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FOG HORN

Vectronix PLRF25C Pocket Laser Range Finder.


By: Sal Palma

2012
Twobirds Flying Publication

Operators must identify, locate and document points of interest or landmarks, in a potential area of operation, so those that follow have the most accurate and best intelligence available. Sniper teams must be able to accurately range a target, especially at longer ranges, where an error as small as .5 minute of angle in wind or elevation could mean the difference between a kill and a complete miss.

Its not often that one has the opportunity to T&E a piece of military technology that is truly excellent, and theres certainly no shortage of laser range finders available to the warfighter; however, they generally involve compromising on size and weight to gain performance. Im here to tell you those days are over! Observe, record and report are a large part of what forward observers and reconnaissance / sniper teams do. Their activities are essential to the intelligence gathering process and preplanning that goes into a successful kinetic operation.

Having a lightweight, rugged, compact, fast and accurate ranging device is extremely important; unfortunately, all laser range finders are not created equal making the selection process quite often difficult. Regrettably, in my years of covering a variety of sniper events and activities, I see every available variety of LRF in use, with equally variable results. When I received a green light to T&E Vectronixs PLRF25C, I spent a considerable amount of time structuring a test scenario that would be a reliable indicator of performance; lazing steel plates at unknown ranges is simply not enough.

Copyright 2012, Towbirds Flying Publication. All Rights Reserved.

Vectronix PLRF25C Pocket Laser Range Finder

2012

I decide on an approach that closely resembles what a reconnaissance team or forward observer is likely to encounter in preparation for, or during a kinetic operation. I was in Tampa, FL, for the upcoming SOFIC conference, and I decided to conduct my testing at Tampas seaport. Here, one can find a plethora of vital infrastructure: docks, shipyards, fuel storage, grain storage, rail, oil tankers and barges and a variety of industrial facilities. The site offered great diversity in types of targets with a very rich cross-section in levels of reflectivity, shape, angles with respect to the line of sight and ranges in excess of 3000 meters from the observation point; I even had an airfield to work with. This was rangefinder hell, and if youve ever ranged a target across long spans of water, in bright light, you know what I speak of!

It is in this industrial milieu where the PLRF25C would have to prove its worth!

Copyright 2012, Twobirds Flying Publication, All Rights Reserved

Vectronix PLRF25C Pocket Laser Range Finder

2012

The PLRF25C offers exceptional optical, clarity and resolution from its 6x magnification - truly exceptional. Images are free from aberrations and the lens ability to resolve detail rival any spotting scope obtainable.

Vectronix AG, based in Heerbrugg Switzerland, not far from the German border and beautiful Lake Bodensee, recognized a need for high performance pocket laser rangefinders and introduced a line of compact Mil-Spec rangefinders in 2001. The PLRF25C was introduced at dSEI 2011, booth S7-450, Swiss Pavilion, as the most compact Mil-Spec pocket laser rangefinder. Ill comment on the pocket concept a little later. The PLRF25C Pocket Laser Range Finder is a professionals tool; offering snipers, forward observers, reconnaissance teams and well-heeled marksmen a powerful MilSpec laser range finder with range performance of up to 4,000 m (2.5 miles) and a weight of 500 g (1.1 lbs.). If the only thing the PLRF25C did is measure line of sight distances it would still be worth the rather princely sum of $8,000+; however, prospective buyers will be glad to know that it goes just a tad beyond basic range finding. Lets begin with optics.

The picture above shows a tug entering the channel with a fuel barge alongside. Note that the tug is easily discernible from the background as is the barge and many of the fixtures on the barge. This tug was slightly over one nautical mile from my point of observation, which is about 18 inches above sea level. The PLRF25C automatically accounts for the inclination angle and provides its user with the equivalent horizontal distance.

Copyright 2012, Twobirds Flying Publication, All Rights Reserved

Vectronix PLRF25C Pocket Laser Range Finder

2012

We know that the equivalent horizontal distance H = D (line of sight distance) x (cosine of the inclination or declination angle). Vectronix performs this calculation automatically, so there is no need for additional computation by the user.

Using the PLRF25C, I was able to acquire a range and bearing to the large blue hanger bay. Its also worth noting that this was accomplished through a steel fence.

However, it doesnt stop here. The PLRF25C will also calculate the vertical distance V from the horizontal plane to the point of aim, as well as provide the azimuth to the aiming point using the internal electronic compass, as illustrated in the picture below. The PLRF25C will also give the operator, the distance between two points measured on the horizontal plane. For example, the distance from the center of one tower to the center of the next was 48m.

Optics and features wont carry the day by themselves. An operator will be confronted with potential targets that are extremely difficult to laze. One example of that is ranging a vessel at some distance where there is a small angle on the bow.

Copyright 2012, Twobirds Flying Publication, All Rights Reserved

Vectronix PLRF25C Pocket Laser Range Finder

2012

Other difficult targets include distant targets with low reflectivity as in the case of this grain elevator.

operated using the push of a button and just one hand. There are a number of features accessible through the configuration menu that is worth mention. First you can configure the PLRF to measure up to three distances along the line of sight with a single measurement. To enable this feature toggle 3 DIS to ON. Secondly, the operator can configure the unit of measure to everything under the sun except for possibly light years. The PLRF will display meters, yards, feet and mils. Azimuth is measured in degrees as customary. Calibration of the electronic compass is very straight forward. Vectronix recommends using the 12 point calibration procedure for best possible accuracy. However, a four point procedure is available where a high degree of precision is not required. Compass calibration is necessary after every battery change; however, I would extend that requirement to changes in geographical locations. To ensure the best performance from the PLRFs compass, I also recommend that you use a carbon fiber tripod, which is available from Vectronix. Third, the operator can enable a distance gate that prevents the PLRF

There was nothing the PLRF25C could not range in a second or two, at most, within its performance envelope including aircraft in flight. Pretty amazing!

ranging in the darkness of night worked equally well. Ergonomics on the PLRF25C are superb. The unit can be completely configured and

Copyright 2012, Twobirds Flying Publication, All Rights Reserved

Vectronix PLRF25C Pocket Laser Range Finder

2012

from ranging objects closer than a selectable distance. Lastly, the PLRF can be placed in NVD mode, which acts to reduce the display intensity to maintain compatibility with night vision devices.

Manufacturer Specifications
Optics Magnification 6x Field of view 6 / 106 mil Rangefinder Laser type 1550 nm Range capability 5 m to > 4000 m (2.5 km on NATO target) Accuracy 2 m (50 m to 1500 m) 5 m (< 50 m / > 1500 m) Digital Magnetic Compass Azimuth accuracy 10 mil / 0.6 Inclination accuracy 3 mil / 0.2 Physical Dimensions (l x w x h) 131 x 88 x 56 mm / 5.2 x 3.5 x 2.2 in Weight (with battery) 500 g / 1.1 lbs. Data interface Standard RS232 Optional Bluetooth

If thats not enough for you go for a short swim with it. The PLRF25C is water resistant up to 10 meters. Still not satisfied, try Bluetooth connectivity from your PLRF to something like a Kestrel ATrag meter a firing solution out to 4000 meters with the push of a button! The PLRF25C is available with an RS232 port making it possible to use a hard connection to a PC or other device. Now we get down to the pocket concept, at 131 x 88 x 56 mm / 5.2 x 3.5 x 2.2 in., the PLRF25C is not going to fit in your Armani Jeans pocket; however, it does fit into a small MOLLE pouch and thats good enough for me. And, with over 3000 measurements on a single CR123 your mileage may vary the PLRF25C is well worth the $8,500 price tag. Buy it and never look back! -SP

For further product information please visit http://www.vectronix.ch

Copyright 2012, Twobirds Flying Publication, All Rights Reserved