A Guide to the Right Range Finder

Whether you’re an avid golfer, a hobbyist photographer, or a skilled hunter, an almost must-have in your technological repertoire for easy and convenience is a well-built, high-quality range finder. But what exactly are the differences between range finders, and what different uses do they have throughout their respective hobbies?

Who are you?

  • For photographers,well, this is probably the wrong article. Chances are you’re looking for a cheap, versatile range finder camera – instead of just a stand-alone range finder. Range finder cameras are part of the essence of professional photography, especially for photographers who still feel the need to work with film. Lens-mounted range finders exist as well in the world of photography, but nothing really beats the price and versatility of a nice, reliable Yashica GSN.

But a Japanese camera won’t do you much good when you’re planning to shoot antelopes in the savannah, or hunt deer in a forest.

  • For hunters, a rangefinder needs to be compact, easy to handle with a single hand, and as accurate as possible. You usually only get one shot at your prey, so making sure that shot counts means making sure your hardware is up to spec.

So, for rifle-wielding hunters, what you’re usually looking for is a range finder specialized towards long-distances, and pinpointing the exact distance of your target – that often means looking towards the more expensive laser range finders to make sure you’re getting an accurate reading from far away.

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Another thing about range finders that many hunters have to watch out for is stability. A clunky, strong range finder will help you more than one that easy shifts in position or can’t keep steady. Another obvious criterion is pricing – a range finder shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, but keep in mind that hunters need a far higher quality of range finder than most other hobbyists.

But a close second, or even comparison for the job of a rifle-using hunter, is an archer.

  • For archers, you’re looking for a range finder specialized in being light. Archery is comparable to golf in that range finders aren’t instrument for getting the right shot, but for getting the right distance. An arrow travels in a wide arc when compared to the path of a bullet, so a reliance on range finders can actually be a negative – but they’re still incredibly useful for a hunter who wants to make an accurate draw of the arrow.

But even an arrow doesn’t compare to a golf ball’s arc, which takes talent and practice to get right. An archer can plan their arrow’s path to the last second before letting go – in golf, the ball is hit, mostly in an uncontrolled manner.

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Archery Range Finder

  • For golfers, skill means knowing where the ball lands before you even pick your club, but knowing just how far you have to aim can make a huge difference in play. Range finders in golf aren’t necessary for skill or accuracy, but they do make a difference in time spent planning each hit – an important detail for many who feel that golf is just getting too stale, each event taking longer every year.

So what does that mean for you, the photographer, golfer, hunter or archer?

Well, let’s make a shortlist of things to watch out for:

Design

An archer’s range finder won’t look like the range finder of a rifle-using hunter. Range finders that can be mounted to a gun, or kept comfortably steady take the cake for the rifle user, whereas an archer might want something lightweight to mount on a bow or keep in hand. It comes down to a matter of preference, of course, but between the two types of hunters, there exist a myriad of specialized products, and a few hybrid versions.

Magnification

Obviously a more important trait in long-distance rifle-hunting, range finders with strong magnification are useful in making sure you know exactly what you’re hitting. Some range finders go up to 7x or 8x magnification – but overdoing it makes your image of the target unsteady, so keep that in mind when checking your options. Most affordable range finders will get you about 4x magnification, which suffices without a problem for most golfers and archers.

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Range

Again an important aspect to range finders is their, well, range. It’s difficult to judge distances within 200 yards of ground, and anything past that can very well mean a severe drop in a bullet’s arc, meaning the further you shoot, the more you have to think about compensation. Most range finders for hunters come with sophisticated drop range guidelines, so you have an idea of just how much your projectile will be sinking. Some high-end range finders stay reliant up to 1,300, 1,500 and even 1,700 yards – others don’t pack anywhere near that much range remaining reliant at about 500 yards. Laser range finders are also in a different league in this one, so check each model to see the laser range finder’s specs.

Display

A range finder’s display needs to be clear, easily readable, and free from any clutter – all displayed information needs to be visible at any time of the day and needs to be positioned on the lens in such a way that it doesn’t obstruct the hunter or golfer’s view.

Finally…

Picking a range finder is about putting together a list of priorities. Range finders have pros and cons – and the more pros you get, the higher the price tag. Make a list of what you need the most in a range finder, then make a shortlist of your top choices by reading online reviews. Stick to your budget, and stay within your means – even if a range finder seems just a few bucks out of your reach, but packs a ton more features, chances are these are features you can do without, while those few bucks are more important. Depending on what your hobby is, your needs will be very different; perhaps you’re looking for an accompanying piece to your bow, in which case you can’t go too heavy – or you’d like something to hunt with, so you need a good range – perhaps a laser range finder will help as well. Maybe you’re a golfer, and what you’re looking for doesn’t need to have tons of range or a waterproof casing – or maybe you’re a hobbyist sniper, looking for a tough range finder that stays steady no matter what.

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