Chris Parkin puts this remote camera to the test... this gadget helps you to track your accuracy when target shooting without relying on optics

credit: Archant

TargetVision’s Marksman camera is a further solution for the age-old issue of being able to see your shots on target, at range, in the field. It’s all very well having a butt screw and target markers, but manpower costs money and, when not using a formalised range, you either rely on your eyes, your scope, your binoculars or a spotting scope. Good as optics are, depending on your eyesight you will find that some quite serious money needs to be spent on quality optics that will not only resolve very small bullet holes, but do so at your chosen range regardless of light conditions and atmospheric variables.

The TargetVision Marksman is a stand-alone camera, charged before you leave the house from the 240V mains supply, using a two adapter for the supplied two-pin plug. The camera unit measures 10cm wide, 9cm deep and 26cm high, and along with a solid tripod and the charger unit, all fits in a very nice custom Cordura case, with specific pockets for each item. Set up your target as normal and then position the camera on its tripod out of the direct line of fire, 2-5m or 10-15ft away with its rear surface pointing back towards the firing point. This directional positioning is advised to boost the signal transmission, and the clever part is that the camera lens is mounted within a spherical ‘ball mount’, so can be swivelled and elevated independently to point directly at your chosen spot/s on the target backer. Range is rated up to 300 yards on this entry-level model, with higher spec units including supplementary signal boosters that will operate up to two miles away for those wanting to really stretch the distance. On that note, having made shots beyond 3,000 yards, actually knowing where your bullets are landing is critical to the success or failure of the day. Unless using tracer ammo, a unit like this with a wide field of view would be very handy positioned downrange, facing into a visibly reactive backstop.

Signal from camera to your ‘smart device’ is transmitted via Wi-Fi with the usual pairing up and password procedure (the password is helpfully written on the camera’s body, not in the instruction book). You can pair up multiple devices simultaneously so that the target will be displayed on multiple screens; this allows a team of shooters using one target to have their own phone right by their rifle, and see shots as they strike. The TargetVision app allows any one of four camera systems to be running too, and if you want to see multiple targets you can choose your point of current interest. Selecting ‘New Group’ allows you to begin a shot sequence and all will be saved on your device with the relevant name, date and notes, alongside photos and a video of the target, if you so choose. Having the display screen on a phone, or better still a tablet screen, that is mounted on a similar tripod support will prevent having to break your shooting position to spot. Other than reloading, you can maintain an accurate shot string with nothing but a fingertip required to zoom in and out, swipe the screen left, right, up or down, and add shot placement markers each time a new hole appears on the target. It refreshes its picture, I would estimate, at around 5-10Hz, so you don’t get super speed imagery but it’s really not a problem; you want positional placement, not HD 4K video! Digitally zooming on your display screen will reduce image resolution to a fuzzy, grained image, but new holes appear visible; remember that, just like regular target shooting, choosing an approximate colour and size of target or reactive target will make the holes even more visible. Larger bullets with larger holes are without doubt far more obvious, and you can choose to use either a dot that covers the entire hole, or a pinpoint dot positioned centrally. This, again, is down to personal preference and dependent on the group size, too. Large shot markers and small groups will soon merge into a clover-leaf blob, so think ahead. Pressing the photo button will capture the final group or, in video mode, the order of impacts in your shot sequence, which allows you to remind yourself of mistakes you have made or bad windage calls you suspected.

Zooming in and out of the picture with five different sizes of shot-overlay dots, and seven colours, means seven different groups or shots from different shooters can be overlaid. Which means you can either score directly, keep track of ammunition batches or use for final reference when the target is officially inspected at the end of the shooting event.

A 12-hour battery life is very generous and appreciated. Battery life of a tablet or phone is heavily influenced by screen usage, and I found it far simpler to use it on a tablet because of the display size, onboard battery capacity, and most importantly, no continual interruptions from phone calls, texts, emails or other such intrusions which can break the connection. It is also wise to disable any standby settings that will turn off the screen, or even just disable the password requirements so that one touch will bring the display back into life if it does time out and shut down. The camera has a physical on/off rocker switch and, thankfully, never turns off until the battery runs out, so you always know it is your end of the equation that has failed, not the distant camera. If you are in the proximity of any other Wi-Fi signals, deactivate them as they are likely to be stronger than that of the TargetVision; they will take priority on your device and, again, break the signal.

I was very lucky that this unit arrived for testing at the same time as two .17 calibre rifles and, although a little fuzzy, I could see 4.5mm/.17 calibre bullet holes; dependent on the elasticity of the paper target, these only measured 3.5-4mm in diameter, so I found the unit a great help. Seeing these tiny bullet holes even at close range is a test for optics, but the TargetVision circumvents this by doing the optical viewing from close range and then transferring the data over the greater distance, so it either works or doesn’t; there is no question of a hazy image or blocked line of sight. Signal range prefers to be unobstructed but seems strong and will go around some objects. This will affect the overall range of the camera though, so it’s better to leave things clear. I started out with the camera hiding behind some baffles at the 100m range, knowing full well a stray bullet from one of my ‘friend’s’ rifles might be deliberate, rather than accidental.

The unit is made in Texas and the website has good online resources with tips to help you set up the camera and use it properly, and advice to get the most out of the app. The spherical mount and multiple connectivity is great when setting up, as you can look back to your firing point to accurately position the camera body for best reception, and then aim the lens really accurately using your very mobile pocket-sized phone to check the alignment, before retreating to the firing point. The supplied tripod is sturdy and easy to set up without anything blowing over in the wind. The unit has a two-year warranty which, with a lithium ion battery inside, is reassuring, as is the water resistance and shockproof body. The carry case is neat and compact, which is a pleasure when transporting a lot of kit on and off shooting locations. I was using iOS smart devices, but Android is also compatible and, with Kindle support just being updated in the latest app, the product is kept well up to date.

TargetVision claims a ‘300-yard range guaranteed’ from the 2.4GHz transmission which proved accurate, and given the chance with optimum conditions, I’d like to stretch this to its limit, but I could probably buy the one-mile version myself; it will be most appreciated. The ‘Live HD video’ description was a little bit optimistic; you won’t be showing it on a big screen anytime soon. But the range of the unit is what matters, and that is what it delivers, with good battery life that can be topped up with any 12V ancillary charger suitable for the lithium cell. Just make sure you have a backup for your display device, as that will be the weakest link in the system!

Importers DMC will also be bringing in the Hawk camera, which fits onto your spotting scope with similar Wi-Fi connectivity. The ability to see atmospheric swirls as a bullet flies to its target and shots arriving at their destination – particularly at very long range on steel gongs to multiple viewers – means I’m really looking forward to testing one of these soon.

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Price: £550

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