TAS: BALLISTICS CALCULATOR: A MINE OF INFORMATION
Created on 14th May 2009
VINCE BOTTOMLEY tests the TAS Ballistics Calculator - and finds it effective, robust and accurate
LONG RANGE rifle shooting doesn't get much more demanding than F-Class with its ½MOA V-bull - just 5" in diameter at 1,000yd. Taking the rifle out of the slip, setting up, assessing the wind, making that vital scope adjustment then squeezing off the first round is always a bit of a shot in the dark for me. I always hope that my first sighter is at least on target, otherwise the whole shoot could be compromised. My home club gives out a special keyring for first-shot hits in the V-bull. We don't give out many!
Of course, F-Class is just a bit of fun and shooting does get a lot more testing - ask any soldier or police firearms officer. Often, one shot is all they will get - no sighters, no wind flags, and no butt crew spotting the fall of your shot.
We have our scope settings from the last time we shot, our ammunition is identical and we know the range, so why is that first shot always a gamble? What could possibly go wrong? The answer, as it happens, is plenty.
How many external forces influence our shot? Gravity and wind are the obvious ones and the most influential. It doesn't take much to blow a bullet several feet at 1,000yd. What else? Temperature affects velocity and thus elevation. In the UK we are lucky in that we don't get massive temperature shifts from summer to winter. However, it's enough to make a difference of maybe 5MOA or 6MOA - enough to have your shot go over the top of the target.
There are a few other things as well: humidity and barometric pressure for example, which are hard to measure, so are tricky to allow for. Altitude (height above sea level) is another and, of course, the angle at which you shoot. This doesn't become significant until we get to serious uphill or downhill shots which we are unlikely to encounter on formal ranges. If you have a right-hand barrel twist, a wind from the left tends to lower the impact point and a wind from the right is likely to lift the shot.
Most of us now have access to ballistic software and these computer programmes can be very useful, especially if you have a new rifle. Providing you know the muzzle velocity, the bullet's BC and the wind strength and direction, any half-decent programme should get you on target - though maybe not at 1,000yd. Trouble is, the computer's at home, not on the firing-point. You may be lucky, though, and own one of those dinky palm-tops. If you load it up with a good programme you can input many of these factors and this will make that first shot a bit less of a gamble.
For the professional shooter, like the military sniper, such devices are available. If it involves electronics, though, moisture will inevitably be a problem, as will sand. And it's fragile. What would we give for a device which is portable, robust and weatherproof, which would give us all this information and not rely on battery power?
Amazingly, I have such a device in my hand at this very moment. I'm about to shoot my 22 Dasher at 900yd - something I've never done before. I normally use it out to 600yd but today I'm a good bit further back. I've just taken the air temperature (51°F) and wind speed (13mph) with my Kestrel meter and made a good stab at the wind direction - about 30° over my right shoulder. I'm 1,000ft above sea level and I'm shooting uphill about 3°.
I need to wind on 19.2MOA according to my TAS calculator. My wind adjustment for a 13mph wind at 30° is a tad over 4MOA. No adjustments are needed for inclination but it's 10° colder than my ‘zero' data, so I need to add 4MOA elevation. I take the shot.
It would be a miracle if I had hit the V-bull, but it was a good solid hit and I'm quite impressed. No batteries, no wires, no phone; nothing to get wet, frozen, baked or broken in the TAS.
You want one? Sorry, this one would be no good to you because it's made specifically for an 80gn bullet with a BC of 0.489 exiting the muzzle at 3,200fps. This data was collected at 60°F by Dougie Lorimer of Tactical Adjustment Systems (TAS) by chronographing the ammunition at 220ft above sea level. In other words, it's tailor-made for one rifle/cartridge combination. This is what singles out the TAS from other such devices: the TAS is dedicated to your rifle and ammo - full stop.
Yes, you could input all the same information into any ballistics computer programme and print off a few sheets of paper. You could even laminate that paper to weatherproof it and stuff it in your gun bag. The TAS calculator is nothing more but it is offered as a neat and robust package about the size of a CD, which will slip into your pocket. It's made from tough polycarbonate that looks as if it would stop a bullet. OK, maybe not, but it would certainly stand up to police or military use in any climate.
All your ballistic information is engraved on this plastic disc. The engraving is deep so it won't wear or rub off. You can take it apart in seconds without tools if you have to. You can wash it if you need to. You can have a disc dedicated to each of your rifles or, if you are a military or police user, one unit would serve several identical rifles using the same ammunition. You can also have a neat zip-up wallet for your TAS with room for other discs.
I have no idea what the British Army sniper uses to make sight adjustments for his long shots but it can't be better than this. It certainly can't be more reliable, robust or quick and easy to use. I would hope that our guys have something at least as good. Similarly, every police force should be issuing a TAS to its tactical rifle shooters - lives could depend on it. These guys aren't punching holes in paper!
I came across the TAS by accident. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and I assumed that as this was a police/military spec unit, it would be totally out of the price range of a civilian shooter. I couldn't have been more wrong. The unit, with a dedicated disc for your own rifle and ammunition, is a paltry £95 plus VAT. If you want discs for your other rifles, they are just £35 each. Fortunately the data on the demonstration model which Dougie had with him was close enough to my 22 Dasher to give it a try, but not as close as it would be if he had chronographed my actual rifle, taking into account the elevation, air-temperature and barometric pressure.
When you consider this against other ballistic software on sale, there's no comparison. Yes, it's nice to play with the software on your computer in the comfort of your home but, honestly, how much use is it out in the field? The TAS is portable and will give you the essential information needed to make that first shot count. For hunters, who often need to take up or downhill shots, it will not only help make the kill but will mean that a clean kill is more likely.
Whether shooting is your job or your passion, you owe it to yourself to have a closer look at this innovative device. Visit the TAS website on www.globalsecuritymarketing.com for more information.
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