Firn compaction models inform mass-balance estimates and paleo-climate reconstructions, but current models introduce key uncertainties. For example, models disagree on the dependence of density and compaction on accumulation rate. Observations of compaction to test these models are rare, partly because in situ methods for measuring englacial strain are time-consuming and expensive. Moreover, shallow measurements may confound strain due to compaction with strain due to ice-sheet flow. We show that phase-sensitive radio-echo sounder (pRES) systems, typically deployed to measure sub-shelf melting or ice-sheet deformation, can be used to measure firn compaction and test firn models. We present two complementary methods for extracting compaction information from pRES data, along with a method for comparing compaction models to pRES observations. The methods make different assumptions about the density structure and vary in their need for independent density measurements. Compaction profiles computed from pRES data collected on three ice rises in West Antarctica are largely consistent with measured densities and a physics-based model. With their minimal logistic requirements, new pRES systems, such as autonomous pRES, could be inexpensively deployed to monitor firn compaction more widely. Existing phase-sensitive radar data may contain compaction information even when surveys targeted other processes.