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Adam Helmer 06-18-2013 05:44 PM

Serious reloaders need a chronograph.
Two years ago for Christmas, I received an RCBS chronograph. I have filled up one notebook and used up six, 9-volt batteries finding out what I thought I knew about my guns and handloads.

For an encore, I am now running my many muzzleloaders over the sky screens with both ball and conicles. The RCBS device is easy to master and use. All I needed was a tripod and then I was in business. Here at the farm, I have a big picnic table in the backyard that is my shooting bench. Down range 15 feet is the chrony. I set it up so I can shoot over the sky screens and still shoot at a 100 yard target for group.

For about $150-$200, any reloader can know what he is "brewing up."


GoodOlBoy 06-19-2013 02:20 AM

I still don't know why. I mean it would be nice if what you are wanting is fps info. But when you are loading for accuracy why? I am loading at lower than factory speeds and pressure because I load mostly cowboy loads by volume. But all I do is tweak my volume measures (that I make) until I have a group that touches. For Trail Boss this is easy. I start with a case cut even with the base of a seated bullet, and continue to trim until *poof* touching group. For other powders I fine the lee powder dipper guide, cut a case to match 5% under max load by volume of the powder dipper it recommends, then continue to trim down until *again poof* touching group. I do double check this custom made dipper to make sure it isn't under min load as I go, but once I am in the sweet spot I mark the dipper for the load (since it is made from a matching caliber case I don't have to worry about that part), attach a wire handle via solder, and I am done. If ever I pick up a dipper that I cannot tell what the load was for then it goes in the recycle bin and I start over for whatever powder I am working with.

Touching group means minute of critter, I am done. Maybe if I was working for some sort of long range target competition I would need a fancy electronic scale, trickler, measure, and chrono. But minute of critter works for me. Then again I always was an oddball.


buckhunter 06-19-2013 12:59 PM

I don't have one...YET. I try to figure it using match. The few times its been thru a crony it wasn't even close. It would be nice to know but like GOB i go for minute of critter. BTW Rich how you doing?

Adam Helmer 06-19-2013 01:53 PM

GOB and buckhunter,

A chrony tells much to those with an inquiring mind. My chrony tells me the fastest, slowest, average and extreme spread in velocity and then the Standard Deviation which equals consistency. Once one knows the velocity, it is easy to calculate drop over distances.

The SD numbers tell me when I have my best powder charge, OAL and primer. For the muzzleloaders, it is real important to know what velocity one gets from a powder charge and RB or conicle.

I was amazed my .41 Magnum and cast 195 SWC "clocked" 1,400 FPS, was accurate and gave no leading. I realized by bullet alloy was up to snuff and my load was consistent. So the question is: Does the average handloader need a chrony. I dunno. Since the cost is about 25%-35% of a new gun, why not KNOW what your handloads can do. It is an individual decision. I made mine.


skeet 06-19-2013 10:16 PM

Well when the groups get real tight the SD and velocities are usually close..that being said I have used and enjoy the chronograph. Not too worried about really high velocities until I get into the serious hunting rounds. 30-06 300 Win Mag and the 338 Win Mag. Those are my elk rifles and I do hunt in grizz I carry big. Otherwise I would carry my 257 Weatherby Mag. It actually performs it's best right at max loads anyway. The 06 is also the most accurate one I have ever had(a Kimber84L) The 300 has it's most accurate load at about 30-06 velocities..but I have a good load right at 3100 with a 165 gr Nosler. It'll shoot right at an inch..if I can hold it right that day The 338 also a Kimber is pretty accurate with a 225 gr Partition. It is truly a 350 yd rifle..maybe more on a calm day in the mountains. So although a chrono isn't necessary for the average guy..I am with Adam on this. It is a great tool for a serious reloader. I even ran my Savage muzzleloader over the chrony. It was a little higher than the book said..not much but some. I also found many years ago the average blackpowder load is USUALLY slower than what they say in the books. I also found that the loads listed with Trail Boss were nowhere near what the book says. It might be ok for Cowboy shooting but most of my handgun loads are meant for serious work. And Adam..I also like the 41. Mine is a 4 5/8 inch and it shoots a bit slower than yours..but it IS an effective round. I also have a Smith in 6 inch and it comes close to your velocity...with a 200 gr bullet. Is your 195 gr mould a Lee?? If so I have one too..but haven't used it yet...but am planning on it soon.

GoodOlBoy 06-20-2013 03:30 PM

Trying to get by buckhunter, thanks for asking.

Adam, don't get me wrong. Dad uses a chrony religiously for reloading, and I know alot of precision shooters do. Just for me. Not a required part of the kit. BUT if you already have all the digital scales, tricklers, etc. Yeah a chrony is a good investment at that point, and yeah it does help depending on the type of reloading you are doing.


Adam Helmer 06-20-2013 05:17 PM


Yes, that .41 mould is a Lee 195 grain SWC. I make my bullets out of OLD wheelweights and a dash of tin, drop them from the mould into a bucket of water, lube with Alox and shoot away.

I just finished cleaning my flintlocks that were shot over my chrony earlier today. I really like the old rocklocks and my favorites are the .45 Hawken with Ball and Maxis, the .50 with Ball and Maxis and the .54 with Ball and Maxis. I need to "crunch" the numbers to see what the foot pounds of energy are with my accuracy loads. I could not believe my .54 Hawken with 75 grains 3F Goex and Maxis had a ONE fps spread for 5 rounds over the chrony! Just before that reading, my .45 Hawken and Maxis had a 23 fps spread.

A chrony is a fun tool like my laser range finder, some folks can live well without either. Some may ask, "Why own one?" I would ask, "Why not?" Go with what floats your boat.


GoodOlBoy 06-20-2013 06:20 PM

Well said Adam. Me? I had the minimalist mindset kick in a couple years back (dunno why) and thus I still reload with lee classic (think using a mallet not a press) loaders, load by volume, etc. On the flip side Dad goes the other route. I don't think either is right or wrong. I think having a laser range finder would be sweet, but again not something I need for my kit.

Nice spread with the .54 by the way. Dad figured all that up with the 45 colt loads he loads for both of us, and had similar results, but having that with muzzle-loaders is danged impressive.


skeet 06-20-2013 07:12 PM

Adam I had a friend who shot a 56 cal smoothbore..T-C I think He told me that the smoothbore had some of the lowest velocity spreads of any gun she shot and he said it was consitently that way. It of course wasn't as accurate as a rifled gun but evidently seating pressure is a large part in a muzzy. BTW That 23 foot spread is great in itself. GOB..being a minimalist in and of itself is not a bad thing...and good reloads can be made with the Lee and other hand presses. It is truly slow..very slow. But I do use one in the 44 and 444 with multiple round ball loads. Oh my do they shoot good. 3 rounds out of the 444 always hit within 4 inches at 50 yds..usually in 2-2 1/2 inch. I would not get rid of the ones I do use..but will not buy another for my own least right now. A small reloading press can be had for the cost of a Lee Loader and reloading dies also. . Not all that much faster..but surely more consistent. Powder charges??..Nothing wrong even with the Lee Dippers. I have a set of them I use too.

When I said 3 rounds in this post..that was a 3 ball load. I have the balls sized to .430..slightly larger but they load and shoot pretty well

GoodOlBoy 06-21-2013 12:33 AM

multi-ball loads are soooooo much fun. I believe it was either you Skeet, or Rocky Raab who turned me onto those things in 45 long colt a decade ago on this very board.


skeet 06-21-2013 07:47 AM

Rich I have a .451 round ball mould that casts just a little larger than that with softer lead and it works great for the 45 Colt. And for the 444 or 44 I have a .437 that goes a bit smaller with harder lead and I run it through the sizer and it does shoot really well in the 444 pretty good in the 44 mag too. For faster loads in the Colt I have to find a .453 RB mould..I will find it one day I guess. The soft ones spread out to about 8 inches in the Colt at 50 yds. Not bad..oh He!!..I really don't shoot anything with the Colt that far anyway. But up close and personal the Colt does pretty good.

powell&hyde 08-16-2013 06:59 PM

For me, a chrony is a good investment on working up loads.

bulletpusher 08-23-2013 01:49 PM

I think the crony can be a good thing, sometimes.
The .45 Colt loads that I worked up with the max load that I tried had an extreme spread of 12fps and a muzzle velocity of 1,173 fps using a 300grn Hornaday XTP. I thought that was very consistent.

Then I tried the load that was 1grn liter by weight with the same bullet and got 1,276 fps with an extreme spread of 4fps.

Those were the best of the five loads I tried with that powder or any other.

I used the same 4fps load on a 270grn Kieth bullet and didn't crony that one. I was afraid to. The first time that I shot it, I cut a 4x4 fence post in half with one shot.

My boss wanted to try it caused he loved his .44 Mag's. He dropped the hammer on one round and the look of shock on his face was priceless. I told him there were still 2 more rounds in it and he just handed me the the 4 5/8" barrel Blackhawk back and so no, one round was more than enuff.

Loved both of the loads with the 300 grn Hornady XTPand the 270 grn Kieth.

Both loads also shot beautifly from 2 different lever actions a 20" barrel carbine and a 24" barrel rifle. The rifle was shooting the 300grn at 1,900 +fps on the crony with the hotter load. The lighter load in the 1,700 +fps range. Got to love it.

The crony helped a lot on the initial load work but finished with out one.

I could go both ways, and not feel bad about it.


Rapier 08-29-2013 01:25 PM

A chrno is a real piece of equipment for a reloader if nothing else you find the factory ballistics are 90% BS. If you base your expected velocity on factory load or duplication load data you are going to get surprised. But it really helps to see how the powder charge is progressing from powder to powder and it does not take long to figure out that with some powders 2 or 3 grains gives you little increase in velocity.

But if you are working sub sonic loads a Chrono is an absolute must because you have to get below the high 100% in the extreme spread so you are always sub. Also if you want to shoot in matches with major and minor classes, you need to know for absolute sure.

It is a range tool that is very useful just like a spotting scope.

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