What is a Rangefinder?

best rangefinderA rangefinder is a device that measures the distance from itself to a specified target. The devices may also be referred to as distance meters or laser locators. There are many familiar terms used when operating a rangefinder.

The distance is often referred to as the “range,” and can also be described more elaborately as the “horizontal distance,” “vertical distance” or slope distance. Inclination may be referred to as “pitch.” The bearing is commonly referred to as the “angle” or “azimuth” and it can be compared to Magnetic North.

Rangefinders take measurements that help calculate the difference between a target in relation to one or more reference points.

This offset is used to determine the coordinates of the target based on the location of the rangefinder. The inclination helps calculate the vertical distance between the rangefinder and the target.

Rangefinders are often used for geographic information system, or GIS, data collection. They are especially useful when mapping the location of inaccessible targets that may be difficult or unsafe to reach.

They are also helpful for determining the location of objects when a GPS signal is not available or the information may not be accurate. Such situations include locations in crowded areas or among dense vegetation.

Rangefinders made for collecting GIS data will usually measure distance and inclination, while more elaborate locators may also measure bearing. There are numerous types of rangefinders made for a variety of purposes.

Common uses include measuring distance in hunting, golf, construction, speeding automobiles and photography.

What Types of Rangefinders are Available?

best rangefinder for golf           best rangefinder for hunting

Golf Rangefinders

Rangefinders used in professional tournaments must adhere to the rules of the sport. According to the regulations of the US Golf Association players are prohibited from using artificial devices or equipment for the purpose of measuring distance or other conditions that may affect his or her play. In 2006 a change(Rule 14-3 and Decision 14-3/0.5) was made that gave tournament committees the option of allowing “distance-measuring devices.”

This meant that devices that only measured distance were permitted. Any other devices are prohibited if they have the ability to measure other factors, like slope, even if they are not used.

Non-professionals are held by the same standards of the local rule. Games played for leisure are subject to the discretion of their participants.

Rangefinders seen in golf are usually used to determine a nearly exact distance to the flagstick. They may also be used to find the distance to other objects, like a tree indicating the start of a dogleg.

By determining the distance to an object on the course, the golfer has a better idea of which club to use for the shot.

rangefinder reviewsGolfers want to use every form of technology at their disposal to maintain their scores. Rangefinders used in golf are helpful for improving driving distance and becoming familiar with the layout of the course.

With rangefinders, players have improved the way they plan shots, map the course and select clubs. Professionals as well as hobbyists utilize some of the best golf laser rangefinders to determine exact distances to nearby obstacles and targets.

Laser rangefinders measure distance with laser beams that reflect off of the target and back to the locator. The maximum range of this laser, the device’s magnification level and slope calculation ability are all important aspects to consider when viewing golf laser rangefinder reviews.

The best golf rangefinder should have a maximum range higher than the longest hole at the course for which you intend to use it. It would be best to find a device with a range beyond 500 yards. When looking for the best golf laser rangefinder keep in mind that the maximum ranges listed by the manufacturer describe its capabilities with large, ideal reflective surfaces under the best weather conditions.

Popular Golf Rangefinder Reviews on this site:

Tournament Legal


Hunting Rangefinders

Without rangefinders hunters once relied on previous experience or familiarity with their surroundings to determine the distance to their target.

Rifle scopes often included horizontal crosshairs to help the hunter judge the distance to other objects. They were not always exact, however, and relied on the hunter’s perception and the size of the target. Modern rangefinders make it easy for hunters to determine distance without guessing on their own.

Golfers can usually purchase reliable rangefinders for a few hundred dollars that will easily provide accurate readings in relation to a flagstick. This is due to the fact that the distance measured will top out at only a few hundred yards.

In comparison, hunters will typically need to invest several thousand dollars for more sophisticated laser technology for long-distance measuring.

Rangefinders used in hunting assist participants in archery and rifle hunts. They come with a variety of features to enhance accuracy depending on the type of hunt and the other equipment used.

Rangefinders used for archery will be different from those used with rifle hunting or other firearms as the needs are significantly different. Rangefinders used in archery will need to factor in the wind and angle as they relate to the shot. Those used for firearms will have to be easy to carry and use while still operating the weapon.

Due to the fact that there are so many varieties of rangefinders, the user should be certain as to which type is needed for his or her activities.

If you hunt with a rifle you will need a rangefinder that is suited for measuring long ranges. If you are an archery hunter you will only need rangefinders for much shorter yard intervals.

The purpose for which the device will be used should be one of the primary factors in choosing a rangefinder.
Failing to find the best rangefinder for hunting may result in your buying a locator that will not meet your needs. If the device is not appropriate not only will you not have the device you need but you will have wasted the allotted money.

In order to narrow down the best rangefinders you should study rangefinder reviews to get a feel for those that can meet your needs. Knowing what you need in advance increases the chances of receiving the best rangefinder for the money spent.

Archery Rangefinders

Rangefinders for archery differ from those used in hunting with rifles bases on their Angle Range Compensation, or ARC. This factor helps determine how much you will have to draw back on the bow to hit a target above or below your level. Not having the proper technology may cause a significant miscalculation on your part as well as a missed target.

Rangefinders for Rifle Hunting

good rifle rangefinderWhen choosing the best hunting rangefinder, it is also important to consider the size of the instrument. You want to ensure there is enough room in your carrying pack to bring along as many necessary items as possible.

Using the wrong device could lead to additional space and added weight that you will be required to carry around. Locating the best rangefinder for hunting may not be the easiest task, as there are various types available with a number of different features.

Another important aspect to consider is the device’s maximum range. Many people make the mistake of buying elaborate and expensive locators with higher maximum ranges than are necessary. Those that typically hunt from a tree stand won’t need a device with over 1,000 yards distance, for instance. The trees would act as visual obstacles and may also distort the device’s calculations.

Glass is also extremely important in the top rangefinders. High-quality glass with good coatings is important for producing the best image while also enhancing shooting accuracy. It will ensure the image is clear while calculating the distance to faraway targets to help you determine what kind of shot to take and how close you can come to the target to do so.

Rangefinders for Rifle Shooting

rifle rangefinderAnother factor that is important when hunting with rifles is the rangefinder’s magnification. A magnification of 6x should be ideal for most hunters. This level will make it easier to view a target at over 500 yards away. You can better observe the size of the animal as well as its sex, if necessary.

Also important is the feel of the device. When shopping for a rangefinder many will overlook the importance of the grip and feel in the hand. The best rangefinder will be one that fits well in the hand and can be carried around and operated with only one hand. If the device is too cumbersome it will not be used as often and will lose its intended value.

Again, it helps to look over hunting rangefinder reviews to find a suitable device that meets all of your personal needs. Both the image and the feel of the device will impact your ability to shoot.

Rangefinder Binoculars

Rangefinder binoculars are combination units of laser rangefinders and binoculars in one device. They provide distance measurements and enhanced imagery of distant targets. These devices prevent the need to carry more than one instrument, and this takes away some of the hassle and time normally associated with viewing the target then ranging it separately.

Rangefinder binoculars are different from standard laser rangefinders in that they serve a dual purpose. These devices provide the function of a rangefinder with the function of binoculars added in. This binocular function gives them a horizontal orientation in contrast to many standard rangefinders that are vertical and often less easy to hold steady.

These binoculars are used for long-range targets. Most units are suitable for bow hunting, target shooting or rifle hunting. Because of the ways they are used, the most important factors in rangefinder binoculars are optical quality and ranging performance.

There are several popular models on the market, and each model has its own strengths and weaknesses. Users should become familiar with the individual characteristics of each device before choosing one. Here you will find reviews of some of the most popular rangefinder binoculars available today.

Golf GPS systems

Golf GPSA golf GPS device is used to help players determine distances to important features on the green. Like systems used in automobiles, they rely on satellite information to provide details about golf courses all over the world. They assist players when caddies are not available and help make their shots more consistent.

Most GPS devices for golf come in either handheld or watch forms. Handheld units are larger and more colorful, and they easily fit in pockets. Golf GPS watches are designed like standard digital watches, and they can be worn this way or clipped to hats or belts.

GPS devices differ from laser rangefinders in their abilities to detect distances. Rangefinders rely somewhat on the player’s ability to aim at targets, but GPS units have information that is already determined by downloaded to the device. Golf GPS devices may be more complex to use upon setup by comparison, but they are simple once setup is complete.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a horizontal or a vertical locator?

Most rangefinders will come in one of the two styles. Horizontal rangefinders are wide and flat to enable the user to gain a two-handed grip if necessary. It is a good choice for high magnification and longer distances. Vertical units are less bulky, thus they are ideal for being carried along in a pocket or on a belt.

What is the maximum range necessary?

The maximum range listed for the item refers to how it will operate in the most ideal setting. A rangefinder for hunting will usually detect a deer at around one-half of its listed range and golf rangefinders may read a flagstick at around one-third of its maximum range.

What magnification is necessary?

Rangefinders generally feature magnifications of 4x to 8x, and the necessary level will change with each user’s needs. It is important to remember that as the magnification goes higher it will become harder to hold the image steady. The highest magnification most people will easily hold steady will probably be 6x, but the stability of horizontal designs allows for higher levels.

Should I choose a black or red display?

Most laser rangefinders with an LCD screen use a black display, and most that use an LED feature a red screen. If you choose a model for other characteristics this factor may not be an option. LED displays are thought to have a clearer image compared to LCDs, but rangefinders using LCD displays are often less expensive.


There are numerous factors to consider when purchasing a rangefinder for golf or hunting. They should be compared across many criteria based on your own needs. The best way to examine many models at once is by searching through hunting and golf rangefinder reviews that provide details on what to expect from each device.

Laser rangefinders shoot a laser beam to the target and allow the beam to bounce back. When it does so, the distance is calculated and displayed on an optical screen. The best laser rangefinders are typically combined with equally accurate optical lenses.

These devices can calculate up to 1,500 feet and claim accuracy as precise as one foot, but most of these factors depend on steady use by the operator. The farther away the target the harder it will be for the observer to hold the rangefinder steady. Hunters will typically use a tripod as a base to secure the view when hunting targets such as antelope.

Rangefinder Advice © 2016

Rangefinder Advice is a participant of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program – it is designed to provide an aid for the websites in earning an advertisement fee – by means of advertising and linking to Amazon.com products.

Skip to toolbar