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The Best Angle Compensating Rangefinders & Beginners Guide

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Beginners Guide to Rangefinder Angle Compensation

When laser rangefinders hit the market, they did more than just replace the shoddy rangefinders of the past.

With advanced technology and innovative features put into the mix, laser rangefinders came with greater durability, longer range, and better performance.

There's no doubt the better features such as built-in pressure sensors, wind calculators, and ballistic drop corrections are what make laser rangefinders a must-have in the field.

But the one feature that's highly underestimated and no hunter should go without ever again, is Rangefinder Angle Compensation.

When you're in your tree blind, out in the canyon, or in mountainous terrain, you'll need a laser rangefinder to make sure you get the right distances to your target. Trying to eyeball a distance can be risky. You could end up with a misplaced shot.

Now, trying to eyeball a distance while on an incline or a decline can end up being a disaster of a shot. But if you have an angle compensating rangefinder that can do the math and the measuring for you, you've just improved your chances of taking home your prey. Make way now for Angle Compensation.

Angle Compensating Rangefinder: To Have or Not to Have?

Every long distance shooter, whether it's the bow or rifle you prefer, knows that gravity is like the third wheel that you just can't get rid of. So you make room for it, and every shot you make in the field, you compensate for its effects. There's two distances that need defining if you want to get an accurate shot.

  • Line of Sight: the actual measured distance between you and the target
  • True Horizontal Distance: the distance which gravity will act over; the distance you'll need to aim for

Of course, if you've got the perfectly flat terrain with the broad side of that elk facing you from about 40 yards, then the line of sight distance is going to be the same as the true horizontal distance.

Gravity won't have much of an effect to affect either the bow or the bullet. Some people decide to forgo the angle compensation feature, saying it just makes a rangefinder more expensive than it needs to be since you can get by without it. "It's only a few yard difference" says the skeptic.

However, no matter how ideal the perfectly flat terrain can be or how good your distance estimating skills are, hunting can take you to high-angle areas that just might show you how much of a difference those five yards can make.

Errors between 20 to 25 percent can make all the difference. For the bow hunter, that could be a complete miss. For the rifle shooter, a 20 percent error at 200 yards is a 40 yard difference. That could also be a complete miss or worse, a wounded animal.

"But why would shooting at a target on an incline or decline make a difference?"

Have you ever played one of those carnival fair games where you have to toss a ball into a bucket from about 10 feet away? In your mind's eye, you know you have to toss a little higher to create an arc for the ball to land into the bucket.

Easy right? Well, take that bucket and put it on the top of the Ferris wheel, still only 10 yards away. Thinking your imagined trajectory path may need some tweaking now?

The rangefinder angle compensation feature can take into consideration the angle shot and the actual distance to give you a corrected value as accurately as it can, even to -/+.5 of a yard. The only thing left for you to do is to adjust your sights to match what the rangefinder calculated.

Since most optics are zeroed in on flat ground, you might want to consider a rangefinder that has further ballistic calculating capabilities where you know how many "clicks" you need to make to adjust for angle degrees.

Let's take a look at a scenario...

You're up in a tree blind and you spot an elk stroll into your ranging spread. Your line of sight distance to the elk is 70 yards, but the elk is only 23 yards away from the base of your tree stand.

What's the actual distance you should aim for? On top of that, for the bow hunter, what's the angle you should launch your arrow for? How many degrees do you adjust your scope for? For the rifle hunter, how far will your bullet get before a complete drop takes place due to the effects of air resistance and gravity?

Do these kinds of distances matter on trajectory anyway? Anyone have an electronic level or a protractor on hand? Anyone know what the acceleration rate of gravity is? Wait a minute, you didn't sign up to be in math class right?

As the above scenario illustrates, calculating the correct distance to make an accurate shot from either an incline or decline to your target can be quite the math challenge. To make it simpler, a rangefinder with angle compensation can do all the hard work for you.

Your rangefinder should tell you the line of sight distance is 70 yards to the elk, but your true horizontal distance is 23 yards.

For the Bow Hunter...

If you're an archer, these distances are going to be very important to distinguish between which ones are important for your shot. The line of sight distance tells you that although the elk is further away to your eye, you should use the horizontal distance and aim as if it's 23 yards away because gravity only acts over a horizontal arrow path.

If you aim for anywhere near 70 yards, you're going to miss and lose that arrow. That's because you overcompensated the trajectory path by 47 yards which is a 70 percent error rate. That's a big difference when 15 percent is considered accurate.

Bushnell Uses ARC (Angle Range Compensation) in many of their Rangefinders

For the rifle shooter...

For the firearm user, these distances won't make a difference, nor would it be a problem. But if the distances were more extreme, and the angles were steeper, you'd need better math skills or you'd need to get yourself a rangefinder with angle compensation. If you had a line of sight distance of 400 yards to your target at a 40 degree incline, you're going to want to aim low and use the horizontal distance of 335 yards.

Rangefinders with ballistic calculators can tell you what your bullet drop holdover will be according to your rifle's zero and the type of ammunition being used. Gravity acts over a horizontal path, so the bullet is only going to drop the more parallel your rifle is to the ground.

It's important to remember that there is going to be less of a bullet drop whether you're aiming up or down, and to always aim low.

Where to Use Angle Compensation

Both rifle shooters and bow hunters alike can benefit from using rangefinders with angle compensation. Situations that they could prove helpful for include:

  • Rifle hunters with extreme distances
  • Archers in a tree blind
  • Mountain goat hunting in canyons
  • Ranging in mountainous areas
  • Ranging in unknown territory

With this in mind, check out 6 of our most recommended angle compensating laser rangefinders in the table below.

6 Best Angle Compensating Rangefinders

tt-table__imageFury HD 5000 10x42
  • Yard Range: 5-5000 Yards
  • Magnification: 10X
  • Price Range: Under $1500
tt-table__imageNikon Prostaff 1000i
  • Yard Range: 1000 Yards
  • Magnification: 6X
  • Price Range: Under $200
tt-table__imageBushnell Prime 1700
  • Yard Range: 1760 Yards
  • Magnification: 6X
  • Price Range: Under $200
tt-table__imageGogogo 6X Hunting Laser Rangefinder
  • Yard Range: 1200 Yards
  • Magnification: 6X
  • Price Range: Under $100
tt-table__imageSig Sauer KILO1400BDX
  • Yard Range: 1600 Yards
  • Magnification: 6X
  • Price Range: Under $200
tt-table__imageLeupold RX-1600i TBR/W
  • Yard Range: 1600 Yards
  • Magnification: 6X
  • Price Range: Under $400
tt-table__imageSimmons Venture Tilt
  • Yard Range: 650 Yards
  • Magnification: 4X
  • Price Range: Under $100

Laser rangefinders with angle compensation have made it possible to be done with the days of carrying around bullet drop cards with you, and having to tediously do the math before every shot.

Even if you don't know that you'd need angle compensation for any of your hunts, it's better to be prepared than to be without.

Images Source: https://www.bushnell.com/

Further Reading
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Simon Cuthbert - Founder

Simon is an avid outdoor enthusiast and the founder of Target Tamers. He is passionate about bringing you the most up to date, accurate & understandable information on sports optics of all kinds and for all applications. Simon has contributed to notable publications online and teaches beginners the technical side of optics through his extensive library of optics guides.

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