IN COMMUNICATION RANGE! Gary Wain explores the considerable features of the new MTC Rapier Ballistic Rangefinder
After safety, the most important aspect of hunting is the concept of a clean kill. No animal, not even the verminous Rattus norvegicus deserves to suffer. It is then up to you, the shooter, to make sure that your pellet is perfectly placed. Now, this is easy if you’re shooting from a fixed position, and have had the opportunity to zero your air rifle at that range, but it gets a whole lot harder when you’re out stalking, and becomes damned at night, even when using night-vision equipment. Even if you’re an experienced field shooter and hunter, you’ll know that sometimes, despite your wealth of knowledge and ability, there are times when you just can’t seem to determine the range between you and your intended quarry accurately. This is where rangefinders come into the equation, but again, you’ve still got to translate the distance given by the rangefinder into an adjustment, which means either the use of a dope card, or a good amount of guesswork based on your knowledge of the equipment.
So, in this age of ever-accelerating technology, wouldn’t it be great if a rangefinder was able to communicate with you directly and actually give you audible instructions on how to adjust your sights? After all, we’ve had hands-free mobile communications for quite some time now. Well, it seems that the chaps at MTC Optics have been thinking about it and the result is the MTC Rapier Ballistic rangefinder.
IN THE BOX
Externally, the Rapier looks like pretty much all others, but that’s where the similarities end. You see, unlike conventional rangefinders, the Rapier can communicate with you via your smartphone and a supplied Bluetooth earpiece. As you might imagine, there’s a bit more to it than that, so let’s have a look at exactly what’s involved.
On opening the rigid box bearing the MTC logo, we find a black, semi-rigid, soft-touch pouch that has a zip around three of its four sides. As well as the rangefinder itself, MTC also include a discreet Bluetooth earpiece, which has a rubber end cap to make it comfortable to wear; they even include two additional, different-sized caps, enabling you to find the best size to fit your lughole. Digging deeper into the netted-off pouch compartment, we find a small carabiner, a USB charger lead for the battery in the ear piece, and a lens cloth to keep those optics bright and shiny. The Rapier doesn’t come with any paper instructions, but these can be easily downloaded from the MTC site.
As you might imagine unless you just want to use it as a conventional rangefinder, the Rapier isn’t exactly ‘plug and play’. The first thing you’re going to need to do is visit the Google play store and download the 6.3mb app for either Android or Apple. If you haven’t already got one, the app will prompt you to download a ‘text to speak’ app which is easy enough, and enables you to select the sort of voice you want to hear through the ear piece. With all that done, it’s time to set up the Rapier app on your phone. At first, this stage seems a little daunting, but if you take your time and work through it methodically it’s easy enough.
To get the best out of the Rapier you’re going to need to enter quite a bit of information about your rifle and ammunition, including pellet weight, size, ballistic coefficient muzzle velocity, and height of scope above barrel – to name but a few – and as additional rifle and scope profiles can be entered into the database, the Rapier isn’t tied to just one gun.
GET THE APP
With the data in place, it’s time to choose your units of measurement, both for distance and how you want your adjustments to be given to you. In total, you can choose from mil, MOA, 0.1mil, 0.2mil, 1/8 MOA, ¼ MOA, ½ MOA, and even inches or centimetres. You can also select how much information you want to be given through the earpiece from the full-on range; angle, drop, drift, to just the range, and everything in between. If you’re shooting upor downhill, the Rapier will also feed this information to the app and take it into account when giving you your sight adjustment, or alternatively, you can put this info in manually. If all that wasn’t clever enough, if you give the app permission to access your location and weather data, it will also download and utilise prevailing weather conditions in your area, taking into account wind speed, direction and barometric pressure, and using this information when calculating the adjustments you need to make to your sights. If you’re a bit more old-school, or don’t quite trust the weather information the app has gathered, you’ll be pleased to know that you can also enter these manually.
Compared to the complexities of the app, the Rapier itself is simplicity personified. It has two buttons that fall perfectly under your index and middle fingers when the Rapier is held to the eye. The rear red button turns the Rapier on and is also used to take a range reading. The second button enables you to toggle through a choice of reticules, and is also used to select metric or imperial measurement, enable the Bluetooth, and turn on and off a feedback vibration.
With everything set up, it was time to pop the Rapier into its pouch, strap the pouch to my belt by means of the handy belt loop, and head out into the field. I’d laid out three tests for the Rapier. The first was to determine whether or not it could calculate ranges accurately. The second was to ascertain whether the app and associated Bluetooth pairings actually worked, and the third was to see whether the sight adjustments given by the Rapier could be relied upon.
“basically,you can treat the distance measurements it gives as golden”
So, with the plan laid out, I set about the first test, to determine how accurate the Rapier was at calculating distance. To do this, I measured the distances to some trees and a trough in the field behind me with a surveyor’s wheel and then cross-referenced the measurements with those shown on Google Earth. In doing so I learned two things; firstly, using a surveyor’s wheel is a pain in the back – literally. My God, they need to make the handles on those things longer! Secondly, I discovered that Google Earth is surprisingly accurate. So, how did the Rapier perform? Let’s just say that I think MTC are doing themselves a disservice by quoting an error margin of +/- 1m because, in my tests, the Rapier was spot on. Perhaps this margin might creep in towards the top end of the 1200m range, and if it does, then fair enough because a +/- 1m error at 1200m equates to an error of just 0.08%, which is ridiculously acceptable. If you’re using the Rapier at the sort of ranges we air rifle shooters operate at then basically, you can treat the distance measurements it gives as golden.
Onward then to the second test, to check whether the Rapier actually worked, and when I took a distance reading, the Rapier and the
accompanying app would do what it said ‘on the tin’, and not only take the range measurement, but also translate that into a sight adjustment and communicate that adjustment to me in a manner that was understandable through the ear piece, without me having to become more involved in the process than a hunter in the field would be comfortable with.
Again, the Rapier didn’t disappoint. In the options, I’d deliberately chosen the voice of a rather posh English woman to give me my adjustments, partly because of the inherent frisson, but mainly because when my wife speaks to me in a ‘certain tone’ I tend to do exactly as I’m told without question. I’m pleased to say that the Frostrup-like voice didn’t disappoint, and perhaps more importantly, neither did the technology behind it. Each rangefinding activation of the Rapier was accompanied moments later with the sensual voice in my earpiece giving instructions to me for precisely how many clicks of adjustment from zero I was required to make. I should point out that many other voices can be downloaded for the app, so should a posh women not float your boat, you could always have your dope adjustments given to you by a gruff Yorkshireman.
The third, and perhaps most important test was to inform me about the sight adjustments proffered by the Rapier – could they be trusted? To me, this most acidic of tests would also be the most simplistic. Having previously determined that the Rapier could accurately calculate the distance correctly and communicate the requisite adjustment in a coherent manner to the ear piece with no additional intervention, all that remained was to see if the adjustments on zero could be relied upon. In doing so, I didn’t rely upon manufacturer claims. Instead I set out a series of match targets at varying, and pre-measured ranges, and then, having pre-programmed in a zero at 25m, gave the app free rein to do its best.
For this test I paired the Rapier with my trusty Daystate Pulsar, now equipped with the very latest MTC Optics Viper Pro Tactical 5-30 x 50, reviewed by Phill Price in last month’s magazine. So did it work? Oh yes, it worked! It worked so well that, to be honest, it almost felt like I was cheating. In my hands, I had a device that gave me the seemingly God-like ability to adjust my sights with pinpoint accuracy, enabling me to place pellet on pellet at any range I chose.
If there’s a slight downside, it’s that the adjustments communicated are always given from your zero, so in adjusting the sights so many clicks up or down, you must always remember to return to your zero first. If you forget where your zero is, or don’t have it marked, then once you’re lost, you’re lost. Price-wise, the Rapier comes in at £250, and granted, this is a bit more than the average rangefinder, but then the Rapier Ballistic is far from being that.
The earpiece is bulky, but not uncomfortable.
The Rapier comes with everything you’ll need.
The rapier is light and fits well in the hand.
To get the best out of it you’ll need to add in all the required data.
The app is easy to download and install on your Apple or Android device.
We’re good to go!
Google confirms the 55m distance to the trough.
You get a choice of reticles, as well as units.