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Which is the best chrono for airsoft.

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Best Chronograph

Steve Chun


When it comes to airsoft, one of the most important accessories that I’ve purchased for my arsenal has been a chronograph or chrono for short. A chronograph, as used for airsoft purposes, is used primarily to determine the muzzle velocity of the bbs that are fired from an airsoft weapon. Or if you want the dictionary definition:


Definition:   \Chron"o*graph\, n. [Gr. ? time + -graph: cf. F.
1. An instrument for measuring or recording intervals of
   time, upon a revolving drum or strip of paper moved by
   clockwork. The action of the stylus or pen is controlled
   by electricity.


Although that is the primary purpose of a chrono in reference to airsoft, some chronos can also measure other things such as bps or balls per second. This is extremely accurate in determining how fast a weapon is shooting as opposed to fps or feet per second which measures how strong a weapon is shooting. These two aspects are probably the most important pieces of knowledge that you can have about an airsoft weapon. They are extremely important to know whenever you are purchasing a used airsoft weapon, upgrading an airsoft weapon, or entering a legally sanctioned airsoft event. 


There are many reviews of different types of chronos and each one tries to convince you as to which one is the best for airsoft, but mine will be a little different. There are basically two types of chronos, radar based and light based, and I will compare the two that I’ve owned and used personally, which are the F-1 Chrony (light based), and the “Big Red” Paintball (radar based) chrono.


The description of the “Big Red” Paintball chrono states: 


Uses Doppler radar to measure paintball velocity. Works under any lighting conditions. Digital display measures feet per second.


The description of the F-1 chrony states:


The Chrony has two eyes (or photo sensors) located in each of the black plastic housings at the front and back of the main unit. They are located under the Twin Lenses at the bottom of these housings and they detect the passage of a bullet over them by sensing the change in the amount of light. (They detect a momentary change in light intensity.)




When it comes to setup time, you just can’t beat Big Red. Drop in a 6 volt lantern battery and you’re ready to go. 


For the F-1 Chrony however, it has to be assembled first before you can use it.  First of all, the unit uses a 9 volt battery. You open the unit which starts off as a box but then the rods are two piece rods that need to be connected before they are inserted into the chrony unit. The diffusers are also two piece and snap together before they are placed on each rod.   You also really need a tripod in order to use the chrony effectively.  There’s a hole in the bottom of the unit where you just screw the tripod in. 




To operate Big Red, you push the red button to turn the unit on, you put 1” of the barrel of the gun on the black rubber lip, then fire away. The unit will register fps when you fire semi auto, but if you fire full auto, it will switch to bps and give you balls per second readings instead. 


For the F-1 chrony, you push the button to the on position, aim the gun inside the triangle which is the space between each of the diffuser rods, diffusers, and unit, then fire away.  The unit will register fps, and each shot is numbered so you can review the velocities of each shot. 




You didn’t think there was one perfect chrono did you? Well, of course the Big Red has some limitations. First of all, it has a 475 fps limit. What will happen is that if you’re gun is shooting over 475 fps, it will show you an erroneous reading like 400 fps or 405 fps.  You would think that the chrono would show 475 fps each time in those situations, but such is not the case. Although this chrono is suitable for most airsoft guns, I’ve had problems trying to get my Tanaka M700 chronoed using this unit. 


Some people may ask why the Big Red chrono at AEX will show higher than 475 fps readings while mine will not? The reason is that the Paintball radar company changed the microprocessor inside the unit in 2001, so that all units manufactured prior to this date have the capability of showing readings higher than 475 fps, while the newer models cannot. Why the company changed it’s microprocessor I have no idea on that.


Since Big Red is radar based, you don’t need any light at all to get readings. This comes in very handy if you are trying to obtain readings indoors or outdoors with very bad lighting conditions. 


Cost is also a disadvantage to Big Red. The cheapest price I’ve seen on the internet for the Paintball radar chrono is $249.00. Compare this to the price of the F-1 chrony which retails for $87.95 and you’ll need to decide for yourself if the extra cost is worth the investment. There is also a reconditioned chrony unit available for $49.95, but this unit is not upgradeable and comes with a 1 year warranty as opposed to the 5 year F-1 chrony warranty. 


With the F-1 chrony, it has the ability to display readings from 30 – 7000 fps including projectiles fired from real steel guns. It is also upgradeable. This means that it can be upgraded to have the options that the Alpha, Beta, and Gamma chronys possess like remote control capability, high low average velocities, higher memory capacity, etc.. The question of whether you need all those other options is a matter of personal preference.  From my own experience in airsoft, I can tell you that fps and bps are the two most important items of information that you’ll need. 


The F-1 chrony is very difficult in obtaining readings indoors. In fact, it is almost impossible to get a reading without the optional shooting light fixture. The shooting light fixture is basically two light bulb fixtures placed one on each diffuser. The indoor shooting light fixture retails for $29.95 a set. 


Overall Impressions:


In my personal opinion, if you can afford the hefty price tag I recommend going with the Big Red Paintball chrono. Although it has some limitations compared to the F-1 chrony, at this point in time it is the best chrono for the needs of airsoft enthusiasts. I once purchased a used western arms scw pistol at night and it gave me the peace of mind knowing that the gun I was purchasing was firing the way it was supposed to.