A rangefinder could be a useful tool for your next hunting trip. As there are many options on the market, each with their own set of pros and cons, it can be tricky to identify what’s best for your needs. Keep in mind, not all rangefinders were created equal.
It is always beneficial to make an informed decision; in this post, we will review rangefinder basics, and what to consider when buying one of your own.
What is a Rangefinder?
Rangefinders operate as a type of monocular fit with a laser that can be pinpointed onto a target. Rangefinders measure the time it takes for the laser to reach the object and return, which allows the hunter to judge the distance between himself and the target.
As you can imagine, this means rangefinders aren’t very efficient in foggy conditions, or in situations where the target isn’t very reflective. Every laser rangefinder features a target reticule, which helps you pinpoint the target.
Some rangefinders use LCD displays that superimpose black lines over the target. Although helpful, it will be a bit harder to distinguish between objects in low light conditions.
Other rangefinders use LEDs to supplement vision. While most LEDs are adjustable, they tend to get washed out in very light conditions making them nearly useless. Using an LED rangefinder can also really hamper your night vision if your eyes have adjusted to low light conditions.
It’s important to keep the obstruction of view in mind, as it will carry over to anything else that appears on the screen. An LCD display with a backlight will allow you to hunt in all light conditions.
The size and weight of all your equipment will have a big impact on your hunting experience. It’s vital to bring enough to be adequately prepared, but too much weight can wear you out, and make you less agile. This means a lightweight and compact rangefinder is likely the best choice.
Rangefinders are typically either set to be in first priority mode or second priority mode.
First priority mode is commonly used for golfers, as it finds the first object in sight and disregards farther objects. This is ideal for an open area (like a golf course) where the unobstructed view allows you to flag the target with pinpoint accuracy.
Second priority mode, on the other hand, is better for hunting, as it disregards closer objects to range more distant ones. This means that any foliage that lies between you and the quarry will be ignored, and the rangefinder will focus on the target instead.
There are rangefinders on the market that allow you to switch between the two modes, utilizing each of them at the appropriate time.
Rangefinders are usually marketed to highlight the maximum distance they reliably range a target. Keep in mind, though, that this distance is often only obtainable under perfectly optimal conditions. Take some advertisements with a grain of salt.
It’s also important to consider how waves from the sun, glare off of snow, and air pollution could all contribute to your rangefinder being impaired. Consequently, a game animal can typically only be successfully ranged at one third or one half of the distance that was advertised for the rangefinder.
Some models of laser rangefinders come equipped with magnification capability, which means they effectively function in the same way as a common set of binoculars. It’s important to note, however, that this doesn’t extend the potential range of the rangefinder. This feature only works to magnify small objects in order to make the ranging process feel a bit more streamlined.Since magnification won’t work if your lens is cloudy or foggy, companies often also offer updated lenses to enhance the ranging experience.
In addition to first priority or second priority mode, rangefinders also come in either horizontal mode or scan mode.
Horizontal mode is useful in mountainous regions. This feature uses trigonometry to factor in elevation changes when ranging so you can range uphill or downhill.
Scan mode allows the hunter to “scan” back and forth over a ranging area in order to look for multiple targets at the same time.
With these rangefinder basics in mind, we are going to take a look at a few rangefinder options and evaluate pros and cons to help you make a more informed purchase.
SIMMONS RANGEFINDER VOLT 600
The Simmons Volt 600 uses an LCD display that can range between 10 and 600 yards. In much the same way as their rifle scopes, Simmons uses state-of-the-art technology to get the job done.
This option is totally weather proof, making it durable and useful in any conditions. The simple design doesn’t have as much advanced technology in its components, but as a result, is reasonably priced.
NIKON ACULON LASER RANGEFINDER
Similarly to Simmons, Nikon is known for both its superb rifle scopes as well as rangefinders. Nikon produces many rangefinders, but the Aculon proves to be their most representative product at a reasonable price.
The Aculon is the smallest rangefinder on this list, meaning its easy to pack and saves space for other priority items. The owners manual for this rangefinder claims accuracy up to 550 yards, but some have claimed it remains accurate up to 650 yards. The optics are all multi-layer coated providing an optimal viewing experience.
The Aculon also has a clear and easy to read LCD display, as well as a one button operation. The simplicity of the product gives you more support to focus on catching the quarry and spend less time adjusting the rangefinder. The Aculon is waterproof and rainproof and is affordable even for those on a budget.
WILDGAME INNOVATIONS HALO XRT LASER RANGEFINDER
The Halo XRT rangefinder is a multipurpose tool that is great for the golfer and the hunter alike. This rangefinder has gained popularity for its ergonomic design and can range up to about 500 yards with a 6x magnification level. It has a built-in scan mode which makes it ideal for hunters who are constantly on the move. This rangefinder is also completely waterproof.
As mentioned above, hunters swear by the ergonomic design of this rangefinder. Not only does it have a gripped hold, but it includes finger indentations that make it even easier and pleasant to use. It’s priced surprisingly well, which is a nice bonus.
BUSHNELL MICHAEL WADDELL BONE COLLECTOR CAMO VERSION
This simple, lightweight rangefinder is ideal for hunting. It can target at up to 600 yards and has a 4x magnification. What sets this rangefinder apart is that it’s both rainproof and has a frame that is much sturdier than many other rangefinders on the market. The durability of this rangefinder can withstand the inevitable knocks and bumps of an extended hunting trip.
Another great feature of the Michael Waddell Bone Collector is that it performs well even in low light conditions. This will help you squeeze out every last bit of light in your hunting excursion. Although relatively new to the market, it’s become a quick favorite in the hunting world.
While this list isn’t exhaustive, it should give you an idea as to what to look for in a rangefinder. All rangefinders are not of identical quality, so it’s best to shop around and compare specs before you buy.