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Old January 10, 2010, 07:39 PM   #1
Tex S
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PACT Professional XP Chronograph gets two thumbs down... for now, anyway.

I bought this chrono from Midway last week. It was on sale, and despite the horrible user reviews I decided to give it a whirl. Before I go into details about the chrony, I will give you a little insight on a few PACT products I already own.

A brief history...

Last Christmas I bought a PACT digital powder dispenser and scales. The scales have been awesome, but I did have to send the dispenser back to PACT for service a few months ago. They repaired it and sent it back in a reasonable amount of time, but I was a bit frustrated because I live 20 miles from their factory and they refused to let me drop the unit off in person. Instead they told me it must be mailed. When they sent the unit back, attached was a $16 invoice for shipping. That really irritated me because I could have saved time and money by just driving out to their facility to handle the warranty repair. To top it all off, the guy on the phone said that they do not allow customers in their factory, and if a customer tried to come in, "They would likely be shot." I was shocked to say the least, but whatever. The point I am trying to make is that while thier customer service did a good job in repairing my unit (it works like a charm now), working with them was inconvenient and their attitude was poor at best. Needless to say, I completely ingored paying their $16 shipping invoice. I figure if they are not willing to do face to face business, they can absorb the one way shipping charge. Furthermore, they could have sent the unit back in a USPS Flat Rate box for $10, but I was never offered any type of shipping option. It only cost me $10 to ship it to them; I'll be damned if I pay $16 to get it back.

So, despite the fact that PACT's customer service had let me down, my experience with their scales and powder dispenser have been mostly positive. The scales are always on the money, and the powder dispenser throws + or - .01gr. every time. Both units seem to be well built and of good quality. I was hoping that the same level of quality would be incorporated into their chronograph, but this was simply not the case.

My new Chrony is here!!!

I opened the box to my new chronograph and was immediately disappointed with the cheap carrying case that held the main unit; a made in China special. When I inspected the main unit it seemed to be well built, but upon installing the battery I found the fit to be extremely tight. This makes battery installation and removal quite awkward. The skyscreen assembly was made of lightweight plastic, but that is acceptable as someting too heavy would make the unit want to topple over. The aluminum bracket the skyscreens mount to was lightweight but very sturdy. The sensors seemed to be made very cheaply, but were adequate.

Instruction Manual (if you can even call it that):

After an initial inspection of the parts, I was now ready for some assembly. I immediately reached for the instruction manual. What a joke! It does not tell you how to assemble the skyscreens and sensors, it simply says, and I quote, "You will figure it out." I eventually did "figure it out", but there are several different ways these parts can be assembled, so it would be nice if the instructions stated the appropriate way to set it up. The manual is full of mispelled words and condescending remarks. It is at best completely and totally unprofessional.

Time to do some shootin'!

I took the chrony outside and set it up. It is cloudy and overcast, so I am anxious to see what happens. I live in the city, so a Gamo Hunter pellet gun will be the firearm of choice for my tests. I fire a 10 shot string, but the unit only records 9 shots. I fire another string of 10... every shot registers. Cool! The velocities even look to be about right. I print off both strings and everything is fine. Maybe this thing is not so bad! I go ahead and pack it up for the day. Out of 20 total shots 19 of them registered. I figured I would try again tomorrow and see what kind of results I get.

The next day...

Its bitterly cold, but without a cloud in the sky, so I decide to fire another 20 shots to see what I get. Shot 1 didn't register. Same for 2, 3, 4, and 5. I reposition the sensors to where they are getting more direct light. My next shot registered, but readings were intermittent over the next few shots. Some would register and some would not. I had heard that light is a major issue with chronies, so I had a set of Infrared sensors as my ace in the hole. The IR sensors were purchased directly from PACT (who took 7 days to ship ) because Midway doesn't carry the IR sensors only. I plugged in the IR setup and immediately started recording shots. Out of a 10 shot string 9 shots registered. I fired a total of two, 10 shot strings with about a 90% sucess rate. I attempted to print the string slips, but the printer would not work. It would begin to work, but then the unit would completely shut off and restart itself. Weird. Maybe the cold had something to do with it? Anyway, I had completed enough testing for one day so I powered the unit off and took down the sensors and skyscreens. When I went to put the main unit in its case I noticed that it was on. Wait a minute... didn't I just shut this thing off? Maybe I'm going crazy? I turned the unit off again and watched it. Sure enough, about 30 seconds later the unit automatically powered back up. I flipped the unit over, wrestled the battery out, and put everything away.

Time to interface with my PC...

Needless to say I am a bit frustrated by now, but I attempt to interface the chrony to my PC anyway. PACT has incorporated an extremely old 9 pin serial connector into its design. I had noticed earlier that my PC doesn't even have a serial port (the last computer I had with a serial port was in 1999) so I bought a USB to serial port adapter. Well, guess what... the damn thing will not interface with my PC. I immediately call PACT and tell them I can't get their unit to interface. The tech support fellow told me I should try to find a computer with a built in serial port connector and try to interface with it. He suggests that this will help us determine if the problem is with the chrony or my PC. I seriuosly doubt the problem is with my PC, and I am more inclined to believe that the problem lies within the ancient interface design that PACT is using. Anyway, I plan on going to my dads house to attempt to interface the chrony. He has a computer with a built in serial port.

To sum it all up...

I am really disappointed with this unit. I had hoped it would work well, but it seems to be full of intermittent failures. I do not like the archaic interface design, lack of consistency in recording shots even with the IR sensors, and some of the features on the unit are anything but user friendly (you can't even delete a single string... its all or nothing). I am not sure if I want to send the thing back to Midway for a replacement PACT unit, or if I should exchange it for a CED Millenium. The CED with IR capabilities will cost a bit more and it also doesn't have a built in printer or ballistics calculator like the PACT unit does (PACT's ballistic calculator actually works quite nicely, and the ability to print a string in the field is cool when it works). CED does have a substantially better user rating on Midways website, USB port interface, and I have talked to a few fellow forum members who like the CED unit.

Any and all suggestions on what my next step should be would be greatly appreciated. Please feel free to chime in with what type of chrony you have and potential likes/dislikes.

Furthermore, the purpose of this thread is not so much to rant, but instead to inform anybody who is considering buying a PACT chrony. Out of fairness to PACT, I will update this thread as new developments arise.

Last edited by Tex S; January 10, 2010 at 08:07 PM.
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Old January 10, 2010, 08:04 PM   #2
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I've had terrific luck with my CED. I can even read air gun pellets with it in my basement without fail using its IR screens. I also got the 4 ft screen spacing adapter so I could fire it against my old Oehler 35P, which has been very reliable. The two track extremely closely.

As to your PACT, temperature likely affected it. Many consumer electronics devices use semiconductor components and electrolytic capacitors only rated down to 0°C (32°F). I would not design such components in any device to be used outside the home, but many do. Wider temperature range devices cost more. Sometimes a lot more, if they also have to be precise.

I have never had the CED out in extreme cold, so I don't know how it would compare to the PACT in that regard?

Your experience with the "instructions" for the PACT unit echo my feeling about the powder dispenser "instructions". I got like two or three photocopies of a somewhat distorted and faded original. I kept hoping they would put something up on line that was more complete. No luck. I don't think technical writing is their forte.
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Old January 10, 2010, 09:52 PM   #3
Tex S
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Quote:
I got like two or three photocopies of a somewhat distorted and faded original.
Same here.

Quote:
I don't think technical writing is their forte.
That would be an understatement. I don't know how much it could possibly cost to hire a firm to do your technical writing, but I assume not much. Perhaps PACT does not visit Midways website and look at the customer reviews for their products (or maybe they just don't care). Almost all of the reviews have negative comments regarding their manuals. Wonder why they wouldn't just fix the problem???
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Old January 11, 2010, 12:52 AM   #4
Zildjian
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Pact Service

Tex S ...I don't own a Pact chrono but do own a Pact BBK electronic scale.
Have had it for almost 10 yrs. now. Within 3 yrs. the 9volt patch wiring came
undone from within the patch itself. Fine...ok..I got a patch from one of the kids toys that went bad and used that patch cord to replace mine with. Ok..
worked like a charm for another 6 or 7 yrs. Last year in November something
happened that the scale would not calibrate anymore. I thought maybe the wiring went haywire again . I too sent it back to the factory early Dec. 7th. Called to see if they got it because of Christmas maybe booging down on mail.
Called last week to see if it had been sent back. The person not knowing his
name said it still has not been worked on because of being back logged with other units. He seemed to be in a hurry to get off the phone. That leads me to question their product line now. Yes..It cost me $14.95 to ship it to them.
I'm wondering now what its going to cost me to get it back at all. Its been a good scale up till now. I was hoping they would have just send the newer model since they don't make mine anymore. They said in the beginning that the $14.95 would cover it all. Now I really wonder what going on.
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Old January 11, 2010, 01:59 AM   #5
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my CED M2 will be here sometime this week, I'll post how it works. Also cold messes with batteries so maybe your unit didn't have enough power for the printer? My cell had full battery, I had it out in the cold for 45 mins and the battery was completely dead. I plugged it in the charger and 30 mins later it was competely full again . I'm no scientist.
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Old January 11, 2010, 10:58 AM   #6
Tex S
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Quote:
my CED M2 will be here sometime this week, I'll post how it works.
Please do.
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Old January 11, 2010, 11:13 AM   #7
Dr. Strangelove
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I received the CED M2 as a Christmas gift this year. I immediately set it up and began firing rubber bands through the screens inside the house to try it out. (I don't have any air rifles anymore, and I live in town.) It registered every shot!

I briefly toyed with the idea of setting up some kind of trap and shooting my MK II pistol in the hallway, but cooler heads prevailed. (Housemates came home)

The CED M2 unit interfaces beautifully with my computer, I just installed the included software and plugged in the included USB. I can print, export to csv, excel, etc. The unit does "power" calculations for whichever sporting event requires that, but not ballistics, CED assume you will use your own software.

The build quality of the unit itself is acceptable, it doesn't feel like a piece of laboratory grade stuff, but doesn't feel like it's going to fall apart, either. The sky screens are plastic and are a little weird to set up at first, but look like they will last, assuming they aren't shot. Be forewarned that their recommendation to use a professional grade tripod is accurate, my $20.00 Wal-mart special will hold it up, but is very wobbly.

I reccomend an empty range for your first outing, it took me quite a while to get the tripod set just right (much lower than you would think), get lined up with the target, etc. It would be frustrating to have to wait through several firing cycles to get all set up.

The instructions are very complete, if a little poorly written. It appears that the folks who write these forget that we don't all build chronographs for a living. The manual answered all the questions I had, it was just a little awkward to read at times.

I'm going back to the range Wednesday, so I'll post how the CED M2 operates in 25° to 32° weather. Unless it's warmer, which would be fine by me.
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Old January 11, 2010, 11:18 AM   #8
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I ordered a CED M2, which should be here this week. I hope to try it out Friday. I will also post up how it works for me.
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Old January 11, 2010, 12:44 PM   #9
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I've owned a Shooting Chrony Beta Master for a little over two years. I haven't had the number of issues in two years that you had in the first two days. Shooting Chrony's also have a reputation for being a bit on the finicky side, but nothing that would compare to your experience. I think I had a grand total of 1 shot that failed to register in the first year I owned it. The first time it was used was in temperature ranging in the 20's (it was also used this past Saturday in 29F weather without a hitch). The only times I've really had issues was when 1) I put the diffusers on when it was nice and sunny and some dark clouds moved in and killed all good light. 2) It was late in the evening when the sun was at such an angle so sunlight was directly hitting the sensors. 3) I had the chronograph set too low and so was firing too high over the sensors (still got readings, just not as accurate as they should have been). Probably 90-95% of the time, it works flawlessly.

From what I've read though, most chronographs can have issues if the lighting isn't ideal, most chronographs use the older serial port connections, and most chronographs have crappy manuals. I know all three apply to my Shooting Chrony Beta Master. The manual appears almost like a photocopy, is poorly worded, and the layout is pretty blah. That being said, they never say "You'll figure it out" or have condescending or sarcastic remarks in it. It still sounds better than your Pact.

The interface to using the Shooting Chrony's is also a bit on the archaic, unintuitive side but once you figure it out it's not a big deal. If I were to replace my chronograph I think the only thing I'd consider is the CED M2. I'm happy enough with mine that I don't plan to upgrade though...
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Old January 11, 2010, 12:54 PM   #10
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As for USB-to-serial adapters, I've never had much luck with those. About half of them don't work for any given application, especially if interfacing with proprietary software requiring you to set a com port. An old fashioned PCI serial card is a much better deal.
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Old January 13, 2010, 07:45 PM   #11
Dr. Strangelove
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CED M2 mini-review

Fresh from the range! Unfortunately, I didn't get to test the severe cold weather capabilities of the unit as it was in the high 40's this afternoon.

Unit description: Look a couple of posts up in this thread

The CED M2 worked perfectly. I don't have any experience with any other chronographs, but I couldn't ask for better performance. Just set it up, turn it on, and shoot.

Setup: This was the third time I have set it up, it gets a little quicker each time. Their aren't any instructions on how to set up the sky screens, so it took a while to figure out at first. It took me about ten minutes to get set up and lined up properly with the target and shooting bench.

Use: Turn unit on. Shoot something through it. Look at the screen. It's really that simple. It also has a speaking mode where it tells you the velocity in a kind of freaky computery female voice with sort of a British accent.
Remember to push the "Store" button between shot strings.

Software: Install the software from the included CD or download it off the CED website. When you get home from the range, just start the program, plug in the USB cable and download the data. Easy.

The only thing I wish this unit had that it doesn't is an auto-string mode and a way to change individual shots from one string to another. I always shoot five shot load development groups, so it would be nice to be able to set the unit to switch to a new string after five shots. Since I often forget to switch to a new string, I would like to be able to move shots between strings if necessary. The shot can be deleted, but it would be nice to just be able to move it.

Tips:
Get a quality tripod.
Be sure the unit is off when plugging/unplugging the sensor cables, otherwise it registers as a shot.



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Old January 13, 2010, 11:54 PM   #12
Tex S
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Yup, my PACT just got sent back to Midway today. I plan on picking up the CED.

Thats a nice looking range Strangelove.
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Old January 14, 2010, 12:46 AM   #13
Dr. Strangelove
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Thanks, it's private gun club here in Athens, GA. I joined after several dangerous and frustrating trips to public ranges. The shooting house in the picture is at 100 yds, with benches at 200 yds and 225 yds we can use if no one is shooting on the 100 yd line. 300 yds shots are possible from the bench at 225 if you place your target on the base of the berm. There are steel silhouettes on the right side of the range for .22LR competitions.

We also have a 50yd pistol range with steel targets, and two skeet and trap fields with high/low houses and a trap pit.

It's hard to beat for $100 bucks a year, and since I work retail and have mostly weekdays off, I'm usually the only one out there.

Last edited by Dr. Strangelove; January 14, 2010 at 12:53 AM.
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Old January 14, 2010, 02:07 PM   #14
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i bought the shooting chrony beta master december 30 09, i got home and set it up and tried shooting some elastics through it for over an hour and got maybe 3 to actually read. i got frustrated and closed shop and went to bed. the next day i brought it with me to work to play with and never had time so wife and i went to the range new years eve and i tried to use it. i was getting errors from the second i turned it on, spent almost an hour messing with it trying different lights, with the shields, without. all to no avail. it was cold out and the unit was in the truck for about 2 hrs or so prior to use, i havent tried it since. i want to return it and buy another, but i read so many good things about the unit.
from what i can decipher in the manual it pretty much is a turn it on and shoot. if i am wrong, please tell me so i can use this dam thing
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Old January 14, 2010, 05:22 PM   #15
azar92
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stacks04,

I have the same unit. What were the issues you were having with it? Was it giving a specific error message? Was it failing to register anything at all?

You can PM me about it if you'd like. I've had mine for 2 years with very little issues. Perhaps you have a lemon...
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Old January 14, 2010, 05:49 PM   #16
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Dr. Strangelove,

Set the tripod the desired distance in front of where your gun muzzle will be (I keep a piece of string for this). Open the bolt of your rifle and put a safety flag in. Put a laser bore sighter in the gun and get the gun set up on the bags so it is aiming at the target. Turn on the bore sighter and use a piece of paper or the palm of your hand to find the beam and set the skyscreens up so the beam is centered in both. Five minutes, tops.

The CED is the only unit on the market I am aware of that started using self-adjusting sky screens that change their sensitivity with the ambient light. It should have fewer problems with light conditions than most.
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Old January 14, 2010, 06:54 PM   #17
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All chronographs can be quirky. Even the M2 can be finicky with light.
Yes, the infrared kit helps alot but it also adds to the cost.
IMO, the ideal setup is to run two chronographs in tandem. Basically, one chrono proofs the other. This was the principle with the Oehler.
The Oehler P35 had a third screen with two timers. This setup took two velocity measurements of each shot. If the two readings weren't comparable it threw and error.
My choice of a chrono would be the ProChrono Digital. It's half the cost of a M2 and just as reliable if not more. It's a basic unit without the frills but I think they're the best value for the money (<$100). If you bought two, you could "proof" your shots.
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Old January 14, 2010, 08:43 PM   #18
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Otto,

I have the original Millenium and the Oehler 35P (got the Millenium to pick up long range second readings). Also have the IR screens, but, so far, outdoors I have not needed them; just indoors. I get a good match to the Oehler on readings with Millienium; usually within half a percent, though I do use the 4 ft screen spacing bar with the Millenium to match the Oehler. I have never had an opportunity to do a side-by-side with a ProChrono, though? Sounds like you have. If so, what sort of agreement did you get?
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Old January 15, 2010, 11:04 AM   #19
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As always, Unclenick gives good advice. I had actually come up with the same idea with using the string, laser bore sighter, and a piece of paper (mine's cardboard) to get the chrony set up. Although, I have neither the string nor the laser bore sighter it was an idea I've had kicking around in my head for a few years but never bothered to actually do. But I'm sure the idea is sound!
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Old January 16, 2010, 12:26 AM   #20
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My PACT with IR screens was acting up the last time out. It was rather cold, 25 degrees or so and I was getting readings and I had not even shot any yet. When I did shoot none of them registered. Maybe these units have a cold issue. Yeah the battery sucks, I feel I am about to break something trying to get the lid open. How are you guys powering your IR screens? Tip: An Iphone camera, and probably others too, picks up the lit up IR's in the sensors to check for connection and make sure both are on.
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Old January 16, 2010, 01:18 PM   #21
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That's curious. I would have thought the color segregating filters on the CCD cells would have prevented that? Have to give it a try.

IR bars outdoors: I use the AC wall adapter that came with mine for indoor use; motorcycle battery and a small inverter.

Energizer lithium batteries are good to -40°. Try that in the PACT.
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Old January 16, 2010, 02:05 PM   #22
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Quote:
That's curious. I would have thought the color segregating filters on the CCD cells would have prevented that? Have to give it a try.
Me too as I used to do Astro CCD stuff and still do DVR's and CCTV's. I do have a new camera that uses IR's that are very blue colored and they show up as the camera never really goes B&W. New technology I guess. The Iphone works with remote control IR's too, try it at home.

I made a regulator circuit and use a small gel cell battery to power the screens. My PACT uses a 9 volt battery but I have seen that Enegizer makes these in Lithium. Have to grab one of those, I use those in all AA and AAA aplications just about.
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