IN COM­MU­NI­CA­TION RANGE! Gary Wain ex­plores the con­sid­er­able fea­tures of the new MTC Rapier Bal­lis­tic Rangefinder

Airgun World - - Gary Wain -

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.


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.


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.

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