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Rifle Magazine
September - October 2004
Volume 36, Number 5
ISSN: 0162-3583
Number 215
On the cover...
The prewar Beissel & Winnieckl 9.3x74R is outfitted with a Leupold M8-2.5x compact scope. The Krieghoff O&U 9.3x74R double rifle features engraving by Bob Evans and custom stock by Paul Dressel. The scope is a Leupold Vari-X III 1.5-5x. Rifle photos by Gerald Hudson. Elk photo by Michael H. Francis.
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Product Tests

Bushnell Yardage Pro

Whether range estimation falls under the heading of art or science is still open to argument. In any event, it’s a heckuva lot more difficult than many seem to think and requires plenty of dedicated practice before anyone really becomes truly adept at it. Those who spend lots of time outdoors - farmers, cattlemen, forest rangers - are usually pretty decent judges of distance. So are golfers and varmint hunters. Unfortunately, too many big game hunters don’t seem to realize what they’re up against when they try guessing how far a particular animal is from where they’re crouching when afield. Light, color, size - there are all sorts of variables that can influence hunters’ range estimates, and do when they aren’t aware of them.

For example, almost everything seems closer than it is on a bright, sunny day. Conversely, when skies become overcast and surroundings dull down, no matter what you look at - animal, mineral or vegetable - it will appear to be farther away than it is. On the other hand, an animal that’s skylined, especially when the light’s behind it, seems a lot nearer than it is.

Then, there’s the matter of size: Are you looking at a larger-than- average critter way out there or a not-quite-full-grown beast that’s closer than you think?

When shooting uphill or downhill, particularly at steep angles, animals tend to look farther away than they are. They appear to be more distant when viewed from or near ground level too - something to keep in mind when trying to crawl closer to a trophy pronghorn out on the plains.

Well, no matter. Such problems need no longer plague anyone. Some clever Bushnell engineers have come up with a neat, pocket-sized, weatherproof, electronic rangefinder dubbed the Yardage Pro. Not quite 4 inches long, a shade over 3 inches tall and only 13Ú4 inches wide, it weighs less than .5 pound and comes protected by a black nylon pouch fitted with a belt loop and a snaphook to attach to a neck loop (also included) if desired.

Battery-powered (3-volt lithium type), the Yardage Pro incorporates a 6x scope, a laser generator and a mini-timer that not only counts the micro-seconds it takes for a laser beam to reach a target, bounce away from it and return but also immediately converts that tiny slice of time into yards or meters in accordance with the Yardage Pro’s settings.

When conditions are favorable, a Yardage Pro can measure distances as close as 15 yards or as far away as 930. According to a company spokesman, the Yardage Pro’s readings are normally accurate within one yard (meter) plus or minus. However, its maximum range depends on a number of conditions over which an operator has no control. Like all electronic rangefinders, bright, sunny days

reduce its maximum range while dull, gray days can extend it. The reflexivity of a target as well as its color and size also affect its efficiency. When directed uphill or downhill, a laser’s reach can be shortened. Despite such limitations, my field experience with one to date has convinced me that the Yardage Pro is far superior to the human eye.

Complicated though its innards may be, a Yardage Pro is simple to operate. There are only two controls: a Power button and a Mode button.

The Power button is located on top of the rangefinder’s body, at its extreme rear, just where an operator’s index finger falls naturally when raising the instrument’s scope to the eye. Depressing the Power button briefly turns the mechanism on and triggers a liquid crystal display that appears on the scope’s lens. The display features the abbreviation YD or M (yards or meters) in the upper right, a battery’s silhouette at the bottom (more about that later) and a reticle in the middle that resembles a crosshair with its center missing.

When that empty crosshair center is aimed at a target - animal, landmark, whatever - and the Power button depressed again, the distance, in yards or meters, flashes above the crosshairs and will remain visible as long as the pressure against the button is maintained. Once the latter’s released, the display will hold for six seconds, then disappear.

When the Power button is held down for three seconds or more, the word SCAN will appear on the left side of the display. As long as the Power button remains depressed, bursts of laser pulses will continue to be generated and the distance to every target centered in the crosshair’s gap will be registered above the reticle in rapid succession.

Situated on the left side of the little rangefinder (with the Yardage Pro aimed away from the operator) the Mode button permits the operator to select either yards or meters as the unit of measure. It also controls the 150 setting.

When in that mode, the Yardage Pro won’t measure any distance shorter than 150 yards, which should be a boon to hunters operating in wooded or brushy country and who want to avoid interference from limbs or branches when aiming the Yardage Pro at distant targets. Once the Yardage Pro is turned on, the operator presses the Mode button once and 150 will appear in the lower right side of the display.

As a rule, a battery contains enough power to energize about 8,000 measurements. When its energy begins to wane, the battery symbol at the bottom of the display will warn the operator. There are two dashes inside the battery’s stylized silhouette. When they begin to fade, the battery needs to be replaced.

A Yardage Pro is not only waterproof, but should it fall into water, it will also float. It is supposed to operate just as accurately during rain and snowstorms as it does when the atmosphere is clear and dry. I wasn’t able to check those foul weather claims - there hasn’t been any moisture around for so long I’ve forgotten what snow or rain look like - but the stubby rangefinder certainly does float, by golly. A large basin was filled with water and the Yardage Pro dropped in. About two-thirds of it submerged. There were never any air bubbles visible at any time. After an hour, the little rig was pulled out of the water, dried off and appeared none the worse for wear. Taken outside, a few quick ranging tests proved it was working as effectively as ever.

All in all, Bushnell’s miniature rangefinder is a pretty impressive performer. Simple to use, compact and darned near weightless, it proved reassuringly accurate when pitted against another electronic rangefinder and a manually operated, split-image model. This year, its lenses are also protected by Bushnell’s Rainguard antifog coating that repels rain, sleet and snow. Suggested retail is $567.99. It’s covered by Bushnell’s Limited Lifetime Warranty, of course. - Al Miller

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