A Basic Guide on How a Rangefinder Works

A rangefinder is a highly important device for measuring distance. There’s no doubt about that. At least everyone appreciates that fact.

However, how exactly do the niffy devices operate? Which mechanisms do they use to measure the distance between a user and a target? While many people aren’t into understanding how the devices work, some familiarity with the concept can certainly be handy when in the field. In fact, having this information will assist you to utilize your rangefinder in a more skillful way.

A Basic Guide on How a Rangefinder Works

One of the best attributes of a rangefinder is the fact that using it is a very straightforward way. The only thing you need to do is point it at your target and press a button. When you do that, the gadget will emit a laser beam that bounces off the object prior to returning back to the rangefinder.

As ArcheryTopic.com, the best hunting rangefinder features a high-speed clock that then measures the time taken between emitting and returning a beam. Obviously, the laser beam travels at a very high speed. The speed is a known constant. Consequently, a rangefinder employs a formula to calculate the distance depending on the time taken for the beam to return.

Despite the fact that almost all rangefinders work similarly, certain models are definitely better and/or more accurate. This is all thanks to their construction. The two important factors which influence the effectiveness of a rangefinder include:

  • The magnification level
  • The quality of optics

magnification level

After all, how does one calculate a target’s distance if it’s not visible? With a high magnification level, you’ll surely be able to discover more targets. The scope’s glass quality has a big impact on the results you get as well. 

Factors that affect ranging performance

Ranging performance of different rangefinders depends on various factors when using them for hunting or even long range shooting. Here are some of the factors: 

Ability to Spot a Target

Basically what this means is high-quality optics that feature proper magnification. Obviously, as indicated earlier, you cannot range a target if you cannot find it. Most rangefinder users choose a 10 x or 8x magnification.

A gadget with a 5x magnification can miss targets which a 10x magnification gadget can’t. However, as much as that might be the case, an excellent glass can make up for a lower magnification, at times.

The point is an appropriate magnification and quality glass both matter. You cannot afford to ignore either of them. 

Receiver aperture size

The receiver aperture size simply refers to the receiver optic’s opening size that records the return readings and then sends to the actual sensor. Larger apertures usually have a bigger impact on how much return data a unit is able to collect. This can allow a unit to perform at greater distances as well as assist the accuracy/resolution of measurements at shorter distances. 

Getting laser energy on a target

Beam divergence plays a huge role in this. It’s basically a description of how ‘’focused’’ or otherwise your beam is. A couple of trade-offs exist between a larger beam divergence or tight beam divergence. Moreover, there can be a difference between the quality of laser pulses transmitted, in regards to sharpness, wavelength, and type. Nonetheless, quantifying these things can turn out to be a challenge. 

Analysis of results

Units interpret results differently. Actually, plenty of differences exist in the way rangefinders interpret readings after receiving them. Without a doubt, some are smarter compared to others. The older models displayed the maiden readings which returned to the unit. Modern rangefinders, on the other hand, utilize ‘’multi-pulse technology.’’

The multi-pulse technology emits a burst of hundreds if not thousands of smaller laser pulses over a very short period of time. Afterward, it collects a vast sample size of readings and then analyzes the results to ignore/identify outliers such as rain, fog, and brush. In the end, they’re able to determine the reading one intends to range with much more certainty.

The more beams emitted also assists the chances that you will get a reading off a non-reflective and/or small target.

The algorithms and logic utilized to determine exactly what to display to a user can have a huge impact on how brilliantly or otherwise your unit performs. 

How Does a Rangefinder Analyze Results and Determine What to Display

Factors that affect ranging performance

This is where the mechanism of a rangefinder certainly gets interesting. Rangefinders employ a number of approaches to determine which readings to display. Some of the most common include:

  • 1st reading – Older rangefinders used this approach to determine what to display. When they receive the maiden beam, they reflect back to it, calculate and then display the matching distance.
  • Closest spike – A rangefinder searches for the closest peak rather than the closest single angle. The approach helps to filter out any ‘false’ readings from things that are more scattered in a pattern such as fog or rain. Such things do not actually result in a peak. That is for sure.
  • Highest spike – With this approach, a unit searches through an entire set of readings and then finds the fastest peak of readings for a similar distance. It assumes that’s what you’re intending to the range. The highest spike approach is great when you’re trying to range reflective targets which are perpendicular to a user.
  • Largest cluster – The largest cluster approach analyses a complete set of readings and searches for the largest group of readings.
  • Furthest spike – A rangefinder searches for the peak that’s furthest out. The approach is particularly helpful when one tries to range a target that’s partially obscured.

 In Summary

By understanding how a rangefinder works, you’ll manage to handle them more skillfully in the field. The most important thing to understand is the fact that all rangefinders work by utilizing the same basic concept. While they work in almost similar lines, there’s plenty of room for innovation as well as the implementation of details.

About Connie F. Kirkland

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