Rifle Mountable Range Finders



  • The options in the rifle mountable laser range finder space are few and far between. For US units that we can buy, the Silencer Co Radius is the low end option and the Wilcox RAPTARs are the high end option.

    The Radius has been discontinued. Wilcox is still making RAPTARs.

    I have both and like both.

    And the Radius is still available as a used unit, but if you want the next step up in ruggedness, reliability and performance, the RAPTAR eye-safe military unit is the next step up.

    I've also had the IR&D Vampire Solo. Mine was the 905nm version, though there is a more expensive 1550nm version. It is great and in many ways surpasses the RAPTAR. But, it broke. The on/off switch died and after waiting for six months for the factory in Belgium to send me a replacement, I gave up and got another RAPTAR instead. The S/ES model with the ballistics module like the VSO had.

    A big plus of the RAPTAR is that its ranging laser is 1550nm frequency. The Radius ranging laser is down in the NV visible spectrum. The spec sheet does not specifiy exactly, but I can definitely see the ranging laser pattern for the Radius with a PVS-14. The Radius is probably 905nm as that is a standard.

    Why is 1550nm a plus ? The answer might surprise you, it surprised me ! :D

    The reason starts with the fact with lasers over 1400nm will not penetrate the cornea , even at significantly higher power. Hence the 1550nm ranging laser is eye safe. This enables the military units to boost the power of these ranging lasers WAY up. Per Nick Vitalbo, "1550nm can emit more than 10 times the energy safely than 905nm systems. The result is an increase in the range capability of the laser range finder while maintaining eye safety." It is true that the lower frequency 905nm lasers have better performance with water in the air, but that is more than offset by the greater power of the military 1550nm lasers.

    Here are test results from "Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting V2":

    Applied-Ballistics-Rangefinder-Test-Results.jpg

    References:

    https://precisionrifleblog.com/2018/08/26/extreme-long-range-tips-spotting-shots-ranging/

    https://store.appliedballisticsllc.com/Modern_Advancements_in_Long_Range_Shooting_V_I_p/0004.htm

    https://store.appliedballisticsllc.com/Modern_Advancements_in_Long_Range_Shooting_V_II_p/0008.htm

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263472962_Comparison_of_905_nm_and_1550_nm_semiconductor_laser_rangefinders'_performance_deterioration_due_to_adverse_environmental_conditions



  • Here I am yesterday ranging out to 1373 yards with the RAPTAR in the rain. I tried 1800-5300 yd targets, but not successfully. The 1373 was as far as I could get in the rain we had yesterday. It was periods of "Noah's Rain" strength, but intensity dropped to around "regular ole steady, solid rain" while I was out. I grew up in Florida, so what many people call a "rain" I call a "drizzle" :)

    46955052924_251ae5c37a_k.jpg

    Some advantages rifle mounted range finders have is they are already on a stable platform, i.e. the rifle on the tripod (or the ground) ... and once the rifle mounted range finders are properly (infinity) zeroed to the day scope, the day scope offers an excellent means of aiming the range finder at a small distant target.



  • Today, ranging in "light rain" ... was able to get about twice the distance ...

    32822622347_9ce4d713ca_k.jpg



  • The mounting/zeroing solution on the raptar seems vastly superior to the silencerco radius. Can you comment on the ease of zeroing and the ability to hold zero?



  • Ok, well you asked :D

    I use exactly the same processes (except for required differences) for zeroing all these rifle mountable ranging lasers, regardless of what the "instructions" say :D

    These processes might "look" complex, but I am just trying to be detailed :)

    For rifles with day scopes which will be used with NV clipons.

    01 - Zero the day scope
    02 - Mount the range finder
    03 - Wait for dark
    04 - Head out and setup your rifle and tripod in a spot where you can see a man made object at a decent distance away. I use objects like steel targets or cattle mineral feeders and aim at specific spots on those objects, visibility permitting.
    05 - AIM your day scope reticle at the center of the section of the man-made object you are using for this process.
    06 - Activate the aiming laser for your LRF
    07 - Using your PVS-14, find where the aiming laser is pointing. It could be pointing anywhere ... at a tree 200yds to the left, whatever, find it out there.
    08 - While watching the aiming laser with your 14, manipulate the elevation and windage adjustments on the LRF to get it roughly on to the target you are using for the zeroing process.
    09 - Once done with the rough aiming, then get behind your day scope and fine tune the elevation and windage adjustments to match the center of your day scope reticle exactly, while continuously ensuring your day scope reticle is pointed at the spot on the target you are using for aiming.
    10 - Once that is done, power down the aiming laser.
    11 - Test the range finder against multiple known distance targets to ensure you are actually ranging what you are pointing at. If necessary, repeat steps 9-11 until the test phase is passed. You are then go to go.
    12 - you will be at least as accurate as the offset between the center of the aperture of the LRF and the center of the day scope, out to twice the distance of the target you zeroed to. Provided you zeroed accurately.

    For rifles using thermal clipons. The process is slightly modified.

    44403085801_1ee6f28045_k.jpg

    01 - Zero the day scope
    02 - Mount the range finder
    03 - Mount a PVS-14 with a device such as a Night Optics Day Night adapter, on the occular end of your day scope
    04 - Mount your second PVS-14 on your head
    05 - Wait for dark
    06 - Head out and setup your rifle and tripod in a spot where you can see a man made object at a decent distance away. I use objects like steel targets or cattle mineral feeders and aim at specific spots on those objects, visibility permitting.
    07 - AIM your day scope reticle at the center of the section of the man-made object you are using for this process.
    08 - Activate the aiming laser for your LRF
    09 - Using your head mounted PVS-14, find where the aiming laser is pointing. It could be pointing anywhere ... at a tree 200yds to the left, whatever, find it out there.
    10 - While watching the aiming laser with your 14, manipulate the elevation and windage adjustments on the LRF to get it roughly on to the target you are using for the zeroing process.
    11 - Once done with the rough aiming, then get behind your day scope (second 14 already mounted there per process) and fine tune the elevation and windage adjustments to match the center of your day scope reticle exactly, while continuously ensuring your day scope reticle is pointed at the spot on the target you are using for aiming.
    12 - Once that is done, power down the aiming laser.
    13 - Mount the thermal clipon
    14 - Test the range finder against multiple known distance targets to ensure you are actually ranging what you are pointing at. If necessary, repeat steps 9-11 until the test phase is passed. You are then go to go.
    15 - you will be at least as accurate as the offset between the center of the aperture of the LRF and the center of the day scope, out to twice the distance of the target you zeroed to. Provided you zeroed accurately.

    If you are using the LRF with a thermal scope ... you need two rifles as well as two pvs-14s ... proceed as follows:

    45123566074_ddf690d0c3_k.jpg

    01 - Setup 5.56(10.3) on RRS tripod
    02 - Setup 7.62(22) on Manfrotto tripod just to the right of the 5.56(10.3)
    03 - Aim reticle of mk3 60mm on 5.56(10.3) at center of mineral feeder at 415yds.
    04 - With PVS-14 on rear of NF scope, aim center of 7.62(22) reticle at the mineral feeder.
    05 - Turn on the radius aiming laser.
    06 - Adjust the radius aiming laser so it is pointed at the mineral feeder, use helmet mounted 14 to get into the ball park.
    07 - Keep checking the 5.56(10.3) to make sure the center of the thermal reticle is aimed at the center of the mineral feeder.
    08 - Fine tune the Radius on the 5.56(10.3) by checking on the 7.62(22) with the 14 behind.
    09 - Once the Radius on the 5.56(10.3) is zeroed, test several known distance targets. Aim the 5.56(10.3) thermal reticle at the target and check the range. Repeat steps 07, 08 and 09 if needed

    And then recently I mounted a radius to my patrol and zeroed that, so I would have a hand held thermal range finder. Here was the process for that.

    33590191328_22e2b412ca_k.jpg

    Olde ruger YUTE model .308WIN(18) (my "test" gun) ...
    Skeet weapons mount which takes dove tail from the device
    Patrol
    Lion's gear rail on the patrol
    Radius on the Lion's gear rail
    Manfrotto M190 tripod
    PIG saddle

    RRS tripod
    G-10 chassis
    REM700 SPS tac aac-sd barreled action
    Mk5 5-25x T3 scope
    Night Optics Day/Night adapter
    PVS-14 #1

    not shown
    TH bump helmet
    norotos lo sto (button)
    PVS-14 #2

    ==
    Zeroing Process

    01 - Setup Ruger Yute model on tripod outside aimed at the mineral feeder ~ 415 yrds away on the ridge
    02 - Setup REM700 7.62(20) on tripod just to the right of the ruger yute
    03 - Aim reticle of patrol on yute at center of mineral feeder at 415yds.
    04 - With PVS-14 on rear of Mk5 scope, aim center of 7.62(20) reticle at the mineral feeder.
    05 - Turn on the radius aiming laser.
    06 - Adjust the radius aiming laser so it is pointed at the mineral feeder, use helmet mounted 14 to get into the ball park.
    07 - Keep checking the Patrol to make sure the center of the thermal reticle is aimed at the center of the mineral feeder.
    08 - Fine tune the Radius on the Patrol by checking on the 7.62(20) with the 14 behind.
    09 - Once the Radius on the Patrol is zeroed, test several known distance targets. Aim the patrol thermal reticle at the target and check the range. Repeat steps 07, 08 and 09 if needed

    Here was the result

    32523308237_62cc2a9ca8_k.jpg

    Not quite as handy as a day handheld range finder (heavier and bulkier) but I found it quite handy indeed and got quite a few critters with it (as spotter inn conjunction with gun on tripod) recently. Enough that I decided, I needed to get yet another one of these rifle mountable range finders so I can use the patrol setup like that as a default set up :D
    I actually wound up using it upside down from the pic with the patrol upside down and thus the range finder handing under neath. And one of the nice features of the radius is that you can remove and remount the rear display in any one of four orientations, even upside down, which I did and it worked. I haven't tried it yet, but I think it will even work helmet mounted like that.

    For comparison purposes a purpose built thermal range finder, like the BAE OASYS UTB-x-LRF has a shown price of $80k.

    Using the RAPTAR on the patrol would be nice as it is about half the size and weight, but the display cannot be re-oriented, so if you helmet mounted it, you would be reading the display upside down. I can get used to that.

    ==
    So as to "ease" of zero ... well I align my "ease" expectations to the task at hand, and after oh several dozen iterations of the above processes over the last three years, I find it very easy. It actually takes less than 15 mins to get one done and that includes the time spent carrying the gear out into the front yard, setting it up and then tearing it down and carrying it back in. The actual zeroing process, takes about 2 minutes.

    As to retaining zero. Maybe I've been lucky, but in three years of using the RAPTARs, VSOs and the Radiae, I've detected lost zero once on a RAPTAR and once on a Radius. Both of these might have been "mount come loose" issues rather than LRF device issues. That said, I've had that radius on the 5.56(10.3) for over six months now, with heavy use and it is still dead on. I've also dismounted and remounted a radius and have it be dead on. Went thru the above ^^ process, but no adjustments were needed or made.

    And yes, I've heard quite a few folks saying they lost zeros with the Radius. I torque down the allen head screw on the rail grabber when I mount it. To 15 i/p maybe that improves my luck factor ??

    Well I think that covers the basic answers to your questions ?? Ask away if not. :)