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Laser Rangefinder Accuracy Explained in Details by Expert

rangefinder accuracy
Written by Erik Himmel

You must be worried about the accuracy of your rangefinder if you are an avid outdoorsman and hunter who is so much into hunting optics. Laser rangefinders including the basic and good ones measure the distance for your perfect shot, rangefinder accuracy is the prerequisite of having a pleasant experience while target shooting and casual hunting. Besides, it can help a user greatly in the sport of Golf. Without accurate reading, a rangefinder will be considered as nothing but a toy. Go through the article to know what factors determine the laser accuracy of a rangefinder.

Rangefinder Accuracy: How Does a Laser Rangefinder Work?

How Does a Laser Rangefinder Work

The mechanism of a device defines the functionality and efficacy of that particular device. You should know how this laser thing works to understand how accurate are laser rangefinders! And, the knowledge of its basic concepts will allow a user to get the best outcome from a rangefinder.

It doesn’t include any complicated process. It measures the distance by using a plain and fundamental principle of science. If you press the dedicated button, the rangefinder will emit laser beams instantaneously. Those beams will travel the distance between the target object and the rangefinder unit and return to the former position. The built-in high-speed clock of the rangefinder will keep a record of this time. As the speed of light is constant, it is very easy and simple to calculate the distance using the time laser beams took to travel a particular distance. The following bullet list will give you a brief idea about the techniques that a rangefinder uses.

  • It finds and spots the target.
  • It emits laser beams on the focused targets. The transmitted laser pulses may differ in terms of the wavelength, sharpness etc.
  • When the laser beams return to the unit, it captures the readings and sends the data to the sensor.
  • The unit interprets the readings using the default logic and algorithms and displays the final result.

Some of the modern rangefinders have introduced “multi-pulse technology” which causes an outburst of thousands of small laser pulses within a short time. Those pulses gather a large amount of data then the unit analyzes those readings taking the fog, rain, brush and the likes into account. This can provide with more accurate results even if the target is non-reflective.

Digging Deep into the ‘Accuracy’ Thing

The accuracy of a device depends mostly on its build quality. You may have to spend more on a rangefinder to get a more accurate measurement. All the rangefinder manufacturers advertise the effectiveness of their products on the basis of the ideal condition. But the perfect ideal condition is a myth, so there might be other things that affect laser rangefinder accuracy such as temperature, rain, fog, brush, clouds, etc.  The accuracy factors related to the users and the devices are as follows.

1. Deviation of the Laser Beams

The common feature of laser beams or beams of light is they are prone to divergence with the increase of distance. The more they travel the more they get deviated. This spreading out has made it tough to get a perfect reading using the laser beams. So, you should target a precise and small target at once. Larger target will result in more divergence of the laser beams. And, its advised to invest in a high-end rangefinder to get accurate results regardless of the distance. Each rangefinder comes with a range of distance, know that before making a purchase.

2. Types and Sizes of the Target

If you choose a too small target, that will not be precise as the unit will aim at it from a far distance. Avoid targeting branches of a tree or any flagstick. Pick something recognizable from the distance such as a tree, a rock, a bench etc. and try to pick a reflective target as that will produce the best result. If you can choose a static and precise reflective target, the laser rangefinder will provide you with the most accurate reading.

3. User’s Skill

No matter how effective the device is, if a user can’t operate it correctly nothing will go right. An amateur user may cause the rangefinders to vibrate when shooting the laser beams. Keep your body and hand still while aiming at the target to prevent any sort of vibration. One can use a stand to get an accurate result.

Callaway 300 Pro Slope Laser Golf Rangefinder Enhanced 2021 Model - Now With Added Features
  • Precise Slope Measurement: Our highly accurate laser rangefinder accounts for elevation changes and measures the angle of incline/decline, then calculates the slope adjusted distance
  • Maximum Magnification: Equipped with 6x magnification, our rangefinders for golfing feature a range of 5-1000 yards with +/- 1 yard accuracy and even measure in both yards and meters
  • Pin-Locking Technology: Our precise laser measure with Pin Acquisition Technology (P.A.T.) allows you to lock onto a pin up to 300 yards away
  • Pulse Confirmation: Our range finder will emit a short vibrating "burst" when the laser locks onto the pin to confirm you have the correct distance
  • External Slope On/Off Switch: Legal for tournament play

4. Understanding Line of Sight Distance

It’s essential to understand what the line of sight is to get clear concepts about the accuracy of the rangefinders. It is an imaginary straight line between the unit and the target. If the object is above the horizontal, it creates an angle of elevation and if the object remains below the horizontal it creates an angle of depression. Most of the rangefinders don’t take these angles into account which ultimately results in less accurate measurement.

Understanding Line of Sight Distance

All manufacturers claim that their devices are somewhat +/- 1 yard (or meter) accurate under ideal condition keeping the slopes and the angle of elevation and depression in mind. Remember that, rangefinders give reading as per the distance to the object in a straight line. You must consider the elevation change while shooting the target. The USGA allows these laser rangefinders capable of measuring the distance only on the golf course. Some advanced rangefinders can measure the distance taking the slopes into account, but these are not allowed in sports.

Understanding Line of Sight Distance 2

How to Prevent the ‘Accuracy’ from Being Hurt?

You might get different readings at a different time while aiming at the same target. It happens because there are some factors that affect the accuracy due to the mistakes from the user’s end. Focusing on a wrong target, getting obstructed by anything or excess distance to the target might be some vital factors that hurt the accuracy. Avoid the following tasks to get the utmost accuracy from a rangefinder.

1. Don’t Focus on a Wrong Target

Almost all the rangefinders come with magnifying prowess. Usually, a good-quality rangefinder has 6x magnification power. This is where they differ from hunting flashlights. It helps the users aim at the intended target. But, the targets may deceive you in zoomed view and the laser beam may point elsewhere. This is one of the reasons that affect accuracy. During lowlight conditions, this problem becomes more acute. Most of the rangefinders perform poorly in lowlight conditions being unable to point the target precisely.

2. Don’t Allow Anything to Block the Beam

The distance between the unit and the target should be free from any obstacles to get accurate readings. But you may get obstructed by a branch of a tree, a flying bird, raindrops, fog, leaves or any other things while lasing the target. Be more cautious when using your favorite golf rangefinder or any such device as it will affect your scores.

3. Don’t Go Quite out of Range

Each rangefinder has some limitations. It can’t measure more than of its ability. So, don’t try to measure the distance that outranges the maximum range of the device. Besides, the maximum range of a rangefinder is possible only under optimal condition while targeting reflective objects. Most of your targets are non-reflective and ideal conditions rare to find. So, be careful about not going out of the range.

People use a rangefinder to determine the distance between them and the object. This measurement, later on, helps them shoot the target using a bow or a rifle and hit the golf ball as required. So, it is significantly important to get accurate readings from your hunting rangefinder to hit the target dead on. You can get absolute rangefinder accuracy by aiming at a precise target avoiding the divergence of laser beams. And, consider the other facts that affect the accuracy such as the maximum range, types of targets availability of light. If you take these things into account and use the rangefinders skillfully, it’s possible to get accurate readings.

About the author

Erik Himmel

A Part-Time Firearm Instructor

Hi, this is Erik. We all know firearms are dangerous, but only when one doesn’t know how to use and care for them. I have 15+ years of experience with different types of guns and for the last 10 years, I have taught numerous people how to hold and shoot a gun while staying safe and keeping the surroundings unharmed. My neighbors are some of my biggest admirers who enjoy talking to me about their guns, firearms safety and maintenance.

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