June 26, 2020
By David M. Fortier
While I love technology, I admit I can get a bit set in my ways. I realized this when I was showing off a Mil-Dot Master to our digital editor, Shelby Scepanski. As I explained how this analog calculator uses logarithmic and inverse logarithmic scales to quickly provide a firing solution, I watched her eyes glaze over.
“Umm, why don’t you just use a ballistics program on your smartphone?” she asked.
Today that’s exactly what most shooters do, since we always have our phones with us. Technology does not rest, though, and now there is an even better solution in the form of the new Kestrel 5700 ballistics weather meter with Hornady 4DOF ($499) to provide long-range hunters and shooters with a compact and lightweight all-in-one handheld meter to aid making first-round hits at extended distances.
Easy to carry, it fits in the palm of your hand and tucks easily into a pocket. Better still, it doesn’t share the common flaws of a smartphone. While a good case will help protect a cell phone, harsh abuse and foul weather can wreak havoc on them. Battery life is always an issue, with most phones only running for a day or so. Then there is the issue of planned obsolescence, with modern phones featuring non-removable batteries lasting only perhaps two to three years.
The Kestrel 5700 addresses these common shortcomings. For example, it features a rugged body combined with all-weather durability. How durable? It’s IP-67 waterproof and Mil-Std 810 drop-tested, plus it’s backed by a five-year warranty.
What’s that mean for you? You don’t have to worry about dropping it or banging it around in your pack. Plus, when Mother Nature opens the heavens and pours rain in buckets, or you accidentally take it swimming, it will not be fazed. It can handle being submerged to a depth of one meter for half an hour.
Battery life? A single commonly available lithium AA battery will provide hundreds of hours of real world use. Lithium AAs not available? No problem; run it on a standard, inexpensive AA battery. Plus, the Kestrel 5700 will not be fading away after a couple years or receiving an “update” that kills the battery life. I’ve been using my older Kestrel 3000 for more than a decade with zero issues and an earlier model even longer.
So let’s dive into its features. Tipping the scales at only a couple of ounces, this pocket-size unit performs a variety of useful tasks.
In addition to measuring wind speed, it also measures temperature, altitude, barometric pressure, compass direction, density altitude, dew point altitude and many other atmospheric factors that influence bullet flight.
How do these data help serious rifle shooters make long-range first-round hits? That’s where Hornady’s 4DOF ballistics software comes in.
For its 4DOF system Hornady used Doppler radar to track the projectile throughout its actual flight instead of depending on G1 or G7 ballistic coefficients. The result is much more accurate over traditional ballistic calculators.
The Hornady 4DOF ballistic engine is integrated directly into the Kestrel 5700, and it provides trajectory solutions based on a projectile’s drag coefficient along with the exact physical modeling of the projectile and its mass and aerodynamic properties. Add in its other features like zero angle and aerodynamic jump calculations and it is ideal for long-range calculations. To make it user-friendly it incorporates a large library of bullet data that have been independently verified.
What I like best is its ease of use. Simply set up a gun profile, using the free Kestrel LiNK app, and it’s ready for the field. It will then calculate trajectories under any environmental conditions—with no cellular service required—to more than 3,800 yards.
The unit sports a decent-size screen and easy-to-manipulate buttons. The buttons are big enough to allow you to easily enter information and to navigate through its different screens to get where you want.
Screen brightness is a big deal, and the Kestrel 5700 has a clear backlit display is easy to read even in direct sunlight. Obviously overcast and low-light scenarios are no problem. Replacing the battery is simple with no tools required.
Now, all this being said, the Kestrel 5700 with Hornady 4DOF is a tool that should be used to its potential without it becoming your “exterior ballistics god.” I regularly see younger shooters who rely entirely on the ballistic app of the week and would be lost without it.
Shelby may be right: I may be a bit long in the tooth. But I still feel there is more to being a rifleman than having the latest gadgets. I believe the old-fashioned data book still has a valid role, as does time spent collecting real-world data with your rifle and load on the range.
However, the Kestrel 5700 and Hornady’s 4DOF ballistics calculator can be an incredible aid. Use it as such while expanding your skills and knowledge as a rifleman, and you will be ahead of the game.