HOW IT WORKS: LASER RANGEFINDER

By Joe Arterburn

 Assuring a quick, humane kill is a goal of all ethical hunters, and a key factor is accurately placing your shot, whether it is an arrow, bolt, or bullet.

That’s where laser rangefinders come in.

Laser rangefinders, sometimes known by the abbreviation LRF, use the latest technology to take the guesswork out of determining distances to any given object, be it a target or game animal, so you can make an accurate shot.

The technology of LRFs may be complicated but the theory is simple. LRFs operate by sending an invisible laser pulse to the target and once the laser hits the target, it reflects back to the LRF, which measures the time of flight of the laser pulse, then calculates that information into a distance, which is displayed in the viewfinder virtually instantaneously.

LRFs come in a wide variety of models at a wide variety of prices and can perform at a wide variety of conditions. For instance, Bushnell produces a line of LRFs capable of ranging out to 800 meters but upgrades are available to reach out to 1,600 meters and even 5,000 meters.

The good news is, as technology continues to improve, so does the performance and effective distances of LRFs.

Let’s stick with Bushnell for a moment. Matt Rice, Bushnell’s marketing manager, explained that in LRF terms there are typically three types of targets: Reflective, Tree, and Deer. A “reflective” target is something with high reflectivity like a steel target. “Tree” refers to exactly that—a tree, bush, or similar vegetation. While “reflective” and “tree” are straightforward, a “deer” target is not so easily explained. A “deer” target is an object with the lowest reflectivity since an animal’s hide does not reflect much light, or in this case, laser pulses. LRFs work best on reflective targets, then tree, then deer. That’s just something to keep in mind as you become accustomed to your LRF.

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The point is, carry and use a rangefinder. Practice with it just as you do your rifle or bow. Bowhunters may not need a long-distance LRF, but they’ll want one that accurately pinpoints distances within their comfortable shooting range. Rifle, muzzleloader, and handgun hunters may want an LRF with longer range capability and more sensitivity to reflectivity to help them confidently take their shots.

LRFs may sound complicated, but using them is easy—and the quickest, most reliable way of accurately ranging to your target. Hunters have been quick to adopt them as an essential component of their gear. As they say, don’t leave home without it.