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Thread: The fashion for rangefinders.

  1. #1
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    The fashion for rangefinders.

    I notice these days, more and more people seem to have acquired or be talking about acquiring rangefinders and/or rangefinding binoculars.

    My rifles, or more precisely the cartridges I've chosen and the loads I have developed for those rifles, shoot flat enough to give me PBR's in the order of 180 yards and I rarely shoot deer much beyond that distance. Truth to tell, I usually shoot deer at ranges of between 40 and 120yds. Not that I would be shy of taking a 200 yarder but after that I begin to feel the odds of a clean, solid hit start to fall off rapidly. What with windage and target movement and driver error and all.

    So, do other's shoot much further off than me... and NO, I'm not trying to start yet another "long range sniper" debate here. I just wonder why the fashion for the expensive bits of kit that rangefinders (particularly the rangefinding bins) are.

    Clearly others have decided they "need" these bits of kit which I know I don't need and I'd be interested to know why.

    Is it because of poor trajectories from, odd cartridge choices, or using light loads, or using excessively heavy for calibre bullet choices, or choosing bullets with poor BC's, or having short barrels and compromised muzzle velocities, or what?

    Or are they, as I tend to suspect, for the most part, just a fashion statement and/or another gadget for playing with?

    Please advise.

    And, for goodness sake don't take the huff if you actually do need to measure and record every distance. Though I would also be interested to know why you would feel the need to do this. Atb~Tamus

  2. #2
    Speaking for myself i find them useful on new ground, you find an excellent observation spot and measure the distances for future reference.
    Probably like you i can guesstimate distances and rarely shoot over 200.
    When it does come in very useful is with clients, i can tell them the deer is 175 yards away over the opposite side of a field valley, they might not be confident in that, so out comes the rangefinder to give them the confidence they need.
    Cheers
    Richard

  3. #3
    I have found range finders useful as they are a tool which can help you develop your skill at estimating distance. Eventually you don't need them/use them less and can just accurately estimate and take the shot (in the context of deer stalking distances).

    The other area I have found them useful is when attempting to judge distance on commercial re-stock areas as the colour, lack of reference points and dead ground can fool you if you are not careful.

  4. #4
    I use the Swarovski 8x30SLC RF for a bunch of reasons, principally because I am blind in my left eye, so half the bins are wasted anyway...

    To be serious for a second, I rarely use them to identify the distance to a particular deer, but as mentioned above I will range a set of landmarks - trees rocks or whatever if I am in a stationary position, I then know that I have an arc of lets say 200 yards around my highseat or whatever and anything that walks into that arc is in reasonable range.

    I can only think of two occasions where I was unsure of range and targeted a particular deer. One was a fallow pricket which I ranged at about 270 yards across an open "bowl" of a field. I went prone and drilled him. The other was a Sika stag last autumn that I really wanted - I had stalked him for over a 1000 yards. I ran out of cover, and ranged him at just over 300 yards - used the TDS bar for 300 and did the deed with no fuss.
    Brian.

    Just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you......

  5. #5
    I think that range estimation, no matter how good you might be at it, occasionally goes badly wrong and this brings with it the chance of a wounded deer.

    Usually when deer are close there is no time for messing about with a rangefinder and they look close. However when they are a little further away then there is often time to use the rangefinder to get an accurate range and reduce the chances of an error. They are also useful in a high seat, especially on strange ground. I've found that looking down a forest ride can often fool the eye and sometimes things appear much closer or even further than they actually are. It does give some confidence to know that if a deer steps out at a given spot your will be an inch low, or two inches high.

    About a year or more back I was out with a friend stalking sika. On our way back it was getting dark and the friend asked me if the shape out on a field in front was a deer or a black sheep. I put the binos up and said it was a wee stag and he told me to shoot it. I lay down in a gateway with my guess putting the deer at 120ish yards. When I put the crosshairs on the deer I got a bad feeling, they seemed to be covering a lot of the deer or it was a very small deer, either way the proportions were not right. I asked the friend his estimate of the range and he came back with 120 yards which was exactly what I thought. In the end I refused the shot as there was something not right. I came back the following evening and ranged a bush beside where the deer was standing and got 284 yards! Bit of an error there, by two people, and I would consider the friend a "reliable witness" in terms of range estimation. Now, some people might have taken a "bad" shot and never thought to blame their range estimation for the miss, or broken leg, or long follow up and so have walked away thinking that their range estimation skills are excellent and never fail. However, I know that it was my range estimation that was very, very badly wrong and I suspect that others, no matter how skilled, also have situations where bad light, dead ground, strange perspectives and so on mess with their ability and raise the possibility of a miss or injured deer that, for the sake of 2 seconds with a rangefinder, would be well hit.

    So, it's just another tool. I wouldn't use it every time I'm out and especially not on ground I know but it is a handy thing to have and now and again it can contribute to the success of a stalk and also to deer welfare.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by l4oth View Post
    I have found range finders useful as they are a tool which can help you develop your skill at estimating distance.
    Growing up, my grandfathers constantly made me practice estimating ranges from a few yards to a few miles as we walked around. Eventually (as young and foolish men do), I started disputing their pronouncements (which were always right) and this lead to endless bouts of pacing things out, arguing about the length of stride, going back home and getting surveyors' chains, arguing about whether they were pulled tight etc. etc.

    Now going through the same process with my sons, any argument and out come the rangefinders - simples!

  7. #7
    I carry one always, use it occasionally, only time it is regularly needed is on rabbits.
    This time of year when there are full adult and half size ones about range estimation gets more dificult.
    Why make it harder than it needs to be when you only have a tiny target to hit.

    Neil.

  8. #8
    Its simple, they take the guess work out of the equation
    Al

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tamus View Post
    Or are they, as I tend to suspect, for the most part, just a fashion statement and/or another gadget for playing with?

    Please advise.
    Tamus

    Rangefinders are the devil's spawn, designed in a hellish cartel between optics manufacturers and battery suppliers. Inevitably when I look through mine the little target-y thing is flashing like a Belisha beacon, telling me that the battery is about to pack up.

    For woodland stalking I think they are "nice to have". I guess if you're ground includes large fields then they become less of a gadget. I do have a standalone Leica unit that I tend to use when I am in a highseat and nothing is happening so that I can "ping" trees, etc to see how far away they are.

    Seriously, for Southern woodland stalking I can only think of maybe three or four occasions in the past 5 years when I've really used mine in anger. Most recently was last weekend when there was a roe doe the other side of a field and I wanted to verify the range before taking the shot - 159m as it happens. As someone who by choice rarely takes shots on live quarry beyond 150-175m, I wouldn't turn the car around if I'd left my rangefinder at home.

    As others have said, though, when taking clients out they can be useful.

    On the Hill I think it's different, as I find range estimation up there far more challenging, particularly when you get over about 150m.

    willie_gunn
    O wad some Power the giftie gie us to see oursels as ithers see us!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by caorach View Post
    I think that range estimation, no matter how good you might be at it, occasionally goes badly wrong and this brings with it the chance of a wounded deer.

    Usually when deer are close there is no time for messing about with a rangefinder and they look close. However when they are a little further away then there is often time to use the rangefinder to get an accurate range and reduce the chances of an error. They are also useful in a high seat, especially on strange ground. I've found that looking down a forest ride can often fool the eye and sometimes things appear much closer or even further than they actually are. It does give some confidence to know that if a deer steps out at a given spot your will be an inch low, or two inches high.

    About a year or more back I was out with a friend stalking sika. On our way back it was getting dark and the friend asked me if the shape out on a field in front was a deer or a black sheep. I put the binos up and said it was a wee stag and he told me to shoot it. I lay down in a gateway with my guess putting the deer at 120ish yards. When I put the crosshairs on the deer I got a bad feeling, they seemed to be covering a lot of the deer or it was a very small deer, either way the proportions were not right. I asked the friend his estimate of the range and he came back with 120 yards which was exactly what I thought. In the end I refused the shot as there was something not right. I came back the following evening and ranged a bush beside where the deer was standing and got 284 yards! Bit of an error there, by two people, and I would consider the friend a "reliable witness" in terms of range estimation. Now, some people might have taken a "bad" shot and never thought to blame their range estimation for the miss, or broken leg, or long follow up and so have walked away thinking that their range estimation skills are excellent and never fail. However, I know that it was my range estimation that was very, very badly wrong and I suspect that others, no matter how skilled, also have situations where bad light, dead ground, strange perspectives and so on mess with their ability and raise the possibility of a miss or injured deer that, for the sake of 2 seconds with a rangefinder, would be well hit.

    So, it's just another tool. I wouldn't use it every time I'm out and especially not on ground I know but it is a handy thing to have and now and again it can contribute to the success of a stalk and also to deer welfare.
    Ok... I suppose the pertinent question is... Would you have taken the shot if you'd had a rangefinder "that" evening ?

    Or... would you still have "refused the shot as there was something not right" ? ... Which is exactly what I would like to think I would have done. As all the rangefinder would have done for me in those circumstances was confirm "something" didn't add up. Btw, even in good light I'd normally baulk at a known 284yard shot unless the "need" to shoot was very acute, such as the need to nail a particularly wiley fox that was causing severe problems... or such like.

    The expression "if in doubt... don't" comes to mind.

    Another pertinent question might be... How often do rangefinders tell you precisely how far away something is, that you weren't actually asking it to tell you the distance to... instead of returning the range to the actual intended target...or can this NEVER happen?
    Last edited by Tamus; 30-03-2012 at 13:22. Reason: edit

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