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Brief review of LabRadar chronograph (and a cautionary tale). Login/Join 
Freethinker
Picture of sigfreund
posted
The LabRadar chronograph I purchased from Creedmoor Sports arrived recently and my first test was at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (aka DOW) range in Chaffee County. Test rifle was a Sako TRG-22 with 26 inch barrel chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor, and ammunition was Hornady 140 grain ELD Match.

I had read numerous reviews of the unit and one of the most common problems reported was the need to position it properly to be triggered by the muzzle blast of the discharge. It was also much more likely to fail to pick up shots with a suppressor. I had previously discovered that my TBAC can reduced the effects of the discharge so much that it won’t even trigger my shot timer. Further research indicated that the best solution was to use an aftermarket recoil-actuated trigger that’s attached to the rifle and plugs into the microphone jack of the chronograph.

I therefore ordered a JKL Precision recoil trigger unit at the same time as the chronograph, and I didn’t try recording any shots without it.

The LabRadar should be positioned as close to the line of sight to the target as possible, and I therefore decided to place it directly on the shooting bench offset a few inches from the rifle barrel. Two LabRadar options to do that are a small tripod and a mounting plate with a tripod head. My solution was to make my own mounting plate with a piece of scrap lumber and a Slik tripod head that wasn’t being used. A small bag filled with lead birdshot keeps the base in place. As it turned out, I could probably dispense with the adjustable tripod head as being unnecessary, but its quick detach plate is a convenience. I attached the JKL trigger directly to the stock of the rifle with a few strips of electrical tape, but I also purchased that company’s Picatinny rail mount.

In addition to avoiding any issues with the discharge’s failing to trigger the unit, using the recoil trigger meant that the chronograph could be placed behind the rifle muzzle on the bench rather in line with the muzzle that extended well forward of the bench and would have required a ground mounted tripod.

Another common comment about the LabRadar was the advisability of using the external battery the company offers as an option rather than the six AA batteries that can be installed. That I did, and after an hour or so of use, the battery status dropped to 96% from the full charge 100.

After a few unrecorded shots because I hadn’t “armed” the chronograph, I finally got things figured out and the velocities of the next 17 were picked up and shown on the large display panel. Because I hadn’t taken the time to learn how to recover data from the memory, I manually transcribed each reading into a notebook. The unit will take an SD card to also record the velocity data, but that’s not supplied.

One warning about the recoil trigger was that it could be actuated by just closing the rifle bolt vigorously, but that that would simply result in an error reading because the unit wasn’t seeing a bullet to track. What wasn’t mentioned in the reviews I read, though, was that other extraneous readings were sometimes displayed. Several times I got supposed velocity readings some six hundred feet per second below what I was expecting from the load I was firing, and, more important, when I didn’t fire a shot. At this time I haven’t figured out what caused them, but as they are easily identified they aren’t more than a minor nuisance at this point.

The advantages of the LabRadar are several: It’s not affected by lighting conditions or other factors such as the wind that can interfere with a unit that uses optical sensors; it doesn’t require moving forward of the firing position to set up; it can’t get shot and destroyed by mistake; and it’s much more compact than the Oehler units I have.
The disadvantages? Because of all the features the unit provides, it is much more complicated to learn to use fully; positioning the unit so it triggers properly can be a fiddly process unless the recoil trigger is used, but that’s an extra process in itself; there can be problems with the unit’s picking up other shooters’ shots if they are close by; and the recoil trigger can give false activations.

And the cautionary tale?

I have owned two Oehler 35P chronographs for many years, and for several reasons they have long enjoyed the reputation of being the most accurate “amateur” level units available. When I bought the second unit, I compared the two and they gave me readings within a few feet per second of each other. Because of that I normally used only the older unit. In recent times, however, I had begun to suspect that it wasn’t giving accurate velocity figures, and the session with the LabRadar seems to have confirmed that.

Hornady claims that the 140 grain 6.5 Creedmoor load produces a muzzle velocity of 2710 fps from a 24 inch barrel. My TRG has a 26 inch barrel that should result in even higher velocities. Measurements with the Oehler unit, however, gave me an average MV of 2626 fps. Not only was that significantly lower than what the factory claims, the load’s actual trajectories never matched what my ballistics calculators indicated they should be. The average of the LabRadar reading, however, was 2757 fps, or exactly within the range I would expect. What’s more, after confirming my 100 yard zero and changing the MV in my Kestrel with Applied Ballistics solver, my shots at 600 yards were right on.

So, why the discrepancy of over 130 fps between the average readings of the Oehler and LabRadar? I don’t know at this point other than I obviously believe that the Oehler is giving me false data. At some point I’ll compare it with the other 35P to see if it’s just a problem with the unit, or if they give me the same readings (as they did years ago when I compared them), there may be some problem with how I use them. What’s odd is that velocity readings of other cartridges I’ve obtained with the same unit are exactly what I would expect.

One thing I noted in looking for reviews of the LabRadar was that Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics used to rely on an Oehler 35P for his research, but more recently uses two LabRadar units side by side to ensure they give the same readings. Whether that was for the convenience or because he believes they are more accurate than optical measurements, I don’t know, but at this point I will also be relying on my newest acquisition.

As a final note, some time ago during a discussion of the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge for law enforcement sniping use I posted the velocity figures I had gotten with the Oehler chronograph. I did go back to those posts and deleted what I now consider to be inaccurate data so that they won’t mislead anyone who discovers those posts in the future.




“Most men … can seldom accept the simplest and most obvious truth if it … would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions … which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their lives.”
— Leo Tolstoy
 
Posts: 40575 | Location: 10,150 Feet Above Sea Level in Colorado | Registered: April 04, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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The only time I found a Labradar of exclusive benefit..... Use during a match to verify velocities.

Something was off during a match and I couldn't pinpoint it. So with the MDs approval, at a prone stage; I used a Labradar to verify my velocity.

Otherwise the fickle nature of the Labradar leaves much to be desired. Magnetospeed has yet to fail me in any manner. With a M24 Profile barrel - there is no appreciable zero shift.

Good luck.

Andrew



Duty is the sublimest word in the English Language - Gen Robert E Lee.
 
Posts: 649 | Registered: May 01, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Freethinker
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quote:
Originally posted by El Cid 92:
the fickle nature of the Labradar


What fickleness should I be aware of—beyond what you mentioned in your post in my request for information thread?

As I mentioned here, I did get the external battery and it lost only a small fraction of its charge during the session. As I also mentioned, the recoil trigger seems to have eliminated any difficulty with activating the unit. All the reviews that mentioned those issues helped ensure I anticipated them and took measures to make them nonproblems even before I started.

I just wrote down the velocity readings as they appeared on the display, but I will spend more time with the other features as I have the opportunity. In addition, I am fortunate to not need to worry about other nearby shooters.

Anything else I (or anyone else) should know besides what you mentioned before?




“Most men … can seldom accept the simplest and most obvious truth if it … would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions … which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their lives.”
— Leo Tolstoy
 
Posts: 40575 | Location: 10,150 Feet Above Sea Level in Colorado | Registered: April 04, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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The extra triggering material will likely help with activation.

Without that material …. it tends to fickle with weapons utilizing a suppressor, with other shooters nearby, if not aligned properly with the target, if in doppler mode and another projectile flies thru the path, if the unit is too far forward or rearward of the muzzle, if the unit is too far left or right of the muzzle.....

Catch my drift.

Flipping thru the screens was always fun to try to remember how to get to a certain value.

I like the simplistic nature of the Magnetospeed - strap it on, gather data. Done.

Andrew



Duty is the sublimest word in the English Language - Gen Robert E Lee.
 
Posts: 649 | Registered: May 01, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Retired, laying back
and enjoying life
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Thanks for the review as I just bought one from Lab Radar as they had them on sale but have not been out with it. Had not bought the trigger sensor so ordered one tonight. I understand that they can be a little finicky with brakes and suppressors and since I use brakes on all my rifles the trigger sensor was a good tidbit I picked up from your review. Will be monitoring your future comments for things to look for when I get mine up and running. As always I pick up good info from you.



Freedom comes from the will of man. In America it is guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment
 
Posts: 660 | Location: Northern Alabama | Registered: June 21, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Definitely use the SD card option, loads all the data into a nice spreadsheet.

In regards to needing the trigger mic, did you try using the radar activated feature?

One other feature Ive come to like using for mine is the phone app. I arm and disarm quite a bit so its nice not to have to get up or out of position everytime.

I'll neve go back to the magneto speed again.


________________________________
 
Posts: 7569 | Location: One step ahead of you | Registered: February 10, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by El Cid 92:
I like the simplistic nature of the Magnetospeed - strap it on, gather data. Done.

Sometimes a strap-on just works.... [ba-dum-ching]
 
Posts: 6233 | Location: Colorado | Registered: January 26, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Freethinker
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quote:
Originally posted by WARPIG602:
Definitely use the SD card option, loads all the data into a nice spreadsheet.

In regards to needing the trigger mic, did you try using the radar activated feature?


Thanks for the advice. I did not try anything other than the recoil trigger.

I will be learning more about the other features as I have the opportunity. During my session I was in somewhat of a hurry and wanted to keep things simple.




“Most men … can seldom accept the simplest and most obvious truth if it … would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions … which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their lives.”
— Leo Tolstoy
 
Posts: 40575 | Location: 10,150 Feet Above Sea Level in Colorado | Registered: April 04, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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