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Hunting Rangefinders | Optics Trade Debates

Hello and welcome to another episode of Optics Trade Debates. Today we’re here to discuss a whole category of products and to outline the most common features of hunting rangefinders.

Let’s first define laser rangefinders. They are small monoculars with an integrated laser system that is used to measure the distance. There are a few different subcategories of rangefinders, primarily denoting their specialized use.

Hunting rangefinders tend to be really small and compact. They are usually waterproof and fogproof, filled with dry nitrogen or argon. Their ballistic software that allows hunters for long-range shooting and as such, hunting rangefinders are also a good product option for shooters.

There are 3 tiers of hunting rangefinders. In the first tier are the most affordable laser rangefinders that can only give the line of sight, meaning the distance to the target without providing any benefits of a ballistic software.

The second-tier devices also provide the equivalent horizontal range. That means the horizontal component of the distance, which comes in handy when the user is aiming the device at an angle, either downward or upward. Let’s say that the line of sight is 300 metres, the equivalent horizontal range might be only 220 if the angle is steep enough. This can be especially useful when hunting in mountains. It’s only the horizontal component of the distance that matters when needing to apply the proper bullet-drop compensation, either through the reticle or on the clicks. Some of the second-tier models will also correct the equivalent horizontal range with additional factors to provide you with an even more accurate distance for the ballistic calculations.

The third-tier devices, like the Leica Rangemaster CRF 2700-B or Sig Sauer Kilo 2400 ABS, allow you to input the real ballistic data into the device. The third-tier device won’t just provide you with the equivalent horizontal range but will give the user the exact number of clicks they need to apply. Such devices with a really advanced ballistic software also take into consideration numerous important factors like air pressure, altitude, air temperature and even moisture. So, they basically take into account all the intricate elements, the angle and the distance, providing the user with the exact number of clicks that have to be dialled for a direct hit.

Nowadays, the advanced models already allow the user to sync their smartphone with the laser rangefinder. That means they receive all the ballistic data and detailed readings available with a blink of an eye. As of 2018, brands like Leica and Sig Sauer offer these premium models in the price range of 800-1000 euros.

To sum up these categories, the first-tier offers only the line of sight with no software, the second-tier includes basic software and the equivalent horizontal range, while the final third-tier offers an advanced ballistic software, all the distance measurements, the equivalent horizontal range and takes into account all possible elements present.

Let’s talk first target and distant target priority modes. With hunting laser rangefinders, the first target priority mode is the one that you need – and quite desperately, at that. Let’s say that the target, a red deer for example, stands in front of a forest or a hill. The hunter needs to measure the distance to the animal and all other elements in the background are irrelevant. Virtually all hunting rangefinder devices above the 400-euro price mark come with this feature.  

Another, perhaps less crucial but still practical, feature of hunting rangefinders is the scan mode. It is activated by holding down the measuring button and it means that the rangefinder device provides a continuous reading of the distance while in motion. This is especially practical if the tracked animal is moving or the hunter is interested in the distance of backdrop elements.

Some of the older hunting rangefinders models also featured the rain mode, ensuring that the fact that the laser beam was directed through rain droplets was taken into account. However, this is no longer necessary as all contemporary models have this mode built-in and devices automatically detect any weather changes without the user’s input needed.

Note that the more affordable hunting rangefinders available on the market have a small delay that occurs between the moments of the user clicking on the measuring button and the display of the readings. This delay is usually no more than one or half a second but can be very frustrating in practice.

There are also obvious differences in the quality of optics. Without even focusing on the laser system itself, the readings made in a low light environment will be infinitely better when performed with a quality device.

Last but not least, let’s talk about the physical characteristics of hunting rangefinders. They are usually small and compact, with a rubberized case that allows hunting rangefinders to withstand considerable stress. Their size ensures that they are able to fit in every pocket and since they come in standard, inconspicuous colours like black and army green, they are perfect for use in natural environments like forests or mountains.

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Products mentioned:

Hunting rangefinders



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