Gear Review: Ballistic App for iPhone

By Tyler Kee, The Truth About Guns

RF posed a question of the day asking about long range shooting. The responses were great, and it appears that a good portion of our readers are shooting out to the 1K line on a pretty regular basis. It warmed my heart to see a couple of our readers taking shots to way past that point. Personally, I’m a huge fan of long shots, and if I had to pick just one discipline, long range rifle shooting would absolutely be it. Part of my love of the sport has to do with the part RF hates the most; the math. And thanks to the proliferation of powerful smart phones, and a thriving app marketplace, there are calculators like Ballistic that can do the heavy lifting for you…


There are a lot of ballistic calculators out on the market, three of which I’ve spent a lot of time with over the last few months as I’ve been burning up TTAG’s money shooting various rifles chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. There are a lot of app specific nuances, but the part that they all share is JBM’s engine for calculating where the bullet is going to go once it leaves the barrel. In the photo above, I’m shooting off a barrier at 100 yards [edit: I’ve been told I was shooting at roughly 70 yards] during this year’s Bushnell Brawl. Shortly after that stage, I headed over to a stage that required me to shoot my rifle at targets 537 yards away in a pretty stiff wind. Luckily, I’d captured the variables that the JBM engine needed, and I was able to put rounds on steel when I did my part in operating the rifle and reading the wind. I had similar experiences out to the 1000 yard line.

The app I used for that competition was Shooter. At $10, I consider it to be the gold standard when it comes to getting started on calculating where your bullet should go in a variety of conditions. However, Shooter has limitations. Namely, it lacks the ability to deal with variable wind conditions. The example of this that I love to cite is Nick’s experience on the Quanitico Shooting Club range he used to frequent. According to Nick, they have strategically planted trees so that the wind changes direction down the course, perhaps blowing left to right a the shooting line and switching to right to left by the time the bullet reaches the target. This is hard to account for and without a calculator that can deal with those variables, you’ll likely be forced to “walk” it in.

The feature that Ballistic has that really piqued my interest was its ability to account for that using JBM’s engine. This is done graphically and not through some sort of manual entry. More on that later. Additional features in the Ballistic app are a heads up display configured for your particular scope’s reticle. Ultimately, Ballistic is very graphically driven which can be both a blessing and a curse. Thankfully, Ballistic provides a very thorough video to cover the initial setup and configuration.

The first thing you’ll need to do is plug in your data for your rifle. As they discuss in their Quick Start video, Ballistic has ~5000 bullets in their library which you can plug into the calculator. They are separated by “bullet” which contains data from manufacturers, “loads” which is a database of factory loads (including velocity), and “Litz” which are the ballistic coefficients that respected ballistician, Bryan Litz has put together.


The next field is the muzzle velocity. You can use the data from the box of ammo which will likely get you close(ish), or you can use a chronograph. I use a MagnetoSpeed and for Ruger’s Precision Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor, factory Hornady 140 gr. A-Max was giving me an average of 2719 fps. With that data in, the last fields to update are zero data including zero range, horizontal and vertical offset, and sight height. You can also input the atmospheric conditions present when you zeroed your rifle.


With that in, its time to start work on creating your ballistic solution for the problem at hand. To do that, you need to input your current atmospheric conditions. Ballistic has the ability to input information from the nearest weather station or you can manually enter this data if you happen to have it handy. Next up is wind. For the quick start portion of the video, they do a good job of using just the constant wind, but there’s more functionality available.


Gear Review: Ballistic App For iPhone

The last page, and the easiest to digest is the HUD tab which is most akin to the main display that Shooter uses. In that format, you can load up one of your favorite loads, and play around with range, wind speed and direction, as well as mover speed. The calculator spits out holds for elevation and windage in the format of your choosing from the quick start menu. Which is the biggest problem I was able to find.


As you can see above, the app says I need to come up 10 clicks to get to 300 yards and that I need to hold 24 1/10 mil radians to offset the wind. Those numbers didn’t sit right in my mind and I realized that I actually wanted the output in mils with a decimal point denoting the tenths. So in this case, 1 mils versus 10 1/10 mils or 2.4 mils instead of 24 1/10 mils. After much searching around, I found that I could go back and edit the profile and then save it as a new one. I used this opportunity to change the distance increment to 10 yards as the one I’d saved was in 150 yard increments to cut down on clutter for the range card. Using the HUD, that didn’t make sense as 150 yards is too large an increment. I finally goofed around in the setting menu (through general settings in iOS 9) enough to find that I could goof around with the field called “Output Precision” that allowed me to get my desired result in the output, though I ended up having to save and restart the app several times to get it to take. Total time lost was something like 20 minutes. Not extraordinary in the grand scheme of things, but something that came to characterize my interactions with Ballistic.

Specifications: Ballistic App
  • Supported Platforms: iPhone, iPod, and iPad
  • Ballistics Engine: JBM
  • Price: $12.99 for the Standard Edition $14.99 for the Advanced Edition
  • Where to buy: You can use this fancy link they made just for us

Ratings (out of five stars):

Functionality * * * * *
The sheer amount of work the Advanced edition of this app can provide is staggering. If you’re willing to sit down and put in the work, you can thoroughly maximize the JBM model thanks to the multi-factor wind modeling abilities. I cannot think of a scenario where the functionality of this app will come up short.

Accuracy * * * * *
I have no reason to believe that the underlying math behind this app is anything less than flawless. The JBM engine is very well understood and assuming the inputs you give it are accurate, the outputs should be as well. I compared it side by side with the other two apps I’m testing and given the same set of variables, it delivered the exact same set of outputs. In the field, when I did my part to properly input data, the outputs helped me put shots on target.

Stability * * * *
I hate apps that crash and with something like a shooting app, it will inevitably crash when you need it to work most. I never had any crashing issues with Ballistic, but I did have a few times where I made a bunch of configuration changes and restarting the app was necessary to get it to spit out the right number. I have to do this with lots of non-shooting apps, so I really can’t judge it that hard.

Usability * * *
I spent a lot of my time using Ballistic using their YouTube channel or hunting around for answers (see HUD section for an example). Ultimately, I felt like I was fighting the app a lot of the time in a way that I just don’t with other ballistic applications. Part of that might have to do with the fact that it has SO much functionality, but I think that most of it is due to the fact that they didn’t keep a keen eye towards user experience throughout the whole design and development process. What that means as a user is that you’ll have to commit a couple hours to sitting down with your purchase to figure out how it all works.

Overall * * * *
It can be a bit clunky to use, but most things designed by engineers are. And because engineers designed it (I think) it is highly complex and packed with features. If you’re willing to put in the time, this is an extraordinary powerful tool. If you’re the type of shooter who never steps past 400 yards or so and never takes a shot in demanding wind conditions, this app will likely feel like a waste of your money, and you might just get frustrated and throw up your hands. At $15, it’s not the cheapest app in the store, but it does a very good job and should serve you for years to come.

Tyler Kee is a small town kid trying to make it in the big city of Austin, TX. A cubicle dwelling, technology sales professional by day, he is an avid starter of projects, purchaser of specialty tools, and aspiring chef out of the office. He has been writing for The Truth About Guns for four years and specializes in hunting, the outdoors and gun and gear reviews.