You have trekked for miles and sat glassing for hours and finally spotted the perfect target. But how far are you from it? Is it in your shooting range? And what about bullet drop compensation and wind conditions? A rangefinder is a crucial tool for hunting. This little device calculates precisely how far you are from the animal that you have in your sights so that you can find it through your rifle scope and prepare the perfect shot.
What is a rangefinder?
A rangefinder takes the guessing out of establishing how far you are from the animal you plan to shoot. Hunters point this device at a target. The rangefinder then calculates the accurate distance between the animal and the hunter, making the calculations involved in setting up the best shot easier, quicker, and more convenient.
Most rangefinders work with laser technology. The laser is triggered by pushing a button once you have set your aiming point on your target. The laser beam shines towards your target (called the reflective target), bounces off it, and returns to the rangefinder. The laser calculates the distance based on the time it takes for the beam to reach your target and return to the rangefinder. The rangefinder then divides this total distance by two to give you a reading of how far you are from your target. The range is subsequently displayed on the rangefinder’s screen.
Some laser rangefinders have added features like wind factor prediction and bullet drop compensation. The general recommendation is to get the best rangefinder that you can find in your price range. These rangefinders are likely to have more features and come with better warranties.
Different Kinds of Rangefinders
You get different rangefinders for different purposes. Laser range finders are usually divided into two categories: first priority rangefinders and second priority rangefinders. First priority rangefinders disregard objects in the background like brush, trees, and mounds. These rangefinders find the closest target and are usually used by golfers. Because agolf rangefinders often only focus on nearby targets, they are not always ideal for hunting.
Second priority rangefinders disregard objects in the foreground to focus on targets that are further away. This is the standard setting for hunting rangefinders.
Rangefinders that are accurate to 1,000 yards or even a mile are good to have when you do a lot of rifle hunting in open country. Some bowhunters may prefer rangefinders that have added features but offer a shorter range.
If you do a combination of rifle hunting in open country and bowhunting, a rangefinder that can range out to around 600 to 800 yards could work well. In this case, a rangefinder that gives you a combination of first and second priority ranging will also be a good choice.
Features to Look For in a Rangefinder
Laser rangefinders come with a range of features. Although each feature brings its own pros to the table, having too many may make the product difficult and impractical to use. The features you look for in a rangefinder depend on what kind of hunting you will be doing. Still, accuracy is above all else.
Maximum range finding distance.
Many rangefinders can provide accurate readings of GPS yardages further than you would actually be shooting at for big game. Some could calculate accurate yardages up to a mile or further. Rangefinders with a maximum distance of fewer than 1000 yards are referred to as short-range. On the other hand, rangefinders that are accurate over 1000 yards are long-range.
The purpose of a rangefinder is to calculate the distance between you and your target. Thus, you don’t need one with a range further than what you will be shooting.
If you usually shoot within ranges below 1000 yards, there is no need for a long-range rangefinder. In fact, most rangefinders are accurate at around 300 or 400 yards. On the other hand, hunters who mostly shoot long ranges will want to have a long-distance rangefinder.
The magnification feature of a rangefinder magnifies the target so that you can see it easier. For example, a rangefinder that offers 6x magnification shows an animal six times larger than you would see with the naked eye. This makes it easier to put the aiming point on the animal.
Most rangefinders have 6 and 7x magnification. The longer the range that you will be shooting from, the more magnification you will need. Having said that, rangefinders with higher magnification have a smaller field of view.
Higher magnification may not be necessary if you have better quality optics. These rangefinders often have a larger lens diameter and multiple lens coatings.
The reticle or aiming point.
The reticle is a mark that you see when looking through a rangefinder. This mark is set on the target in order to measure its distance from you. Different reticles address different situations that you may encounter while out hunting. Some reticles are better at aiming at specific animals, incorporate bullet drop compensation, and even consider wind conditions. Other reticles illuminate to make night-time hunting or hunting in low light easier.
The lens coating of a rangefinder encourages light transmission through the lens. It also softens the glare. These features make it easier to see through the rangefinder, find and set your target to get an accurate range reading.
Size and weight.
Rangefinders come in a variety of sizes. Smaller rangefinders are easier to pack and carry with you without adding too much weight or bulk to your gear. While these rangefinders are convenient to pack, they also need to be easy to use. A rangefinder that is either too small or too large to fit comfortably in your hand could be awkward to use. This could mean that you may struggle to hold the reticle steady on the animal while trying to press the button that deploys the laser beam.
Most rangefinders have LCD-displays. Some rangefinder displays are located on the side of the body of the unit. Other rangefinders have an in-view feature. In this case, the range is displayed on a screen set inside the unit. You can view this when you look through the rangefinder as you would through a scope or pair of binoculars.
Some rangefinders offer the option to have the range displayed in red. This makes it easier to see the range, even in low-light settings.
Another thing to consider with regards to a rangefinder’s display is eye relief. This refers to how far you can hold the rangefinder away from your eye while still seeing the complete image on display. Greater eye reliefs are particularly important for hunters who wear glasses. The general recommendation for eye relief distances for hunting rangefinders is between 15mm and 17mm.
Some rangefinders offer a scan mode. This mode constantly updates the range of an animal while the animal is moving around. This feature will stay activated as long as the reticle is set on the animal while you are pressing the laser button. This feature takes any guesswork out of setting up for a shot as you are always working off of accurate readings.
This may not be the first thing that comes to mind about a rangefinder, but it is an important feature. A rangefinder that is compact, lightweight, and durable is vital. You will be carrying your rangefinder with you on your hunting trips. Smaller rangefinders are convenient to slip into the pockets of your pack or attach to a magnetic mount. Because your rangefinder will be out in the field with you, it needs to be durable and able to take some impact. You are prone to drop your range finder on at least one of your hunting trips. A rangefinder with a metal or rubber casing and is waterproof works ideal for hunting trips – especially for days when you are caught in the rain. Having a waterproof rangefinder will weather most storms – and possibly an accidental swim when that stream crossing hasn’t gone quite as planned.
Camouflage rangefinders or rangefinders with a matt finish are less likely to reflect the light of the sun. That makes these rangefinders ideal for preventing game from being scared by unavoidable reflections of light. This is especially important when you do close-range hunting.
A rangefinder is a vital piece of hunting equipment. It could make the difference between successfully making the shot and going home empty-handed. Perhaps the most essential features in a rangefinder are the maximum distance that it can take an accurate measurement of and whether the rangefinder is first or second priority. The options that you will choose for these features greatly depend on whether you are more likely to do long or short-range hunting.
Rangefinder technology has improved over the years to include features like bullet drop compensation and taking wind conditions into consideration. Other features include scan mode that enables you to easily measure the fluctuating range of a moving animal.