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When old-time baseball fans think of the term radar gun, images surface of cigar-chomping scouts behind home plate pointing space-age looking weapons at the pitcher. Nowadays, as with all the other gadgets available now, it’s an appropriate time to take a look at the best pocket radar gun for baseball coaches, trainers, and parents.
A pocket radar gun is just as it’s described: a radar gun that can fit into your pocket (or at least be smaller than past radar guns). Gone are the big gun-like hand-held contraptions that kind of look like small bullhorns. Some old-time scouts still may prefer those, but a great number of them are going digital and going for convenience, and options for pocket radar guns deliver just that.
Here’s a look at our favorite pocket radar guns currently, judged on a number of features including price, accuracy, size, weight, comfort, and versatility of features.
- The Pocket Radar Ball Coach lives up to its name and tops our list.
- The sister of the above-mentioned radar gun, the Pocket Radar Smart Coach, works well with a premium for a data-tracking app.
- The Smart Pro Personal Baseball Speed Radar by NetPlayz won’t break the bank for dads who want to try measuring velocities.
- The Smart Baseball Trainer Combo with 1 Set Sport Radar also by NetPlayz offers versatility beyond just baseball.
- The SKLZ Bullet Ball Baseball Pitching Speed Sensor is an affordable and totally different experience.
Why Buy a Pocket Radar Gun?
Anyone who’s ever coached baseball, or even fastpitch softball, above the tee-ball level wonders just how hard his or her pitcher is throwing. There’s what you can see during warmups or games, but as scientists know, the eyes can be deceiving. Only a mechanical tool can tell the truth.
Balls coming out of some pitchers’ hands can just look faster, for some reason. It could be the delivery, or the particular way the ball leaves the hand, or sunlight playing tricks on the eye. Whatever it is, not all coaches can accurately judge velocity.
Which has developed into the single-most monitored element of pitching: how fast a pitcher can hurl the ball. Whether it’s good or bad for young arms, velocity has become king in baseball. The bottom line is, no matter the level, if you can throw the ball really fast, your odds of success increase.
How Fast Should Pitchers Throw?
However, in league play, exactly how fast that needs to be cannot be judged accurately. In Major League Baseball, the cutoff used to be about 94 mph. That is, any pitcher who’s throws often exceed 94 mph can get away with some mistakes due to the velocity. Anything close to 100 mph was exceptional.
Today, many major league pitchers exceed 100 mph pitches ~ and some by up to 5 more mph! With modern training, diet, and kinesiology advancements, average velocities have just increased significantly since around 2010. (What also has increased quite a bit is the number of arm injuries, but that’s a topic for another article).
Still, velocity alone does not guarantee success. How does a coach know if his pitchers are throwing hard enough? Well, they can measure velocities of other pitchers in the same league, and compare. By setting starting points, keen coaches can monitor the velocities of his pitchers as well as those he’s competing against as seasons progress.
Can Pitchers’ Arms Get Stronger?
Pitchers’ arms are fickle. They are almost like human individuals all to their own. They get achy, and when used too much over a period of time, get tired. Some might say even grouchy. This is not good, not only from a competition standpoint, but for the potential for injury.
Throwing a 5-ounce ball overhand is not a natural movement for a human being, and doing it well and repetitively is very hard. A pitcher with a tired arm might notice the lost velocity, and therefore exert himself even harder, resulting in damage to the arm’s tendons, ligaments, or muscles.
Pitchers’ throwing arms can get stronger, in terms of muscle mass, but overall it’s very important to develop proper throwing techniques, and practice throwing with the right mechanics so muscle memory of those movements come more naturally. Arms can be taught to throw harder, but it’s not all about building arm muscles physically.
To monitor how well arms are responding to training, radar guns are very helpful.
Do Radar Guns Help Make Baseball Players Better?
This last point, to help monitor progress of a growing pitcher, is probably valid enough for coaches to consider using radar guns, especially at the more-advanced levels of play. Even at the lower levels, there are various advantages to having a radar gun, including:
- To scout brand new pitchers
- To monitor consistency; when a pitcher’s velocity drops mid-game, something is probably wrong
- To judge competition
- To compare a young pitcher against his or her contemporaries
- To monitor progress recovering from injury
- To judge bat speeds, or “exit velocity” from a hit (how fast a ball leaves the bat)
- To judge runners’ speeds
- To try to mix pitch speeds to disrupt timing and therefore hitting
Our Choices for Best Pocket Radar Guns
1. Best Pocket Radar Gun Overall ~ Pocket Radar Ball Coach
You can’t really judge pocket radar guns without considering models from one company. That’s because the baseball training item is built into this manufacturer’s name: Pocket Radar, Inc. Not that it’s a bad thing. When you name the company for a product, you better make sure you’re producing good versions of that product.
The company produces several radar guns, but among them for this review, I would recommend its Pocket Radar Ball Coach (see Amazon). The same version comes with an app to track data, but we’re unsure whether that’s worth tacking another $100 onto a price tag that’s already up there for something used to judge baseball (or bat or foot speed) velocity.
This product is neatly sized, like a smartphone, and easy to handle and aim. It is lightweight, and its AAA batteries come with it. But perhaps most importantly, since this radar gun first hit the market in 2014, reviews about its accuracy have been for the most part positive, especially compared against other types of compact (e.g. small) baseball radar guns.
- Size: 4.6 x 0.8 x 2.3 inches
- Weight: 4 oz.
- Power: AAA batteries (included)
- Launched: March 2014
- Manufacturer: Pocket Radar, Inc.
- Not compatible with the Pocket Radar App
What We Like:
- Accuracy (company calls it “Pro-Level Accuracy,” to within +/- 1 mph)
- Measures from 25 mph to 130 mph, and from up to 120 feet away
- Small size and light in weight
- Track record over several years already
Not So Much:
- Upper-level in the price range
2. Best Pocket Radar Gun for Data-Tracking ~ Pocket Radar Smart Coach
You really could swap our top 2 choices here. The Pocket Radar Smart Coach is essentially the same as the pocket radar gun noted above, just tack on about $100 more (depending on the retailer) for compatibility with the Smart Coach App System, a rather unique element in this field. Really, this is ranked No. 2 because it is for much more advanced baseball play.
You can note what we like about this model below, but let’s talk about what you really want to know: what’s up with the app? Basically linking this pocket radar gun with the app allows videos to be captured with the speed of each file embedded. This gives coaches working together a variety of options to deeply get into judging pitchers.
As you can imagine, not every coach will be savvy enough, both in terms of technology as well as in baseball knowledge, to take full advantage of the app features. Still, at the more advanced levels of baseball play, imagine sharing video clips of pitchers (and their velocities) with other coaches, or scouts ~ or even post them to social media platforms to boost visibility among recruiters!
- Size: 4.5 x 2.25 x 0.75 inches
- Weight: 4.5 oz.
- Power: 2 AAA batteries (included)
- Launched: November 2019
- Manufacturer: Pocket Radar Inc.
- Compatible with the Pocket Radar App (available on iOS and Android systems)
What We Like:
- Light weight, easy to handle
- 2 year manufacturer’s warranty
- Remote control with app
- Ability to export data in .csv files
Not So Much:
- About as high in the price range as you’ll find for this product.
3. Best Pocket Radar Gun for Starting Players ~ NetPlayz Smart Pro Personal Baseball Speed Radar
Among all the new compact models replacing the old lunky radar guns, the Smart Pro Personal Baseball Speed Radar by NetPlayz might be the most affordable for the service provided. Coaches of younger players might appreciate having something like this to start out with, to use while their little ones are deciding whether or not to play further on.
The key advantage with this speed gun model is its ability for a pitcher, while alone, to monitor his or her velocity ~ no need for a 2nd person to stand behind the target continuously. The good news is a pitcher can work out alone without the need for a 2nd person to be present. The bad news is, a young pitcher can throw without another person there to tell him or her when to stop.
This product has a few features that new coaches may find neat, like a wide angle that allows readings ranging from 3 to 150 mph. A recall feature to display the last 10 speeds recorded, whether for pitched, thrown, or struck balls. The manufacturer doesn’t provide many specs, so here, we’ll list what it has as best as we could ascertain.
- LED display
- Voice notification (announces speed, helpful when pitcher works out alone)
- Tuning fork and silicone hammer to help maintain accuracy of measurements
- Carrying case
- Flannel storage bag
What We Like:
- Mid-range price
- Great range of speed readings
- Case and bag for ease of transport and storage
- Tripod for angle options
Not So Much:
- The hands-free feature could result in kids overthrowing without an adult nearby to stop it
4. Best Pocket Radar Gun for Versatility ~ NetPlayz Smart Baseball Trainer Combo
Not all pocket radar guns are specific to pitching, or even to just baseball. The Smart Baseball Trainer Combo with 1 Set Sport Radar (learn more), another radar gun option by NetPlayz, is a good example of the potential for radar-gun use for other baseball moves, or to judge ball (or puck) speeds in other sports. Haven’t you ever wondered just how fast your tennis serve travels? (Okay, maybe not everybody, but it would be cool to know).
A key to this product is its aim to provide measurements of average speeds of balls or items coming at it. How that works, we don’t quite know, but NetPlayz plays it up, and offers tips up front to use the product best by setting it in a direct line with the thrower. (As with the product noted above, this can be used by a single person alone).
Compared with the radar gun above, this one claims to measure speeds from 0 to 150 mph. We’re not sure why anything over 120 mph is even needed for the fastest-traveling sports items, like tennis balls and hockey pucks. But at this price, it might be worthwhile to find out.
- Large LED display (to see from a distance if using alone)
- Measures average speed from objective to radar
- Can be used by a single person with no assistance
- Hands-free speed measurement up to 150mph
- Launched: December 2018
What We Like:
- Moderately low-priced
- Range of speed measurements
- Wide range for potential use with sports away from baseball.
Not So Much:
- Lack of information about accuracy.
5. Best Pocket Radar Gun for Price ~ SKLZ Bullet Ball Baseball Pitching Speed Sensor
Think of the SKLZ Bullet Ball Baseball Pitching Speed Sensor as the Franklin tee-ball baseball glove of radar guns. That is, as affordable as possible while the little ballplayer decides whether or not to keep playing, as a sort-of temporary placeholder before purchasing the real leather versions.
In theory this is a neat idea: to have a ball to throw that itself provides velocity readings. It avoids needing a second person, or having to personally set up a radar, on your own. Just throw and read. Right?
Note that for the age range, SKLZ marks the product it calls Bullet Ball as “adult.” Actually for any radar gun it is imperative that the instructions are read in full, and completely, before use. Radar guns can be touchy, and often need adjustments. That this radar is built into an object that will be tossed around, well … hopefully new parents or new coaches can find a use for it!
- Weight: 4.94 oz. (roughly the weight of a standard baseball)
- Size: 9-inch circumference (ditto with baseball size)
- Measurement range: up to 120 mph
- Distances: adjusts from 46 feet to 60-feet, 6-inches.
- Power: LR-41 mercury battery included (replaceable)
- Launched: October 2009
- Manufacturer: SKLZ
What We Like
- Low price
- Range of speed measurements
- Sized well to mimic a baseball
- Different approach to radar gunning; seems easier to use for players.
Not So Much
- Curious about accuracy, and durability.
Final Thoughts on Pocket Radar Guns
The days where you have to point a space-age-looking, gun-like contraption at pitchers to gauge throwing velocity are passing, as manufacturers now produce smaller versions, some mimicking the smartphones that have been all the rage for a decade now.
To date, manufacturers seem to have figured out the high and low ends of prices for what are known as pocket radar guns; but it seems a gap still needs to be filled for the middle range. Still, anyone looking to monitor pitch velocities as part of a pitching improvement effort now have enough choices to make the move away from the bulky radar guns of yesteryears, into the modern era of pitch-watching.