Instead of measuring the time a projectile takes to pass between a set of electronic eyes and then computing velocity like a traditional chronograph, the LabRadar Personal Radar uses Doppler radar to measure speed. By pinging off the base of a projectile and running calculations in its onboard brain, the LabRadar computes velocity, extreme spread, and standard deviation at five different programmable distances downrange.
The radar takes continuous measurements as the bullet continues its journey downrange, so the LabRadar also does what no traditional consumer-level traditional chronograph can: It enables you to calculate rifle/projectile-specific ballistic coefficient (BC).
Plus, it can be programmed to calculate downrange energy figures. It doesn’t rely on consistent light to take accurate measurements. And it can be controlled via a smartphone app.
The LabRadar offers significantly greater capability than any other consumer-available “chronograph,” and set up is laughably easy.
A standard quarter-inch threaded insert enables easy attachment to a tripod, but the simplest way to use the LabRadar is to mount it on the Bench Mount flat-plate base supplied as an optional accessory. A quick-detach, swivel-head mount interfaces with a dovetail that you screw into the bottom of the LabRadar, and the plate enables you to stand it anywhere—on your shooting bench, on the ground at the front end of your shooting mat, even on the hood of your truck. Rubberized feet keep the base from shifting, even on slick, semi-steep locations.
Position the LabRadar near your firearm’s muzzle, roughly 6, 12, or 18 inches to the side. In programming (which only takes seconds), you’ll set the device to match. Aim the device at your target using the aiming notch in the top, turn it on, and start shooting.
Each LabRadar unit comes with a Quick Setup guide pamphlet. Diagrams inside show where to place the unit depending on your gun’s muzzle device. If your firearm has no muzzle device, simply put the LabRadar directly to the side of the muzzle.
You don’t have to teach the LabRadar anything. You just turn it on and select the settings that produce the measurements you need.
The top left button accesses the menu, where you choose velocity units (fps, yps, m/s, mph, km/h), distance units (yards, meters, feet), weight units (grams, grains), and velocity range (rifle, handgun, archery). You’ll also designate the “projectile offset,” which is the 6-, 12-, or 18-inch distance the unit is from your gun’s muzzle.
If desired, you can enter projectile weight and the LabRadar will calculate actual muzzle energy in ft-lbs out as far as you instruct it to.
As I said earlier, the LabRadar measures velocity at five distances that you specify. I set mine at 3 yards, 50 yards, 100 yards, 200 yards, and 250 yards. And these various downrange measurements enable it to accurately calculate BC numbers specific to your gun, bullet, and current environmental conditions.
You’ll also pick Arm Time, Trigger Source, Trigger Level, Tx Channel (if several shooters are using LabRadar units side by side, Trigger Level and Tx Channel allow you to isolate yours), system date and time, and so forth. The only one you’ll need to worry about upfront is Arm Time, which is the period that the device stands ready to measure a shot before hibernating to save the battery. You can set it for as little as 10 seconds and as long as 300 seconds. The system rearms every time a shot is fired, so you don’t have to keep poking the Arm button.
Eventually, you may have to become familiar with the Trigger Source function. Most of the time you’ll use the LabRadar in Trigger mode, which means that sound waves from the shot initiate a measurement. However, sometimes when using an ultra-effective suppressor (say, subsonic rimfire ammo through a quality suppressor), you’ll need to switch to Doppler mode. In Doppler mode, the unit sends continuous signals and begins measuring as soon as a projectile enters into its radar cone. It’s best suited for large, slow projectiles.
You may also need the Doppler trigger function mode when testing powerful rifles with short barrels. I recently reviewed Marlin’s new 1895 Trapper, which is chambered in .45-70 and has a 16.5-inch barrel. All loads but one tested just fine in Trigger mode, but one load consistently produced strange measurements of around 3,600 fps (it should have been around 1,500 fps). My best guess is that the unit was reading the considerable amount of large, unburned granular ejecta exiting the muzzle of that short barrel. I switched to Doppler mode and got perfect, accurate results.
As for reading the results, before firing, press the center button on the left side of the unit twice to initiate a fresh string, hit the OK/Enter button at center on the right side, and press the Arm/Disarm button below the power button. A small LED light will change from blue to orange, indicating the LabRadar is ready.
Between each shot the 3.5-inch LCD screen displays velocity at the predetermined distances you programmed.
After you’ve fired your shot string, press and hold the Arm/Disarm button. After two seconds the screen will show results, including average velocity, extreme spread, standard deviation, high and low velocity, and so forth. Using the Enter button and up/down arrows, you can run through the string, delete any abnormal readings, and so forth.
Because it has a large brain, the LabRadar’s internal memory allows you to record up to 100 different shot strings of up to 100 shots each. It’s also compatible with SD cards, which enables you to save and store data if desired. Incredibly, assuming adequate card capacity, installing an SD card allows you to record up to 9,999 shot strings of 100 shots each.
In addition, the latest iteration of the LabRadar is Bluetooth equipped and pairs with a free LabRadar app. This enables you to control the unit via your smartphone.
LabRadar’s website offers a full line of accessories. Some, like the $39.95 padded carry case and the $39.95 plate-type Bench Mount, are must-haves. You can also purchase tripods, SD cards, etc. And for use with archery equipment, air guns, and the like, the accessory microphone-based trigger may be necessary.
The LabRadar is powered by six AA batteries, and a $24.95 USB Battery Bank external power reservoir is also available.
With LabRadar there’s no more battling wind-susceptible skyscreens, fickle light conditions, finicky photoelectric sensors, high-maintenance printers, and tedious set up. It is easy to use and extremely accurate.
MSRP: $559.95, mylabradar.com