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Chronographs and light

by B.B. Pelletier

Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere have a trying time using our chronographs in the winter. When you get home from work, the daylight is gone, so some kind of artificial lighting is needed for the skyscreens of most chronographs. This can be a problem unless you know a few things.

Fluorescents HATE chronographs…
…but they LOVE skyscreens! Fluorescent lights will trigger your skyscreens without any intervention from you. Even if you have incandescent lighting directly over your skyscreens, a nearby fluorescent light will set off the screens, giving you a false reading on the chronograph screen. Skyscreens work on intervals of light and dark, and a fluorescent light pulses at just the right cadence to set them off.

Shop lighting not much better
The powerful vapor-type lights used in industrial shops and warehouses these days are almost as bad as fluorescent lights at setting off skyscreens, however I have found it possible to override them with good local incandescent lighting, such as the Chrony Skyscreen Lights that are the No. 1 option for anyone who owns a Chrony. You can also make your own light bar with regular incandescent lights, if you like. Space them to shine down on each skyscreen. They should be low wattage – between 15 and 40 watts. You can even use these lights in a room by themselves, so turn off those other bad lights!

Outdoor lighting
Okay, the weekend arrives and you can finally use that Chrony Alpha outside – or can you? For some reason, your skyscreens are still triggering and giving false readings, despite being outdoors in daylight. What gives? Two things – bright sky with rapidly moving clouds, or it’s breezy and nearby trees are casting moving shadows on the screens. Either one of these conditions will set off any chronograph’s skyscreens.

When you go outdoors, you want either an overcast sky or a blue sky with the sun not shining directly on the screens. If there are clouds, they shouldn’t be moving about, causing sudden shadows. Stay away from trees, because of the moving shadow problem. If you use a tripod for your chronograph, remember that you can always angle the skyscreens toward a better part of the sky. Read Tom Gaylord’s article about chronographs for other tips.

Using the skyscreen diffusers
All chronographs come with light diffusers that can improve lighting during difficult times. Most of the time you don’t need to attach the diffusers, but under some conditions they’re the only things that work. I assume you’ve read the article linked above and have seen what diffusers look like. They are for use on extremely bright days when the sun is almost directly over the skyscreens. Direct sunlight overpowers the sensors, making it impossible for them to “see” the faint shadow cast by a pellet speeding by. Think of diffusers as sunglasses for the chronograph. My trick of tilting the tripod also works in this situation, and I find it easier. If all you have is a flat table for the Chrony, use the diffusers.

Diffusers also help on a breezy day when sun and shadows are moving fast, though sometimes nothing works very well on those days.

Chronographs are wonderful measurement tools that can add a lot of enjoyment to anyone’s airgunning experience, but they do require some understanding. Learn to use your chronograph so you can be confident that the numbers it gives are correct.

32 thoughts on “Chronographs and light”

  1. How about some info on the Crosman model 70 rifle? They ran on co2 and looked like the Winchester model 70 bolt action rifle. They seem to be rare as I hardly ever run into one.

  2. how far apart are those screens in use? Can you, for example, build a little triangular tunnel over them with the lights inside or at least set into the outside of your wall?

  3. B.B.,

    Ok man, You’ve shot it all and I’ve read it all but I need an opinion that I know you hate to give and I promise I wont complain if I take your advice!

    As you may or may not remember, I have a cfx .177 that I have sent off to be tuned but in the meantime have decided to pick up a second rifle just because, why not?

    Between the Beeman R-9 Goldfinger .22 and RWS 48/52 .22 which would you purchase as a second gun? I cant shoot either of them to their fullest potential but I have confidence I can learn. I dont like long, heavy guns so I ruled out the RWS 350 but I like the idea of magnum power which makes me a little apprehensive of the R9, whats your take man? It does have the ultimate trigger


  4. BB, You’re a shill. Try posting some information without a link to something for sale on your master’s website? How much does Pyramyd AIR pay you to shill their products?

    Your column is an advertisement, nothing more.

    In disgust,

    Steve in PA

    • Wow, this is sillyness. Tom promotes the products PA sells.. ummm… DUH. But he also has experience with EVERY aspect of modern airgunning. He gives his honest opinion of products and has made an unheard of wealth of information easily available to all. Having a link to products provides even more information on the product and reference to the conversation of the article.

    • Steve,

      This blog belongs to Pyramyd AIR. So I do promote their products. I have said so many times, though I don’t say it all the time.

      I have written about things Pyramyd AIR doesn’t sell. I have written quite a few articles about Theoben rifles and Daystate rifles. I bet I could make a long list of things I’ve written about that Pyramyd AIR does not sell, but in comparison to the thousands of reports I’ve written about the things they do sell, that list would be small.

      When I write about something, I write the truth — at least how it appears to me. For example, today’s report shows the Remington RAC 1911 BB pistol has several serious flaws that I point out.

      Perhaps you aren’t aware, but I used to write blogs for several other dealers whose products you don’t see here. But they were not as interested in a blog that educates as Pyramyd AIR has been. One by one, they stopped using me and Pyramyd AIR took up the slack.

      I’m not trying to change your opinion, because I doubt I could do that. I’m writing this for the hundreds of newer readers who don’t know who I am and don’t know what is happening here on this blog. They deserve to know the truth about what I write, so they can make up their own minds. That’s so much better than some chat forum that’s dominated by a few readers who force people to toe the party line and speak the approved platform. At least I think it is. And so do many of the tens of thousands of readers who follow this blog every day, I’ll bet.

      B.B. .

    • Steve,

      Crosman’s modle 99 lever action rifle is not rare, but it is uncommon to find one today. Owners tend to hang onto them.

      Like their model 70 bolt action rifle, the model 99 that copies Savages’ model 99 lever action rifle is attractive and intriguing to many airgunners. It’s a .22, which is odd by itself, and it’s as large as a firearm. People who see one for the first time can’t help but be captivated.

      Your find is a good one. Enjoy it.


  5. The.Man

    Both the R9 and the Diana 48/52 are accurate. I find the R9 to be very sensitive to hold, while the 48 is less so. The 48 also gives a lot more power.

    However, the R9 is a breakbarrel, and I’m guessing you don’t own one of those yet. All breakbarrels take a lot of technique to shoot, and nothing teaches marksmanship better than an air rifle.

    If power matters most, get the 48. If you want to learn how to shoot better, get the R9.


  6. If you shrouded the skyscreens and put the light inside the shroud, perhaps you could operate the chronograph in places which were lit by fluorescent light or on cloudy days.

  7. Steve in PA, I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. I don’t ever remember BB “shilling” for “his master’s” website. In fact, I’m generally surprised that he doesn’t push pyramidair more than he does, after all – they are his sponsor.

    The fact that his articles tend to have pyramidair links embedded in them is actually very handy – because pyramidair frequently lists a lot of detailed info about their products that many sites don’t, so it’s a handy technical reference.

    And if he were a shill, he’d be killing posts that refer to other sources for stuff, he wouldn’t tell anyone to stay away from something they sell, and his articles and tests would only cover their merchandise.

    He does none of these things, as you would know if you read this site with any frequency.

  8. vince
    i couldnt agree more. steve dosent know what hes talking about. of cource bb’s gonna promote pyramyd he works for them. also pyramyd is the only sight with such a vast collection of guns and other stuff he dosent need to promote any other sight. bb has a vast wealth of information and we should feel proud that he can share a little piece of it with us every day. thank you bb and keep up the good work. dont listen to vince

  9. I’m sure he meant “steve in Pa.”, at the beginning of his post he said “vince, I couldnt agree more. steve doesnt know what…”

    Anyway, steve’s a jackass and needs to go away. Nobody has the vast assortment of airgun products that pyramid has….period, thats why he links. I doubt anybody here buys everything from pyramyd, I try to buy more from them but someimtes things are on sale elsewhere, it has to be a big difference to pull me off pyramyd cuz everything I order before 2pm shows up the next day 🙂

    B.B. you rule, plain and simple, keep it up, **** steve!

  10. Still have my old cronograph and records. Every once in a while me and the misses put Frankie Lane on the crono and get to dancing. Yep, thems were the days. Think it was a Victrola cronograph, had just the one speed, 78 fps, purrfect for foxtrot, a bit slow for bunnyhop.

  11. I have been reading about all the modifications being done to the 2240’s, 2250, and even to the 2260’s. Ky quwstion is can the 1077 crosman be custumized like the other models, It would seem to me that semiautomatic action with the clip would make it a big advantage over making carbines out of the other series. I would value your imput, Airgun newbee

  12. hi bb
    sorry about all the pellet questions but i have very little experiance. once again how ho you think jsb .22 straton diabolo pellets woud do in my 392? also what do you think of the crossman copperhead competition wadcutter. im kind of a laid back shooter not demanding olympic accuracy. also i like the moderate prices. sorry to bother you again.

  13. BB

    You mentioned somewhere in one of these blogs that you shouldn’t keep a pneumatic pumped up over time as it would likely blow the seals. How long a time can you leave one pumped up? I have two Crosman 760s.


  14. Joe,

    I don’t have a specific time, and I don’t remember mentioning that a multi-pump has a problem. It’s the single stroke that should be shot within 5 minute3s.

    I leave most of my multi-pumps with one of two pumps in them at all times.


  15. You guys leave poor Steve in PA alone! Can’t you tell when a guy’s learned a new word-of-the-day? Ten bucks says he never misses a B.B. Pelletier post! Shill away, B.B., shill away!!


  16. The Combro chronograph has none of the problems with light since it is self-contained. These portable chronographs are superb if they work on your gun — the design does not work well with “stuff” on the end of the barrel. (One could make a mount for most any gun, I suspect.) The best way to order is (used to be?) by phone. They sent mine in just a couple of days from the UK. Highly recommended!

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