Is a range finder a good tool or a gimmick.


June 17, 2007, 05:07 PM
I have asked many experienced hunters this question. Some say yes others tell me "we got along without them for years". That does not mean we cannot improve our methods, at least in my opinion. Please chime in, I am leaning towards the Bushnell Elite 1500/ARC. The one other statement made by naysayers was that half the time the animal will not stay in the same place for you to get a good read.

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June 17, 2007, 05:10 PM
That really depends on the distances you are shooting and what your setup is. If you are hunting in the woods or brush then don't bother. But if your going to be taking really long shots across open ground then it could be a huge help. I also know some people who are good enough at estimating distance that it is not needed.

June 17, 2007, 05:12 PM
A range finder is something any serious shooter and hunter should own. If you play with one in the field you will be amazed at how far you and your friends distance estimations are off.

The one other statement made by naysayers was that half the time the animal will not stay in the same place for you to get a good read.

You don't use it on the animal you're about to shoot, You use it to survey your shooting lanes so when game presents itself you know how far away that bush is. Besides if you can't get an animal to be still long enough o bounce a laser offin it you shure as heck can't put a bullet through it.

June 17, 2007, 05:17 PM
My limited attempt to use one makes me consider range finders mostly a gimmick. With a proper long range rifle and cartridge any distance inside about 250-275 yards is irrelivant. Beyond that range it gets pretty hard to find a properly "reflective" object to range on. And, if something is found, it's also pretty hard to keep the range finding "dot" steady on target so, even if the device is perfect it is likely to be ranging on other scattered objects within the angle of view.

IF they sold a good one for $50 or so, I'd consider getting one anyway.

June 17, 2007, 06:39 PM
I would say it depends on your average shot distance and the type of weapon you are using. A range finder can be invaluable to a bowhunter or turkey hunter. They are a must for someone shooting long distance with a rifle. The key is in how you use it. Range a few specific targets when you first settle into your stand or blind. This will give you a rough estimation of how far away your target is when it steps into view. If you are shooting a flat shooting caliber (7mm Mag, 280, 270, 30-06, 308) under 300 yards then I wouldn't worry about a range finder. If there is a possiblity for a longer shot, or you are shooting a muzzleloader or shotgun then you and the game you shoot will appreciate the range finder.

June 17, 2007, 07:34 PM

June 17, 2007, 07:42 PM
Just curious, Rubenz, but how often do you shoot over 300 yards? Without a range finder or being able to gauge distance with the mildots in your scope, I would love to watch you shoot at 400 and 500 yards using just your best guess at estimation. If most of your shots are less than 300 yards, then a range finder may be useless to you. For those who hunt deserts, prairies and other open spaces it is a very useful tool. I prefer to get much closer than 300 yards, but if a long shot must be taken, I want to be absolutely certain of my distance.

June 17, 2007, 07:48 PM
I hunt in thick brush Texas :) I've never had a need to shoot beyond 300yrds. I guess I'm just old school.

June 17, 2007, 07:55 PM
I have always used the one built into my Leupold scope. The other fact was that most distances were 400 yards or less, and the zero was 300 yards. At 400 yards, the bullet was only about 9 inches low. I placed small wind flags at 300 yards. When I finally did buy a range-finder, it was more to be able to see how accurately I was actually estimating. For me, it's more of a toy.

I bought the Nikon 600 (6X20). It's okay. Like I said, it's more of a toy.

June 17, 2007, 08:19 PM
I like bushnell products and think for the money the range finder is the best bang for the buck. Best value.

4v50 Gary
June 17, 2007, 09:05 PM
Depends on you. If you stalk your prey and get close, no, you don't need it. If you're in a heavily wooded area where long range shots are rare, no, you don't need it. However, if you're in the open desert or on a mountainside with potential (and likelihood) for a long range shot, it's good if your eye is untrained. You can start training your eye like the riflemen (soldiers, not shooters) did in the 19th century. When you walk, estimate the distance to several objects and then pace off to it, counting your paces along the way (Check your paces when you go to a range. For me, it's 97 paces to reach 100 yards) until you reach that object. With a few days of field practice, the Confederate black powder sharpshooters in the late war Army of Northern Virginia got to be real good, or were transferred back to their parent units.

Art Eatman
June 17, 2007, 11:01 PM
I'm quite happy with my Bushnell 800. Quite accurate.

I've only had one hunting event where a rangefinder was used: Prairie dogs, and Justin was using his .17 Mach II. That cartridge is fine to around 100 yards, but the rangefinder came in handy when trying to judge 150 or 100, given the wind as well as the trajectory fall-off beyond 200.

If I'm sittin'-huntin', out here in Terlingua, knowing how far it is to one point or another where Bambi might appear is quite helpful. Nice to know whether it's a reasonably do-able 300 or 400 yards, versus getting a bit too ambitious and optimistic at 500. The desert's mountains and canyons can be deceptive.

It's just a tool, just as a gun is a tool. If it helps to make a clean kill, it's a good tool. But like any tool, if you don't need it, then don't bother with it.


June 19, 2007, 02:12 PM
The leica is the one I bought back when (?), anyways it is the LFR 800.Taught me alot about range estimation and actual range.
I won $20 at work the other day guessing the distance to a hangar wall. I was able to get within 2 yards just because I use the rangefinder as a learning/practice tool. It helps to constantly use one, then put it away for awhile and take some guesses - then whip it out and check the "targets" you ranged.
After some practice it gets pretty rewarding, but it really helped me for archery hunting- shooting a STW in west OK kinda negates the need for a range finder for most shots. embarrassed to admit my long shot last year, but the mildot scope and the STW made it seem easy. 2 times:neener:

Sav .250
June 19, 2007, 02:49 PM
If I hunted out west I`d say yes. Would I like to have one? Sure. Am I going to buy one? I don`t think so. Reason, I really don`t have a need for one.
I`m sure lots of guys get good use from them but for my style/distance of hunting it would be a waste of money. IMO.

June 19, 2007, 03:03 PM
I'm going to get one, though I will probably go lower-end.

I'm not really anticipating using it to set up every shot. I might not even take it along when I'm hunting.

What I want to do with it is practice judging distances when I'm not hunting (or not hunting very seriously).

The terrain here is really rough and often steep. Humans are really bad at estimating distances when looking across a big canyon, for example. Something might be 150 yards away, but we might think it's 300, or vice versa. Without flat ground as a reference, our brains aren't optimized for this.

So, my plan is to take the rangefinder along while hiking, scouting, etc. I'll pick points, make a guess, then check the distance. With some practice, I figure I'll be a lot better at it than I am now, which is terrible!:)

Now as far as using a range finder on a mule deer when I'm hunting on foot, I can only say, "Yeah, right!" If the thing turns sideways and stops, that means I have about 5 seconds to take a shot. I'd better be looking through the scope, not a rangefinder!

June 19, 2007, 05:35 PM
Because the optics and electronics are basically all the same. Most of the components have common origins. Only difference being bells n' whistles and the color of the case.

They can be useful if hunting with a bow or handgun or as others have said, as a learning tool.

Opinions vary.

June 21, 2007, 08:22 PM
Most guys dont know the difference between 300 and 400 yds. I have one, don't use it much, mostly to show other guys how accurate/inaccurate their estimates are. Mine too.

June 22, 2007, 09:23 AM
As someone else said, if they were relatively inexpensive, I might own one. However, due to vision problems all my guns wear scopes, and I use scopes with "mildot" reticles on anything that might be required for a "long range" shot.

June 22, 2007, 10:03 AM
A effectiveness of a range finder depends on the reflective nature of the "target". If you are using it out in open country when prairie dog shooting they are mostly useless as the targets are small and you don't get the necessary bounce to make them work. In wooded areas you have the problem of bouncing off objects other than the target of choice which will give you false readings. Range finders will work well under certain conditions and those conditions are limited. Optical range finders, such as used by artillery spotters are more reliable but they are large and not very portable.

June 22, 2007, 10:45 AM
My guess is that you might be better off taking the $$$ you'd spend on the LRF and buying ammunition to practice with. I'm talking real practice, shooting from standing, kneeling, prone, etc. not off a bench. Even better if you can practice shooting at different ranges. I'd think by the time you were done you'd be better off. So what if you know the range exactly but you don't have the practical shooting skills to close the deal?

June 22, 2007, 12:13 PM
I use one to make range cards for all the blinds, then laminate the cards and leave them in the blinds. I'm shooting rifles i have zeroed at 100 yards so its a big help on hold over. Hunting new blinds I take it and get distances to easy to read landmarks.
I also use RF to check target distances at the range. Our 200 yard backstop is 197 yards out, et, et.
Most folks can't estimate range worth a dang. Nice tool to have around.
Last year I shot eight deer with seven different rifles. Six of the rifles were military iron-sighted rifles sighted in at 100 yards. I was glad I had ranged the blinds.

June 22, 2007, 12:27 PM
They come in real handy on occasion. I find them to be really useful when guiding. On occasion I've used them before a shot on a critter. They will really help on those near impossible range estimation situations where a guy has time to pull it out and get an accurate range. It is many times the difference between a hit and a complete miss.

I find them to be useful on cross canyon estimation. Up and down hill and other situations that tend to be almost impossible to estimate correctly with the mark 3 mod 84 human eyeball.

They are also great for learning range estimation while walking around.

If a guy is a ling range shooter they are an essential piece of equipment. After all the difference between 450 yards and 475 is a complete miss with the average hunting round. And it is impossible to accurately estimate 25 yards difference at that distance.

1911 guy
June 22, 2007, 12:29 PM
Are you using a caliber capable of A) That kind of long range accuracy and B) terminal performance at those ranges? Yes? Continue reading. No? Save your money for more ammo.

Are you capable of the marksmanship required to hit an animal at more than 300 yards from field expedient positions? Yes? Buy a rangefinder. No? Buy more ammo.

Just my general musings. I think the technology available to long range shooters is great. However, some people assume that having the gadgets means having the skill and take shots way beyond their effective range. I mean that firearm and skill level, both.

June 22, 2007, 12:37 PM
So what if you know the range exactly but you don't have the practical shooting skills to close the deal?

And so what if you have the skills and range practice to shoot 2 MOA at 400 yards in the field, if you have no idea whether your target is 250 or 380 yards away? No round shoots flat enough so that it doesn't matter.

Knowing your distance, having the skill, and knowing your limitations are all important.

If you find yourself, like me, having trouble estimating straight-line distance in mountainous, brushy canyon country, the range finder can be a neat tool, though like I said, not when I actually see the deer.

But as others have said, distance is only ONE variable.:)

And do I think I can hold my rifle that steady? Hell no. With a good rest, maybe, but in the field? No. That's why .30-30 has remained popular. There's little need for a gun that is good on deer way past 200 yards, if you are never in a position to shoot any farther anyway.

June 22, 2007, 12:53 PM
For years I considered them expensive, unnneccessary gadgets. I've been a bowhunter for 25 years, and a former competitive shooter with rifle and handgun. I've hunted many states with bow, rifle, handgun.
Then I bought a Leupold RX-II. Now, if something happened to it, I would immediately go out and buy another. It is that useful and important to me.
I use it most when bowhunting. I don't usually risk the motion when deer are around me because I've already ranged my landmarks. I have been surprised to find out how far off I can be estimating yardage, and how much better I have become.
The range finder can be a very valuable tool.

June 24, 2007, 02:01 PM
Some excellent info. above.

"mountains and canyons can be deceptive"

Yep, it takes just 1 trip to Colorado for most Texans to learn just how far off their estimates can be ... And yep, the majority don't have any business taking those shots anyway ...

July 3, 2007, 11:34 PM
Any tool is only as good as the operator. Read the instructions. Practice. Then practice some more. Use it where and when appropriate.

July 3, 2007, 11:36 PM
I am terrible at judging distances when on the open range (ie. plains of Wyoming or North Dakota... even Eastern Montana). So a range finder might benefit people like me :D

July 4, 2007, 10:42 AM
Great tool for wide open areas where there is little (trees) in the way of reference points. Spend the money and get a good one, many of the cheaper units are for shorter ranges. Swarovski makes a nice one that will get out to 1500 yards.

July 4, 2007, 01:35 PM
I cant tell the difference between 525 and 550 but Leica can, so I use the range finders. Under 250, I can do my part, beyond that I need help. I use a wind meter too.

July 15, 2007, 06:09 AM
For bowhunting, they are a very valuable tool. Also for learning how to range by practicing with one. When bowhunting, I range my landmarks and put it away. I long considered them unnecessary until using my brothers one day. Ordered mine the next day.

Double Naught Spy
July 15, 2007, 07:59 AM
Deer Cams, Game Finders, Sound amplifiers, before you know it all that is hunting will just be sitting on your <> looking a LCD with x-ray vision and just pulling a trigger. .

again, thats just my opinion.

As is using a rifle, sights, scope, centerfire cartridge, etc. to hunt deer didn't do the same thing. Unless you are running down deer and killing them with your bare hands, then you are guilty of being a victim of the same process because you use mechanical devices in order to gain an advantage. Heck, as with most hunters, you probably even drive out to the hunting area instead of hiking in and packing out.

With that said, there is nothing wrong with mechanical devices that serve to make a person a better hunter, to provide a better shot, to make a cleaner kill. Range finders do provide a service and some are quite good, but as noted, most folks don't really shoot at distances where range finders are necessary.

July 15, 2007, 08:38 AM
I've never used one, but then I miss a lot. :p

If I had the money, I'd get a good one in a heart beat.

July 16, 2007, 01:31 PM
in the woods it helps
.....for archery

35 yards with a bow is akin to 300+ yards with a 30-06


but outer limits

it's ironic that as the speed of bows went up, the "answer" for maximum archery range went down

In the 80's, when I started bow hunting, 30-35 yards was deemed acceptable with an old wheel bow shooting about 200 fps

now, with bows over 300 fps, 20 yards is the recommended max

so no matter how you pick your yard markers, either stepping off, tape measure or rangefinder, for archery purposes shot distance is very important......

July 18, 2007, 11:09 PM
Out of my normal blinds I do not need one for my 'normal range (50 to 200 yards in flat South Texas). But do have a Bushnell and a Leupold RX4 capable out to 400 + yards.

Great to have if I hunt in a new location or set up in an impromptu brush blind. I pick major landmarks out to about 200 yards so if game pops out, I do not have to guess. Also great when something shows up outside my normal safe range and I like to know exact range to decide if I might want to risk the shot (has to be a real monster buck). I have seen what I thought were real great bucks at long long shot range and after checking distance as shade too long, then may decide to try to sneak in closer. I would try a 300 to 400 yard shot if it was the monster and did not think I could get closer. In flat South Texas there is not always enough cover to sneak in or the mesquite is too thick.

Could I make the shot? Of course I have to think so or else I would not try it. My rifle? usually a 300 Win Mag or 270 w/ 4.5X14 glass and my handloads. My decision also is based on the day, the wind, the blind, and how steady is the sight picture. If it isn't rock steady, then hell no I will not take the shot!

July 18, 2007, 11:18 PM
Any tool that assures a clean hit is worthwhile. If affordable,
I would surely own one:)

July 19, 2007, 10:14 AM
I'm about to buy one, probably the bushnell ARC 1500 after playing with a buddys. Here is why: My main hunting rifle is a 7mm mauser. When I could get 160 grain factory ammo it had a nice flat tragectory and I could do pretty well out to distance. Now, since all I can get that the gun likes is 175 grain it shoots like a howitzer. Huge drops starting at 250 yards and beyond. I really need to know the distance so I even hit anything and since I suck (and I mean really suck) at estimating distance I need all the help I can get.

The other thing I will use it for is getting better at judging distance while hiking for quick shots hunting.

July 19, 2007, 10:59 AM
I bought my range finder for my west Texas/New Mexico jaunts. I haven't been out there in 10 years, though. I take it down to my place (Texas brush) and zap this and that with it. It's really helpful handgun hunting to know how far this tree is or that bush before the game comes along even though I don't need it for rifle hunting. With a revolver and iron sights, I don't like taking shots much over 50-60 yards and 100 is absolute maximum range. Even with my contender, 100 yards and in is best due to steadiness of the field rest I use, a rail on my tripod stand.

I maybe didn't actually need it, but it's real handy for handgun hunting in brush and really necessary in the mountains. While I can approximate range out to a couple hundred yards pretty close, shots out there can be farther and it's totally impossible to judge range across an open canyon with any accuracy at all. Range finders are REALLY handy out west in the mountains. You limit your shots to a couple hundred yards in Texas brush, you can live without one, but I still like having mine with me on the stand.

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