Rangefinders are great for activities like hunting and playing golf. That’s because they can provide extremely precise distance measurements to your targets by using a laser beam. But that just makes you wonder: do rangefinders work at night?
Do Rangefinders Work At Night?
For hunting, this is an extremely pertinent question. Quite a lot of hunting goes on during the nighttime hours when rats and boars come out more in the open.
It’s especially prevalent for hunting during the dusk and dawn hours when it’s not exactly bright as day. For these times, you need to be sure if they’re actually going to be useful.
Golfing at night obviously doesn’t make sense, but the question is still somewhat relevant. That’s because lots of people are somewhat fanatical when it comes to starting or finishing a round. It may be possible for a round of golf to start in the early hours of the morning.
It’s also possible that you end up scrambling to finish a round as dusk approaches. These are low light conditions for which using a rangefinder may not be as easy as usual.
The first thing you need to understand about nighttime use of rangefinders is that visibility is the number one issue. If you can’t really see what’s out there, exactly what are you aiming for?
That’s why it’s pretty useless to use a rangefinder at night. You don’t really know what you’re aiming at if you’re in complete darkness.
Using a rangefinder can also be rather difficult at night because of readability issues. When you use a rangefinder, you peer through the scope and use the reticle to focus on your target. Usually, that reticle is black, though.
Even if there’s some bit of ambient light around, through the eyepiece it may be all black. So then again you’re not really aware of what you’re aiming at. It can be your prey or a tree that’s 200 yards closer.
Let’s say you are able to focus on your target and you get a measurement. The problem again is that this measurement is displayed in black. Since it is nighttime, the black display on a black background may not be read all that easily.
So what you need this time is a brighter reticle, preferably in green. The readings of the measurements should be in green as well. It may also help if there’s some sort of backlit capacity for the display so it’s more readable at night.
Light Gathering Capability
For both rangefinders and scopes, you may see a designation such as 6x20mm or 9x40mm. The first number refers to the magnification power available.
The second number refers to the objective lens diameter. When it comes to gathering light and providing a brighter image, the rule is simple: the bigger the mm number, the better.
The thing is that you may have larger lens diameter sizes with scopes such as 40 or 50mm, but that’s not always available with affordable rangefinders. Most of the time, you’re stuck with 20mm as your objective lens diameter.
However, some rangefinders have lenses with special coatings that help them gather more light in. These coatings may or may not be as effective as they claim in the advertisements, though.
If you want to use these rangefinders for dusk and dawn hours, then you also need one that’s marketed for low light conditions. Those things aren’t always available, and they may be more expensive.
There are 3 basic ways for you to overcome the limitations.
- One way to get around the limitations is to accept the fact that you can’t really use this in complete darkness. But even at night, it isn’t always completely dark. If the moon is full or the rat you’re targeting is right under a street light or a porch light, then the rangefinder may work. You’ll be able to see what you’re focusing on, and you can read the measurements on the display more easily (or at least with less difficulty).
- If there’s no convenient light provided, why not use your own spotlight? Spotlights are often issued to hunt raccoons at night, and that’s also true when you’re hunting coyotes. While you may use plain white lights, you may want to think about using green or red lights instead. You just need to check if you can use these lights to go with your rangefinder.
- Your final option is to use night vision. This is when you use IR light to flood or spotlight an area, and then you have a viewing device like a scope that can see the light. You may buy a monocular rangefinder that comes with IR capability. Some IR scopes also have integrated laser rangefinders.
Just understand, however, that these options aren’t meant for you to go golfing in the dark of night!