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October 02, 2013

Say Goodbye

By David E. Petzal

Some time this coming week I will have to part company with the chronograph that I’ve used since 1985. It’s called a Pro Tach, and was made, I believe, by a company called Competition Electronics, which is still very much in business and making chronographs, albeit far more advanced ones.

The Pro Tach was simplicity itself. It ran on a 9V battery, had an on/off switch, and when you shot over its two sensing gates it told you how fast the bullet was going. That was all it did. It would not give you the weather, or the mean velocity variation between shots, or the number of votes by which Hillary Clinton will carry New York State in 2016.

It got rained on, snowed on, tossed in the back of my SUV countless times, and on a couple of occasions had sand thrown into it by bullet impact. It was not perfect. It relied on cardboard aiming guides that you had to insert in slots in the top of the case, and if the sun was out you had to fit plastic shades onto the top of the aiming guides. If a gust of wind came along the shades blew off, and sometimes the guides blew off. If you were not careful to place the chronograph at least a dozen feet from the muzzle, the blast would blow off the aiming guides.

Sometimes you would get a weird reading for no apparent reason, and aligning the tripod and the chronograph with the muzzle of the rifle and the backstop was always good for a few minutes of merriment. But it worked. It worked well enough to last for 28 years and rack up enough velocity data to fill up two stenographer’s notepads, writing on both sides of the page.

But the aiming guides are so frayed that they won’t fit into their slots, and the plastic shades are cracked and splintered beyond use, so I’m getting a much more advanced instrument which has none of these inconveniences.

I don’t know what I’ll do with the Pro Tach, but it will be done with real sorrow and a sense of loss. I’ve traded in SUVs that have served me faithfully for years and many thousands of miles and have been unable to look at them for the last time on the dealer’s lot. If you use something long enough and hard enough, and it serves you well and faithfully, it becomes more than a machine. And saying good-bye is a hard job indeed.

Comments (22)

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from ALJoe wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

I understand. I have an old Ford pickup with 200,000 miles on it. I spend more each month on repairs than a new car payment would cost me. But I still get in it every morning to go to work and for the most part it gets me home every evening. Just can't stand the thought of parting ways with it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

I remember saying goodbye to my last horse for the last time. She was twenty-five and had developed ring-bone in a foreleg. She was also my first horse. A great pack animal who got me out of many tough spots. And she was fiercely protective of my young daughter. Loved the kid like the colt she never had. I threw my arms around that old gal's neck and cried like a baby for perhaps twenty minutes. Just sobbed. My dad and brother took her to the auction later that week. No way could I do it. A terrible thing but I did not have the property or equipment to take care of a horse carcass. And it would have been cruel to make her stand in pain 24/7 till the end of her days.

My 870 goose shotgun is just about worn out and the punishment it delivers is more than my now fragile eyes can probably safely handle. But I just can't bear to hang her up. So I'll see if I can milk it for my final ten or so seasons. She's not going to the auction barn. Not on my watch anyway.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tom-Tom wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

Why not box it up and include a hand written account detailing what the item meant to you, sign and date it, and then put it in th attic. At your estate sale it could bring mucho greenbacks from a fan and/or collector, thereby enriching your heirs and insuring a good home for a prized possession.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gtbigsky wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

I had to say goodbye to a raft that I loved dearly. It provided five years of great fishing trip, white water rafting, and multi day float/camping excursions. Unfortunately, I sold it because i was moving across the country and needed the money. It was a very sad day indeed.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bruisedsausage wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

You could donate it to the Smithsonian if they ever open again, or maybe you could contact the manufacture and ask them if they would like it to display it at company headquarters or something??? The back story is what 'makes' it though.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

I have no idea how long ago it was, but when Oehler first made their chronograph available I purchased one. It had a read out tape like an adding machine, and took a while to set up but I liked it very much...the information it provided regarding discrepancies in factory ammo information was startling to say the least, and certainly made handloading a whole lot easier. Years passed and one fateful day at the range a stranger asked if he could run a round over it. His first shot blew the front terminal to pieces. I replaced it with a new updated version and have had it ever since. I use so many different calibers it makes handloading so much easier it is hard to realize how we got along without them for decades.

By the way the chap did not offer to pay for a new chronograph.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

The availability of reasonably priced chronographs to the shooting public have provided a great service to those who do not handload or own a chronograph by policing the previously caviler , overly optimistic ballistic information provided by ammunition manufactures. I recall my first tests of 458 Win Mag factory ammo, seeing the extreme spreads of velocity and much slower speeds than advertised by manufactures.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 5280Shooter wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

Dave, I'm using the latest generation product from Competition Electronics and believe it is called the Prochrono? Very fond of this thing and it has completely changed how I develop my hunting loads. Amazing what a little data can tell you. Very simple box and just spits out the velocity on every shot. Used it in the rain, snow and fog and the only thing that seems to give it a little trouble is direct sunlight. Seems to give velocity readings that are about 100-125 fps slower than on cloudy days which it likes best. Not sure it has ever given me a truly bad reading in 1000's of shots. I can get to an optimized load (high velocity, good accuracy, low deviation, consistent in different conditions, and low pressure) very quickly and very efficiently now for every rifle from my 6PPC up to my 416 Remington. Gee, maybe too quickly?

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from Happy Myles wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

Meant to write cavalier

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from Tim Platt wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

I think I met my wife 28 years ago. Looks like she's going to make it longer than your chronograph. Sorry for your loss Dave.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnR wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

I have an F1 Chrony that works exactly like your Pro Tach! I mistakenly set it too close my M-14's muzzle one time and the muzzle blast blew it over and blew the decal off of the face plate. Fortunately the decal landed on the ground sticky side up. I re stuck it to the face plate, moved the unit back to 15 feet, and it never missed a lick. I still use it! Sorry for your loss.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

The say the 2 best days in a boat owners life are the day he buys it and the day he sells it. That old saw is just plain not true.

My old beat up aluminum boat has been with me just over 2 decades, 3 sonars, 2 trolling motors (3 propellers), 2 sets of lights, 3 outboards and 2+ packages of JB WELD, Not to mention 2 trailers 3 wiring harnesses, 2 sets of wheel bearings and a tractor trailer load of Wal-Mart tail lights. The old girl has need failed me, never sunk me no matter how many river rocks we hit. And she never let me go over the dam either Scared the piss out of me when the motor did crank right away, though. Together have brought home pictures of our share of muskie, pike and bronze backs. And more importantly spent many a sunrise on the river/local lakes together. Just me, the boat, the occasional mist and a thermos of coffee, God was in his heaven and all was right with the world. It just don’t get any better than that. You can keep your expensive fishing sports car. I will take my beat up old rambler of a boat any day.

The wife wants to move at the end of this year, and there is no room for the old girl so I am going to have to sell her. Don’t tell the significant other but I believe I know of a fella who lost his job and has a young son who loves to fish. So I may just have a good home for her after all, and he might find hime self a really good deal.

Yep. Things that served you well take on a personality of their own. That reminds me, I need to get more pictures of me and the old girl.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

Never had that sentimental feeling towards a piece of equipment but when it comes to my dogs it's a different story. I guess I'm a little cold that way

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from T.W. Davidson wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

"Say Goodbye"

When I read the title I thought you meant, given our current dysfunctional/non-functional state of Government, "Say Goodbye" to the America we once knew.

But your chronograph essay is a good story anyway.

True confession: I have shot my chronograph twice in the last eight years while zeroing a scope. Foolish me, I thought I could both zero the scope and chronograph my handloads at the same time. It took me twice before I accepted that I could not.

I've also seen my chronograph get nailed--twice--by other shooters in the same last eight years. Friendly shooters at the range who saw my gear and asked if they could velocity-check their rounds.

Those were painful lessons.

These days I don't let anyone put rounds over--or through--my chronograph. And I put a few rounds into a target group at 50 or 100 yards before I chronograph any others. This system--learned the hard way, for both my chronograph and me--has never failed. My chronograph, unlike our country, is alive and well.

Good shooting for all. And good luck for America while the children in Washington endlessly bicker and squabble--and accomplish nothing--in their Congressional playground.

TWD

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Harold wrote 28 weeks 20 hours ago

I somehow believe that old guns and other equipment have souls. They become old friends.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Carney wrote 28 weeks 18 hours ago

I just bought a "Shooting Chrony F-1". Inexpensive and simple. So new, I haven't tried it out yet.

Happy Miles, a brand new Oehler is $600! Being the generous type with such things, I am determining now that I will NEVER let a stranger "run a round over it"!!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Zermoid wrote 28 weeks 14 hours ago

Shoot it and put it out of it's misery.......

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 1uglymutha wrote 28 weeks 6 hours ago

The informal range where I like to shoot has a huge radar transceiver located about on a hill some 600 yards from my favorite bench. The chrony won't read at all unless I drive the pickup between the radar station and the chrony. Then it works fine.Inexpensive little device but it gives consistent readings. Like others have stated, the chrony makes reloading a whole lot easier and safer.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from elmer f. wrote 27 weeks 6 days ago

yes, i know. loosing something old & faithful is hard. somethings, regardless of how bad they are, have to be set aside, to let collect dust for the remainder of our days. i have an ancient Mossberg 22 rifle, that has been to the gunsmith several times, that is just plain worn out. it went thru my dad, and all 3 of us boys. with countless rounds of cheap ammo. it does still fire, but not reliably enough to use around my kids. it has double, and even triple fired at times, and jams quite often. i think it is just plain worn out. but there is no way i will sell it. it can be a safe queen, which i take out once ot twice a year by myself. with the hopes that someday, i will find ammo that will magically "cure" it. i know that will never happen. but she is not going anywhere, while i am alive.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 27 weeks 6 days ago

Bury it and a copy of all of the data from that steno pad in a time capsule.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hobob wrote 27 weeks 5 days ago

Viking funeral

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 27 weeks 5 days ago

Is that where you put it on a ship and shoot flaming arrows at it until it catches fire and burns to the bottom of the sea? Dave is close enough to the Atlantic to make it happen. Get all of your F&S contemporaries to bring their bows and make a video for the TV show... might as well go gonzo. Petzal needs to expose his inner ******* to the public instead of being all nicey nice on air anyway. And he could pull it off as an almost religious ceremony. Devil made me do it. Good call Hobob.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Tom-Tom wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

Why not box it up and include a hand written account detailing what the item meant to you, sign and date it, and then put it in th attic. At your estate sale it could bring mucho greenbacks from a fan and/or collector, thereby enriching your heirs and insuring a good home for a prized possession.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

The say the 2 best days in a boat owners life are the day he buys it and the day he sells it. That old saw is just plain not true.

My old beat up aluminum boat has been with me just over 2 decades, 3 sonars, 2 trolling motors (3 propellers), 2 sets of lights, 3 outboards and 2+ packages of JB WELD, Not to mention 2 trailers 3 wiring harnesses, 2 sets of wheel bearings and a tractor trailer load of Wal-Mart tail lights. The old girl has need failed me, never sunk me no matter how many river rocks we hit. And she never let me go over the dam either Scared the piss out of me when the motor did crank right away, though. Together have brought home pictures of our share of muskie, pike and bronze backs. And more importantly spent many a sunrise on the river/local lakes together. Just me, the boat, the occasional mist and a thermos of coffee, God was in his heaven and all was right with the world. It just don’t get any better than that. You can keep your expensive fishing sports car. I will take my beat up old rambler of a boat any day.

The wife wants to move at the end of this year, and there is no room for the old girl so I am going to have to sell her. Don’t tell the significant other but I believe I know of a fella who lost his job and has a young son who loves to fish. So I may just have a good home for her after all, and he might find hime self a really good deal.

Yep. Things that served you well take on a personality of their own. That reminds me, I need to get more pictures of me and the old girl.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

I remember saying goodbye to my last horse for the last time. She was twenty-five and had developed ring-bone in a foreleg. She was also my first horse. A great pack animal who got me out of many tough spots. And she was fiercely protective of my young daughter. Loved the kid like the colt she never had. I threw my arms around that old gal's neck and cried like a baby for perhaps twenty minutes. Just sobbed. My dad and brother took her to the auction later that week. No way could I do it. A terrible thing but I did not have the property or equipment to take care of a horse carcass. And it would have been cruel to make her stand in pain 24/7 till the end of her days.

My 870 goose shotgun is just about worn out and the punishment it delivers is more than my now fragile eyes can probably safely handle. But I just can't bear to hang her up. So I'll see if I can milk it for my final ten or so seasons. She's not going to the auction barn. Not on my watch anyway.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bruisedsausage wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

You could donate it to the Smithsonian if they ever open again, or maybe you could contact the manufacture and ask them if they would like it to display it at company headquarters or something??? The back story is what 'makes' it though.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnR wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

I have an F1 Chrony that works exactly like your Pro Tach! I mistakenly set it too close my M-14's muzzle one time and the muzzle blast blew it over and blew the decal off of the face plate. Fortunately the decal landed on the ground sticky side up. I re stuck it to the face plate, moved the unit back to 15 feet, and it never missed a lick. I still use it! Sorry for your loss.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Zermoid wrote 28 weeks 14 hours ago

Shoot it and put it out of it's misery.......

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hobob wrote 27 weeks 5 days ago

Viking funeral

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ALJoe wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

I understand. I have an old Ford pickup with 200,000 miles on it. I spend more each month on repairs than a new car payment would cost me. But I still get in it every morning to go to work and for the most part it gets me home every evening. Just can't stand the thought of parting ways with it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gtbigsky wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

I had to say goodbye to a raft that I loved dearly. It provided five years of great fishing trip, white water rafting, and multi day float/camping excursions. Unfortunately, I sold it because i was moving across the country and needed the money. It was a very sad day indeed.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

I have no idea how long ago it was, but when Oehler first made their chronograph available I purchased one. It had a read out tape like an adding machine, and took a while to set up but I liked it very much...the information it provided regarding discrepancies in factory ammo information was startling to say the least, and certainly made handloading a whole lot easier. Years passed and one fateful day at the range a stranger asked if he could run a round over it. His first shot blew the front terminal to pieces. I replaced it with a new updated version and have had it ever since. I use so many different calibers it makes handloading so much easier it is hard to realize how we got along without them for decades.

By the way the chap did not offer to pay for a new chronograph.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

The availability of reasonably priced chronographs to the shooting public have provided a great service to those who do not handload or own a chronograph by policing the previously caviler , overly optimistic ballistic information provided by ammunition manufactures. I recall my first tests of 458 Win Mag factory ammo, seeing the extreme spreads of velocity and much slower speeds than advertised by manufactures.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 5280Shooter wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

Dave, I'm using the latest generation product from Competition Electronics and believe it is called the Prochrono? Very fond of this thing and it has completely changed how I develop my hunting loads. Amazing what a little data can tell you. Very simple box and just spits out the velocity on every shot. Used it in the rain, snow and fog and the only thing that seems to give it a little trouble is direct sunlight. Seems to give velocity readings that are about 100-125 fps slower than on cloudy days which it likes best. Not sure it has ever given me a truly bad reading in 1000's of shots. I can get to an optimized load (high velocity, good accuracy, low deviation, consistent in different conditions, and low pressure) very quickly and very efficiently now for every rifle from my 6PPC up to my 416 Remington. Gee, maybe too quickly?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

Meant to write cavalier

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

I think I met my wife 28 years ago. Looks like she's going to make it longer than your chronograph. Sorry for your loss Dave.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

Never had that sentimental feeling towards a piece of equipment but when it comes to my dogs it's a different story. I guess I'm a little cold that way

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from T.W. Davidson wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

"Say Goodbye"

When I read the title I thought you meant, given our current dysfunctional/non-functional state of Government, "Say Goodbye" to the America we once knew.

But your chronograph essay is a good story anyway.

True confession: I have shot my chronograph twice in the last eight years while zeroing a scope. Foolish me, I thought I could both zero the scope and chronograph my handloads at the same time. It took me twice before I accepted that I could not.

I've also seen my chronograph get nailed--twice--by other shooters in the same last eight years. Friendly shooters at the range who saw my gear and asked if they could velocity-check their rounds.

Those were painful lessons.

These days I don't let anyone put rounds over--or through--my chronograph. And I put a few rounds into a target group at 50 or 100 yards before I chronograph any others. This system--learned the hard way, for both my chronograph and me--has never failed. My chronograph, unlike our country, is alive and well.

Good shooting for all. And good luck for America while the children in Washington endlessly bicker and squabble--and accomplish nothing--in their Congressional playground.

TWD

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Harold wrote 28 weeks 20 hours ago

I somehow believe that old guns and other equipment have souls. They become old friends.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Carney wrote 28 weeks 18 hours ago

I just bought a "Shooting Chrony F-1". Inexpensive and simple. So new, I haven't tried it out yet.

Happy Miles, a brand new Oehler is $600! Being the generous type with such things, I am determining now that I will NEVER let a stranger "run a round over it"!!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 1uglymutha wrote 28 weeks 6 hours ago

The informal range where I like to shoot has a huge radar transceiver located about on a hill some 600 yards from my favorite bench. The chrony won't read at all unless I drive the pickup between the radar station and the chrony. Then it works fine.Inexpensive little device but it gives consistent readings. Like others have stated, the chrony makes reloading a whole lot easier and safer.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from elmer f. wrote 27 weeks 6 days ago

yes, i know. loosing something old & faithful is hard. somethings, regardless of how bad they are, have to be set aside, to let collect dust for the remainder of our days. i have an ancient Mossberg 22 rifle, that has been to the gunsmith several times, that is just plain worn out. it went thru my dad, and all 3 of us boys. with countless rounds of cheap ammo. it does still fire, but not reliably enough to use around my kids. it has double, and even triple fired at times, and jams quite often. i think it is just plain worn out. but there is no way i will sell it. it can be a safe queen, which i take out once ot twice a year by myself. with the hopes that someday, i will find ammo that will magically "cure" it. i know that will never happen. but she is not going anywhere, while i am alive.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 27 weeks 6 days ago

Bury it and a copy of all of the data from that steno pad in a time capsule.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 27 weeks 5 days ago

Is that where you put it on a ship and shoot flaming arrows at it until it catches fire and burns to the bottom of the sea? Dave is close enough to the Atlantic to make it happen. Get all of your F&S contemporaries to bring their bows and make a video for the TV show... might as well go gonzo. Petzal needs to expose his inner ******* to the public instead of being all nicey nice on air anyway. And he could pull it off as an almost religious ceremony. Devil made me do it. Good call Hobob.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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