Educate me on rangefinders please

Hi all,

This isn't flashlight specific but related nontheless. I think I've found a new spot where I can start producing consistent outdoors shots. However, I'd like some accurate way to easily measure the distance to my target.

I think in the end, either a laser distance measurer (pretty pricey) or a rangefinder would suit my needs best. I have one of those wheel measuring devices and they are fine provided I have access to my target but that may not always be the case.

So, with that all said, what would you recommend as the best way for me to accurately measure distances targets that I might not have physical access to?

It will also need to be able to measure in darkness out to 500m or so. Trying to keep said device below $250 if possible.



Hi turboBB,

have you seen the "gear for flashlight carriers" category? Maybe you can move your thread there... I think it is more fitting. There are already some non-flashlight related topics over there... knives/monoculars/binoculars etc.... Good luck with your search btw.

Done, thx Vectrex!

Depending on landmarks, you might be able to do it on google maps:

Use satellite view and enable the "Distance measurement tool" in google labs.

I would also suggest google maps, find your landmarks and you are set.

Rangefinders on the other hand, for the distances you require are laser devices. The range is dependent on the reflectivity of the target, ranging a tree is much different from ranging a road sign (which is highly reflective)...

Something like this or that? Together with a thrower flashlight it might work.

Doesn't work exactly the way you are thinking, ie light up a target and you'll be able to range it. Rangefinders as I said depend mostly on reflectivity (and environmental conditions). In fact if you get too much light (for example on a very sunny day), the harder it is for a rangefinder to read back the bounced off beam. Laser range finders work at their best in the low-light conditions. What affects reflectivity? Color, surface finish, size and shape of the target. Bright colors reflect more, same with shiny surfaces. So at the end of the day is not the light but mostly what it is that you throw your light on.

Whichever rangefinder you get, if you cannot get the range then you need to aim it at a more reflective target... this is why maybe google is more handy... ;)

I use Google Maps for my rangefinding as well... It's cheap! Money Mouth $)

But when it is dark, it is very handy to have a thrower light or it is impossible to aim the rangefinder.

Trees at a distance work fine in the summer, when they are green, but during winter without leaves on they can be difficult to range. There are two reasons for that: lower reflectivity and the laser beam might not hit a branch.

This is what i am saying, it depends on what surface you throw the light on much more than how much light there is on the surface. The light is going to help see the target, is not going to help much the laser beam bounce off better.

Hey guys, thank you all so much for the replies and apologies for my late one seems from time to time the notifications will be shut-off on my watched posts.

Anyways, there is one item in particular item I need to find out the distance for that I definitely won't be able to access and that's a buoy out in the sea...

As far as I can tell, I don't see it on Google maps. Any ideas how I can find the distance to this buoy?

I already checked NOAA but the one they have is in Newport RI. I'll be in Jamestown.


If you can borrow a transit do triangulations that may work.

Have you tried the satellite view overlay? It might be possible to spot the buoy on that.

Where abouts is the buoy? Can you mark its location more or less on Google Maps and take a screenshot? Have you tried Bing Maps? You can see buoys in Bing Maps in many locations...

Which bouy? There are 4 on the East side, one of which is lighted and there are 2 on the west side.

You can download ENC charts from NOAA and a free viewer called OpenCPN.

You can easily find laser rangefinders well below $250. Golfers carry them all the time. I bought a Bushnell unit years ago when they first came out and it was less than that. Typical range is 800 yards.

Thx guys, I'll be here:

Using google maps I don't think I see any buoys (but then again I don't recall the exact location, just know they're out there).

I'll try bing later.

@leelou - have a link to this transit you speak of? I'm sorry but I'm not familiar with it and perhpas my search-fu is weak but google turns up nothing that doesn't involve transportation. THX!


I can see two buoys, each one is ~2110-2160ft from your mark.

Oh wow, good eye! Guess they're a bit further than I had anticipated/recalled. I must be remembering a different buoy from Bar Harbor, Maine that was much closer to the shoreline.

Anyways, thanks again guys, I should hopefully have something interesting to post in about a week or so.