In short, a rangefinder serves as a tool allowing someone to measure the distance from their current location to another point. In hunting, it allows a hunter to better calculate his or her ability and necessary tools to take that final shot. In the current market, rangefinders range from very simplistic to extremely technologically complex in their nature. Three types of rangefinders dominate todays market; those being Ultrasonic, Optic, and Laser.
An Ultrasonic rangefinder utilizes sound waves to measure the distance between itself and an object. Sound waves are sent out to “bounce off” of the object, and those waves are received by a hand held receiver. A downfall of these rangefinders is the fact that any outside noise has the ability to interfere with the receiving of those sound waves, and therefore the accuracy of the finders reading. Certain Ultrasonic rangefinders with shorter ranges of measurement (1-60 feet) have the ability to measure units as small as 1 inch, if of course outside conditions are optimal. Of the three types, these are a much less popular type of rangefinder, as the machine does emit a sound wave, and many hunters are concerned with how sensitive animals are to sounds of any level and frequency.
Optic rangefinders utilize a series of mirrors and lenses to actually double the image. These rangefinders then merge the two images together, and the distance between the two is read off a dial on the machine. These rangefinders stand towards the more technologically simplistic side of the spectrum, hence the reason some models don’t require a battery to operate. However, for those looking to hunt in areas of dense brush and forestry, one should recognize that these rangefinders rely on a clear line of sight to operate, and therefore readings can lose accuracy when other objects obscure that view.
The most prominent and widely used type of rangefinder is the laser rangefinder. These impressive machines send out laser pulses at certain intervals, and measure the time for a pulse of infrared light to travel to the target and back. Many pulses of light are emitted as a target is being measured, therefore increasing the accuracy each time a pulse is sent out and received. As for accuracy, laser rangefinders are usually regarded superior to the other types, as of course the results are returned almost instantly (the result is based off the speed of light) and are constantly made more accurate as more beams are received and measured.These tools require the hunter or operator to aim with a fair deal of accuracy, especially for the models that have the ability to measure very far distances. The distance in which these rangefinders can successfully operate depends heavily on the reflectivity of the target, as of course the clarity of the pulse of light received will determine the accuracy of the reading.
As for choosing the best rangefinder to utilize while hunting, many factors come into play. Locations with consistent wind or heavy weather normally would create excessive outside noise in conjunction with the tress and forestry, and therefore would interfere with the readings of an Ultrasonic rangefinder, leading one to be better off choosing a Laser or Optic tool. Considering most shots are taken between 50 and 150 yards, depending of course on the species being hunted, most rangefinder reviews would convey that almost all mid-level rangefinders will serve their purpose in the field, it simply depends on the preference of the hunter, and the conditions offered by the location one is hunting.