As far as hunting goes, I'd had a pretty lean time over the recent summer of 2014. What with the extended heatwave that went on and on, opportunities were few with most landowners rightly concerned about the fire risk. But it wasn't all wasted time as I used the very hot conditions to test and record data from some of my favourite loads and powders. Having just spent a fair bit of time on the range with a Chrony, it was almost uncanny that Dan from DJG Trading contacted me to see if I'd like to review a new chronograph that he is importing to the Australian market. As most of my experience with chronographs is with the familiar Shooting Chrony model, I was keen to get my hands on the Steinert Superchrono and put it through it's paces.
 

       Unpacking the unit, I was immediately impressed by the compact and rugged feel of the Steinert. Weighing in at 285 grams and at just 260mm long, it is not much bigger than a pack of WSM cartridges. Powered by 4 x AA batteries, opening the battery compartment with the supplied hex key further confirmed the rugged and weatherproof construction and I have no doubt the claimed IP66 rating which states "dust tight" and protected against heavy seas or powerful jets of water is warranted. I reckon this unit would survive some serious abuse and free falls from considerable height as the industrial nylon construction feels very strong. Switching on the unit reveals a very good quality LCD display that also has a backlight feature for those very dull days. However the positioning of this lovely display from a design point is an epic fail....more on this later. The Steinert can store 99 recorded shots in memory and recall them individually as well as display average velocity at a push of a button. Shots can be recorded at a crazy rate of 600 per minute, should you be lucky enough to be testing such a firearm. The seven buttons on top of the unit are well laid out, self explanitory and provide good tactile feel. The unit can be set to measure in the familiar FPS units or the metric equivalent. The underside of the unit has the basic operating instructions diagram and is also threaded to accept the standard 1/4" camera tripod thread. There are also a set of rudimentary iron sights built into the body which are used to correctly align the Superchrono to the target being shot at. As with all chronographs, alignment of the sensors with the bore/bullet path is critical for accurate measurement. If the bullet passes over the sensors at an angle, the distance travelled between the two sensors is not true and therefore the unit cannot calculate an accurate measurement. The bullet can pass to the left or right of course as long as it is in a prallel path to the sensors and within the detection zone.
 
       What sets the Superchrono apart from the more familiar chronographs on the market is the method of detection. The Steinert uses a pair of acoustic sensors located at each end of the unit to detect the supersonic shockwave as the bullet passes over the sensors. A limitation of this detection method is that the unit can only measure supersonic loads. But in return you lose the skyscreens and rabbit ears normally associated with optical measuring systems. That alone should ensure the Steinert has a much longer life expectancy before being shot than your typical chronograph setup. It also means the Steinert is not affected by ambient lighting conditions, cloud, rain or anything else nature can throw at it. In fact you can use it in the dark if you fancy. The same certainly can't be said for my faithfull old Shooting Chrony.
         Using acoustic sensors also has the benefit of a much larger detection zone that you can shoot through. Who hasn't been frustrated as you rush around between cease fires at the range trying to align your rabbit eared setup with your bench and target....and not shoot the skyscreens or rabbit ears in the process. The Steinert has a detection zone of 1300mm at it's highest point and 800mm at it's widest point and can detect bullets from .17 calibre up.....to a maximum velocity of 5632 FPS. The unit needs to be mounted on a tripod and positioned a minimum of 3m from the muzzle and a minimum of 30cm's below the bore line. Placing the unit directly on the ground or too close to the muzzle will give innacurate readings due to the sensors being in the sound shadow near the muzzle or false readings from the ground.

       Not being constrained by cables, rabbit ears and skyscreens also means the Steinert can be placed a long way from where you are shooting from. Like just in front of a 300m target with litlle risk of the unit being shot accidentally and without the hassle of trying to shoot through a small detection zone. I was keen to try this as up until now, I've never had a way of confirming actual velocity of my bullets at distance other than ballistic charts or program predictions which are based on a theoretical BC of a given bullet.  Using the unit is very straightforward,  I always set it on my tripod 4m in front of the muzzle and 35cm's below the boreline before aligning my target using the the sights on the unit. It is important to also sight the unit 35cm's below the point of impact, this ensures a parralel bore to sensor relationship. During the first session I got things rolling with a string of Winchester's popular 40gr PowerPoint .22 ammo, figuring it would make sense to test the units lower end capability. Every shot was detected with an average of 1269 FPS for the string and an ES of 120 FPS. Pretty much on par with what I'd previously measured with my Shooting Chrony. Next up was a few groups with my Model 7 .308 shooting my general purpose Speer 130gr HP load.  Average velocity of 2852 FPS with an ES of  just 52 FPS from the stubby 20" barrel. These are light loads that shoot well, no surprises there.
      
          I stood up and could just read the last shot on the display 4 metres away, but only if on my toes. It is a good display but angled the way it is, only readable easily by a bird flying overhead. Surely the designers did not expect this unit to be read whilst sitting on a desk in front of the user? The unit records each shot, but I want instant feedback when working up loads. I don't want to stand up on my toes after each shot, nor walk out to the unit to see how the load is travelling. Next I wound down the tripod so that I would be shooting through the middle to top three quarter of it's detection zone. The next string of shots from the .308 recorded near on 200 FPS lower than previously measured...nothing had changed except the distance the bullet was passing over the sensors. I repeated the test with my .243 with the same results. If the bullet was fired 35cm's 


above the sensors then the measured velocity was much the same as I had expected and measured on previous occasions. If the bullet was fired 65cm above the sensors, velocity readings would be well down, as much as 200 FPS. I don't know if these results were just quirks of this partucular unit or conditions on the day, but I've repeated them with the same results on a number of occasions in conditions ranging from sunny to raining....with exactly the same results. So what I take away from this is, if you set the unit up exactly the same every time, you will get repeatable and very consistent results. Whether those results are accurate or not will depend on the distance you are shooting over the top of the sensors. In my experience 35cm over the top of the sensors produced readings and accuracy in line with what I know my loads are doing. Otherwise over the month I've had the Steinert, it has performed flawlessy in all sorts of weather and never missed a shot and still on the original batteries with plenty of charge left.

       During the most recent session I set the Steinert up at 300m just in front of a practice Fly target to see how my 150gr Accubond Long Range bullets are travelling down range. Every shot was recorded without a hitch and to my surprise velocities were very close with what my Nightforce Ballistics program predicted using Nosler's published G1 BC of .625 for these bullets. Based on these 300m results, maybe Nosler aren't being overly optimistic with their figures. But more importantly, what this last test demonstrates is the ability of the reloader to now accurately measure actual bullet performance downrange using the Steinert Superchrono. For the long range specialist, the ability to do this easily, should not be underestimated, whether that be simply plotting an accurate real world drop chart for your favourite load or entering measured BC of a bullet into your  ballistics calculator.

       And so in summing up I found the Superchrono as accurate as any chronograph I've used (see above comments). It is a great bit of kit, flexible, easy to use, easy to pack & carry and easy to live with but not without fault. The display position needs to be redesigned so it can be read by the user from behind the unit and the user instructions need to be consolidated and clarified as there are currently multiple sources and often in conflict. The big question will be what are Australian shooters prepared to cough up for a chronograph? Dan tells me these units are currently selling for just under $500 RRP, that amount of money buys you a lot of convenience and bulletproof (literally) features over a conventional chronograph. Thank you to Dan at DJG Trading for supplying the unit and supporting AHN.

Australian Hunting Net 2014