With our recent article series on How To Read The Wind – The Ultimate Guide, there was some talk about which model Kestrel a novice or newcomer to the precision rifle sport should buy. We’re going to answer that question in the first paragraph, the Kestrel 4000. As we covered in the Wind articles the main components you need in a wind meter are the ability to measure wind speed, and to have the ability to ascertain your density altitude. We’re going to explore the Kestrel 4000 in a bit more detail in this article. The hope is to illustrate how a newer shooter can use it, but more importantly, to keep a new shooter from overspending in the wrong area. There’s a tendency to want to “just buy the best” from the word go. The problem is, if you do that in this sport, you’re going to be shelling out tens of thousands of dollars. So let’s be smarter about our purchasing! Read on and we’ll discuss some savings!
Why The Kestrel 4000?
When you are just getting into this sport, you obviously need a way to measure wind speed. There are numerous gadgets and widgets that will do that and many can be had for less money than a Kestrel 4000. So why are we recommending the Kestrel 4000? Density Altitude is your answer. As you move from one location to another there are a multitude of environmental factors that change. Those changes cause weather and air density changes and that will affect the way your bullet flies through the air. To put it simply, as air density increases the bullet requires more vertical adjustment, a higher lob of the bullet, to get it out to the same range than in a location where the air isn’t as dense. What affects air density? Everything…
- Barometric Pressure
You can plug all these variables into your firing solution every time if you want, but it’s simpler to use one value that is an aggregate of the other values that comprise it, right? Density Altitude is a number that takes all these factors into account and comes up with a number that is representative of changes in all those variables. For example, a lot of people waste a lot of time with humidity when coming up with firing solutions in the beginning. The truth is, while it has an effect, it’s pretty small, so don’t waste your time worrying about it. By using density altitude, any changes in humidity are already accounted for. This is why I suggest you go with the Kestrel 4000. Not only does it individually measure all the different factors that comprise density altitude, it takes those measurements before it gives you the value for density altitude!
Kestrel 4000 Features
The cost of these units can be a big point of contention when you think about features. For example, the Kestrel 4000 has what you need to get started and runs right around $250 USD when I searched around a bit on the web. The main difference between the 4000 and the 4500 is the compass component. Is it worth it? My answer would be no. The Kestrel 4500 runs around $310, so a $60 dollar increase over the average on the Kestrel 4000. The compass is used to determine headings and crosswind. Basically, you point the Kestrel in the direction you are looking, and if you then face into the wind, the Kestrel will compute the angle and give you the effective crosswind value.
I know that sounds cool, but here’s the thing…the wind changes direction constantly! You’re going to look doofy constantly checking crosswind with the Kestrel. When you step up to the Applied Ballistics model down the road, or even the Horus model, the compass is used to set your direction of fire. Then it compares that heading to where the wind is coming from to give you a more complete ballistic firing solution. Again, sounds really cool! Right? Yes and No. Yes it’s neat that it can do this and give you the wind hold you need to hit targets at distance. In terms of the Applied Ballistics or Horus Kestrels being good teaching tools, then I would say this is a worthy addition to the feature set. However, you’re more than twice, and almost three times the price of the Kestrel 4000 to acquire those features. So the real question is, do you really need them in the first place?
I’ve played with the wind features on the Applied Ballistics Kestrel, and I stopped using them almost as soon as I learned how to use them. Its too slow! Especially in any sort of dynamic environment you just don’t have the time to constantly be stopping, setting a new direction of fire for a new target, and then asking for the new wind hold by facing the Kestrel into the wind. You have to be able to judge the wind and come up with a hold in a split second. You’re better off using the 10mph Full Value baseline wind and breaking that up into fractions or percentages on the fly. It’s quicker and more efficient! What does the Kestrel 4000 include? Here’s the list:
- Barometric pressure
- Pressure trend
- Relative humidity
- Heat stress index
- Wet bulb temperature
- Density altitude
- Wind chill
- Air, water, and snow temperature
- Current wind speed
- Average wind speed
- Maximum wind gust
- Waterproof and floats
- Easy to read, backlit display
- Time and date
- Exterior temperature, humidity, and pressure sensors for fast and accurate readings
- Humidity sensor can be recalibrated in the field with our Relative Humidity Calibration Kit.
- Minimum, maximum, and average values
- Automatically store measurements, even when the unit is turned off
- Manually store measurements with the press of a button
- Customizable data storage – 4000 data points
- Graph and recall trends
- Customize screens to display user-selected measurements
- Data charting
- Data upload (with optional interface)
- Five languages (English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian)
Is the Kestrel 4000 Worthy?
The point of repeatedly stressing how some of the jee-whizz features aren’t very expedient is to show the newer shooter they really don’t need to spend $650+ on a full blown Kestrel Applied Ballistics from the get go. I think down the line in terms of streamlining firing solutions, working with different rifles and calibers, and getting highly accurate live solutions it gets to be worth the investment. Frankly though, a new and even intermediate level shooter likely isn’t at the level where that will make a difference in their shooting or how they place at a match. The Fundamentals of Marksmanship need a lot more time and ammunition to master and have a larger overall affect on your shooting than whether your firing solution was calculated live or off a density altitude card.
Save yourself the $400+ dollars as you get started and consider putting that money into a better stock for your rifle that allows you to adjust it for fit. $400 bucks will buy you a worthy Bushnell Elite 1 Mile rangefinder. You could put the money towards a better scope! The uses for the money are numerous and for a beginner it’s just better spent in other areas besides the Kestrel. That’s not to downplay the importance of having one, but get one that gives you what you need, and nothing more. In that category, the Kestrel 4000 is king! If you disagree or want to discuss it further, drop us a message in the comments below!