Nikon's Compact 800 Laser Range Finder

19 September 1999
By Mike Miller

Recently I had the pleasure of reading another author's review of several pieces of equipment. The review included the mention of Nikon's new 800 Yard/Meter Compact Range Finder. Well I have been waiting for a compact range finder that would go to the limits of my favorite rifle round, 308 Winchester, for some time. I had tried some early models. They had either limited range or were too bulky for this shooter to want to carry them. Well when another writer said he liked it, I went out and ordered one.

When it arrived at my door I almost called the UPS man back. I looked at the box. I felt how light the box was and thought they had sent a pair of compact binoculars by mistake, it was so small. As I was about to yell to the deliveryman, I noticed the words "Range Finder" on the inside box. I quickly opened it. I confirmed it was a rangefinder and shut the door. Like most new toys I did not want to share.

I took out the contents and found the usual instruction sheet, a black synthetic case and a small lanyard strap in addition to the rangefinder. I did something out of character and read the instructions. They were simple and easy for even me to understand. I read about the modes the unit can be used in. It has a feature that disregards all signals within one hundred and fifty yards. This I instantly recognized as a perfect sniper option having used others without this feature and having to change my position during ranging to avoid ground clutter. It has the industry standard rain feature that allows the unit to function in moderate rain. The unit takes four common AAA size batteries.

Two basic types of Laser Range Finders are made today. The two types are Eye Safe and Non Eye Safe. What that means is a Laser of the Eye safe category will not cause harm to someone's eyes if pointed at them. The Non Eye Safe class of Laser Range Finders is heavily controlled and I do not believe any of this type is legally in the hands of any Civilian Law Enforcement or Citizens hands.

The difference between the two types is drastic. All Eye Safe models are limited by atmospheric and range conditions. Very few range past eight hundred yards and all will fail to read back a signal when faced with some non-reflective targets. It does not matter if you paid four hundred or four thousand dollars for an Eye Safe model they all have limitations. Now the advantages of Eye Safe range finders are they tend to be much smaller, lighter and cheaper than Non Eye Safe models. You also do not have to worry about damage to someone's eyes. When looking at the totality of the circumstances, Eye Safe is truly what a police or civilian shooter should carry.

I took the Range Finder to James Jarrett's Ranch, in New Mexico for four days of abuse. I was assisting James in one of his many sniper classes. I was A very busy man between teaching and testing equipment. I used my spare time to abuse and test the Nikon. It performed very well. I must have ranged over two hundred different targets. I tried to confuse the instrument and see if I could get any false readings. I could not fool it. The Nikon would give the same reading no matter how many times I shot a beam at the same target. Targets were ranged from fifty to over nine hundred yards with less than three failures to read a target. When the failures did happen, all I had to do was move to a target nearby and send another beam. The targets that did have the failures to range on, were large dirt areas on a sloping hillside. Rocks, trees and bushes ranged with ease.

Since the time in New Mexico, I have used the Nikon on three different days. One of the days, it was foggy. Visibility was less than one hundred yards. I tried the unit and several other Eye Safe brands. None of them worked, no matter what setting. I waited for the fog to disperse. When visibility reached about three hundred yards the units, one by one started to work again, up to the line of visibility. The Nikon was the first unit to start working in the low visibility.

The Nikon is the smallest unit I have tried but it works well. Better than any of the other Eye Safe models I have tried. It seems to have a great deal of power. It ranges quickly and farther than its advertised eight hundred meters. It is my current choice for a lightweight laser range finder.


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