velocity, while ignoring listed charges.


    There are a multitude of new handloaders in recent events.
    I think it is too cavalier to suggest book loads are truncated by lawyers, or written conservatively.
    Especially with the state of the art of pressure measurement systems today. The most recent loading manuals are more exacting now than they have ever been.
     
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