Rangefinder Basics

At the press of a button, rangefinders bounce a laser beam off your target. An internal clock measures the time it takes for the beam to reach the target and back and calculates the distance to within +/- 1 yard or less. The range is then displayed in yards/meters on an internal LCD display in less than a second

If you’re a serious whitetail hunter, you probably already own a laser rangefinder. If you do not, you need to put one on the top of your wish list.

It doesn’t matter if you hunt with a bow, rifle or muzzleloader, a laser rangefinder will make you a better deer hunter above and beyond telling you how far away the target is. In terms of technology, today’s laser rangefinders are light years ahead of the units available even five years ago. Contemporary units are much more rugged, use far less battery power and can withstand more physical and environmental abuse.

There is more to using a laser rangefinder than meets the eye. Here are some different modes and quick tips on how to get the most out of yours.

Angle Compensating:crosshairs

First, never buy a unit without an angle-compensating feature that helps tell you the distance to aim for, not the line-of-sight distance to the target. Each manufacturer has its own name for it, but many models have this feature that provides the true horizontal distance, compensating for variations in terrain and angle. Long uphill/downhill shots or at extreme degrees of incline/decline can have a significant impact because the distance to your target is actually less than on level ground, lessening gravity’s impact on your bullet or arrow. Some rifle models will even provide ballistics compensation by displaying the bullet drop or holdover adjustment required.

Scan Mode

Scan mode is a useful mode found on most laser rangefinders. Simply hold down the button as you pan back and forth across the landscape and readings will change as you pass various targets. It’s a useful feature to get the lay of the land and it can also be used to note distance changes on a moving target.

Brush, Zip mode, Distant Target Priorityreticle

This is actually a filter that tells the LRF to ignore intervening brush between you and your target. In other words, the LRF seeks to target the more distant objects that you want to see. This is a must-have feature for hunters who frequently have to deal with objects between them and their target. For many hunting laser rangefinders, this is typically the default mode.

If you are an experienced hunter or target shooter, you know that your bullet begins to drop as soon as it leaves the muzzle. Just how much of a drop occurs at any given range will depend on your cartridge, your load used and how you zero your gun. LRFs with a ballistic program will help you determine how much hold over or hold under to use for a given distance with your cartridge. Be warned, though, that these models can be quite complex and you will need to spend a lot of time learning how to program and use the ballistic mode before you head out in the field. For the technically inclined hunter this is a very useful tools.

Many models and brands are available at different price points to fit a variety of budgets.

Many units today also give you the ability to focus the eyepiece, something not possible several years ago. Even if your eyesight is 20-20, this is a valuable feature.

Easy Modificationsrangefinder2

The first thing I do is pad my entire rangefinder with stick-on moleskin, then wrap the whole thing again with the same tape hockey players use to wrap their sticks.

Hockey tape is sort of like duct tape, but it remains flexible when temperatures go below freezing. This wrapping helps protect the unit. It also helps muffle any inadvertent clunks or clanks should you accidentally bump it on something hard, such as a release aid or tree stand railing.

When I’m bow-hunting, I wear my rangefinder on a long cord looped over my neck and under my right armpit. It hangs about belt level, which means I can tuck it into a coat pocket. This makes it easy for me to quickly grab the rangefinder without looking at it, focus on an approaching deer, and let it drop out of the way while I hook up my release and turn an arrow loose.

However you choose to wear it, put some thought into how you will use it. Make sure you have a way to easily access and put it away so you can shoot quickly.

This tip sounds simple, but it’s often overlooked: Always have a spare battery. What good is a rangefinder if you can’t use it?

One time I was changing my battery in a tree stand when I dropped the battery compartment cover to the ground. It was gone forever.

To keep my unit functioning, I placed a small wad of aluminum foil on top of the battery and held it in place with duct tape. When I got home, I called the company, and they sent me a new cover.

For spot-and-stalk hunting in open country, rangefinders perform another valuable function. It’s not uncommon to see a buck you want to stalk and wonder, “How far do I have to go to get in range?” First, take a reading off the buck. Then take a reading off a rock, bush, tree or the lip of a gully between you and the deer. Subtract that reading from the deer and you can choose your destination point.

Don’t Make It a Crutch

Of course, don’t become too reliant on a rangefinder. It is often not possible to use your rangefinder when a deer sneaks up on you.

That means you need to be able to “eyeball” the range. I use my rangefinder to train myself to do this.

One of my favorite drills is to “stump shoot” using a judo or bludgeon-type point. While walking around, I pick out a tuft of grass, leaf or some other soft target and shoot at it without using my rangefinder. After the shot, I take a range reading that tells me how close I was at guessing the exact range.

I do the same out of my tree stands, often shooting one practice arrow into the ground before getting down after a morning shift.


Source Article from http://www.alloutdoor.com/2014/09/16/rangefinder-basics/

Charles is the editor for 248 Shooter a midwest based gun news and gear review site as well as Online Content Director for On Target Magazine. He is an avid student taking classes from top tier trainers around the country. Charles shares his love for training as well as experience and opinions on some of the most talked about gear and products used by competitive shooters, military, leo and civilians.