FX True Ballistic Chronograph
- By Chris Parkin
- 0 Comments
- Last updated: 08/11/2023
Chris Parkin ponders how much simpler rifle testing will become with the new FX Chronograph
I found FX’s radar chronograph for airguns so useful that I couldn’t wait to see the centrefire version. Although the concept isn’t new, Labradars have been hard to get for a few years, due to production limitations, and the market is always better when competition exists.
The FX True Ballistic Chronograph is delivered in a padded case that unzips to reveal the unit, a detailed instruction manual and a USB-C charging lead. All you need without any additional faff. I never read instructions until I need to, because I like to judge the immediate simplicity and functionality of any new product. This gives me instant feedback on whether it’s likely to be a hassle-free and intuitive tool or a time-consuming toy that’s more of a hobby in its own right.
I’m pleased to say that FX sailed through test one! The display screen and controls with the Doppler radar emitter, are clipped within what becomes the stand, so you unclip it and with an underside thumb wheel, screw the screen vertically onto the rubber-footed base. The thread at this junction is a standard ¼” camera thread, so it’s just as easy to mount to a tripod if desired. There is a small rubber flap to protect the charging port, and once plugged in, it takes a couple of hours to charge the inbuilt lithium battery. The manual details long-term care instructions, as well as the red/green light’s flashing sequences to illustrate charging and remaining capacity. There is also a battery indicator on the screen when in use. The battery has so far long outlasted multiple range sessions on the first charge. Incidentally, writing this has reminded me to check it and charge it, so I’m not leaving it flat, which can damage batteries long term.
Doppler radar chronographs project a ‘cone’ of electromagnetic waves towards the target you are shooting. They then measure the returning signals that bounce back off the projectile. There is a small peephole at the top of the unit, to help align it on target, and the instructions detail how to site the chronograph adjacent to the rifle’s barrel.
I have used it with centrefire, rimfire, and sub 12 ft-lbs air rifles, to test the extreme limits on a unit that’s capable of reading velocity from 400 to 4000 feet per second. There is a hinge under the screen that allows for vertical as well as horizontal alignment. The unit is just really easy to use.
Smaller rifles/projectiles, like the airguns, require the unit to be closer to the barrel, but 6.5s and 308s are very forgiving in comparison. However, the closer it is to the barrel, without physically being in the way, the more accurate reading you will get.
Once set up and switched on, there are five control buttons. On/off is below the screen and the other four wrap it to control menu functions. I found it intuitive to set up, but if you need more explanation, FX’s instructions are detailed and printed in a proper booklet for easy reference, not a folded scrap of paper!
The main screen is a white background with black and blue lettering. Configuration is the top left button, and one press takes you into the initial setup, where you can control key variables. The primary unit is simply which reading you want to show in column one on the display, while the secondary unit is similarly the next. You can choose between fps, m/s, joules, and ft-lbs to instantly display speed in your chosen unit, as well as the muzzle energy. Just make sure you set up specific projectile weights in grams or grains.
The distance unit is either metres or yards, and you can program the FX to take four projectile speed readings at the exact distances you choose, out to a maximum distance of 300m. With projectile weight and velocity readings at these distances, the FX will then automatically calculate your projectile’s G1 or G7 ballistic coefficient. All this displays on the screen in real time with every shot!
Other menu functions included an automatic shutdown time to save battery (remember the unit is constantly yet silently projecting radar waves), so you can choose for it to remain live for between 60 and 500 seconds from the last reading. This is a very helpful battery-saving feature. You can also program barrel offset, which helps refine exact speed calculations, but this is not mandatory.
To avoid interference from other units nearby, you can also change the channel (the radar’s precise operating frequency). If needed, you can choose to turn the interference indicator on or off. I never needed to touch this, and I think it’s a feature you may need more around built-up areas, while indoors, or with other electronics silently confusing matters. However, I never had an issue. There is, of course, full capability indoors/outdoors regardless of the light conditions, although there is a minimum range requirement of 25 yards for the projectile flight to the target, to give a chance for radar reflection.
The three display screens offer a variety of numerical layouts but essentially, after the shot, they list the speed and energy at four distances, how many shots were used in the calculation, average speed, extreme spread, standard deviation, the average ballistic coefficient, and the range at which your projectile is calculated to descend below supersonic speed (if it was initially supersonic). The Bluetooth function also allows it to connect, display, and exchange results with your smart device. However, I like its standalone functionality.
The science behind ballistics is extremely complicated, and way beyond me or the scope of this article, but the FX True Ballistic chronograph and manual are a superb starting point if you want to learn and measure the ballistics of your personal rifle’s projectile out to 300m. From my perspective, the unit is truly intuitive to use, reliable, and has made my job significantly easier and less time-consuming. I have actually purchased one because it delivers perfectly on all its advertised functionality. This is on the shortlist for my product of the year.