Target Hit Indicator Systems (THIS) Analysis
Shooters across the country have been pushing the engagement distances out further and further over the last 10 years or more. Competition shooters are at the forefront of this trend, especially the competitors involved with the Precision Rifle Series and other similar match designs. Coinciding with the further shot distances are advances in cartridges optimized for shooting very high Ballistic Coefficient (BC) bullets such as the 6mm and 6.5mm diameters. The drawback for shooting these cartridges however is that while the bullets fly fast and flat in comparison to larger, heavier, and usually slower bullets, they lack energy on target. For competition shooters engaging steel targets out to distances of 1200 yards or beyond, seeing the impact is especially difficult. Target Hit Indicator Systems (THIS) is the solution for an entry level to professional shooter that needs verification of an impact on steel at extended distances.
Target Hit Indicator Systems was founded by a shooter looking for a cost effective way of determining hits on steel at extended distances. Not only is the founder a shooter, but he is also a military veteran with combat deployments. He understands the financial limitations of shooters who prefer to spend their hard-earned money on shooting related gear, look for the best value, and he therefore sought out a solution for this need.
THIS comes packed in a nice transport case with an instruction sheet included. Everything the shooter needs is contained in the transport case except for the steel target, which can also be purchased from THIS to make shopping easy. The complete wireless system contains a flash unit that runs on two AA batteries, a flexible tripod for versatility in mounting options that contains the base (receiver) for the flash unit and runs on two AAA batteries, and the sensor unit (transmitter) with mounting bracket that runs on two AAA batteries. Total cost of the wireless system is $150 plus shipping. You may also purchase the components separately in case one of the components gets damaged or lost.
I planned on putting THIS through a battery of tests covering reliability of low energy impact, furthest distance the flash unit could be positioned away from the target/sensor, and battery life the end user could expect.
TEST #1 – LOW ENERGY IMPACTS
For testing reliability of low energy impact, I put my .22 LR precision trainer rifle to good use on a warm Montana spring day. The conditions were 65 degrees, slight breeze from about the 4:00 position, and the sky was clear with very few whispy clouds in the sky. You couldn’t ask for a better spring day in MT!
Set-up of the system was very straight forward and easy. I utilized my 25% IPSC steel target, bolted the sensor unit to the rear directly against the back of the steel target, and tightened everything back down. The sensor unit had to be positioned at a slight angle but was well covered by the 25% IPSC target. Initially, I placed the target stand at 155 yards and wrapped the flexible legs of the included bipod around the top right corner on the rebar target stand. Before going back to the firing point I replaced all of the batteries to ensure everything worked without issues and manually impacted the target with my socket wrench. The flash was instantaneous and nice and bright, so I headed to the firing point.
The test rifle has proven to be exceptionally accurate and is easily capable of keeping the rounds on the 25% IPSC target at this distance so long as accurate wind calls are being made. This rifle is a CZ 455 Varmint placed in a Kinetic Research Group 180 Alpha chassis and topped with the excellent Kahles K312i rifle scope. I really like this set-up as the ergonomics of the chassis are first rate and the scope has a parallax that goes down to 25 meters, has superior optics, and the turrets track like a coon dog!
I worked my .22 LR from my 50 yard zero target back to the 80, 100, 120, and finally the 155 yard target to verify my drops were accurate and my bullets were going where they should. I didn’t want to accidentally hit the flash unit!
My first round at the target to test the THIS was just off the left edge as evident by impact in the dirt further behind the target. I held another 0.3 mil of wind for my second shot at this distance and saw a very bright flash from the indicator unit. A broad smile crossed my face and I fired another round. Again, a bright flash emanated from the indicator verifying an impact on the target.
To give an idea for those curious about amount of energy on target at this distance, I’m kind of grasping at straws a little with my ballistic program. I was shooting the Federal American Eagle 36 grain ammunition but wasn’t able to get an accurate muzzle velocity from my Magnetospeed chronograph. It just wouldn’t pick up any velocity at all for me out of this rifle, so I manipulated my ballistic program to try to match my drops on various distance targets. Here is what I came up with for observed drops:
Distance (yds) Drop (mils)
Changing the BC and velocity of a 36 grain bullet to match my observed data as accurately as possible, I determined that the amount of energy on target at 155 yards was slightly more than 80 ft-lbs. So then the question, how does that compare to realistic long range cartridges currently being use for big game hunting and target shooting? Well, for this I do have reliable ballistic data. A 105 grain Berger Hunting VLD bullet at 2940 fps, which I use in PRS competitions as well as big game and varmint hunting, still has 287 ft-lbs of energy at 1490 yards where it starts to go transonic at my altitude and temperature! That’s another 200 ft-lbs of energy on target at that distance over the little .22 LR bullet I just tested. A 300WM cartridge pushing the wonderful Hornady 208 grain AMAX bullet at 2900 fps doesn’t start to go transonic until around 1700 yards and still has over 570 ft-lbs at that distance. In fact, it will still have over 460 ft-lbs of energy at 2000 yards!
Here is my take-away information for energy testing of the THIS: it’ll reliably give impact confirmation out to the furthest reaches of your weapon system, so long as you hit the target!
TEST #2 – DISTANCE FROM TRANSMITTER TO RECEIVER
My next round of testing was to see how far away I could position the flash unit (receiver) away from the target sensor (transmitter). With my steel target still at 155 yards, I walked the flash unit back to my target berm at 203 yards, providing a 48 yard distance between transmitter and receiver. Unfortunately, I could not get the flash unit to pick up the signal from the sensor when it was impacted with a round. The flash unit was then incrementally walked back until it would give 100% feedback of an impact on the steel target, and the tripod with flash was placed on the ground as I worked closer to the target. In my test unit, with fresh batteries, I needed to position the flash unit within 10 feet of the target. It did not matter if the flash was behind, to the side, or in front of the target. As long as it was within 10 feet of the target/sensor unit, it gave 100% feedback of every impact, and that was with only about 80 ft-lbs of energy. When I repeated this test at 100 yards, which should be around 90 ft-lbs of energy, the results were the same.
When I contacted the manufacturer with this information, I was told that during their testing, keeping the receiver off the ground resulted in greater distances achievable. Unfortunately I ran out of time to redo my testing with the flash unit elevated. I would recommend taking the manufacturer’s advice and elevating the flash unit, if at all possible, if greater than 10 feet separation is required for optimal placement, and then manually check to ensure a flash is registered.
Again, my take-away information from this round of tests is to ensure your flash unit is within 10 feet of the target sensor if it will be placed on or near the ground, and position it slightly behind and to the upwind side. Since most shooters I’ve encountered tend to use less windage correction than they should, placing the flash unit to the upwind side and slightly behind should ensure nobody inadvertently hits the flash unit with an errant round at long range and also ensure bullet fragments don’t splatter over the flash unit after smashing into the steel.
TEST #3 – BATTERY LIFE
The third test was to check the longevity of battery life. After my initial round of testing with THIS, I went back inside for lunch break and left everything turned on. Throughout the day I walked back outside and manually gave the target a whack with a crescent wrench thirty or forty times each, for a total number of impacts and resulting flashes of 120. While doing this I noted that I had to wait a minimum of six seconds between hits to allow the flash unit to charge. This isn’t anything serious, but is something to be aware of.
I left everything turned on overnight to see if the batteries still lasted through till morning. Daytime came early enough and thankfully I had coffee ready and waiting. Dawn was just coming about when I walked back out to my target range and rang the target again with my crescent wrench, but was not rewarded with a nice bright flash; the batteries on at least one or more components had drained. The manufacturer also informed me that lithium batteries will last much longer and also recharge the flash quite a bit faster. This makes logical sense to me and I will most definitely find some lithium batteries to have on hand for this purpose, but unfortunately I ran out of time for this analysis.
According to the manufacturer’s web site, the batteries should last well over 100 impacts for full charge flashes. Considering I got 120 flashes from manual impacts and many more from the low energy impact testing I conducted, I am satisfied with these results. Keep this in mind if you are contemplating using THIS for a professional competition or training however, as the batteries may need replaced at the end of the day depending on how frequently the flash is actually being used. I would also take the recommendation of outfitting all battery requirements of this system with the lithium variety.
THIS is a highly effective, low cost alternative for everybody from the casual shooter to the professional marksman. It has some limitations such as distance from the transmitter to receiver, but there is enough distance that accidental impact of the flash unit can be nearly eliminated with proper positioning of the flash unit. Battery life is a concern with any electronic product, and THIS is no different. With a documented 120 impacts with corresponding flashes, the batteries should cover an entire day of shooting, but maybe not the entire weekend. Is the unit waterproof? Not according to the manufacturer’s web site, although they have tested it in a “mild rain” with no problems. Lastly, I’m more than happy to give my recommendation for this product. It does everything it needs to and the cost is manageable for a high quality Target Hit Indicator System. Check them out at www.targethitindicatorsystems.com or call their customer service number at 605-430-0107 and let them know where you read this review. Then use a this discount code “LngRngOnly10” to get 10% off you purchase of the Target Indicator System.
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