The best rangefinder
A rangefinder is a simple tool designed to help you find the distance between yourself and an object. This can be used for golf, hunting, and a variety of other outdoor activities and tasks. The quality of a rangefinder is determined by a combination of its lens and the rangefinder itself. There are three types of rangefinders (outlined below), each of which have their benefits and drawbacks. Our top recommendation by Vortex has excellent range and is reliable even in inclement weather. To learn more about the varieties of rangefinders available, continue reading our buying guide.
Considerations when choosing rangefinders
Rangefinders come in three varieties: optical, ultrasonic, and laser.
Optical rangefinders date back more than a century, though they remain popular today. These use two lenses to create two images. By overlapping the images with a dial, you can measure with reasonable accuracy.
Ultrasonic rangefinders send out a small sound wave and track how long it takes to return to the rangefinder. While these can be accurate, they may be impacted by other sounds.
Laser rangefinders work similarly to ultrasonic models but use light instead, sending a visible or invisible beam of light to the target and measuring its time to return. While these rangefinders require clear conditions, they can measure at great distances with extreme accuracy. As a result, they are the most popular option.
A reliable rangefinder should combine high-quality optics, a comfortable and durable build, accurate readings, and a good digital reticle, the fine visible markings built into the eyepiece that provide visual reference.
Optics are the part of a rangefinder, usually just a single lens, that give you a crisp view of your target. Whether you are golfing or hunting, this is a crucial aspect of your rangefinder. Some models may have anti-reflective coatings to help you find your target in bright conditions. Others may have a zoom function, which can help you locate your target but also amplifies your own movements.
Build quality determines not only how long a rangefinder will last but also how comfortably it fits in your hand. Some rangefinders are quite large, while others are compact and capable of fitting into your pocket easily.
The digital technology in a rangefinder helps you find your target easier in a variety of conditions. These displays may be LCD or LED and create a reticle in the lens to help you pinpoint your target. In addition, the digital technology in a rangefinder can measure and compensate for conditions such as temperature and weather.
The accuracy of a rangefinder is fairly important, for obvious reasons. This is a combination of the precision and range of a rangefinder. A good rule of thumb is to rely on the range of a particular model up to 50% of its stated maximum. Measuring longer distances may provide a faulty reading.
Low-end laser rangefinders may cost around $80, while mid-range models may cost up to $200. Extremely high-quality models may cost around $500, with the most accurate models reaching $1,500 or more.
Q. Can the lasers of rangefinders be harmful or dangerous?
A. Absolutely -- just as a cheap laser pointer can be dangerous. Though the lasers are not generally powerful enough to do any lasting damage, they can temporarily blind people if aimed directly in the eye.
Q. Is using a rangefinder difficult?
A. Not usually, though they may take some getting the hang of. As long as you have a fairly steady hand and can locate your target, you will probably find your rangefinder easy to use.
Rangefinders we recommend
Best of the best: Vortex Optics Ranger
Our take: This laser rangefinder is comfortable and reliable in a variety of conditions.
What we like: This rangefinder has excellent range and can be used even in dark or foggy conditions.
What we dislike: Though customers have few complaints, this is a fairly expensive option.
Best bang for your buck: Bushnell Tour V4 Jolt Golf Laser Rangefinder
Our take: If you are looking for a rangefinder specifically to improve your golf game, this is a great option.
What we like: The simple design of this rangefinder and useful 5X magnification make it a popular choice among serious golfers.
What we dislike: This rangefinder won't work well for tasks like hunting.
Our take: If you are on a budget, this is a feature-packed option with excellent range.
What we like: The easy-to-use scanning function and comfortable design make this versatile rangefinder a reliable option.
What we dislike: There are cheaper rangefinders available, though they won't offer as many features.
Peter McPherson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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