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Range Report  LabRadar battery issues

NamibHunter

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Dec 26, 2018
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Just a heads-up for those that use the superb LabRadar chronograph: Be careful what external battery pack you connect to the LR. Only some of them work well, and the latest high-tech batteries that automatically adjust between 5 Volt, 9 V and 12 V can actually damage your LR. [Best bet is probably to buy their battery and cable, listed on their web site.]

Backstory: Wanted a bigger battery pack to avoid being at the range and the battery runs out (because somebody forgot to charge it the night before....). Also did not like the older generation of Lithium Ion batteries that took many many hours to fully charge. You really had to charge them for a full day, or at least overnight. So did the research and found that the new generation of Graphene Batteries can be charged in under an hour, have long life (1000 plus charge/discharge cycles) and can handle high load devices that pull more power (more on this remarkable feature later on), and can do wireless charging of cell phones or tablets. All very convenient. Or so i thought!

Bought an Athors Graphene battery from Amazonia rated at 13,000 mAh. Big mistake! Plugged it in for one range seasion and it worked just fine, remaining battery charge barely came down by 15%, so probably enough capacity for 5 or 6 range sessions. Then got home, plugged it in and the mini USB power plug on the LR immediately started smoking, badly, smelling like burning PVC isolation. Pulled it out quickly, but the device was dead, it would not work with the old battery. Note that the fancy new Graphene battery worked fine for several hours and then promptly murdered my LR when it was sitting in my lap.

Contacted Labradar Canada who was very quick and very friendly, they sent a packing slip immediately, and i shipped it off their US distributor/repair center. First question from them was “what battery and cable were you using sir?” So i explained and sent a photo of the port specs (amps and voltages, see below). They came back within days saying “we have concluded that the battery you used damaged the Labradar” and they strongly recommended i stop using it and buy their battery, listed on their web site, which i did.

Best i can figure out (and i hope LabRadar will correct me if this is wrong): The new generation of fancy high power Lion batteries has the ability to supply more amps than the prior USB 1.0 and USB 2.0 standards (which were limited to 5 Volt), by raising the voltage to either 9V or 12V. The USB battery pack circuitry is supposed to autodetect what is needed, but when this goes wrong, it switches up the voltage from 5V to 9V (almost doubling it), and then you see a lot of smoke! [USB was supposed to be a universal standard, but it seems that has now been badly bastardized...]

My advice is to avoid batteries that display things like this:

A955BD3A-03C2-4C6D-9D20-E1FC0BA1FDF0.jpeg


Note the reference to 9 V and 12 V. My understanding is that these batteries are NOT compatible with the LabRadar. It should look like this (their battery):


7E6E326E-D741-4C2D-A41A-36E44C692A26.jpeg


Important part is “Output: 5 V / 2.1A”. Note there is no reference to 9 V or 12 V. Even with these specs, there is no guarantee that any random made in China battery will work properly (too weak, too much volt drop, bad or dirty contacts, long thin cable). Manual is also explicitly calling for 5 Volt:

659FC0D2-F17C-4F9C-9095-23B7BBF1F8B6.jpeg


They also supply a short thick cable (0.105”OD), and a way to mount the battery on the side of the LR with a special high grip Velcro-like strip. Their email also suggested staying away from inferior cables (presumably long thin cables that cause a high voltage drop). The battery manual also explicitly states that you should not attach the battery to the front panel where the AA battery panel and screen is. Not sure why, maybe they worry about heat generation. [Edit: Folks also report that the blast wave from an aggressive muzzle brake can blow the battery door off, and it is not good for the less than robustly designed mini USB female plug to have a heavy battery dangling from it.]

AFED00B6-0819-411D-8A34-D75A0923BD82.jpeg


Best bet: Buy their battery and cable, and mount it the way they tell you to do it. Not sure why i resisted doing that originally.... 🙈
 

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NamibHunter

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BTW: The ability of the Labradar app to connect with your tablet or phone is also affected by the quality of the external battery and cable. Bad cables and bad batteries can make the connection unreliable, and then you constantly have to reconnect.

And no i don’t work for LR!
 

AznTactical

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Feb 1, 2018
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Great timing for this information! I used my external battery pack for the first time because my AA Alkaline's were dead and I started having connection and communication issues immediately! Thought it was an app issue so I un-installed the app, reinstalled, cleaned and cleared out the cache and still had the same problems. I was using a small APC battery pack and will have to check it's output capabilities. IMO the Labradar is not advanced enough to handle today's latest and greatest lithium battery packs that have features to self adjust it's output.
 
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AznTactical

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The battery manual also explicitly states that you should not attach the battery to the front panel where the AA battery panel and screen is.

I had my battery pack Velcroed to the battery door too and my muzzle brake's concussion blast would knock the door off the unit.
 
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NamibHunter

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I had my battery pack Velcroed to the battery door too and my muzzle brake's concussion blast would knock the door off the unit.

Yep had the same issue. They want you to mount the battery as far away from the muzzle blast as possible, on the opposite (narrow) side of the LR. See pic above. Velcro tape is probably your best bet.
 
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Jcrios014

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    This is good information, I recently bought a battery pack to use with my LR and had plans on testing it this weekend. I'll be sure to double check to make sure its within the acceptable parameters.
     
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    NamibHunter

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    BTW: If you have any issues, try to get a high quality aftermarket cable. Short and thick works best.
     
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    NamibHunter

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    Question: I am on my second LabRadar (a reconditioned unit sent out after the previous one got fried by an incompatible battery), and just like the first one, something (maybe a screw?) is rattling around inside. Do you guys have the same experience?? I try to look after mine. Can that cause a short or interfere with the electronics?

    Sounds like we all need to buy a Pelican case with a foam cutout for our precious Labradar. That orange plastic housing feels a bit flimsy to me.
     
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    AznTactical

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    Feb 1, 2018
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    Question: I am on my second LabRadar (a reconditioned unit sent out after the previous one got fried by an incompatible battery), and just like the first one, something (maybe a screw?) is rattling around inside. Do you guys have the same experience?? I try to look after mine. Can that cause a short or interfere with the electronics?

    Sounds like we all need to buy a Pelican case with a foam cutout for our precious Labradar. That orange plastic housing feels a bit flimsy to me.
    They're really easy to take apart and check the insides. In the link below someone had taken theirs apart and it made me realize for $550+ you don't get much. https://fccid.io/PDG-LABRADAR/Internal-Photos/Int-Photos-2503420
     
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    6.5SH

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    They're really easy to take apart and check the insides. In the link below someone had taken theirs apart and it made me realize for $550+ you don't get much. https://fccid.io/PDG-LABRADAR/Internal-Photos/Int-Photos-2503420
    Thanks for that link, is also a PDF version that was lower on the page if anyone wants to save a local copy:

    Actually is a lot going on in there, but it dispelled one myth for me. I had been told the surrounding black plastic was part of the antenna system, it clearly isn't. A design improvement would be for them to make that a bit thicker front to back and out of a high durometer rubber to act as a shock absorber if the unit falls over.
     

    NamibHunter

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    Useful info, thanks much.

    Have taken the screws out, but it won’t come apart yet. Do you have to wedge a flat screwdriver in somewhere to pry the two halves apart (without breaking anything 😊)?

    Useful enough device, and it seems to be accurate, but I think it was made a little flimsy. Really think they can do better...
     
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    AznTactical

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    Useful info, thanks much.

    Have taken the screws out, but it won’t come apart yet. Do you have to wedge a flat screwdriver in somewhere to pry the two halves apart (without breaking anything 😊)?

    Useful enough device, and it seems to be accurate, but I think it was made a little flimsy. Really think they can do better...
    My buddy used some plastic prying tools (see them in the body shops to pry open body panels) to split it open.
     

    AznTactical

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    A design improvement would be for them to make that a bit thicker front to back and out of a high durometer rubber to act as a shock absorber if the unit falls over.
    If Otter Box made a case for Labradar I would so buy one. A few years ago a fellow shooter 6-8 benches down from me had his Labradar tip over into the grass due to strong winds using Labradar's tabletop tripod. I have a FotoPro Max tripod and even hang weights on the bottom hook to prevent it from ever tipping over.
     
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    NamibHunter

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    If Otter Box made a case for Labradar I would so buy one. A few years ago a fellow shooter 6-8 benches down from me had his Labradar tip over into the grass due to strong winds using Labradar's tabletop tripod. I have a FotoPro Max tripod and even hang weights on the bottom hook to prevent it from ever tipping over.

    Got a “Pelican Large Piston Vault” case for my LabRadar today, as i don’t trust the canvas bag to protect it. On my second (replacement) Labradar and for the second time i can hear spare parts rolling around inside. Really try to look after it, but i think that orange plastic case is just a little too flimsy.

    As close to a giant Otterbox as you can get?


    98BFF20A-4C45-4BA2-BCB5-6385C957523A.jpeg


    86CF942C-3463-4933-AF5B-9DC69F38F1BF.jpeg
     

    NamibHunter

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    And i guess the next step is to cut a window in the lid and install a Lexan transparent window so i can see the display screen with the entire case mounted on a sturdy tripod with a weight to keep it all from toppling over. Run it from the phone app (still buggy - last time i tried it).... this is turning into a project! 😀🙈
     

    6.5SH

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    So on the "rattling around" bit. I thought mine was as well...

    It was the the swivel loop on the Arca rail screw I was hearing.
     
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    NamibHunter

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    So on the "rattling around" bit. I thought mine was as well...

    It was the the swivel loop on the Arca rail screw I was hearing.
    Checked real carefully and there is definitely some loose screw or component inside... Have tried to split the box open, but it seems i need some tools to do this without doing damage.