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How Does a Shooting Timer Work? Understanding Shot Timers

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A shot timer is a small device that records the time the shooter takes to create one single shot or a series of shots. It can be easily held with one hand, but it also comes with a strap or a belt clip. How does a shooting timer work? Does it require the manual pressing of a button to record the time each shot is made?

Being one of the essential accessories in gun shooting, a shot timer can be rather expensive. It has a critical role in helping a shooter determine the areas he needs to address and improve on. The data helps the shooter to measure and evaluate his performance and abilities.

This article shows an understanding of how a shot timer works, including the basic mechanisms, basic timer modes, additional functions that come with it, and the features to consider when buying one.

What Is a Shot Timer?

A shot timer may not be a necessary device for recreational shooting, but if you want to improve your skills, this device will be of great advantage. It measures your present shooting skill level and your progress, and depending on your goals, you can quantify and review the accuracy of your shots under pressure.

While shooting timers are usually expensive, you don’t need to have a high-end shot timer in order to maximize your potential. A minimalistic shot timer is already a huge investment and a great addition to your gun shooting kit.

Features of a Good Shot Timer

The most basic function of a shooting timer is to show the accurate data or information required during shooting training or target shooting. Hence, the display should be clear and big enough so that it can be easily read and identified. Some models come with illuminated LCD for easy readability in dark conditions.

Since the shooting timer records your skill progress, it should have accurate recording capabilities. Expanded storage also allows you to track your progress throughout multiple runs.

Lastly, the efficiency and length of battery life also play an important role, aside from the durability and quality of the materials and the overall build of the shot timer.

How Does a Shooting Timer Work?

Basically, a shot timer is activated once the user takes his first shot. It records the time by identifying the sound of each shot, and when the series of shots are complete, this device also shows the time from the first shot up to the last one.

The time shown is measured in centisecond (hundredths of a second), which is imposed by the International Practical Shooting Confederation.

Comstock Mode and Par Time Mode

For more understanding on how a shooting timer works, here are a few things you need to know about the two basic timer modes—comstock mode and par time mode.

  • Comstock Mode

The most common function in a shot timer is the Comstock mode. It works by emitting a starting beep from which the user starts to shoot. Each gunshot is identified by the device. It records the elapsed time in between the shots and since the starting beep.

In order to have a better comprehension of how Comstock mode works, here is an example. Suppose you fire one shot one second after the starting beep, the shot timer records it as 1.00 second time. On the second fire, you shot at 1.50 seconds, the timer records it. In a series of two shots, the timer shows that you fired two shots in 1.50 seconds.

In the Comstock mode, the timer also records the split time or time between the one shot and the next one. In the example, the split time was 0.5 seconds; the first shot was executed at 1.0 second and the second shot at 1.50 seconds.

Depending on the sophistication and features of a shot timer, you can record dozens of gunshots so that you can review and evaluate your performance. In other shot timers, you can record multiple shot strings to evaluate several runs through one sequence.

  • Par Time Mode

Par time mode works like a kitchen timer, but in Par time, you can set the time by hundredths of a second. Compared to the Comstock mode, par time mode allows the user to set the time limit to perform the shooting task. You can do it by setting up for a specific amount of seconds; when the time is up, it produces a beep.

Par time allows you to set the timer according to the goal you want to achieve. Moreover, it is extremely versatile. Although it is best used for home practice, you can also use it for magazine change practice, draw training, attaining several shots on target at a particular time, and more.

Shot Timer’s Review Function

When a series of shots were completed, you put the shot timer in “review” mode. It usually looks like this: 1.45, 1.70, 2.0, 2.5. The review function shows all the time data the shots were executed, including the time when each shot was made and the time in between each shot.

In the example given, it took the shooter 1.45 seconds to execute the first shot, one-quarter second later for the second shot, the third shot took 0.15 seconds after the first, and 0.5 seconds in between the third and final shot.

Other Functions of a Shooting Timer

Some shot timers come with additional functions, such as the following:

  • Delayed or instant start signal (the timer starts right after pressing the start button or one to four seconds after pressing it)
  • Splits between the shots
  • Memory storage for the previous series of shots
  • Customizable sensitivity of the shot detector
  • Big board display for public viewing
  • Auxiliary jack for an external amplifier

Some shot timers also come as apps for smartphones in iTunes or Google PlayStore. They are extremely convenient and much less expensive compared to the actual shot timer. However, they are not accurate and have limited functions. They are suitable for beginners and for recreational shooting.


Learning how does a shooting timer work is not rocket science. In fact, it works as simple as a kitchen timer or a random clock timer. The main difference is that the shot timer measures time in hundredths of a second. When utilized properly, it improves the shooter’s performance and abilities.

A shot timer doesn’t lie. This is why it is the most accurate tool used during competitive shooting. It is also an excellent device for putting your skills to test and identifying the areas you need to improve on.

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