When trying to engage a target at long range, the single most important factor to determine is your distance to target. It is this variable that all the others in your firing solution are dependent on. Without an exact range, you cannot know your proper elevation adjustment or windage adjustment. Without either of these, your chances of hitting your target are slim to none. If you are shooting at the edge of your cartridges performance envelope, being off on range by as little as 10yds can result in a miss. Today we'll take a look at the Vectronix Terrapin and discuss its functionality and capabilities in detail.
I've went through 3-4 different models of laser range finders (LRF's) over the last few years and have not been completely satisfied with any of them. My goal was to be able to range a full-size IPSC plate to 1000yds. It didn't seem that impossible from the onset. However I quickly realized that the vast majority of LRF's available for civilian purchase were incapable of ranging to even half of their advertised distances.
The closest I've come to reaching my goal was the latest offering from Bushnell, the Fusion arc 1600. I could consistently range an IPSC plate to around 800yds in nearly any lighting condition. Past that, it depended greatly on the background and what was behind the target. It would routinely give me good ranges out to 1100yds, so long as there were no objects near the target. However, if the terrain was rough, or there were other objects nearby or behind the target, it would be very difficult to trust the reading. On smaller targets, this was even more of a problem. The 66% IPSC poppers from MGM Targets were especially difficult. Just last week I ranged one of those targets at 815yds, but it was actually closer to 795. I was ranging the dirt pile behind the target. Frustrating, and led to a miss that would have been a first round hit, had I had the proper distance to target. That small of an error would not be detectable with mil range estimation at that distance any more than it was detectible for the fusion arc 1600's.
I have been looking at Vectronix products for several years. They have long been a provider of military grade LRF's, and their price reflects it. The most popular of their models being the PLRF10, which retails for upward of $4,000. This is well outside the budget of most casual or serious competition shooters. About a year ago, I began seeing rumors that Vectronix was going to design and offer a more affordable unit. At the time it was dubbed the PLRF05, and price speculation ranged from $1,000 on the low end to $3,000 on the top end. Fast forward to a few months ago, and Vectronix delivered on their promise and the Terrapin was born.
I called Alina Hussey of the Potomac River Group to place my order. So far as I'm aware, they are the only source for these LRF's at this point. The Terrapin retails for $1,999 and is advertised with a range capability of 1800m (1,968yds) on a 2.3 meter or 7.5ft square target. Here are the various other specs from the manual:
The Terrapin is very small in size and not overly heavy. The housing is machined aluminum with plastic trim, so it has a bit of weight, but it doesn't seem bulky. Here it is next to my iPhone 4 for size comparison.
The unit can measure in meters or yards, and also has a "3D" capability which will alert you if the unit has ranged multiple objects. The range display will flash if it has detected other objects, and you can cycle through the various ranged objects by pushing the range button. This is extremely beneficial.
It comes in a molle-compatible case for attachment to your favorite pack. I would have liked to see it have a zipper top as well as the buckle. It would be pretty easy for dirt to find its way into this case. The lenses themselves do not have any additional protection or covers when inside the pouch. As a result, it will be put inside my pack instead of molle-mounted on the outside. I would have liked to see an integrated lens protection in the form of flip-up caps or bikini cover of some kind. Inside the pouch cover is an elastic storage area for extra CR123 batteries and other accessories.
The ocular side of the unit has the eyepiece and CR123 battery housing cover. The ocular has an integrated fast-focus diopter setting that is etched for quick multi-user diopter adjustments.
The Terrapin has a clean and concise mil reticle that can be illuminated by holding the range button for a second or more. This is excellent in low light situations. The range display is daylight-visible red, but it also has a night vision mode that will allow the unit to work with PVS-14 style monoculars.
Optically, the Terrapin is the clearest handheld rangefinder that I've ever seen. The image is crisp to the edges with a very high resolution. The image below should help demonstrate the capabilities of the optics. I tried to find a very cluttered view with lots of colors at various ranges. Keep in mind this image has be re-sized and optimized for the web, but it is still quite impressive.
In terms of its range-finding ability, I've been very impressed. The farthest range I have been able to register was a house at 3273yds. That is well beyond the units advertised capabilities. Ranging an IPSC steel target suspended 3ft above the ground to a distance of 1200yds was very easy and straight forward. In the image below, you can see me ranging a single yellow street light suspended by a wire at a distance of 904yds. This isn't even a full 3-light traffic signal! I'd guess it's size to be about 12" square. I've never been able to range that light with anything before. I was also able to range individual telephone poles all the way down the street, as well as the tree-covered hillside in the background.
My testing of this unit will be on-going, but as of now the Terrapin is my go-to LRF. The only area that I've found it lacking is magnification. Ranging at ELR distances has left me wanting a bit more than 5x. A 10x option would be of great benefit. However, the extreme clarity of the optics has overcome all but the smallest of targets near the units advertised maximum range. It's small, light, and portable design will be very welcome among hunters and long range shooters!
If you'd like to order one or ask a few questions, contact Alina and be sure to mention you saw it here on Primal Rights!
Alina Hussey - Potomac River Group
- UPDATE -
I got out and found a clear line of sight to an object farther than I'd been able to range thus far. This LRF sure is impressive! This was taken while standing unsupported while holding a camera up to the unit.