Kestrel KST1000 Shot Timer Review

My review of the AMG Lab Commander shot timer continues to be one of the more popular articles on this blog. There’s good reason for that: the Commander, while not a perfect timer, still sets the standard for size and usability. I use it weekly during the shooting season.

However, as mentioned, the Commander is not perfect. It’s not terribly loud. The waterproofing aspect has been known to be an issue. There’s no backlighting. Seeing the time while you’re wearing it is awkward, and there’s no integrated belt clip. None of these are a big deal, and are weaknesses shared by other timers. However, they did make me want to look into other timers.

Ever since I saw the Kestrel shot timer at SHOT Show in 2022, I’ve wanted to get one. While it’s certainly a fairly large piece of hardware, it seemed like it was designed to address the shortcomings of other shot timers. Did it? Read on.

The Kestrel KST1000 (KST presumably standing for “Kestrel Shot Timer”) is made by Nielsen-Kellerman Company and retails for $300. This is substantially more than the competition, and is maybe one of the two big elephants in the room with regards to this product. I spent my own money on it, and didn’t get a discount.

The timer itself comes in a cardboard box with an instruction manual, certificate of conformity, sticker, etc. I wouldn’t call it the most spectacular presentation I’ve seen on an expensive item, but on the other hand, your typical shot timer lives in a range bag most of its life, so a fancy plastic case isn’t necessary.

The first thing you really notice when you take this shot timer out of the box is just how big it is. The Pocket Pro 2 is also something of a beast, but after having used the Commander so often, the size does take some getting used to. I wouldn’t say it’s overly heavy, though – it hangs nicely on my belt with the included belt clip.

To get the party started, you need to insert batteries. The KST1000 has a battery compartment that is very, very similar to my Kestrel weather meters, which is encouraging in terms of water resistance. It takes a pair of CR123 batteries. These are not quite as convenient to source at the local grocery store as AAs, but they’re common enough that you should be able to obtain them in a pinch.

The KST powers on by holding the power button down for a few moments, at which point the LCDs come online. I really cannot say enough nice things about the KST’s LCD screens. The innovation here is that there are two of them, placing one at the top of the timer (perfect for belt use) and one on the front of the timer (perfect for reviewing splits and so forth). They are big, and they are easy to read. It is not a hard call to say they are best in class.

What’s better is that the LCDs are put to good use. All the information you’d want (first shot time, split time, total time) is all there, and you can see nearly all the settings in a single place (more on this later). You can literally store 50 strings of fire on it. Compared to the nightmare that is the “manually page through a zillion screens of settings” that most shot timers put you through, the KST is positively fantastic.

In actual use, the KST is also easy enough to manage. There’s a go button. You press it, and the timer beeps and starts recording shots. When you’re done, you mute the timer. This was one of the things that threw me off about the KST initially – I’m used to the Commander, where you hit a button and it stops. With the KST, you hit the mute button, and it simply pauses.

It’s better this way, even if it’s different. I have definitely been in situations as an RO/SO where someone literally started clearing their gun at the end of the stage (“if finished, show clear”), so I stopped the timer so it wouldn’t pick up the clearing process, only for them to suddenly decide they wanted to keep shooting more. That’s a cool way to score a reshoot you didn’t really earn, but it’s maddening to me as the guy holding the timer. With the KST, I can simply unmute/unpause the timer and they can keep going.

My only real complaints about the KST controls are that 1) I’d like a mode where any directional button pauses the timer – just the center button isn’t big enough -and 2) I kept wishing for side “go” and “mute” buttons. The front button is fine, but it’s hard to see on your belt, and also not terribly convenient when holding it one-handed. Once you’ve practiced with the KST a bit, neither of these is a big deal, but they may be items for improvement in a future version of the product.

One slight oddity of the KST is that the microphone and speaker are in the back of the unit (as they have to be, the LCD and controls take up the entire front face), so you technically want to hold it away from you in operation. The reality is that it functioned fine on my belt even with the mic facing my thigh. However, on the downside, I was not able to make it work with dry-fire, no matter how much I messed with the sensitivity. This isn’t a big deal to me (I only need par times for dry-fire), but the Commander can manage this sometimes.

The settings screen is great. I’ve heard complaints online that it’s hard to use, but I honestly cannot see how that is. Almost everything is right there on the first page; there are a bunch of preset slots, multiple sensitivity presets, multiple par times, and so on. I really can’t think of any settings I think are missing.

We addressed the first big problem (price) near the beginning of this review. The second one is the lack of Practiscore integration. Many, many action shooting organizations have moved over to Bluetooth timers that have deep Practiscore integration, which allows competitors to see splits, shot-to-shot times, etc. using the Practiscore Competitor app in the uploaded match results. This is especially valuable in sports like Steel Challenge and SASP where it’s very easy to determine which split was which transition and so on. The Bluetooth integration also makes it very hard to have transcription errors for the stage/string times.

The KST does have Bluetooth, but it only seems to be used for firmware updates via the Kestrel Ballistics app. The manufacturer has stated that Practiscore support will be added in a future firmware update, but hasn’t committed to a timeline. In their defense, it also sounds as if the upcoming Practiscore 2.0 release may have some involvement in this timeline. But, either way, it’s a limitation, and makes the KST less useful for matches. It’s fantastic for personal drills, but for $300, it really needs to do everything to be an easy recommendation.

Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to for my conclusion. If you want a really great shot timer for you, the KST is pretty hard to beat. If you want a timer for your Practiscore match, I’d choose something else. The price is high, but it’s clear where my money is going – superb build quality and amazing screens. It is easily the most durable-feeling timer I’ve ever laid hands on, and it stays in my range bag at all times.

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