So the LabRadar arrived sooner than expected. I saw a notice on their website that stated they couldn’t ship for 3-4 weeks. OK, so I don’t know when they posted that or if it was still posted when I ordered but it shipped immediately. I’m not complaining. It was a Christmas gift partially from the wife, but the majority of the $ from myself. I had controlling interest so I was able to build for it and use it before the fat man showed up with it.
I ordered the unit itself, the carry/storage case, and the SD card and that was it. I already have a photo tripod for when it’s needed to be freestanding, and for shooting from the bench I figured I’d buy a ball mount and build a base out of sheet aluminum. There is a tripod available for it on the website for those so inclined. I almost ordered the external battery for it, but I have plenty of rechargeable NiMh cells and if it becomes an issue I can still order it or another one. It’s not like it’s a special battery.
The unit itself has 2 large flat sides, actually front and back, one side is featureless and if you’re at the range and see the featureless side you know you’re in deep kimchee if someone hollars, “All clear, commence firing!”. It’s the side that “sees” the bullet. It’s the other side that interests us and that side has the buttons and the info’ screen.
I’m not going to go into how to operate it. There are plenty of videos on line about it and people with varying degrees of knowledge making those videos, typical Youtube, right? “I just unboxed it and here it is. I couldn’t get it to work, so it sucks.”. Then there are the folks who actually know about the unit making videos. The manual for it is also online, so pretty much I knew before it arrived how to operate it. All I was lacking was actually having the unit in my hands and pushing the buttons.
So after putting batteries inside it (remember, I didn’t buy the USB power cell) I layed it in my lap and started to go through the screens changing the preferences to what better suited me. Easy! I armed it and sent the message to emit radar to look for my bullet. Since it was in my lap my groin started to heat up and I’ll never be able to have children anymore. OK, I just made that up. The unit is ridiculously easy to use.
The other day I had some shotgun ammo to test and I’m not sure why, distance or aiming error(?), the unit triggered but couldn’t find the shot column and told me so. Let me back up. The unit has notches in it that allow the radar beam to be aimed, and it must be aimed since the projectile needs to be in the radar beam to be “seen”. So after the failures I aimed at a target 40 yards away and it worked better there. My velocities told me that my ammo experiment was a failure, but the LabRadar unit worked fine with a very small learning curve. It is so much simpler to set up than a traditional sky screen unit.
Taking the unit inside I used the supplied USB cable to transfer the data from the unit to my computer. Of course the SD card can also be removed and the data retrieved that way. But if you don’t have an SD card in it you can’t do that. I think I ran into information somewhere that states you can’t download data if there is no SD card. They’re inexpensive, just buy one and put it in the slot. It doesn’t need to be huge. The 32 mb card I bought from the LR people holds far more data than I’ll ever put into it. And it can be erased, just like a drive in your computer, so 32 mb is plenty big enough.
The first use completed, I removed my internal cells for storage of the unit. I really like it. It’s easy to use and easy and fast to set up, and gives all the data that anyone would need, to include power factor for competition. You need to input projectile information to get that. But adding data just isn’t difficult at all.
The plate I made for a base for using it while shooting from a bench is simplicity itself. I had a scrap piece of rectangular 1/4" alum’ plate, 16"x9" so I used that. I see no reason 1/8" plate wouldn’t work. One inch in from each corner I drilled and tapped 1/4-20 threads for rubber feet. In the very center I drilled and tapped another hole for the ball mount (about $25 from Amazon). I think the ball mount I bought can hold something like 18# and the unit weighs much less than that. I deburred all of the edges to make sure they don’t cut anything. In use the long axis of the plate points downrange as does the plain flat face of the LabRadar. It would take one heck of a breeze to blow it over, one I wouldn’t be out shooting in. There is so little cross section from the side that the narrow plate isn’t an issue.
So for storage what do I do with the plate? The back side of the LabRadar case has 2 wide velcro straps. I put the bottom of the plate against the back of the case. The rubber feet are on each side of the case and the ball mount is between the straps. The plate can go nowhere fastened to the case in this manner. I have no idea if the case was made to do that but right now it works fine for holding the base.
In the case there is a pocket with a velcroed flap for the documentation and outside there is a pocket with another velcroed flap for spare batteries, the USB cable and whatever else you want to lug along.
OK, pluses and minuses…
There are two potential issues with it. One could be the velocity that it will measure. According to the specs it only measures up to 3900 fps. I know of cartridges that go higher than that. But for the vast majority of cartridges it’ll work just fine. It has 3 velocity ranges symbolized by a bow, a handgun, and a rifle. I’m working from memory, but I think they correspond to 60-600fps, 600-1600fps, and 1600-3900fps. There are 2 ways to trigger the unit. One is by using the internal mic’s that use the sound of the shot. But an arrow makes no noise, so there is a trigger that uses the radar beam itself.
Since it uses radar it works on cloudy days or even in the dark; but you’d need light to read the data since the data screen isn’t lit.
(edit: Correction: the data screen is lit.)
My old CED chrono’ would also work in the dark using the IR sky screens, and I would use it in the shop. I doubt that the LabRadar will work at such close range (issue #2). But that didn’t bother the CED. Concussion wave from certain cartridges would affect the velocity measured by the CED (5000+ fps is sort of an unbelievable velocity). That is a thing of the past with radar.
Since nothing is beyond the radar unit itself there are no more issues with sabots or wads hitting skyscreens and taking them out.