How laser rangefinder modes work

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Hunter glassing with the Vortex® Razor® 4000 Laser Rangefinder

For serious hunters, archers, and long-range shooters, understanding how and when to use target and range modes is crucial for ensuring optimal accuracy when a shot opportunity presents itself.

We’ve all been there: you’ve spent hours stalking your prey or setting up the perfect shot, only to flat out miss. Often these ruined opportunities aren’t just about shaky hands or poor conditions; they can also be due to incorrectly using your laser rangefinder.

Read on to learn how and when to use your Vortex® laser rangefinder’s target and range modes so that every time you squeeze the trigger or release an arrow, your aim is as accurate as it can be.

RANGE AND TARGET MODES EXPLAINED

Range and target modes are specialized settings on a rangefinder designed to help hunters, archers, and long-range shooters adapt to varying conditions and target characteristics. Range modes can provide distance readings that factor in elevation, angle, and atmospheric conditions, while target modes help distinguish the intended prey from its surroundings.

Choosing the appropriate mode is critical for shooting and hunting success, as it ensures that you get the most accurate distance measurements, thereby enhancing your shot’s precision when it counts.

Rangefinder Range Modes Graphic

RANGE MODES

LOS MODE

WHAT IT DOES: LOS Mode displays the actual “Line of Sight” range from the rangefinder to the target along with the slope angle.

WHEN TO USE IT: This mode is intended for shooters utilizing ballistic devices and shooting at distances beyond 500 yards with slopes greater than 15 degrees. Most commonly used ballistic devices require line of sight range input for accurate results.

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HCD MODE

WHAT IT DOES: HCD or “Horizontal Component Distance” Mode is the default and primary mode for most rifle and archery applications. HCD Mode displays the slope angle compensated distance to the target.

WHEN TO USE IT: This mode is most useful for archers shooting out of a treestand, mountain hunters, and precision competitors who need an angle compensated distance for an accurate shot. Shooters simply use the appropriate level of bullet drop and wind adjustment for the range displayed and shoot. Archers use the appropriate level ground sight pin.

WHEN TO USE IT: This mode is intended for shooters utilizing ballistic devices and shooting at distances beyond 500 yards with slopes greater than 15 degrees. Most commonly used ballistic devices require line of sight range input for accurate results.

TARGET MODES

Depending on the model, Vortex® laser rangefinders offer up to four target modes to deliver accurate ranges in any hunting or shooting situation.

Rangefinder Target Modes Graphic

NORMAL MODE

WHAT IT DOES: The default Normal Mode is the standard mode that provides the targets range with the strongest range result. Utilizing the scan feature by pressing and holding the range button while in Normal Mode results in a yardage display that’s constantly updated.

WHEN TO USE IT: Normal Mode is recommended for most situations.

FIRST MODE

WHAT IT DOES: First Mode displays the closest distance when ranging.

WHEN TO USE IT: This mode is ideal for ranging a smaller target in front of other larger or more reflective objects; for example, a mule deer bedded in front of distant rocks.

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LAST MODE

WHAT IT DOES: Last Mode displays the farthest distance when ranging.

WHEN TO USE IT: Last Mode is ideal for ranging a specific target behind a group of objects like brush, trees, or rocks; for example, when ranging an approaching whitetail through leaves and branches.

ELR MODE

WHAT IT DOES: ELR or “Extended Laser Range” Mode is ideal for ranging targets at extreme distances. A slightly longer response time allows for greatly extended range distances. The use of a tripod is recommended for best results.

WHEN TO USE IT: ELR Mode is perfect for ranging when Normal Mode is unable to obtain a desired range. This mode is also useful for planning long stalks. For example, range a distant landmark near the animal’s location. Drop a pin on your mobile mapping app and use this destination as a checkpoint to relocate your target. Hunter glassing with the Vortex® Viper® HD 3000 Laser Rangefinder

WHICH LASER RANGEFINDER IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

The Vortex® rangefinder lineup delivers exceptional optical clarity and accuracy essential for precise shot calculations based on the terrain, weather, and type of target. Vortex® also delivers a range of models catering to different skill levels and budgets, all backed by the VIP Warranty. Watch this Vortex® Laser Rangefinder Comparison video for a breakdown on what makes each unit unique.

Visit your local Vortex® dealer to get your hands on the different models, try out all the features, and find the best one for your hunting and shooting needs.

It’s our hope you can learn and laugh along with the expert voices we feature on this blog. We want to be clear that the opinions you see featured here are just that: opinions. The content belongs to the authors and is not necessarily the opinion of Vortex Optics.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>