June 07, 2022
By Tom Beckstrand
I can’t think of another tool that has affected the rifleman’s life as much as modern rangefinders. More than the advances in manufacturing that have made accurate rifles common and inexpensive, and riflescopes that allow for unparalleled target acquisition, the rangefinder is what allows most of us to hit targets at faraway distances.
Just 20 years ago, riflemen estimated range with the naked eye and guessed. I attended sniper school a little more than 15 years ago and we had advanced all the way to teaching marksmen how to estimate range by measuring in units of 100 yards by visualizing football fields. It sounds effective, but we were guessing like everyone else.
Then along comes the portable rangefinder, and the rifleman’s life in the field started to change. We could measure distances accurately to the target with the press of a button, so guessing became a thing of the past. Rangefinders made it possible to better use the data we collected on how much a scope needed to be dialed up in elevation to hit at the target’s distance.
With the rangefinding issue solved, shooters moved on to using ballistic calculators that factored a bullet’s velocity and its ballistic coefficient (BC) to accurately predict where it would intersect with a target at any distance the shooter could accurately measure. If a guy ranged a target at 632 yards, the ballistic calculator could tell him to dial several minutes of angle (MOA) or mils of elevation onto his scope — and he would hit at that range.
Of course, accurately measuring barometric pressure, temperature and humidity were also necessary to achieve absolute precision. This need brought the presence of the handheld weather station to the shooter’s kit bag. What started with a rangefinder quickly morphed to include a ballistic calculator and a weather station. Each piece of gear cost several hundred dollars, so precision rifle shooting earned an early reputation as another expensive pastime. It also meant keeping track of and using three more pieces of equipment.
The last 10 years has brought a lot of refinement to that early system. Rangefinders have become more effective on smaller targets due to improvements in the laser’s beam divergence, or how quickly it spreads out. The bigger the divergence, the harder it is to accurately hit small targets. Lasers have also become more powerful with more capable sensors to measure the beam’s reflection off of distant targets. This is why we have small rangefinders that can accurately measure several thousand yards on reflective targets. Even though few will actually shoot that far, the farther a rangefinder works, the more likely it is going to work on non-reflective targets such as game animals at closer ranges. Ballistic calculators and handheld weather stations have also become more effective, smaller and less expensive as time continues.
These last few years have seen all three of these devices converge into one hand-held unit. Allow me to introduce the Revic Optics BR4 I’ve been recently using. (Gunwerks, the high-end, long-range rifle builder, owns and operates Revic Optics.) It’s no longer necessary to carry three separate pieces of gear. The BR4 represents the future for riflemen, a one-stop-shop for ballistic solutions.
However, Revic Optics isn’t a “me-too” company that happens to rival some of the bigger brands in the electro-optics category. After a visit last fall to Cody, Wyoming, I now know that Revic and Gunwerks are specialized brands. Both are pushing the boundaries of long-range shooting, and were doing it well before it was a thing. There is a huge amount of hard-earned tribal knowledge within those organizations.
The most important and unique features on the BR4 are the reticle, the laser-beam divergence and the scan modes, which are built into the device. Any laser rangefinder projects a rectangular-shaped beam that gets bigger the further it travels. A concept known as beam divergence, smaller numbers are always better. The beam divergence from the BR4 is .2 mil by 1.6 mil. This means at 1,000 yards, the beam will be approximately 7 inches tall and 57 inches wide. (This is excellent beam divergence.)
Revic Optics is the only maker I know of that shapes and sizes the reticle in the BR4 like the beam the device projects. I’m surprised that no one has done this before. Knowing the shape and size of the beam allows the shooter to use it effectively.
Another key feature of the BR4 is its scanning mode. It allows the shooter to pick which distance measurement they want to see on the display screen, near or far. Since the beam is wide, it usually hits the target and what’s behind it. Also, sometimes weather reflects the beam before it reaches the target. Revic Optics allows the shooter to work through both of those scenarios. Using the beam’s shape and scanning mode allows the BR4 to do things that no other rangefinder currently can.
The BR4 has a 10X zoom optical system, so placing the beam’s shape on target is easier than most of the 7X rangefinders available. A good example of how to use the beam to the shooter’s advantage would be on an animal or steel target with a high ground behind it. I’ve often seen a shooter range a target or animal and receive the distance to the hillside behind the target instead of the actual target. This is a big deal when the hillside is 100 yards or more behind the target.
The BR4 shows the horizontal beam that the shooter can lay across the animal’s back or a steel plate. Set the BR4 to display the “close” reading, and the shooter sees the beam’s reflection from the closest target rather than from the terrain behind it. Setting the scan mode to “far” allows the beam to see through environmental conditions that would cause most rangefinders to fail.
Last year, I shot the National Rifle League Finale in Colorado; there were large fires raging throughout the West. Smoke from these fires blew into the match area and caused problems on occasion with about half of the rangefinders displaying short distances. This happened because the beam reflected off the smoke and not the target. Revic’s BR4 doesn’t have that problem because the shooter can set it to display the “far” distance and see through the smoke. The same thing could happen when ranging targets in the rain or through early morning fog.
The BR4 combines the best rangefinding features available today with an internal weather station that measures temperature, barometric pressure and humidity. It combines all of that with an internal ballistic calculator and projects the target hold on the device’s display screen. Once properly set up through the free app and loaded into the BR4 (a simple process), the shooter puts the reticle on the target, hits a button, and the elevation and windage holds appear on its screen. Dial those adjustments on the scope and fire to hit the target. Never has so much technology been put to such efficient work with the touch of a single button.
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