Believe it or not, some of today’s top shooters remember using stopwatches to time their stages in competition or practice. Before electronic shot timers became readily available, scoring of timed stages had to be approximate, was subjective depending on the skill of the human timer, and it was difficult or impossible to get specific information about how long certain shooting tasks would take a competitor during a match or training.
Luckily, today there are several sound-sensitive shot timers that can accurately record and display all of the shots and times for any training scenario or competition shooting stage, and many even automatically sync with the latest digital scoring tablets used by many shooting clubs and organizations. In this article, we’re going to go over a few of our favorite shot timers for firearms dry practice, training, and competition, along with the pros and cons of each. So let’s get started. “Are you ready? Standby…”
Why you should use a shot timer in your firearms practice and training
The popular “SMART” acronym for achieving objectives or goals requires that they be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. If you want to improve your shooting in any dynamic/practical shooting discipline, you need to be able to accurately measure and record your performance, and this means you need a way to record the time it takes for you to react, draw, fire your first shot, to reload, the cadence of your fire for multiple-shot strings, the time between shots (known as “splits”), and more.
The old maxim “practice makes perfect” isn’t quite accurate. The real mindset should be “perfect practice makes perfect.” If you don’t have a real idea of how quickly you’re actually drawing your handgun, transitioning between targets, or reloading your rifle from shot to shot, you’ll just end up thinking things like, “That seemed pretty quick” or “I’m sure that was about a one-second draw”... without really knowing anything meaningful or determining where you need to improve.
Another excellent reason for using a shot timer during dry practice and range training is that it introduces a small amount of stress. Timing yourself doing pretty much any task is more stressful than doing that task without a timer running. For a speed-based competition like practical shooting, any competitor will tell you that when the start “beep” of the timer goes off, your mental plans for shooting the stage can go right out the window. Using a timer regularly during dry practice and range training can “inoculate” you a little for that stress, so you perform better when it counts.
Best electronic shot timers for training and competition
There are multiple types of shot timers available, including standalone, app/smartphone/smartwatch-only, or hybrids of both, all with a wide range of prices and features. However, a few shot timers have stood the test of time and would be welcome at any range or competition. There aren’t many shot timers that we’d consider proven enough, reliable enough, and intuitive enough to use for any serious purpose, including training or competition. Let’s go over some of our favorites.
Competition Electronics ProTimer BT
You could argue that the Competition Electronics shot timers (Pocket Pro, Pocket Pro II, and ProTimer) are probably the most widely used shot timers across all shooting disciplines in the USA, and with good reason. The US-based company builds simple, lightweight, reliable, shot timers that run on one 9-volt battery which is easily replaced, and has a good range of features. The latest version, the ProTimer BT (Bluetooth) has an MSRP of $179.00 but can be found at pro shops and other online retailers for about $150. This is not an insignificant amount of money, we realize, but the technology and features are proven and customer service is excellent.
The ProTimer BT has rectified an annoying feature of the company’s previous offerings in that it times a full 10 minutes (600 seconds) before “wraparound”—or when the time zeroes out and starts over. Previously this was 199.9 seconds, so for some longer 3-gun stages, range officers would have to remember how many times the shot timer zeroed out and add those times together to get the final score. The new 10-minute-before-wraparound feature should be able to capture nearly all long, multi-gun stages.
We also like the new Bluetooth interface that allows you to connect to your smartphone or android device running Practiscore, though the company is still working on the Apple/iOs version. Nearly all shooting clubs are moving toward digital/tablet scoring and a shot timer that can send accurate times and string info straight into a tablet or smartphone is definitely the way of the future.
The Competition Electronics timer features all the goodies the company has perfected over its 20 years of making shot timers, including adjustable beep volume, screen backlight intensity, shot sensitivity, 10-minute auto-shutoff, intuitive 5-button controls, and a large, side-mounted start button that will activate the beep and start timing from any menu screen.
The two things we wish Competition Electronics would improve is to reduce the overall size of their timers, as it’s really too big to fit in a shirt pocket, and the housing, while durable, won’t really hold up to serious abuse or drops onto concrete, at least not too often. Other timers are more rugged, but few are as trusted as Competition Electronics, and we love that it’s made in the USA.
PACT Club Timer III
PACT’s Club Timer III is another workhorse shot timer found at many clubs around the country. At $129 retail, it does pretty much everything you need a range timer to do, and the design has been proven durable. It’s not a big, blocky, square timer like some, and it has a rounded body, a sturdy pocket/belt clip, and a very basic, 4-button layout. Like the Competition Electronics timer, the PACT is powered by a single 9-volt battery and is really too big for a shirt pocket. However, this means the display (on the flat bottom/front of the timer, depending on your perspective) is large enough to display all the information you need, including multiple shots in a single string, time to first shot, review of all shots and splits between each shot in the string, and more. You can set a par time, adjust the (extra loud) start buzzer between instant and delayed, and more.
For the price, we wish there was a bit more durability built into this timer, though it’s fairly resistant to drops and small impacts. And as noted above, if you want a very compact timer you can slip into a shirt pocket, this isn’t the one. We also think the simple 3-button navigation is potentially a bit TOO simple, and it takes quite a lot of fiddling to get the settings you want. If you handed this timer to a novice and asked him or her to set a par time of 3.5 seconds, we wager that it couldn’t be done in under a minute. Once you get the hang of it, though, you can get everything done and start using the timer to really hone your skills.
If you want to combine your shot timer and your chronograph, PACT also offers their MKIV Championship Shot Timer and Chronograph in one for $189.
Competitive Edge Dynamics CED7000
This well-experienced company says their current CED7000 ($130) is the favorite shot timer of range officers in USPSA and IPSC shooting since 2006. We love it because it’s very small, about the size of an old Nokia 3310 “brick” cellphone, and it has multiple, but easy-to-understand buttons as well as two sets of start/review buttons, so you can choose which ones work best for you.
The CED7000 uses a rechargeable internal battery and comes with a charger. There’s an optional external battery pack as well but we’ve never seen the need for it, as one charge is good for multiple matches. Other features include:
- Memory storage/recall for review of 10 strings and an unlimited number of shots
- Custom par for single or multiple par time settings, with variable delay intervals, down to hundredths of a second
- Dual forward and reverse review functionality
- Fixed random/instant or custom delay setting
- Shot detection microphone features 8 pre-programmed digital sensitivity settings so you can be sure to pick up the shots of any firearm
- Illuminated LCD display shows total time, splits, shot number, par, and first shot time
- New “RO mode” can be enabled when only basic features and functions are desired (this keeps from confusing new range officers with too many options)
- New “stopwatch mode” for use of the timer as a stopwatch to time moving range props
- Super loud start beep (over 110 dB) – the loudest in the industry, with adjustable volume control
For an extra $10 you can get a protective silicone cover in your choice of color, to help protect your CED7000 from drops and scratches.
Kestrel Ballistics KST1000 shot timer
If you’re familiar with today’s PRS-type long-range rifle shooting, you likely own one or more products from Kestrel Ballistics. You also know that this game is not for the budget-minded. Kestrel’s KST1000 shot timer is a buy-once, cry-once timer with a hefty price of $300. So what does the Kestrel do that other timers don’t? Well, for one thing, it’s fully waterproof, dust-proof, and drop-tested to MIL-STD-810G standards. It records times and splits for up to 50 strings of fire. It has a 5-year warranty and is made in the USA. It has 5 nameable/customizable preset settings and is compatible with dry fire and suppressed shooting.
We love the very large, clear display with huge numbers for the main time recorded. We also like the easy-to-use, multiple-arrow navigation/select interface. It’s Bluetooth-enabled as well and is a bit slimmer than some of the “boxy” timers we’ve used. We even like the bright yellow, hard-to-lose color.
If you are looking for a hard-use, full-featured timer from a trusted brand, and pricing is not an issue, look no further.
AMG Lab Commander shot timer
The AMG Lab Commander is a high-quality, compact, made-in-America, durable shot timer with a very basic, simple button/menu layout. It features a top-mounted power and “Go” (start) button and a front-mounted master menu button with simple left-right selector arrow buttons. The Commander runs for weeks (yes, weeks) of continuous use on 4 AAA batteries (as well as rechargeables if you prefer), and has a large display panel with the main time prominently displayed in easy-to-read numbers.
Like other top-of-the-line timers in today’s market, the AMG Lab Commander offers Bluetooth integration with the popular and nearly universally used Practiscore app for match scoring and Practiscore Log for your training.
For $158, you get the timer and a silicone cover in the color of your choice. One thing we love about the Commander (in addition to the size and durability) is the ability to set multiple custom par times for the same string. You can set up to three, so you can practice multiple-step skills like drawing from a holster, dry firing a shot, and performing a reload, all with their individual par time. We also like the up to 10-minute string time for those longer stages.
For $158, the hand-built, made-in-USA AMG Labs Commander offers a lot for the money.
Shooters Global / MDT Training Shot Timer
The story of this innovative timer and training system is still being written, and the details are still somewhat up in the air at this point. Shooters Global released their shot timer in both a “military” and “competition” version a couple of years ago, and it had quite a few groundbreaking features. First, it offered remote/magnetic charging, rather than requiring a plug-in charger or replacing batteries. Second, the military version was extremely durable, impact-resistant, waterproof, and could even withstand being run over by a vehicle. It had “self-healing” polymer outer surfaces, and the military version was also remote-charge only so there was no way for water to get in.
However, the Shooters Global company was founded in Ukraine, and times there are crazy for obvious reasons. We haven’t been able to determine what’s going on with the company or the product, but the military version is showing out of stock on the Shooters Global website, and at Shot Show 2023, MDT announced that it was coming out with what it calls its “Training Shot Timer” which appears identical to the Shooters Global timer. We contacted Shooters Global and they said they are making their timer for MDT and advised us to special order it through them (MDT), who will be selling it in the USA hopefully by mid-2nd quarter 2023.
The MDT Training Shot Timer is intended to be used in conjunction with its smartphone app, and it gives you access to some pretty cool features. You can shoot video using your smartphone and the timer will add/superimpose the shot times, split times, and strings on the video itself, which can be downloaded/uploaded or analyzed afterward. Another cool feature is that the timer/app easily saves customizable repetitions for drills, which helps simplify practice or training regimens at the range. For example, if you want to practice 10 one-shot drills, you can set that in the app, as a pre-saved training task. You can customize all aspects of these drills and “pre-saves,” of course.
The timer alone can be run as a “standard” match shot timer, including presets for suppressed, .22LR, and even dry fire. There are only three external, waterproof buttons located on the left side of the durable housing. The interface is a little wonky due to this, but it’s still fairly intuitive, and you can use your smartphone to tweak anything you want.
Another huge benefit is the system logs all your training sessions over time via the app, so you can go back to any date and compare your performance. A lot of people have been using a notebook to record their personal bests or goals, but if you lose or forget your notebook on your range visit, you’ll be guessing. The MDT saves all that information automatically, so you can compare your performance on an “El Presidente” drill today to how you did on that drill 6 months ago, and more.
Since it works in partnership with an app, updates can be pushed via the standard smartphone app-update process, so you won’t have to worry about your timer system being outdated in a couple of years.
One of the most useful features of the timer is that it comes with a magnetic base that you clip to your belt or pocket, and the timer itself just pulls away easily for use or stowage. You can run around and jump and the timer doesn’t fall off, but it can be easily grabbed off the base and when you get it close it just clicks back magnetically onto its housing. You can rotate the timer body around on the magnetic clip/base to read the screen better while looking down at your beltline. Super-slick.
Best smartphone, wrist, and watch shot timers
We don’t recommend app-only shot timers for serious or competition use, but they can be helpful for people who want to try out the concept of using a shot timer before investing in a quality stand-alone device. The sensitivity of the microphone and accurate registration of shots and splits is usually the primary downside of shot timer apps, along with having to have your phone out in potentially dusty/rocky/dynamic environments where it may be dropped and damaged.
Note that we haven’t found any phone-based shot timer that consistently and accurately registers shots well enough both indoors and outdoors when compared to a dedicated stand-alone shot timer, but many of these apps can be useful for setting par times for dry practice, or very basic range use, depending on your settings and your personal preferences, particularly if you’re not trying to time multi-shot strings of fire.
If you want to try a shot timer app to see if the concept works for you, here are some to check out:
- Shotbud (currently in Beta release for the Apple Watch)
- Shot Trainer (iPhone/Apple Watch)
- Free Shot Timer (iPhone)
- IPSC Shot Timer (Android)
- Shot Timer - Range Trainer (iPhone)
- Splits - Shot Timer (Android)
You may find that one of these apps works well enough for you that you don’t feel the need for a dedicated shot timer, but in most cases, one of the stand-alone shot timers above will be much more accurate, durable, and reliable.
Get out there and practice!
Store your guns and equipment in a Liberty Safe
A shot timer can change your shooting habits for the better, improve your performance, and potentially even save your life if you use it to hone your concealed carry skills. Whether you use a shot timer or not, be sure to practice regularly, and store your firearms securely in a USA-made gun safe or handgun vault from Liberty. Check out our complete online safe catalog, or click to locate a dealer near you.