Recent advances in the measurement of bedforms beneath active ice streams have been made using ground-based grid profiling using impulse radar systems operating with centre frequencies in the 3–5 MHz range. Surveys of Rutford Ice Stream and Pine Island Glacier have shown that features such as mega-scale glacial lineations with topographic relief of as little as 3 m can be traced for many kilometres downstream under more than 2 km of fast-moving ice. In the discussion of these data, it is often asked ‘How is it possible to map such fine-scale topography with such a low-frequency radar’. In answering that question, the key point is the distinction between the precision of a radar range measurement to a single, isolated reflective interface and the ability to resolve the presence of two closely-spaced interfaces of similar reflectivity (commonly referred to as the vertical resolution). This paper will discuss and illustrate this distinction and use the case study of data acquired over Pine Island Glacier to examine the limits of precision of the radar range measurement.