Q Any tips to get the most out of a rangefinder? I find mine quite fiddly to use and get accurate results with – my usual quarry is the fox, so not the biggest and easiest animal to range. Should I just give up?
A Chris says: Depending on what type of rangefinder you have, the options for setup may be extremely narrow or very broad. Assuming it is a simple handheld point-and-press unit like a Hawke or MTC, other than keeping fresh batteries installed and making sure your eyepiece focus is correct, there is little that can be done other than ensure the reticle actually coincides with where the laser is pointing and the laser beam bouncing back.
I tend to use hard return objects like flat-roofed buildings to check both vertical and lateral ‘zero’ as you may call it, and then make a mental note of the results. Go 300-400 metres away and test how near or far the internal reticle needs to be from the wall’s corners or rooflines before a ‘ping’ is returned. This is easiest done in a ‘scan’ mode so as you drift the reticle toward and then across the target, the return will ping back, and you know for future reference if you need to aim (not that it is desirable) slightly high, low, left or right of your perceived target. This can be very important for small animals in the field against equally laser returning foliage.
Handheld rangefinding units are low in magnification and difficult to hold steady, especially if they require a heavy button press to send out that laser. In honesty, a lot of cheap rangefinders aren’t stuffed with quality, lending a yellow/grey hue to the image – extensive, cheap electronic functionality is advertised and pushed well ahead of optical capability.
If you have one of the more complex units such as Leica’s HD-B binocular or Rangemaster units, the ballistic capability is a far more detailed experiment than is fully covered in the instructions – similarly items like Sig Sauer’s units. It can be worth playing about with possible setting options like closest target, last target and ignoring rain bounce back too, depending on what your model will facilitate and the instructions explain.
Chris Parkin, Target sports journalist and optics reviewer