I got the following question, and it was on a topic I’ve been thinking about for a while. I thought I’d share the question and my response.
I want to upgrade my chronograph. Any recommendations?
Actually, that’s a good question. What I have to say is just my personal opinion, and does not constitute any kind of formal endorsement/review by BBTI.
We’ve used about a dozen different chronos over the series of tests. I’ve been pretty impressed with how consistent the different brands are one to another when compared head-to-head or in checking calibration with my Python and ball ammo from one lot over the years. So in that sense, most of the modestly-priced units seem to be of comparable quality.
Where you start to see some differences is in actually getting data – whether or not lighting is a problem, how much space they need, etc. For most people just using them casually, this wouldn’t be a big deal. When you’re doing 6,000+ shots checking for the cylinder gap effect, it can drive you nuts. Of the moderately priced units (actually, on the high end), this is one we’ve had good luck with: http://www.midwayusa.com/product/773378/ced-millennium-2-chronograph-system
Personally, I have a Chrony Gamma I like ( http://www.midwayusa.com/product/331656/shooting-chrony-gamma-master-chronograph-with-ballistic-chrony-printer ) for most of my casual use checking reloads and whatnot. But that was one of the ones we had problems with now and again (and why it’s now my personal unit).
A couple weeks ago we did the .22WMR series of tests, and had a lot of chrono problems. We thought this might be the case, since the .22mag is one of the smallest bullets going the fastest – presenting the biggest challenge for the optical sensors used on a chronograph. Particularly since as you chop the barrel you are always changing the ‘sight picture’ (even though there aren’t actually sights…) and introducing changes to the barrel crown and suchlike. Meaning that you can’t trust that you’ll get the bullet over the sweet spot for the optical sensors.
So as a backup Jim K had a new high-end Oehler unit: http://www.oehler-research.com/model35.html Very nice, more complicated than it needs to be, and about 3x the price of most other units on the market.
We even had problems with that.
Bottom line, I think most of the moderate priced units ($100 – $200) are about the same in terms of quality. I never use the printer on mine, and we don’t bother to set up a printer when we do our tests – it’s just one more thing to go wrong. But some people love ‘em. If you can, take a look at some of the units, see what features appeal to you, what reviews say, whether the unit seems well constructed. Then make your best bet.
Oh — THAT — ammo shortage.
Yeah, the beginning of January I wrote that we were finally moving forward with the testing of polygonal vs. traditional rifling; the so-called “Glock Tests“, and outlined how we were planning on conducting a bit of an experiment in asking for suggested ammo loads to include in the tests, and then seeing what kind of support there was for a slate of different choices by allowing pledges to help purchase ammo.
But, as someone who wrote me put it: where did we think we were going to *find* any such ammo?
Initially, I thought that the shortage we were seeing would be a fairly temporary problem, and that by the time spring rolled around we’d be able to locate sufficient quantities for our testing (we need about 350 rounds of each type).
Yeah, so much for that idea. Now you know why I don’t play the stock market or bet on races.
The ammo shortage has just continued to deepen. It’s to the point where people are having a hard time finding enough of any kind of ammo just to keep in practice with a trip to the range once or twice a month. I’m damned glad I reload my practice ammo, and have a decent store of most components.
But that doesn’t do a damned thing for our testing. The whole idea is to test factory ammo, not some cobbled-together handload version of factory ammo.
So we’re putting off the “Glock Tests” again, until the situation gets better. Keep an eye here and elsewhere for news about when this will change.
One good bit of news, however: we already had a decent selection and sufficient quantity of each ammo type to do the .22WMR (.22Magnum) tests. So we’re going to go ahead and do that sequence of tests here this spring — sometime soon!
Sorry for the bad news, everyone — really. These tests have been delayed several times for one (good) reason or another, and we’re just as frustrated by that as everyone else. But when ammo supplies start to become more available, we’ll be sure to try and get them done as soon as we can.
As mentioned previously, for some time we’ve been planning on doing a series of inch-by-inch chop tests on the Glock-style polygonal barrels (Glock was unable to supply 18″ barrels, so we’ll be using 6 grove poly and 6 land traditional barrels from Lothar Walther). We’ve run into a number of unexpected delays, but now have the barrels we need, and are planning on doing the series of tests sometime later this year, hopefully in spring/early summer. For testing purposes, we’ll be conducting traditional ‘land & groove’ barrels in the same calibers at the same time, so that we have direct head-to-head comparisons. Because we’re expecting a fairly subtle difference in performance, we’re going to do 10 (ten) shots for each inch of barrel for both style barrels. And to keep the scope of the project manageable, we’re only going to test two cartridges/calibers: 9mm (9×19) and .45 ACP.
In order to do the tests this way, we’ll need a minimum of 340 rounds of each ammo to test. Add in “real world guns” and allowing for errors/glitches which mean extra shots, we’re planning on getting 400 rounds of each ammo to be tested. Figure an average of about $1 per round for premium self-defense ammunition, and we’re looking at about $400 for each ammo selected for testing. There are some specific ammunition types/loads we’ve tested previously that we want to revisit for comparison purposes, but our selection is hardly comprehensive — time and money are limited.
So we’d like to try an experiment: do Kickstarter-style crowdfunding to see what ammunition types/loads people want to have us test. This will allow two things:
- To let people help support the project by offsetting our costs.
- To help us find new ammunition types/loads.
Now, Kickstarter itself isn’t firearm-friendly. And that’s OK — we can do this on our own, just using our own site. What we’ll do is put up a list of different ammo types/loads, and solicit donations targeted for each during a specific time frame. When pledges are made, we’ll keep a running tally total for each ammo, and once it crosses a certain threshold, then that specific type/load will be added to our testing list.
But first we need to create our list of ammo. So, for the next two weeks, either add a comment to this blog post or send an email to email@example.com with one specific 9mm ammunition type/load you would like to see us test. Please, just one type/load per comment or email, and just five or six such entries per person. I’m going to have to collate these myself, so help make it a little easier on me. Just sending in a selected ammo doesn’t obligate you to support that ammo with $ in the second phase of this test, but it’s probably a good idea to only recommend ammo you would be willing to actually support, and ones you think you can get others to support. And remember, keep your recommendations limited to factory mass-produced ammo; handloads or artisanal ammo which the average person doesn’t have access to will not be selected for inclusion in the tests. Also: we’re only accepting recommendations and donations from individuals, not ammo manufacturers.
You can see all the 9mm ammo we’ve tested previously here: 9mm Luger Results.
As I said, this is an experiment. If it works for selecting 9mm ammo to test, we may extend it to the .45 ACP tests, and then see about using a similar approach for other testing. We hope that this will be a way we can expand our research and make it more responsive to what data the firearms-enthusiast community wants to see. You can help by sending in your suggestions, but in also spreading the word on the different forums/blogs where our data may be used.
Thanks, everyone, for your ongoing interest and support!
I had a bit of a temper tantrum the other day. I won’t apologize, because it was how I really felt. But I will say that a couple of things have happened which have helped me get past my grumpiness.
And those couple of things have been donations. Both of them were decided votes of confidence that our work on BBTI is valued, all our time and effort appreciated.
This may seem silly, because OF COURSE our site is appreciated. Except . . . well, I pretty regularly get emails or come across comments on forums which are complaints. Yup: complaints. That we didn’t test a particular ammo. Or that we’ve slighted some brand or model of firearm by not including it in our tests. Or that we haven’t put our data into this or that form of file so that people can just download it. Or that our data isn’t perfect – that we’ve made mistakes. Or that we haven’t conducted rifle cartridge tests. Et cetera.
It gets old. It gets a little demoralizing, to be honest. The sense of entitlement which some people have is pretty amazing – we’ve busted our asses, worked hard and incurred all the costs of conducting the tests as well as creating and hosting the data on our website, and people bitch because the data isn’t up to *their* standards or expectations. It is very much like we owe it to them to do exactly what they want, and right now.
I don’t mind the criticism. I don’t mind people pointing out where there are areas where we could improve our procedures or range of items tested. We fully recognize that there are more things we could do, ways we can make the data better. And we welcome suggestions on what particular improvements people would like to see – that helps us to make decisions about what is important enough to sink another big chunk of time, money and energy investigating. This isn’t a full-time job for us, after all.
So when I get a note from someone saying “thanks, and oh, have you thought about this…” I welcome it. When someone sends us a donation – of any size – that is a tangible statement that they think our efforts are worthy of supporting. And if someone does send a donation, along with this kind of message, it really means something:
I have used your website for the past two years as a reference tool, and I find the data available amazing. Thank you for putting all of that information together. I was able to donate $x.xx today and I hope the rest of your viewing public gets it and drops you a few dollars as well.
I am sure there is a tremendous personal expense involved in the guns and ammunition used, and I get that you use your personal guns.
Glocks are obviously absent from your data set. I get that you cannot test everything, however with the enormous amount of Glocks in the public, it would seem prudent to at least have one in each caliber and I am positive with your connections they could be provided to you for testing.
You can also just tell me to buzz off…
Thanks again for the awesome data.
Now, *that* is how you make a suggestion which will be remembered.
So, thanks to those who have sent thanks, as well as the donations. It really does mean a lot.
(Cross posted to my personal blog.)
I’m a blockhead.
No, really. Samuel Johnson’s quote establishes it beyond a doubt:
“No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”
For years I listened to people go on and on about how beneficial my writing about being a care-giver was. All the praise, the sharing, the requests to write more, to collect my writings into a book. The final result has been for Her Final Year to sell a grand total of 32 copies, after years of work and months of flogging the book. What a staggering success.
Yup, a blockhead.
Also for years now I’ve listened to countless proclamations of how incredible and valuable Ballistics By The Inch is. How it is an amazing resource for anyone interested in hard data. This has been in discussions on different forums and blogs which I have stumbled upon. And it’s reflected in the hits & usage of the site, as well, with over 8 million hits total and something on the order of 500,000 unique visitors. There’ve been plenty of people who have written me, thanking me, telling me that we should accept donations to support our work. So, for the re-launch we have done just that – added a way for people to show how much they value the site with a small donation. And in the short time we’ve had the new site up we’ve had over 5,000 unique visitors, and gotten just one donation of $10. At that rate, we’d have gotten a stunning total of $1,000 in donations since the start – it wouldn’t even cover the cost of hosting the website.
Yup, a blockhead.
My novel has been downloaded over 35,000 times in the last 5 years. People have told me they love it, that it’s brilliant and just like the classic SF of the golden era. Sometime in the next few weeks we’ll offer a self-published version of the book in hardcopy and for the Kindle. And I’m not so much a blockhead that I expect to actually sell copies of the thing. But I bet – I just bet – that somehow I’ll manage to be disappointed, nonetheless. Probably when I start getting complaints that the book is no longer free.
Screw it. I swear, I am seriously tempted to just shut down all the websites. Yup, BBTI too. Just leave a brief description of the project up with an email address where people can contact me to buy access to the data. Like the song says:
Little Joe never once gave it away
Everybody had to pay and pay
A hustle here and a hustle there
New York City’s the place where
They said hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
They said hey Joe, take a walk on the wild side
But being a blockhead, we’ll see what happens.
(Cross posted to my personal blog.)
Well, initial coverage is off to a good start, with a couple of excellent pieces in The Firearm Blog and Guns.com. Guns.com should also be posting a piece by me about what I think you can conclude from the new .22 data sometime soon.
And I got the following private message from someone very well known and highly respected on one of the major forums:
I’ve got to say that your site really impresses me. I’m sure that most shooters realize how much of an investment in terms of ammunition money is represented in the website, but as an analyst/engineer, I also understand how much time and effort is required to collect and collate data in such a way as to make it easily accessible and useful.
I’m sure in the coming days the news of the relaunch will propagate around the web, but it is always exciting to see it start.
Quick bookkeeping note: last month we had a total of 336,809 hits to the site, bringing the total as of Dec. 1 to 8,110,033. That translates to 12,900 unique visitors, or 45,443 page views. Compared to one year ago, we had 387,198 hit in November 2010, with 13,335 unique visitors and 51,094 page views. December 2010 still remains our high benchmark, with 459,020 hits, 15,622 visitors and 60,799 page hits. Be interesting to see if we can beat that this month! Help spread the word!