Rangefinder Binoculars - How Do They Work?

Rangefinder Binoculars – How Do They Work?

Rangefinder binoculars are helpful devices that allow you to measure the distance between you and a target, such as an animal or an object. 

If you are a hunter or have used a rangefinder before while viewing wildlife, you may have heard of rangefinder binoculars.

If you have heard of them, you are probably itching to try them out. How do they work? 

This guide will cover everything you need to know about the topic, including what rangefinder binoculars are and how they work.

We will also cover what the difference is between reticle and laser rangefinders

By the end of this article, you will know exactly how rangefinder binoculars work and whether a reticle or laser model will be best for you.

Each model will give you a much different experience, so it is good to know what factors you value the most.

Let’s get into it. 

What Are Rangefinder Binoculars?

Rangefinder Binoculars

Before we explain what rangefinder binoculars are, we should first explain what a rangefinder is.

A rangefinder is a device that provides an accurate measurement of the distance between you and a distant target.

Most rangefinders use laser technology to get this reading. 

Rangefinder binoculars combine rangefinding technology with traditional binoculars.

While these instruments look like standard binoculars, they provide long-distance viewing with the perks of a built-in rangefinder.

In general, these products are more expensive than normal binoculars. However, they offer the ability to gather accurate range, and they usually come with a lot of extra features.

Rangefinder binoculars are most useful while hunting.

These optical instruments will allow hunters to clearly spot their target and get an accurate reading of the distance between them.

This information will help increase the accuracy of their shot and increase the chance of a clean kill. 

Reticle vs Laser Rangefinder

Reticle vs Laser Rangefinder

Reticle and laser rangefinders are the two main rangefinder binoculars you will come across. Each is substantially different from the other, and each has its ups and downs. 

If you want to buy your own pair, it is good to know the difference between reticle and laser systems.

This section will compare a few main points of each system and explain why some people prefer laser rangefinders to reticles and vice versa. 

Laser Rangefinders Are More Expensive 

The first major difference between laser and reticle rangefinders is the price.

Laser rangefinder binoculars are typically more expensive than reticles since they automatically calculate the distance for you. 

However, users are expected to complete a simple equation to calculate the distance when using reticle rangefinders.

For this reason, reticle rangefinders are always the more affordable option. 

Laser Rangefinders Are More Accurate 

Another difference between the two models is that laser rangefinders are more accurate.

When it comes to reticle rangefinders, it is up to the user to calculate the distance between them and the target.

They have to either use a math equation to solve the distance or rely on the silhouette figures to make an educated guess.

On the other hand, laser rangefinders do not rely on human judgment to calculate distance, which significantly lowers the chance of possible errors. 

Not only could someone miscalculate while completing the equation, but it would be easy for a beginner to match the target object with the wrong silhouette incorrectly.

Laser Rangefinders Require Batteries

If you are thinking of getting a laser rangefinder, you should be prepared to always have batteries on hand.

Since laser rangefinders are electronic and rely on a laser beam to do the work, these devices run on batteries. 

On the other hand, you can find many reticle rangefinders that do not require batteries.

For example, rangefinders that have physical markings made from fine fibers will not need batteries. 

However, some reticle devices have digital markings instead of physical ones, so these models may require batteries. 

Both Reticle and Laser Rangefinder Systems Can Be Completely Digital

It is a given that all laser rangefinders are digital and run on batteries. You will also find that some reticle rangefinders are digital as well.

In these cases, the reticle lines are digital instead of physical, as mentioned above. 

It is common to find added features on digital models such as an integrated GPS and compass.

If you want the most features possible, go with digital rangefinder binoculars. 

Reticle Rangefinders Require Calculations

One of the main downsides of reticle rangefinders is that they do not produce automatic calculations.

You will need to calculate the distance yourself using the information you receive from your reticle rangefinder.

While this feature may not be a big drawback for those observing wildlife, it may not be the best choice for hunters who may need to make quick decisions. 

However, some people are willing to give up fast results for something possibly more important; distance. 

Reticle Rangefinders Can Handle Longer-Distances

A laser beam can only go so far. In even the most perfect conditions, a laser rangefinder will max out at 1600 yards.

Even so, it is rare that you will find perfect conditions while out in the wilderness. A more accurate maximum range you will get with laser technology is 1000 yards.

Since reticle devices don’t rely on laser beams, they can handle longer distances. You can spot and range objects/animals more than 1600 yards away with this system. 

How Do Reticle Rangefinder Binoculars Work?

How Do Reticle Rangefinder Binoculars Work?

Reticle rangefinder binoculars have a marked reticle that you see when you look through the eyepiece. 

A reticle is a series of fine lines on an eyepiece that provides measurement references.

There are a few different kinds of reticles you will come across, but most are based on an angular measurement named the milliradian. 

Other than the milliradian, there is one other system that you will see on rangefinders: the mil-dot reticle.

This system is merely a variation of the milliradian, and it uses dots for measurements instead of lines. 

On reticle rangefinders, the fine lines on the eyepiece can either be digital or physical markings made from fine fibers.

The scale that you see allows you to calculate the distance from a target using a mathematical formula.

While this sounds complicated, the formula is quite simple; you can do it fairly quickly. 

However, there is another option that will allow you to guess the distance in a more timely fashion.

On some reticle rangefinders, you will see a series of silhouettes. You can make an educated guess of the distance using this system.

All you have to do is match one of the silhouettes to the object/target and read the distance correlated with that figure. 

While these are the cheapest rangefinders you will find on the market, they are still very functional.

They can calculate long distances and the height and width of objects. Furthermore, many models do not require batteries. 

However, you won’t get an immediate calculation with these models. Instead, you will need to do some calculations to figure out the distance.

You can also use the silhouettes to figure out the distance quickly, but this method won’t be as accurate. 

How Do Laser Rangefinder Binoculars Work?

How Do Laser Rangefinder Binoculars Work?

Laser rangefinders are quite popular amongst hunters since they are a lot more accurate and easier to use.

You won’t need to do any calculations yourself while using laser rangefinder binoculars.

When you activate a laser rangefinder, the device sends out a laser beam to land on the target.

The rangefinder then times how long it takes for the beam to return to the device and calculates the distance from there. 

The range on laser rangefinder binoculars is determined by a few factors, including how large the target object is and how reflective the object’s surface is.

Only under perfect conditions will your laser have a range of up to 1600 yards. The average max distance for most devices is about 1000 yards.

Since users can get an accurate reading within seconds, these models are popular for target shooting, hunting, and wildlife viewing.

However, it will be hard to find marine binoculars that use laser technology since the system can lose its accuracy over water. 


Rangefinder binoculars can be very helpful tools while hunting, hiking, camping, target shooting, or wildlife viewing. 

With a pair of these binoculars, you will experience long-range viewing with a built-in rangefinder to help calculate distance. 

There are two main kinds of rangefinder binoculars, including reticle and laser rangefinders. 

Laser rangefinders use laser beams to calculate the exact distance of an object.

The device sends a laser out to land on the target, then calculates the distance by timing how long the beam took to travel back to the device. 

Reticle rangefinders are a bit different; these models require a more hands-on approach.

When you look through a pair of reticle binoculars, you will see a marked reticle through the eyepiece.

With these markings, you can complete a simple equation to calculate the distance between you and a target. 

It isn’t hard to see that there are a few major differences between these two systems.

Laser rangefinders are more expensive, require batteries but are more accurate. Reticle rangefinders do not calculate the distance for you, but they can handle longer ranges. 

Both models are useful for different situations. If you want immediate calculations, go with laser binoculars. If you want more distance, go with the reticle.