When you’re looking to buy your first rangefinder, there are many different things to consider. Each range finder has its own weight, dimensions, feel in your hand, optics, magnification and so many other different things. How can you tell which ones matter, and if they all matter, how do you decide which things are most important when picking out a rangefinder?
I had these same questions when I was looking for a new rangefinder, so I looked around and after a lot of research, here are the 3 most important things to look at when buying a new rangefinder or replacing your old rangefinder.
Laser rangefinders serve a very specific purpose; to determine target distance. The type of target you are sighting is the most important aspect to consider when choosing a laser rangefinder. Other considerations should be made for the type of situation you’ll be in and personal preferences. For example, if you plan to hunt at night or dusk, you will require a rangefinder with an illuminated reticle to accurately sight your target.
Hunting vs. Golf Laser Rangefinders
There are two main types of laser rangefinders; those made for golf and those designed for hunting. The main difference between a golf rangefinder and a hunting rangefinder is something called priority mode. A golf rangefinder is a Priority One rangefinder and picks up distance on the first available target, making it best for measuring distance in a wide open space, where you aren’t concealed in trees or bushes. Hunting rangefinders, on other hand, are Priority Two which means they will ignore the first or any interfering objects and focus on/measure the distance from the object you are pointing at, making them much more beneficial while you are out in the field.
You want to be sure to select a rangefinder with a suitable range for your particular needs. One thing to be aware of is that the advertised maximum distance is measured under ideal conditions. If you want a rangefinder with a maximum distance of 800 yards, it would be a good idea to purchase one with a 1200-yard maximum to allow for overcast conditions or other unfavorable lighting issues. On most rangefinders, the maximum distance for that particular model will be referenced in the product title.
The quality of the optical glass should be a serious consideration when purchasing a rangefinder as it will dramatically impact the quality of your view. High-quality glass and special coatings can be expensive but quality optics are a critical feature for hunting rangefinders because hunters need to clearly identify their targets. A rangefinder with high-quality optics will produce brighter, crisper, and less distorted images and are what separates mediocre rangefinders from high-end rangefinders.
The magnification power refers to how many times closer the object will appear through the rangefinder than with the naked eye. For example, 6x magnification means the object will appear 6 times closer looking through the rangefinder than without it. Most laser rangefinders meet or exceed the 6x or 7x magnification level and will work just fine for most uses. The magnification does not play as important of a role as the maximum distance when choosing a rangefinder. But magnification does make it easier for you to see the target and can allow your rangefinder to double as a binocular in the field.
A reticle is an aiming point, or the set of crosshairs you see when you look through the rangefinder. Reticles can vary by brand and model. Some crosshairs will be black, which can be tough to distinguish if you are in a low light situation or have a dark background. Other rangefinders will illuminate the reticle to accomodate low light and make it easier to pinpoint the target. The downside to illuminated reticles is that they can be washed out in bright light conditions.
Those are the things that we think are most important when buying a rangefinder. In addition to the optics, reticles and the proper type we strongly suggest you determine what kind of rangefinder you need. There are lots of rangefinders with lots of different functionality, so you can save some cash by getting only the features that you need.
If you’re looking for more information on rangefinders, check the full guide from Eric.