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Greek soldier using a laser rangefinder
Laser rangefinder

A rangefinder is a device that measures distance from the observer to a target.


Some devices use active methods to measure (such as ultrasonic ranging module, laser rangefinder, radar distance measurement); others measure distance using trigonometry (stadiametric rangefinders and parallax, or coincidence, rangefinders). Older methodologies that use a set of known information, usually distances or target sizes, to make the measurement, have been in regular use since the 18th century.


Applications include surveying, navigation, to permit focus in photography, choosing a golf club according to distance, and correcting aim of a projectile weapon for distance.


Laser rangefinders are used for many things today, including golf. People can use this technology not only to measure the yardage of a particular shot, but to gauge slope and wind as well. The technology makes it very simple to obtain a yardage. In a typical rangefinder, one will aim the reticle at the flagstick and press a button to get the yardage. Of course, this technology quickly made its way up to the professional level, and there was an outburst of confusion. There was intense debate over whether they should be allowed in tournaments, professionally or on an amateur level. Nothing much has been concluded on the issue, other than it is still a work in progress. Today, laser rangefinders are not permitted in tournament level on the PGA under any circumstances. Although the use is banned on the professional level, they are becoming very widely used on the amateur level. The growing popularity of this technology among amateurs is becoming visibly apparent, and it can be seen throughout the country. With the rise in use, the prices over the years have also been on the incline. In 2010, rangefinders were generally in the $100–$200 price range, whereas today they are anywhere from $300 and above(Golfsmith.com). According to the media surrounding golf, one of the biggest issues in golf today is the pace of play. Statistics show that it is getting slower and slower by the year, and one of the biggest benefits of permitting rangefinders is that it greatly increases pace of play. This is a major driving force behind the growing popularity in admittance in laser rangefinders, and a profound argument against the ban at the professional level. However, ‘traditionalists’ of golf say they want to preserve the integrity and history of the game, and by doing so, not allow the use of laser rangefinders. Both sides have their arguments, and it has resulted in a stand-still for several years.


Rangefinders may be used by users of firearms over long distances, to measure the distance to a target in order to allow for projectile drop.[1] The laser rangefinder displays a luminous dot that may alert a target. Until the development of electronic means of measuring range after the Second World War, warships used very large optical rangefinders—with a baseline of many meters—to measure range for naval gunnery.


Rangefinders are also used for surveying in forestry. Special devices with anti-leaf filters are used.

Virtual reality

Since the 1990s, rangefinders have been used in virtual reality systems to detect operator movements and locate objects.[2]

See also


"Golf Rangefinder Comparison Chart at Golfsmith." Golf Rangefinder Comparison Chart at Golfsmith. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2014.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. "Range Finder (instrument)." Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2014.

"While We're Young, USGA." Golf.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2014.

"How Google's Self-Driving Car Works." - IEEE Spectrum. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.

  1. Farey, Pat and Spicer, Mark (2009) Sniping: An Illustrated History Zenith Press, Grand Rapids, Michigan, page 7, ISBN 978-0-7603-3717-2
  2. Kidd, Cory D. et al. (1999) "The aware home: A living laboratory for ubiquitous computing research" Lecture Notes in Computer Science 1670: pp. 191–198, doi:10.1007/10705432_17

Further reading


  • Army Test and Evaluation Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground Maryland (1969) Laser Rangefinders Ft. Belvoir Defense Technical Information Center, U.S. Army, Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, OCLC 227620848 20 pages (early history of the use of lasers in rangefinders)
  • Gething, Michael J. (1993) Airborne Weapons: A Defence Handbook: A compilation of articles from Defence magazine over the last five years, charting the development of Airborne Weapons since 1987 Cardiff Publishing Company, Englewood, Colorado, ISBN 1-881289-11-7, 44 pages
  • Infantry and Cavalry School (1905) Notes on rangefinders, compasses and on contouring with the Scale of Horizontal Equivalents (series: Infantry and Cavalry School Lectures 1902-1910) Staff College Press, U.S. Army, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, OCLC 278057724, 35 pages


  • Photographic and Imaging Manufacturers Association (1999) American national standard for photography (optics) : rangefinders and other focusing aids – performance specifications (revision and redesignation of "ANSI PH3.619-1988" as "ANSI/PIMA IT3.619-1998") American National Standards Institute, New York, OCLC 41501265, 14 pages
  • Hicks, Roger and Schultz, Frances (2003) Rangefinder: Equipment, History, Techniques Guild of Master Craftsman, Lewes, United Kingdom, ISBN 1-86108-330-0


  • Ehlert, Detlef; Adamek, Rolf and Horn, Hans-Juergen (2009) "Laser rangefinder-based measuring of crop biomass under field conditions" Precision Agriculture 10(5): pp. 395–408
  • Infantry and Cavalry School (1905) Notes on rangefinders, compasses and on contouring with the Scale of Horizontal Equivalents (series: Infantry and Cavalry School Lectures 1902-1910) Staff College Press, U.S. Army, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, OCLC 278057724, 35 pages
  • Whitehouse, J. C. (2005) "Further considerations of defocus rangefinders" Transactions of the Institute of Measurement and Control 27(4): pp. 297–316

Virtual space

  • Ward, A.; Jones, A and Hopper, A. (1997) "A New Location Technique for the Active Office" IEEE Personal Communications 4(5): pp. 42–47
  • Werb, J. and Lanzi, C. (1998) "Designing a positioning system for finding things arid people indoors" IEEE Spectrum 35(9): pp. 71–78

External links

  • "Distance calculator - Calculates the exact distance between places" [1]
  • "Rangefinder Comparison - A National Forest Service document" [2]
  • "Light Pulse Generator for rangefinder testing" [3]