Don't read this article unless you’re looking for a reliable and less time-consuming way to shoot longer distances.
Imagine with me for a minute sitting on a hillside in Montana waiting for that bull you glassed to follow some cows back out of the thick timber you just saw them go into. Or sitting in a deer blind watching a fresh cut soybean field as dusk approaches, the rut is kicking into gear, and the does have already started feeding out in front of you.
Now keep in mind, both of these scenarios are occurring about 400-450 yards in front of you, and the wind is steady - right in your face. Your favorite rifle and scope combination that has served you well over the years is resting solid, ready to do some work.
As anticipation of the animal stepping out reaches an all-time high, you're probably not thinking, “I could really use a LabRadar right now.”
Well, at least when you will be thankful you had one and had already used it.
The confidence you have in a situation like I described above can be significantly increased when you put to use a doppler radar chronograph like the LabRadar.
You probably won’t be daydreaming of owning one when that bull or big buck steps out, but because of the work you’ve done at the range with it, you can be confident in your shot placement and ballistics when you’re ready to slowly squeeze that trigger.
Obviously, there are a lot of chronographs on the market, and you may have already tried some of them. Our first one was a Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph. It worked well for us measuring arrow velocities. And, we used it some at the rifle range as well.
According to the LabRadar website, "Doppler Radar is the most precise method of measuring velocities available. Its accuracy is not dependent on light conditions or being exactly parallel to photoelectric sensors resulting in false readings."
It is about the size of a small computer and is pretty "easy to set up." They also list a few key features:
When we first got the LabRadar, I immediately took it out of the box and went to work figuring out how to use it. Keep in mind, it does take six (6) AA batteries, so hopefully you have some in that drawer we all have in the kitchen or bathroom that seems to collect all the batteries in the house and usually has at least five AA batteries.
It also can be powered by a USB battery pack that I’d recommend using. I feel like it’s always good to have a backup. If you’re hooked up to the battery pack, it will serve as your primary power source and if you’re at the range long enough that it dies, those AA batteries will be your backup.
You will need a tripod or some way to stand the LabRadar up next to where your projectile will be exiting your firearm or bow. We opted for a tripod that can be easily adjusted to different heights and moved around as needed. And if you’re anything like us, it took longer to find the tripod plate than it did to get the LabRadar powered up and going.
In the box was a quick start guide to help with setup and understanding the different options. It has instructions for setting everything from your projectile weight to the distance offset from the muzzle to the distances at which you want to get velocity measures (out to 100 yards).
My initial thinking is that I would quickly get some FPS readings from my bow to hopefully confirm the speeds I thought I already knew from the Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph.
There has to be something that lets it know to start measuring and using the radar to detect speeds. While that can be accomplished with a compound bow, it is much more easily accomplished with a muzzle blast.
So, off to the range we went! I wanted to test speeds from custom loads for my Bergara Wilderness Ridge, so this gave me the perfect chance.
I must say, it took trying several different setups based on the quick start guide to get everything working and accurate. Thankfully, I had some extra ammo and was using a tripod to hold the LabRadar so it made adjustments up, down, left, and right much easier.
Those initial few sessions with the LabRadar took some practice to get everything right and make sure I was getting a solid reading with each trigger squeeze.
While not the only factor that helps you get the readings you want, having it pointed in the right direction is important! There are formal sighting devices you can add to the Labradar, but I found that a shortened/cut straw from McDonalds is completely adequate.
It’s not fun getting half way through load testing and not being able to get the readings you need simply because it’s dead.
Even though sometimes the muzzle may have been at least 10 inches away from the LabRadar, I found the best offset distance setting to be leaving it on 6 inches.
We realized we needed one with trying to measure speeds from our Bergara B-14 Squared Crest after we screwed a Dead Air Nomad 30 on it. I wasn’t able to get the LabRadar to trigger a reading when shooting suppressed. I’m sure it can be done, but even after changing the position in relation to the muzzle and changing a few other settings, we bought a recoil activated trigger. Since then, I use it all the time whether shooting suppressed or not. I haven’t had trouble getting it to trigger a reading since we started using it.
Lots of times we will switch guns while at the range to give one time to cool down. If you want readings from both guns, you will need to start a new series. Each time you switch, you can’t go back to your previous series and add shots to get your total shot average. Not a deal breaker, but just keep it in mind.
Had I done that, I probably could have easily gotten measurements from my bow on that first trial. We’ve been so busy testing loads for rifle elk and deer seasons that I haven’t tested the recoil trigger with my Bowtech Revolt yet, but I will do that before we do an official FULL REVIEW video on the LabRadar.
If you're going to be measuring several rifle/muzzle break/suppressor combinations, the recoil activated trigger makes that significantly easier. It plugs into the LabRadar right below your USB battery pack and with a quick change of settings to pick “trigger” as your trigger source instead of doppler, you’re ready to shoot!
I used some adhesive Velcro pieces - one on the stock of our guns and one on the back of the LabRadar trigger to secure it to the gun.
Make sure everything is still pointed in the right direction and don’t worry as much about getting the exact right position in relation to the muzzle. The recoil activated trigger will do the rest.
The only thing you have to watch for is a false reading if you’re making bigger adjustments to your shooting position or something like bumping a magazine into place.
If you get a false reading between shots, it’s easy to delete that reading from the series so it doesn’t mess up your average.
Trust me on this one, it’s well worth the extra $45.
Q: Will LabRadar pick up a shot from other shooters?
A: LabRadar accuracy will not be affected by other shots being fired into your radar beam. Part of the technology built into the system allows it to determine if the shot came from very near the radar unit or if it came in from another location. Since the radar tracking is only active for a fraction of a second it is nearly impossible for you to receive a velocity from another shooter nearby. Your unit also has an adjustment in it to “turn off” most gunshots that are nearby, yet allow your shot to operate the unit. In rare cases your unit may trigger on another shooter’s muzzle blast. If this occurs, you can easily delete that shot from your data.
Q: Does LabRadar work with shotguns?
A: Currently LabRadar will obtain velocities from most Slug type projectiles. At this time it will not read multiple pellet projectiles.
Q: Can the LabRadar be used with compound bows and crossbows?
A: Yes, when used in the Doppler mode the arrow acts as the trigger when it enters the radar beam. This is generally 6-10 feet downrange. It will continue to track the arrow for approximately 60 yards. When in the Trigger Mode a recoil activated adapter can be used on the bow to communicate with LabRadar. The adapter will trigger the radar upon the release of the arrow.
For the answer to this section, we’re going to think back to that initial situation we imagined in the beginning. Do you want full confidence in taking that 400-450 yard shot on an animal you’re trying to harvest? Then I’d highly suggest looking into the LabRadar.
Sure, hunters and shooters alike have been shooting rifles at longer distances for many years and without ever using a LabRadar at the range. But with the advances in technology and ballistics apps easily available for your phone, using a reliable chronograph like the LabRadar can make the process a lot less time consuming and hopefully help save your precious ammo!
There are lots of more in depth uses for this doppler radar style chronograph, especially when it comes to load development and testing for your favorite new rifle, but for us, this chronograph has done exactly what I described above.
We’ve used it to get average velocity readings for specific loads we want to use while hunting. Plugging those speeds and a few more load details into ballistic charts, we’ve easily been able to adjust MOA as needed to hit targets from 200 all the way out to 450 yards.
Now I know that to some of you, 450 yards is not a long shot, but for us it absolutely used to be! With the help of the LabRadar, a few friends, and a sweet shooting Bergara Crest, we’re now confident at much longer ranges than we were even six months ago.
Robbie has enjoyed the outdoors since he can remember. His earliest memories include hours upon hours of squirrel hunting and learning how to enjoy all aspects of hunting season in God's wonderful outdoors. Now he is always working hard and testing gear in the field to give you the best review and most thorough information he possibly can.
All opinions are ours. Some items we receive for free, borrow, or purchase at a discount, but this never impacts our opinions or freedom to report them.
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