For a number of years, Vortex has been producing quality optics with great performance and competitive prices. Never one to rest on their laurels, they continue to introduce new and exciting gear to the shooting world. We’re going to take a look at the Vortex Diamondback HD 2000 Laser Rangefinder to see if it’s worth it’s salt.
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Why use one?
These days, a number of pursuits are made easier with the use of a laser rangefinder. Among them are golf, hunting (both rifle and archery), and long-range shooting. Both law enforcement and military snipers also benefit from knowing the precise distance to their targets. I was a little surprised to see golfers being so interested (I don’t golf) in rangefinders, but it makes sense—knowing the distance on the golf greens will help in accuracy just like shooting.
When we’re shooting at several hundred yards, a mistake in estimating the range can lead to embarrassing results if we’re target shooting. If it’s life and death, it could well end in a catastrophe. With some calibers, a minor error in range estimation will cause a complete miss on a target. This has plagued riflemen for decades.
At the risk of dating myself, when I went through sniper school, we did not have laser rangefinders; we had to learn how to estimate range by eyeballing the terrain and using reticles. This led to mixed results. Fortunately, the majority of shots that we trained for were within about 400 yards. This was because our main mission was hostage rescue, and we absolutely had to be surgically accurate. Our target was the medulla oblongata (the brain stem) for many of our shots. For such precise shots, it was recommended that we take the shot within about one hundred yards in order to guarantee the level of precision we needed.
The brain stem, obviously, is an extremely small portion of the brain. When hit, it shuts the body down just as though a switch is thrown. The hostage taker does not have the ability to pull the trigger on a pistol that’s held to a hostage’s head.
For sniping, most people would say that 100 yards is extremely close, and they’re right, it is. Except when you factor in the variables, not the least of which is the fact that the bad guy tends to have the irritating habit of moving around while you’re trying to remove his brain from afar. Add to that the field position that you normally find yourself in, which is never comfortable or convenient, that leads you to contort yourself into bizarre shooting positions. Needless to say, this is less than conducive to pinpoint accuracy.
Those are a few of the differences between military and law enforcement sniping. The ranges can differ, as can the mission and target.
Military snipers often find themselves shooting in excess of a thousand yards. But they’re not doing a Medulla shot most of the time (at that range, it will not happen); they are merely trying to land a hit on the target. If they miss, the enemy gets away. If the law enforcement sniper misses, a hostage (or several) dies.
These days, laser rangefinders are commonly used and take much of the guesswork out of sniping. The military still trains snipers to ascertain ranges without using electronic technology because they realize that we won’t always have access to it. Electronics can break, batteries can die, and other factors can be involved (which we’ll discuss shortly).
How does it work?
The rangefinder unit sends out a laser beam, which hits the target and bounces back. The unit determines the range according to the time it takes for the beam to bounce back. Simple.
A Point of Caution
One factor that should be mentioned is that if the enemy is using IR night vision, it can see the laser beam that the rangefinder sends out. The laser is invisible to the naked eye, but not to IR detectors. So using a laser rangefinder could, potentially, pinpoint a sniper’s location on the battlefield if the enemy is high-tech enough to be equipped with countermeasures. Ranging various objects before the enemy arrives might be a good idea.
Unlike Mil-Dot reticles, when using a laser, we don’t need to know the dimensions of what we are shooting at. For example, a person is so many Mils at a certain distance, and by using Mil-Dots on a scope or binoculars, a sniper can figure out how far a person (or vehicle, etc.) is.
With a laser rangefinder, one simply aims the reticle, presses a button, and then looks at the readout. If a tree, rock, or building is near a point where I want to know the range, I can range it with the laser. I write that range down on a range card, and if someone emerges in that area that needs to be engaged, I already have the range.
- These devices rely on electronics and batteries, both of which can fail. As batteries are expended, the rangefinder’s ability to range will be diminished.
- If bright sunlight is on the objects you’re ranging, it can make it difficult to get a readout.
- Atmospheric conditions can affect the ability of the unit to function properly. Fog is one example, along with moisture and mirage.
- The user needs a straight line of sight to the target. If there are leaves, branches, or twigs in the way, they can interfere with accurate ranging.
- The Vortex unit does not always work well when aimed through windows. Sometimes it will not give a range reading.
For hunting applications, the laser rangefinder is awesome. We don’t need to be worried about being detected. And the fact that there are no references for ranging for a Mil-Dot makes no difference because we have the laser, which doesn’t rely on those.
Knowing the difference between a 200 and 350-yard shot can easily mean the difference between a solid hit and a miss or, even worse, wounded game. Conditions in the field can challenge our mental range estimating abilities. Shots across valleys can be especially challenging for shooters to accurately estimate.
One tip is, if you’re trying to range a game animal and you’re having difficulty, try ranging objects nearby. Reflective objects such as rocks or buildings will give easier readings. Also, using the scan mode can be effective for this.
Vortex Diamondback HD 2000 Laser Rangefinder — Specifications
- The Vortex HD 2000 unit will range out to 2,000 yards maximum, according to the factory. It will range a tree up to 1,800 yards, and a deer up to 1,400 yards. Various surfaces are less reflective and more difficult to range. The fur on a game animal is not very reflective.
- The Linear field of view at 1,000 yards is 335 feet.
- The unit weighs 7.6 ounces with the battery and it’s 4.1″x1.8″x3.1″. Overall, it’s fairly compact and lightweight.
- Magnification is 7x, which allows the user to acquire targets a long way off. The objective lens is 24mm, so it lets in a fair amount of light for low-light situations.
- A CR2 battery powers the rangefinder.
- The scan mode allows the user to pan across a landscape and range objects as they are panned. Or the user can simply point the HD 2000 at an object, push a button, and get a range instantly.
- It is waterproof, being sealed with O-rings that keep out dust, dirt, debris, and water. The rangefinder is also adaptable to a tripod, which is a great option.
- The range can be read either in yards or meters and the digital display on the internal screen is in red.
The rangefinder has two modes. LOS (Line of Sight) gives the user the precise distance to the target, which is most useful on level ground. The other mode is Horizontal Component Distance (HCD), which corrects for the angle.
Let’s say you’re shooting from the top of a tall building and your target is at street level across the street. Your actual distance from the target might be 50 yards because you’re up high and the target is low. However, with the angle, the distance to the target might only be 25 yards. The HD 2000 includes the angle in it’s computation and gives you the ballistic distance that you need to take into account to make the shot. The display will actually give you the angle as well as the range. This is a really nice feature!
So far, I’m really enjoying this rangefinder. I’ve been using it to check my range estimations while out and about. For example, I’ll see an object that’s far off and make my own range estimation. I’ll then check my estimation against what the rangefinder has to say. This has helped me hone my range estimation skills. I’m still on the first battery and have been using this device for a couple of months now.
It comes with a nice, padded protective nylon case that is Coyote brown. The case has a belt loop on the back for attachment. The rangefinder itself has a clip attached so it can be clipped inside a pants pocket or to your gear.
The battery is super easy to change; simply flip up a little handle on the cap, unscrew it, and pop a new battery in. It takes mere seconds.
The optics are clear and bright, making the unit easy to use. As well, the reticle features a circle that the user puts on whatever they want to range and pushes a button. It then gives a range. This reticle is uncluttered and simple, which is refreshing.
I highly recommend this rangefinder, it’s an excellent piece of gear. Vortex covers it with their Unlimited, Unconditional, Lifetime Warranty, and I can tell you that they do stand behind that warranty.
Two thumbs up on this one!