How Accurate Are Rangefinders?

Being able to find distance is very useful in a lot of situations. From golfing to shooting to work, any number of situations can be dramatically improved by having a good grasp of the distance you are from a point. To help find distance a lot of people invest in laser rangefinders. There are a number of rangefinders on the market but laser-powered ones are the most common so we are going to focus on those.

The Accuracy Of Laser Rangefinders

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How A Laser Rangefinder Works

A lot of people want to know how accurate a rangefinder is but before we can go into that we need discuss briefly how they work. Like the name implies, a laser range finder works by using a laser to measure distance. On the front of the device, you will notice a number of lenses. One of them is used to help you aim the laser rangefinder. The other(s) are for the lasers.

Scientists have been able to determine the amount of time it takes a laser to travel over a certain amount of distance. The laser rangefinder works by sending a laser out from one of the lenses toward an object. When the laser hits the object, it is sent back to the rangefinder and the travel time is recorded by the device. This time is recorded and then converted into distance by the device.

Lasers travel so quickly that the process of using a laser rangefinder only takes a matter of seconds.

The Accuracy Of Laser Rangefinders

The amount of research and development that has gone into the process that we described above has narrowed the art of crafting laser rangefinders a lot. We are capable of developing devices that are able to measure distances very effectively. Most laser rangefinders are able to measure distances to within a yard.

If you purchase a top tier laser rangefinder you may be able to get even better accuracy as the equipment inside is stronger and more sensitive. However, for most uses, the majority of new rangefinders have a good enough accuracy that brand doesn’t matter as much except for when it comes to durability and lifespan.

Are Laser Rangefinders Always Accurate?

Just because laser rangefinders are this accurate doesn’t mean that they are always accurate. Used under good conditions and by someone who has spent the time to learn about their device, measurements will often be quite accurate. Part of learning about your device though, is learning what makes it less accurate.

Let’s have a look at why a laser rangefinder may not give you the most accurate measurement.

Weather Conditions

Laser rangefinders are not all-weather devices. Even if the case for the device is designed to be waterproof, weather is capable of obstructing the laser and preventing it from being able to get an accurate measurement. For example, fog and rain both create obstructions in the air that can obscure the laser and prevent it from getting back to the device.

Keep the current weather in mind when using your laser rangefinder and think about whether they may be any weather-related obstructions to the laser.

Other Obstructions

Weather isn’t the only thing that can obstruct a laser rangefinder. Because the laser travels so fast, a branch, leaf, or similar object may obstruct a laser from being able to reach its intended target. This is especially common in days where there is wind and if you only spend a brief moment measuring the distance. The object may come in front of your laser right as you decide to measure.

If a measurement doesn’t look right, try it again. It also never hurts to measure two or three times, especially when accuracy matters.

Not Hitting The Right Target

Aiming your laser rangefinder is a key part of getting a good measurement. You will want to ensure that your laser is hitting what you are aiming at. Without very high zoom, if you are aiming at something that is far out, there is always the chance that your laser isn’t hitting exactly where you think it is.

The good news about this is that you can work to prevent this from being a problem in the first place. Before you start using your laser rangefinder where it matters, spend a lot of time getting used to pointing it at objects and measuring distance. It can be very helpful to test your rangefinder out in places that you already know the distance so that you know whether you are accurately aiming your device or not.

Effective Range Varies

The effective range of your rangefinder actually varies. Most rangefinders are accurate up to 500 yards when you are measuring on most surfaces. This is despite the fact that many laser rangefinders boast claims that they are accurate at double that length.

Rangefinders perform better on some surfaces than others. If you are hitting a good surface, such as a rangefinder flag, you will be accurate out to much further distances than if you are trying to focus on a small object.

Larger objects also return a better laser signal than smaller objects.

The Device

Technology is prone to having errors, it can’t be helped. Laser rangefinders can have some device errors and not every rangefinder is set up to notify you about these errors. One of the most common device errors to get is a low battery. If a battery is really low, the power of the laser will be reduced, resulting in less accurate results. Using quality batteries will also help to ensure a strong laser beam.

Another thing to take into mind is that, as we mentioned above, higher-quality devices will often give you more accurate results. This is because those devices use better lasers, sensors, and other hardware.

Lastly, when it comes to the device, your platform can matter. Smaller, lightweight devices can often be easy to hold and aim with but that doesn’t mean you aren’t moving by accident. Heavier units are often harder to hold too. Using a tripod, or learning to stabilize your device will help to ensure the accuracy of your readings.

For the most part, laser rangefinders are considered to be incredibly accurate pieces of technology. Again, this is as long as the person using it understands their uses and limitations. There is a reason that these devices have become so popular around the world though, they aren’t hard to learn to use and they aren’t even that expensive.

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