|The science of ballistics is not as simple as many would make it seem. What a bullet does in flight can vary due to factors you would never think possible. Modern ballistics calculators, available as hand held units in the several hundreds of dollars, have been around for some time. With the advent of smart phones, you no longer need a separate hand held calculator (unless you’re in a situation where you need the physical toughness of the unit itself). |
The problem is, all of the name brand phone calculators were developed for the Apple Iphone, which means if you are running the Android operating system from Google, you can’t use them. Run a search in the Android Marketplace for “ballistics calculators” and you’ll find some free apps and some paid apps. I decided to download several of them and see what the differences are, and if they actually work.
Please excuse the screen capture pictures for this article. Android has a funny quirk that I hope they cure in future editions: None of the screen capture apps work on a phone that hasn’t been what is called “rooted.” To do this takes yet another app that is high risk. It allows you to take over your phone, or jailbreak it as they say with the Apple phones, but you can seriously mess up your phone. I have chosen to not “root” my phone yet, so the pictures of the screens were taken with a regular camera and it had a hard time dealing with the focus and luminosity issues.
The lack of screen capture plays an important role with Android when it comes to programs like these. Only one of the applications exports a range card, so for the rest you will be entirely dependent on using the application in the field or on the range, on the phone itself. They don’t depend on phone lines, but if you kill your battery playing Angry Birds or using your GPS, you’ll be out of luck when you get to the range.
The Android Marketplace offers both free and paid apps for ballistics. Some are great, some not so great.
|Shooter $9.95 |
Even though it comes up second on the list, we might as well start with the highest priced paid app. It’s a whopping ten bucks. I know, half of what you pay for parking at a baseball game, but it is paid and as with most things in the Android Marketplace, you get what you pay for.
I can’t imagine that there would be any variables that you would want to include in your calculations that aren’t in Shooter. Some things I don’t even understand and I hope to do some research and experimentation to see how much of an effect they have in long range shooting.
Can you dial in all of your parameters on Shooter and take an 856 yard shot based on the calculations? I don’t know, but I do hope to test it at some point. If you want to nerd out on ballistics in the meantime, this is your app.
What makes this app different from all the others is that it not only has advanced features, it can also connect to the internal GPS of the phone to get atmospheric conditions, based on national weather service numbers, as well as being able to connect to a Kestrel weather station to get atmospheric and wind conditions live.
You can store as many rifles and bullets as you want. The only caveat, of course, is that the muzzle velocity you enter on the ammo is for a specific measured rifle, or at least barrel length, but due to variances in width, you really can’t count on a standard barrel length to shoot the same velocity in every rifle.
Please note that many of these features can be disabled by putting the app in Simple Mode. This is done from the start screen by pushing your settings button. You can also control distance units and whether your GPS inputs values by default.
|Strelok (FREE) |
If you don’t want to spend the ten bucks, Strelok is really the way to go. Compared to the paid apps, with the exception of Shooter, it far outdoes them. The interface is simple and it pretty much does what you want it to do if you just want to get your shots on the paper. Until I test all of the variables like the Coriolis Effect and Spin Drift, I have to reserve judgment on their importance.
The major downside to Strelok is that it doesn’t give you the ability to print a range card. You have to take your phone into the field or to the range, and you’re dependent on that one distance that you plug in. I have to admit that I almost wrote off Strelok because I thought it was only available in metric. It does default to metric when you download it, but one of the three settings you can change is “use metric,” which you uncheck.
Not on the list here is a free app from the same guys who make Shooter. It’s called Reticle Ranger and you can access it through the Android Marketplace. It is a range calculator based on using the MOA or MILS markings in your reticle, compared to target size.
| Ballistics Calculator (FREE) |
This is an actual GPL (general public license) piece of software that is available for Android. It’s a little clunky and you can’t save any profiles, but it does what you want it to do for the most part. By now I expect you are spoiled with features. This really one has none, but it works.
|Hunter Joe Ballistics – $0.99 |
At the price of a dollar, I’m not sure it is a huge jump to try this interesting but mostly useless app for Android. I don’t know why they would go to the lengths to make something so good looking with such little practical function. From what I can tell, it’s geared for hunters with very little ballistic knowledge.