In the last issue, we reviewed the Caldwell G2 Chronograph which was a Bluetooth-driven optical chronograph with some solid design features. For review this issue, we have the economy model of the same brand named the Caldwell Premium Kit. The difference in price is several hundred dollars, so hopefully, at the end of this review, you’ll be able to choose whether the Premium or G2 best suits your needs.
The Caldwell Premium Kit chronograph has the following features:
• External batteries. The LED light panels require 4 AA batteries and the main chronograph uses a single 9V. There’s space in the battery compartment for a spare 9V.
• LED lights fitted to the shades to enhance its capability to pick up the projectile as it passes over the sensors.
• Traditional upward-facing sensors.
• Connection to the Caldwell phone application via a cable. Be aware the cable is a standard 3.5mm connection which, without an adapter, won’t fit IOS phones 10 and above.
• It comes complete with its own tidy carry case.
• A tripod is included.
• It reads in feet per second (fps) or metres per second (mps).
LED LIGHTING STRIPS
The Premium uses the same LED light strips on the shades that increase the ability of the optical sensors to pick up the projectile in variable light conditions. The Premium has sensors that face skyward so any increase in its ability to identify the projectile is a bonus.
PHONE APP AND CABLE CONNECTION
The Caldwell phone application is the same whether you use the G2 or the Premium – the difference being, with the Premium, you use a traditional 3.5mm jack and cable to connect to your phone/device. This system has often been used in chronographs to relay a command box back to the firing point and is simple and effective but not quite as quick and easy as a Bluetooth connection. As we covered in the last issue, the phone app captures all the information you’d want in a chronograph, but to deep dive into your information, you’ll need a good ballistic app/program as well; I use Ballistic AE but Strelok or any of the well-known programs will do. The main body of the chronograph has a large display which you can use without the phone app; it’s large enough to be seen easily at 10-15 feet.
The tripod – which is included – as we identified in the G2 review, is cheaply made; it’s perfect to use and will do everything you want it to do, and I also love the idea of having everything you need for your chronograph in one compact carry case. The main negative I found is that when extended, the flexible legs didn’t provide a rock-solid base when the chronographs were fitted, especially in gusting winds. The Premium fared slightly better, however, due to the difference in centre of gravity being lower than the reversed G2; obviously, lowering the tripod with either is going to have a positive effect on stability.
The set-up is easy but with more cables and battery packs, it takes a little bit longer than the G2. We opted for .22, .222 and 6.5×55 for a total of 40 shots, as it’s important to test a chronograph with differing sized projectiles moving at a variety of speeds. To be fair, the inclusion of a magnum and a shotgun would round out the test, but I don’t own a magnum. I didn’t use my shotgun because, quite frankly, this isn’t my chronograph and I didn’t want the ‘you shoot it or break it, you buy it’ rule to come into play!
The light conditions on the day weren’t ideal for an optical chronograph which can struggle in either bright or dark conditions. Bright sun is particularly a problem for skywards facing sensors as the sensors get overwhelmed by the direct sunlight, hence the need for the shaders. This was a great test for the chronograph because the bright sun was angled directly into the sensors; I was keen to see how it would hold up. All shots were fired with shades fitted but the LEDs turned off.
.22 – 20 shots with a perfect read!
.222 – 13 shots read out of 15
6.5×55 – 5 from 5
I was very surprised that the chronograph read the .22 flawlessly in that amount of sun. The first two shots of the .222 were both error messages. After using the G2, I knew the Premium would have a sweet spot for consistent reading – I’d just have to find it. The first shot and error message were fired near the bottom of the window nearer to the sensors. I fired the next one straight through the middle and got another error; the next shot was nearer to the top third, closer to the shades, and it read. The following shots were all fired through the uppermost third nearer the shaders for a perfect 13-shot string. Again, with the 6.5×55, the remaining shots were fired nearer the shades and read flawlessly.
The Caldwell Premium Kit chronograph is a very affordable system which will be a hit with shooters who want a self-contained, easy-to-use-and-set-up system that’s economy priced. Due to more cables being used and the external batteries, if you’re a high-volume shooter, I’d lean towards the G2; however, some may prefer the external batteries required for the Premium despite the extra cables.
To recap, the main differences between the G2 and the Premium are:
• the Premium uses a cable to connect to your device/phone vs Bluetooth
• the premium uses external batteries vs the G2’s internal lithium
• the G2 uses sensors looking towards the ground whereas the Premium uses traditional skywards-facing sensors.
Looking at the data, both chronographs had an exceptionally high rate of shots read so the differing inverted sensors may not be a big factor. The compact carry case, which is smaller than the G2 and contains everything you need including a tripod, is a great touch. The slight differences in design really boil down to your budget, and if you think it’s worth spending the extra, I can testify that both chronographs are well made and will
do the job.
Premium Kit $479.99