When shooting long-range—over 1,750 yards (one mile)—you need the right rifle, caliber, optics, and equipment. That includes the right rangefinder as well. A requirement to accurately shoot long distances for hunting or military applications, you need to know the distance from your location to your target.
A rangefinder accurately measures these distances. For a precise and effective shot, you must know the ballistics of your round in relation to the distance of your target. Most common laser rangefinders are good up to 600 yards—plenty of distance if your plan is to take down a deer. Some optic companies claim to produce rangefinders that will range a target at a mile for about $1,000. However, rangefinders that adequately estimate range a mile and farther—on a true target and not just a reflective surface—cost well over $1,000.
If you are shooting your .50 BMG, .338 Lapua, .416 Barrett, or .408 CheyTac or similar long-range calibers, a rangefinder is critical gear for those one-mile shots. You must have the correct ballistic coefficient to keep your bullet stable enough to devastate your target. The rifle, ammunition and optic likely made a big enough dent in your bank account for you to cringe slightly, so I can understand why you would not want to splurge on an expensive rangefinder. What would you say if I had the solution?
Though not as easy or convenient as a modern-day laser rangefinder, the WWII Finnish military surplus stereoscopic rangefinder is half the price of its modern-day counterparts, and just as reliable. Not only does the WWII rangefinder provide a topic of conversation and a challenge to its operator, using basic principles of prisms, mirrors and your own visual cortex you can calculate the correct range of a target up to 25,000 meters. That’s 15 miles!
Because the WWII stereo rangefinder has no necessary electronic components to work during daylight, it is impervious to EMP attack. No batteries mean you have the advantage when the grid goes down. Not to mention, other retailers are selling the same item for more than twice Cheaper Than Dirt!’s price. You never know when the men with the blue helmets will commandeer a WWII tank and you’ll need to take it out. In that case, it’s time to file your tax stamp for a M61 Vulcan.
Perusing a military-surplus collectors’ forum, I learned that Finnish soldiers spent two weeks training on the use of the made-in-France stereo rangefinder and still couldn’t get it right. Fortunately, for you, the experts at Cheaper Than Dirt! have put together this quick-start guide:
- Level the tripod, using the three locking legs and two levels on top of the rotating mount.
- Once the tripod is leveled, place the range finding unit on top of the tripod.
- Open the metal sleeves on each end of the unit to open the lenses.
- Point the center eyepiece directly in the center of the direction of your target.
- Manually adjust the entire unit, rotating it on the 360-degree tripod and moving the entire unit upward and downward until your target comes into view in the eyepiece.
- Once your target comes into view, lock the tripod-rotating piece using the black knobs with spikes on the left of the tripod.
- Adjust the eyepiece’s interpupillary distance (the distance between the pupils), by moving the black switch attached to the dual eyepiece up or down. Two diamond reticles (marks) should show up in each eyepiece.
- To find the range of your target, the two diamonds must come into coincidence—appear to become one diamond.
- The adjustment knob to the right of the eyepiece, labeled Etäisyysmittari, is the course distance adjustment. The knobs on the left of the eyepiece labeled Etäisyys and Korkeus-tarkistus adjust the fine distance and the height of the diamond respectfully. Carefully adjust all three knobs, rotating them up and down, until the diamond marks become one mark in the center of your target.
- To tell the range of the target, directly to the left of the eyepiece are two windows with measurement marks. After the diamonds have come into coincidence and are in the center of the target, the measurement mark will tell you how far away your target is.
Though one person can handle the weight of the rangefinder and the tripod, a two-man team quickly got the rangefinder out of the box and mounted it on the tripod. Three of us tinkered with the rangefinder. We followed a U.S. military manual for the Mark 58 stereoscopic rangefinder and used Google translator for interpreting the words on all the adjustment knobs. The particular target we focused on measured close to 1200 meters—just under three-quarters of a mile away. At least we think we got an exact measurement.
We picked an air conditioning unit on top of a building that we know for sure is a little over 1,000 meters away. The target came in crisp and clear, with every detail apparent. I could even see the heat radiating off the building. For its age, the lenses have stayed relatively clean and virtually scratch-free.
The presentation of the piece is incredibly impressive. The large wooden crates, OD green metal pieces, and leather details on the unit and tripod clearly demonstrate a quality of military craftsmanship of the past. We had it set up in the front of the office and everyone driving past stopped to take an excited look at the “cool, old thing.”
The rangefinder includes two canvas carrying bags, one for the unit itself and one for the tripod. It also includes a battery case for light bulbs and a flashlight to use the rangefinder at night. All you need is ambient light to use the rangefinder during the day.
Pictures of the unit do not do it justice. Not only does this antique work, it also makes an excellent display of WWII military surplus gear at long-distance rifle ranges, machine gun shoots and reenactments.
Satisfied with our ranging, we had a lot of fun figuring it out despite the lack of information. If you love WWII gear, military surplus, old-stuff that won’t break, or tinkering, the Finnish WWII military surplus stereo rangefinder is worth a second look. Perhaps you will master it better than we did!
The WWII Finnish military surplus rangefinder ships free!
“Goddam it, you’ll never get the Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!”
-Colonel Henry Pierson Crowe
Do you collect WWII surplus gear? If so, tell us what your favorite find has been in the comment section.