Skip to main content Skip to main content

How to Pick the Right Rangefinder

Here are critical qualities to consider if you're in the market for a rangefinder.

How to Pick the Right Rangefinder
Shutterstock graphic

Knowing the specific distance to a target is one of the best ways to improve your rifle accuracy. But the instrument to do that—a laser rangefinder—is a significant investment, costing $500 or more depending on the brand and the capabilities of a specific model. Here are some things to consider before buying.

RANGE

Most units highlight their ability to range targets at extreme distances, but those distances are generally maximum yardage on highly reflective targets, like billboards or metal roofs. When you test a laser rangefinder at a retail counter, ask to take a test unit outdoors and range various targets in all light conditions. See how far you can get range readings on a deer-sized object with various surfaces. Try ranging a moving car or a deer-sized bush. Range targets in full sunlight but also those obscured by shade.

Find the best day and time to hunt in your zip code

TARGETING OPTIONS

Most hunting rangefinders are calibrated to find the second-priority image in any given targeting situation. That’s different from golf rangefinders, which use a first-priority image system. What’s the difference? First-target systems are used for very evident targets that aren’t obscured by laser-reflecting debris. Think of a golf flag on a green. But hunters are often trying to find targets obscured by limbs or grass. That’s why you want a unit that sends the distance to the second targets it reads.

DIGITAL DISPLAY

In addition to the glass inside the unit, the type and performance of the display is also a point of differentiation between brands. Some units display range and other information in liquid crystal display (LCD). Others use light-emitting displays (LED) that adjust for brightness. Also consider eye relief, field of view and the ergonomics of the unit, as well as the style and design of the reticle, or the specific aiming point that you use to range objects.


Click to subscribe to Game & Fish Magazine

ANGLE-COMPENSATING FEATURES

Many rangefinders are built to display line-of-sight distances but also angle-compensating distances, the difference being that when it comes to ballistics, a bullet (or arrow) can be closer depending on the steepness of the angle from the gun or bow. Many rangefinders use what’s called the “Rifleman’s Rule,” or simple Pythagorean geometry, to determine the angle-adjusted difference. But it’s worth paying more for angle compensation based on ballistics data, which has a much higher degree of precision and can be matched to the specific weight and velocity of your projectile, which are loaded into the on-board processor.


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Popular Videos

The Modern Air Rifle: Air Archery with the Umarex AirSaber

The Modern Air Rifle: Air Archery with the Umarex AirSaber

The big brother to the AirJavelin, the Umarex AirSaber uses high-pressure air to zip a 350-grain arrow at velocities up to 480 feet per second. That's more than enough to hunt big game or predators and it's accurate out to 70 yards. So, if you're looking for a tool to have fun with and/or hunt with, check out the Umarex AirSaber.

Trigger Time

Trigger Time

If there is one thing that can make a hunter a better shooter, it's a better trigger. Triggers with heavy pull weights, and excessive creep and overtravel can ruin a shot—and a day—in the deer woods. The Lupo's trigger is designed to help hunters place their shots accurately. Let's look at the details on episode nine of Beyond the Rifle.

Beyond the Bait: Use Spinnerbaits for Aggressive Smallmouth

Beyond the Bait: Use Spinnerbaits for Aggressive Smallmouth

If you're looking for a fun way to find aggressive smallmouths, throw a spinnerbait. In this episode of Beyond the Bait, we'll look at how quickly—and effectively—spinnerbaits can cover water, as well as go over the factors in choosing blade style and bait color to produce smashing smallmouth strikes.

See All Videos

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now