Three Questions To Ask When Buying A Laser Rangefinder

A laser rangefinder can make you a better hunter, competitive shooter or golfer—and maybe all three!

deer in the distance
How far away is that elk? Tell exactly with a laser rangefinder.Photo by Michaela on Unsplash

A good laser rangefinder makes many outdoor activities easier and more fun. Whether you are a competitive shooter trying to range targets before a 3-Gun stage, a rifle hunter trying to determine the exact distance to a passing buck or even a golfer who needs to know how far he must hit the ball to safely clear a water hazard, a laser rangefinder can give you the precise information you need to succeed. Not all laser rangefinders are created equal, though. To make a good selection, ask yourself three questions—what activity you will use your rangefinder for most often, what is the maximum distance you’ll be needing to range and whether magnification is important to your activity.

Activity

Callaway 300 Pro Golf Laser Rangefinder
This rangefinder allows golfers to acquire distances to multiple targets at once.Callaway

The sporting activity you intend to use your rangefinder for most often will help determine which model is best for you. Rangefinders made for golfers often have features that hunters and shooters have no interest in at all. These include pin acquisition technology for easily locking on to a golf pin from hundreds of yards away, slope compensating features to measure incline/decline angles and the ability to operate in very hot temperatures. Likewise, rangefinders made specifically for hunting have features that won't be of interest to golfers, like high angle compensation for measuring distances out of tree stands and the ability to range at extremely long distances. If you want a rangefinder for golf, choose a golf-specific model. If you will be hunting and/or shooting, purchase one made for those purposes.

Distance

TecTecTec ProWild Hunting Rangefinder
This water-resistant model measures distances up to 540 yards.TecTecTec ProWild

The distance out to which a rangefinder will give you accurate readings is also an important consideration. Golfers typically don't need to range beyond about 400 yards, if that far. Hunters might want to get a range to an animal 1,000 yards away or more, just to determine if a stalk is worth attempting. Competitive shooters might be ranging targets at distances well over 1,000 yards. Some laser rangefinders have maximum ranges of only 400-500 yards, while other models will range out to a mile or more, so there are plenty of options for a wide variety of anticipated distances.

Magnification

Vortex Optics Impact 850 Yard Laser Rangefinder
This model’s 6X magnification brings subjects in for a closer look and more accurate ranging.Vortex Optics

Magnification goes hand in hand with distance. To determine the distance from the user to a faraway object, a rangefinder sends out a laser beam that reflects off the object and back to the rangefinder. If you are going to precisely put the aiming point of your rangefinder on a small object at a great distance, increased magnification lends a distinct advantage. On the other hand, if you will be ranging a fairly large object at short distances (think, bowhunters) it's possible that lower magnification will work just fine. As with other factors, determine what magnification is best for your purposes. Then find a rangefinder that has both adequate distance and magnification, and that is made for your intended sporting activity.