In object/target reconstruction and recognition based on laser radar data, the range value's accuracy is important. The range data accuracy depends on the accuracy in the laser radar's detector, especially the algorithm used for time-of-flight estimation. In this paper, a general direct-detection laser radar system applicable for hard-target measurements is modeled. The time- and range-dependent laser radar cross sections are derived for some simple geometric shapes (plane, cone, sphere, and paraboloid). The cross-section models are used, in simulations, to find the proper statistical distribution of uncertainties in time-of-flight range estimations. Three time-of-flight estimation algorithms are analyzed: peak detection, constant-fraction detection, and matched filter. The detection performance for various shape conditions and signal-to-noise ratios is analyzed. Two simple shape reconstruction examples are shown, and the detectors' performance is compared with the Cramér-Rao lower bound. The performance of the peak detection and the constant-fraction detection is more dependent on the shape and noise level than that of the matched filter. For line fitting the matched filter performs close to the Cramér-Rao lower bound.