For many hunters, colder weather means hunting season is about to heat up. Many hunters rely on rangefinders to help make their trips more successful. Understanding the basics of rangefinder functionality is the key to finding a model that meets your needs without breaking the bank. Below, we’ll take a look at the main factors that define rangefinders along with some bells and whistles that might appeal to you, though some of these bells and whistles could mean your rangefinder comes in at the higher end of the few-hundred to over-a-thousand price range.
Range is the distance you have to be from a potential target before it comes into view. Generally, rangefinders advertise maximum ranges of 500 to 1,500 feet, though some do go higher. Obviously, the type of hunting you typically do will determine what your max range needs to be in order to make the rangefinder worth the money.
Paying more money for a model with a longer maximum range doesn’t do you much good if the rangefinder isn’t accurate for the max distance. Does it really help to have a rangefinder with a max stated range of 1,500 feet if any targets at that distance could be several yards closer or farther away than you think they are? It’s no secret that even a well-guided shot is useless if it goes over your target’s head or lands a few feet short.
Once you find a model that’s accurate at the ideal range to meet your needs, finding the clearest view is the next step. Simply put, greater clarity means you’ll have the most detailed view possible of any target in range. Spooking a deer with a shot that misses altogether is bad; hitting a deer but only wounding it before it runs away might be even worse. The clearest view you can get gives you the best chance of lining up a perfect kill shot.
The next feature that’s important to factor in, and one that many overlook, is how a prospective rangefinder handles ambient light. Some models are designed to work best in full-daylight conditions, some are best for dimmer light (such as in deep woods or at dusk or dawn) or full-dark conditions, while others work great in whiteout-type situations. Higher-end models can handle multiple lighting conditions adequately. Make sure that you find a model that will fit your lighting needs.
Style and size
If you opt for a rangefinder and scope in one, you’ll be able to mount it to your rifle the same way as a scope-only device. Be sure you know what size or type of mountable rangefinder your rifle will accommodate. Some rangefinder scopes come with a mounting kit, but some don’t. Mounting the unit is generally a DIY project for most, but if you’re not comfortable mounting it yourself, a gunsmith can do it for you.
If you choose a non-mountable rangefinder, the size and weight of the unit are important. Larger models might require a tripod or be large enough and heavy enough to be too cumbersome for many hunters. If a model is too small, though, fishing it out of a gear bag or pocket with cold or gloved hands could be problematic, too.
If you plan on spending time hunting in rainy or snowy conditions, be sure to look for a rangefinder that is water resistant, or even waterproof.
Some rangefinders are able to make calculations based on current wind direction and speed, which can come in handy since a strong wind can definitely affect your trajectory.
There are rangefinders that can compensate for the angle of elevation between you and your target, another convenience since you’re rarely exactly level with your intended prey.
Ballistics compensation features allow hunters to enter basic data about the ammo being used. The rangefinder can then use this info to adjust calculations. This is an advanced feature usually found on higher-end models, but many hunters are interested in every possible advantage they can get.
Having the right rangefinder can mean the difference between one perfect shot and the one that got away. If you’re a newbie hunter, it’s a must to search for the best rangefinder for beginners online, before you look into tips on how to get a better viewing angle when hunting and the like.