Alright, vote obligated discontinued retro rifle review out of the way, let’s get into my current jam – precision rifle shooting. Full disclosure – I’m an amateur – this is a new hobby I’ve been wanting to get into for a while, and thanks to our other contributor here, I’m now geared up for it.
So, super basic initial things to do:
- Possess basic rifle marksmanship accumen. CHECK
(This is a great primer on rifle shooting)
- Have a decently capable rifle. CHECK
- Be able to do ballistic calculations. CHECK
(Strelok Pro FTW)
- Have equipment to get data for calculations. !
So, need a rifle, know the basics of how to use it, have something to plug numbers into for the purposes of weaponizing math, and get the initial numbers to plug into it – so it looks like we’re missing a piece of equipment here – the chronograph.
Ballistic chronographs come in a few types, but the basic is one like the Caldwell unit above that uses two screens and an optical sensor. These are fairly cheap and easy to use, but have to be set up in front of your shooting position, and are dependent on proper lighting. Additionally, while they’re very close, they’re not really giving you a true directly-at-the-muzzle velocity.
A more high tech, and significantly pricier option, is a doppler radar chronograph, like the Labradar example shown below. These sit on the ground or bench next to your firearm, and use radar to detect the projectile’s speed. Fancy. Interesting to note though – that while testing the MagnetoSpeed chronograph for this article, a ran across another shooter who had both the Labradar chrono and a MagnetoSpeed. When I told him I was using my MagnetoSpeed for the first time, he mentioned he was too, as his Labradar is normally fantastic, but didn’t work on our club’s 100y range with their newly installed steel “no blue sky” baffle system. Reviews also show that they seem to have problems with people using suppressors, though I can’t really figure out why that’d be the case.
So here we are with the “just right” option – a magnetic chronograph. In this case, the MagnetoSpeed V3. This unit consists of a “bayonet” that attaches directly to the barrel of your rifle (or suppressor, pistol, or to a rail, depending on options) and uses 2 magnetic sensors to detect the bullet’s velocity. Not only are you getting direct at-the-muzzle readings, but this unit allows for fairly rapid fire without missing a shot, as optical chronographs are known to do.
These come in 2 flavors at the moment, the V3 as pictured, and the Sporter, which seems fine as a bog-standard unit that’ll do the needful, but I wanted the additional mounting options and ability to attach to a suppressor that comes with purchasing the V3.
Mounting was pretty straight forward, the unit comes with several spacers, you hold the unit up against your barrel, check clearance with the provided rod (showing you the proper distance the “deck” of the bayonet should be from the bore / bullet flight path), and add/remove spacers as needed. Then simply throw the strap around the barrel, get it hand tight through a clasp, and turn a thumb screw on the bottom to snug it up. I had no problems with it moving during use, but I was also using the included suppressor heat shield, despite not needing it, because it seemed to add a bit of traction. Note that this seems to be a quick-fix for people who use the Sporter version and have issues with it shifting, using a bit of rubber strap.
This was fantastically quick and easy to mount at the range, and didn’t involve carrying around a traditional chronograph and tripod, or the need to call the firing line safe if adjustment or troubleshooting is needed. The only thing needed after attaching to the rifle is using one of the included cables to attach the control unit, which automatically powers on when it detects that it’s connected.
So here’s where I got uneasy – this thing was so simple in setting up. Heck, it even looks cool. So come on… this thing’s not really going to work, is it?
It was almost boringly reliable. It performed flawlessly for me in testing during two shooting sessions. Attach, plug in, fire away. Numbers show up, give average and standard deviation (SD) as needed. I was plugging the numbers directly into the calculator on my phone, so no need to use the optional data storage via SD card – but that’s an option available on the V3.
One drawback I’d anticipated, and did notice even at 100 yards – having something hanging on the end of my barrel, as light as it may be, did affect my group size. In my case, during the 5 shot group to get the data shown above, my shots strung vertically. That can be seen below in the center group, compared to the other groups.
So, worst case – you fire a few shots for data, then fire separate groups to zero. So far I’ve met 2 others at my club’s range that uses these, one had the same issue I did, and one didn’t seem to be affected. It’s by no means a deal breaker for me though.
As far as accuracy, the provided data has worked out to be accurate for me insofar as the velocity + my Strelok Pro had me on target when I moved out to 300 yards, so that works for me. Here’s a longer read on an accuracy comparison done against a top-of-the-line traditional chronograph. Note the fact that the MagnetoSpeed V3 caught a lot of the shots the optical chrono missed.