What is a Reflective Target for a Rangefinder

So many people go into the market to buy a rangefinder and then discover that they have been cheated when trying to use the rangefinder. Let me not jump the gun and assume you know what I’m talking about, let us start with some introduction.

A rangefinder is a distance measuring device that can be used for hunting, golfing, surveying, and a bunch of other activities that either requires you to quickly calculate distance accurately and also correctly target specific objects.

Now that you understand what a rangefinder is used for, let us talk a bit about how it works because this is what would lead us back to the topic of this article. What is a reflective target for a rangefinder?

Rangefinder Working Principle

A rangefinder works by using its specific operative type to quickly measure distance. What this means is that there are different types of rangefinders and each of those types operates distinctively similar but using different methods.

For example, we have laser rangefinders, these are the most common types of rangefinders and they work by emitting laser beams.

These beams are produced from the rangefinder with the mere push of a button. These laser beams shoot towards the target, bounces off it, and return back to the rangefinder.

What the laser beam does is to then automatically calculate the time it takes for the laser beams to travel to and fro the target object. It measures the time and distance and displays it for the user to utilize as intended.

There are other types of rangefinders that use other operative means of calculating distances, there’s the optical rangefinder that uses lenses and mirrors to measure the distance from a target and the GPS that uses the global positioning of satellites to measure and calculate distances and slopes, there’s also an ultrasonic rsngefinder that uses sound waves for its measurement.

What Affects The Measurement

So you see, one of the important aspects of using a rangefinder is the target, the target could be a hill, a tree, an animal, or another person. The rangefinder needs a target to measure the distance to and fro.

However, while some targets are reflective, others will absorb the light or the laser beams. The targets that absorb them are generally known as non-reflective targets and in this article, we will be going over the different types of reflective and non-reflective targets. But first, let’s identify other factors that can affect this.

Beam Divergence

The beam divergence of a rangefinder is the ability to focus its laser energy on a specific target.

The beam divergence gets bigger the farther away a target is and this can make for an inaccurate reading especially if the range of the rangefinder being used cannot account for the distance of the target object.

The bigger the divergence is the more spread out it is. What this means is that it spreads out widely and washes over the target.

This feature can be tamed by investing in a rangefinder where the manufacturer accounts for quality pulse transmissions, sharpness, and wavelength.

Aperture size

The size of the aperture also determines the amount of measurement or return data the rangefinder is able to receive.

The bigger it is, the more return data it is able to receive. This increases accuracy and clarity for far and short distances respectively.    

What is a Reflective Target for a Rangefinder

What are Reflective and Non-reflective Targets?

A reflective target is any target that can reflect light, examples of these are glass, metals, and some wet objects. A non-reflective target is a target that cannot reflect light. Examples of non-reflective targets are trees and game animals.     

Essentially, when a target object has higher reflective properties, the more it is most likely going to provide a return reading to the rangefinder user.     

Non-reflective Target

As you must know, laser rangefinders are most commonly used for hunting games, and as we have already established that games are non-reflective targets it would be wise and efficient to purchase a rangefinder that is used for a specific yard distance measurement.

For example, if you purchase a rangefinder with a ranging capacity of about 1000, and you intend to hunt for deers, you must make sure the deer is not farther than a little over 500 yards for accuracy and clarity.

The same goes for trees. If a reflective target like a glass or a flag was placed exactly at the 1000 yards from the rangefinder and the observer, he would still be able to get a reading measurement but because a deer is not a reflective target, if it’s placed 1000 yards away from a 1000 yards ranging rangefinder, it would be harder to get a clear and accurate reading.

When trying to get the distance measurement of a non-reflective target it is very important to take note of the ranging distance of the rangefinder.

This is the importance of a reflective target, they make ranging easier for observers even from afar.  

Reflective target

A reflective target does not necessarily bother much about the ranging distance of the rangefinder, but it would be wise to take note of the minimum and maximum ranging capacity of the rangefinder.

Although reflective targets are generally easier to get a return reading from, several other factors can influence the accuracy and the clarity of the reading even from a reflective target.

Some of these factors include the position of the target, the surrounding covers, the type of the target concerning the rangefinder’s ranging capacity, and other factors.

Hunting rangefinders are different from golfing rangefinders and although some manufacturers claim that certain types of rangefinders are multi-functional, but you might want to do your research first.

What Makes for a Reflective or a Non-reflective Target?

A reflective target is either flat, wet, or shiny. Examples of these are signs/signboards, flat rock or wet rock, glass, a painted wall, etc.  

A non-reflective target is almost usually furry or with feathers. That is, the target has furs or has feathers. Examples of these are game animals like deer, rabbits, or birds. Trees are also examples of non-reflective targets.       

Targets that are smooth, hard, brightly colored, shiny, wet, or flat usually have more reflective properties compared to targets that are dark, opaque, or rough.

Dark things tend to absorb light and reflect back a smaller amount of return light. Furry and feathery targets are soft targets and soft targets tend to disperse the light that falls on them and by consequence the amount of light that is reflected back to the rangefinder.

Targets with rough textures tend to also behave this way and this is why trees are examples of non-reflective targets.

Ranging a non-reflective target can be a pain like I mentioned earlier, one effective way to work around this is to ensure your target is within the field range of a very effective rangefinder.                         

Another commonly effective way is to divide the highlighted or advertised ranging field on the rangefinder by two and work your way around hunting or targeting non-reflective targets.

Remember when I said all game animals are non-reflective? Well, that does not have to be a discouraging factor when you feel inclined to hunt with a rangefinder anymore. All you have to do is employ any of the tips listed in this article.   

Gaming Animals That are Reflective and Non-reflective

I know you may be wondering, could there be a gaming animal somewhere out there that is reflective and wouldn’t make return reading tedious?

Well before I answer that, let’s take a look at what gaming animals are. Gaming animals are hunting animals and they are usually categorized in 3 ways.

  1. Game proper: This category of game animals can be grouped into two, ground games and winged or feathery games. Examples of ground games are hares, rabbits, and squirrels. While examples of winged or feathering games are pheasants, ducks, goose, partridges or grouse, and woodcock.
  2. Small birds: This category is made up of quails and thrushes
  3. Big game: This category is mostly made up of animals that are considered bigger than the animals listed in the ground games. Examples of big game animals are deer, elks, moose, and caribou. Big game animals also include wild boars and bears.        

Notice all the game animals listed in all 3 types of categories are either furry and feathery or winged.

And if you have been reading carefully, you would remember I mentioned that targets that are soft, furry, feathery, and/or dark disperses the light that falls on them and then the return light that gets to the rangefinder is not enough to give a clear and accurate reading.

Essentially, since there are no game animals that are not feathery or furry, there are no game animals that are not non-reflective. Every game animal is non-reflective.   


However, this is not to say that rangefinders cannot read distances to game animals accurately and clearly.

When planning to purchase a rangefinder for hunting games, you have to first consider the distance you plan to shoot the laser or light beams through.

The surroundings of the target can affect the maximum ranging distance of a rangefinder. Many hunters have mastered the skill of bouncing off their lights or laser beams off a nearby reflective object close to the target.

There are several other ways to work around this technicality, otherwise, stick to working well within the minimum ranging capacity of the rangefinder.