RCBS Ammomaster Chronograph

By Randy Wakeman

RCBS Ammomaster Chronograph
The RCBS Ammomaster Chronograph at the 2011 SHOT Show. Photo by Randy Wakeman.

When it comes to RCBS product, I've used various RCBS accessories for longer than I can remember. The first electronic powder scale I ever purchased was an RCBS. That little scale may not have exactly been to hell and back, but pretty close. I've used it for something like fifteen years, confirming powders drops at home and weighing powder charges on the road, from Manitoba to South Africa. I'd like to be able to tell you it has always been properly cared for, but that's about as far from the truth as possible. More recently, I've been dispensing powder with the RCBS Chargemaster Combo. It is the fastest and easiest way to get precise powder weights I've ever experienced. The more you use it, the more you'll appreciate what a tremendous time-saver this industry-leading product truly is.


A personal chronograph is an indispensable piece of equipment. If you reload, it is mandatory. If you want a good idea of exterior ballistics for anything, you need it. You can just take arbitrary catalog values if you want, but they are invariably wrong whether it is a shotshell, an air rifle pellet, rimfire, handgun, or centerfire ammunition. The RCBS Ammomaster, expertly designed and packaged, addresses long-standing problems with some home chronographs.


My original Canadian made F1 “Shooting Chrony” models date back to the late 1980s. The appeal was they were cheap. The best equipment is anything but. For shotshells, the Ken Oehler System 84 has become the gold standard. The Oehler Model 35P hits $600 or so. Oehler product has always been more than worth it, but is more than most home users are willing to invest.


Chronographs, as a class, don't often get much in the tender loving care department. Not much that you shoot at does. Sure, we are supposed to shoot through them, but based on the number of destroyed integral LED displays on chronos, that doesn't happen all the time. Chronos get banged up, they get hit with wads and sabots, pieces get shattered and lost. All great fun perhaps, but blowing up chronographs can be an expensive source of amusement.


RCBS has done a few things straight away to make things easier. The instructions are extremely clear and easy to follow. That may not be of any consolation to those that refuse to read instructions, but there is only so much RCBS can do. Don't take my word for it, there is no need. You can download the instructions on the RCBS website. The Ammomaster Chronograph itself is self-contained, with the risers and diffusers all fitting neatly inside the unit for carry or storage. As long as we can manage to put the parts away properly, there is nothing to lose or misplace.


You won't be blowing apart the LCD of the Ammomaster easily, as it is not attached to the sensor unit body. As the control unit and readout is a remote unit to begin with, no upgrade or accessory purchase required, the the brains of the unit are always well away from what we are shooting at. The control unit has a big, wide, rubberized flat on its bottom, so it tends to stay put with very little attention. The gold tube part of the Ammomaster isn't the chronograph at all, the tube serving dual duty as storage and as a fixture for the sensors.


Chronographs also blow over quite a bit, regardless of brand. A lot this falls into the common sense department: the cheap tripod that works great with your super lightweight, small profile digital camera isn't going to be a good choice for a chronograph with large risers and diffusers. If the wind is 20mph or so, it isn't the best time to do your chronograph work. For firearms that fill the air with lots of goodies, like wadding and sabots, using your Ammomaster without the risers or diffusers is often the best way to go, and shoot high while you're at it. Before hauling off and just “blazing away,” a couple of shots on paper will save you the exciting visual of high impact plastic.


It isn't idiot-proof, of course, but the Ammomaster qualifies as idiot-resistant, at least. I was paying more for chronographs many years ago, long before I had gray hair, when dollars bought a lot more of everything. At a current street price of $130 or so, it is very easy to characterize this chronograph as a en excellent value. The keypad / remote unit alone used to cost more than this as an add-on for previous chronographs. With its 100 shot capacity, 10 strings of 10 shots each, it is more than adequate for typical chronograph work.

There is a problem with integral LCD's that those who want to shoot in cold weather have long been aware of. The operating temperature of these chronographs is 32 degrees F. on the low end. The LCD gets slower and slower until it stops working altogether. With a remote unit, as comes automatically on this RCBS, it is a simple matter to keep the electronics well above freezing and use it year round, a huge advantage.


Whoever designed this chronograph at RCBS should get a round of applause, or at least a gold star. A tremendous amount of thought went into the design, the packaging, and the self-contained nature of the unit. There's plenty of addition space inside for a pair of back-up 9 volt batteries. If you treat this unit as a piece of instrumentation, which it is, print your loads on paper before shooting through it, I think you'll thoroughly appreciate this unit. It is most innovative design in consumer chronographs to come along in decades.

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Copyright 2011, 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.