Originally Posted by mp214parks
For starting out with moderate long range, like 500 yard or less, how important is a range finder? I am an experienced shot out to about 250 yds. How cheap can I go on this, and what should I be looking for as neccessities in a starter range finder?
Pretty important, depending on what caliber you are using, other means of range estimation you have (reticle etc.) and what you are shooting at (game, or targets).
If you are shooting a 308Win, a 250yd zero would be as much as 4' low at 500yds. On the other hand, if you are shooting one of the BIG 338's, you might be only 15" low. If you are shooting at targets, then it's no big deal, as you can take a sighting shot and adjust your scope. However, if you are shooting at game animals, you need 'first shot confidence'.
Even though the cheaper range finders have ranges of greater than 500 yards, they work best only when the sun is not bright, when the target is reflective (buildings etc.) and the terrain is not flat.
I only limited experience with range finders other than the Swaro LRF and have nothing but positive things to say about it (except for the price). It will 'nearly always' range to 1200yds in hunting conditions (further most of the time). In good conditions, the Bushnell will range pretty well to 800yds. at only 1/3 the price. I am sure others on the site will give you detailed info on the Bushnell etc.