How to compare the best rangefinders
The best rangefinders employ the latest technology and sophisticated electronics. These often handheld compact gadgets are very useful in a variety of situations. They are great for hunting, bow hunting and as golf rangefinders. Their primary purpose is to accurately measure the range to a given target with a magnified view.
This guide considers the things to look for when reviewing specifications of these handy devices.
The best rangefinders have magnification power which dictates how far you can view with it. The range of magnification affects how much you can enlarge the image of your target compared with what you can see with your naked eye. The higher the magnification power the greater distance you can see defined targets! Rangefinders normally come in magnifications of 4x to 8x, but binoculars with rangefinders can have much higher magnifications. The higher the magnification the harder it will be to hold the image steady. A 6x magnification is probably the limit of what most people can hold steady in a vertical style rangefinder.
Good targeting requires more magnification the longer the distance or the smaller the target. An archery rangefinder designed for targeting deer size targets at 40 yards would be fine with a 4x magnification. But someone shooting at a target at 400+ yards would get better results with a 7x or 8 x model.
Horizontal or Vertical Rangefinders
Rangefinders come in one of two basic types horizontal or vertical. Horizontal units are wide and flat and allow the user a steady grip when ranging targets for applications requiring long distance range. These units are generally pretty bulky when compared to their vertical counterparts. The vertical style rangefinders are more compact and are easier for carrying in a pocket or on a belt The vertical rangefinders compact design means they are hard to hold steady and can make the target appear to shake so generally they have of a lower magnification than the horizontal design. But many modern devices have anti-shake electronics to help overcome this problem.
The usable range is similar to magnification power, in that it’s going to dictate how far out you can use your rangefinder. The usable range can actually be a bit further or a bit shorter than the power of the glass since it depends on the electronics. Try to avoid claims which make you think you can measure ranges further than you actually can.
A rangefinder specifying maximum 1000 yards will range a target in practice at less than 1000 yards. The listed maximum is usually calculated on a large highly reflective target in ideal conditions. So in practice, a rangefinder will sight a deer at about half of its quoted maximum rating. When used in golfing a flagstick could be sighted at about one-third of its quoted maximum. This is a general rule and higher end rangefinders will probably read more than this and lower end rangefinders less. This rule is a good starting point, however, when trying to determine a particular models usefulness for your intended use.
The best rangefinders have high accuracy
It’s a no-brainer that you need to have an accurate rangefinder. Look for the most accurate models using professional test ratings by leading hunting periodicals and reviews instead of just relying on buyer reviews.
Glass Clarity – Good Optics
Glass clarity is important but the clarity of your glass isn’t as important unless you’re using a scope rangefinder to make the actual shot. So when searching for hunting rangefinders look for really high-quality glass and coated non-reflective optics. This will provide maximum light transmission. Also, you need to look for accurate and fast electronics.
Rangefinders – Red or Black Displays?
Most of the best rangefinders that feature a black display use an LCD screen while other units that have a Red screen feature a LED type screen. The LED display generally offers a clearer view than an LCD screen but the LCD models are usually less expensive.
A red display is often thought of as better in low light conditions while a black display is generally thought to be easier to see in bright conditions. When a red display is too bright it can obscure the target. In low light conditions, a too dim red reticle can be hard to see in the day. When comparing a red display rangefinder look for a model whose display is automatically or preferably manually adjustable for varying light condition.
It is also called aiming point that you can see through a rangefinder. The reticle’s visibility depends if it has black lines or illuminated by LED lights. An illuminated reticle can help you see clearly in low light settings but can sometimes be hard to see in bright settings. Blackline reticles are normally clear at daylight and if you have the option of the backlight you can see in most lighting conditions.
Shock Resistance And Waterproofing
The best rangefinders have good shock and waterproofing. Depending on how and where you hunt, and how your rangefinder fits in with the rest of your gear, shock resistance and waterproofing are important factors to consider. These features can impact on your choice of the rangefinder. Look for quality waterproofing that keeps the device safe. There’s no point spending $100+ on a piece of glass that will break when dropped! The rangefinder should at least be waterproof or is weather-resistant.
Look for a compact lightweight design and preferably a vertical design as these are lighter than the horizontally designed rangefinders. Also, the colour is important, it needs to dark non-reflective or camouflaged.
Ballistic Settings Plus Extra Features
Having the ability to consider different variables like wind, altitude, and plain bullet drop makes the best rangefinders more versatile and produces better end results in the real life. Try to find models that give you a great value for money with some extra features like these.
The ability of a rangefinder to detect 2 simultaneous readings and provide just one reading selected by the user is very useful. This feature is called “Target Priority”. This situation can occur when there are foreground and background objects in the line of sight of the rangefinder. The “First Priority” setting will provide the range of the nearest object. Rangefinders commonly use this target mode in golfing situations. In this case, as your field view consists of the pin in the foreground and of the green background with very few obstacles that obscure the sighting of your target. When hunting, the “First Priority” mode setting could be used when in an open ground.
In “Second Priority” mode, rangefinders are able to determine the distance of the further object. This is ideal for hunting as there might be bushes, vegetation or tree branches that can be in your line of sight to your real target in the background.Laser rangefinders that offer selectable target modes are more flexible and useful.
Rangefinders fitted with an angle compensation feature are able to determine a true horizontal distance to target when taking an angled shot. This is most useful when the angle of the sighting is large. This can occur in archery where a bow hunter is positioned in a tree stand for example. The angle compensated reading can vary significantly from the line of sight (LOS) reading. An archer would take account of this distance when setting up a shot.
Foldable Or Retractable Eyepiece
If your eyes require a lot of optical correction you may require a foldable or retractable eyepiece on your rangefinder. Most but not all laser rangefinders have an adjustable diopter to help focus the unit to your eyes. But some have more range of adjustment than others. If your eyes require a lot of correction look for models with a high adjustment range. When using glasses ensure you choose the best rangefinders with a retractable or foldable eyepiece.
Speed To Detect Range
If you are selecting a range finder to use when golfing be aware of the speed to detect target range. The speed to detect the range with a laser rangefinder is important. Some laser rangefinders can be slow to lock onto their target and provide you with an accurate and reliable range. The best rangefinders provide range readings in less than a second after locking onto your intended target. This prevents you from being pinged as a slow golfer. You don’t want to be endlessly scanning the landscape with your laser rangefinder.
The best advice we can give is to select the features mentioned above that are important to you. Then You should consider in what circumstances you will use your rangefinder. Are you a bow hunter or a shooter? What range will you be operating at? Will you use your rangefinder for more than one use? Having sorted all that out choose the best quality rangefinder you can afford that satisfies your criteria.
Best Hunting Rangefinders For Long Range
A good hunting rangefinder can mean the difference between your next big trophy—or going home empty handed! It’s important to do the research before you make a purchase as we pointed out above. Although rangefinders all perform essentially the same task there are differences between model. Working out the distance between the user and a target object in the viewfinder vary in their accuracy, features, speed and abilities.
Here we look at a few popular hunting rangefinders models. After some detailed research into technical reviews and retail ratings, we found some brands that work best in real life applications. These top models deliver the best overall features at affordable prices.
Bow Hunting And Shooting Rangefinders – Our Choices
- Sig Sauer Kilo 2000 (top spec at less than $500)
- Leica Rangemaster
- Nikon Aculon
- Leupold RX-1200i TBR/W with DNA Laser Rangefinder (great but pricey)
- Vortex Ranger 1500
- Bushnell 202442 The Truth ARC 4x20mm Bowhunting Laser Rangefinder with Clear Shot
- Bushnell G-Force DX
- Nikon Prostaff 3I Rifle Range Finder
- Nikon Prostaff 7I Rifle Range Finder
Leica Rangemaster – runner-up
– overtook by the new Sig Kilo with higher specs.
Long Distance Hunting Rangefinder Selections
The hunting rangefinder market has added more and more powerful feature options to their lineup. This has resulted in a narrowing of the ranging performance gap. Hunters now had multiple choices with different features sets at various price points.
Sig Sauer Kilo 2000
The new kid on the block from Sig Sauer is their new Sig Sauer Kilo 2000 which has widened and choice again. It incorporates extreme ranging performance, the latest technologies and use of high-end components. And all that with a sub $500 price tag. This now makes the Sig Sauer Kilo 2000 one of the best rangefinders and clear leader in this category. If you own the Leica or any other models mentioned here that are serving you well then don’t go looking for a trade-off.
If you are looking to upgrade an out of date model or buy your first quality model in this category you won’t do better than the Sig Sauer Kilo 2000.
The Leica 1600-B used to top this category. It’s still a great option but lacks some modern features like target priority modes with only automatic only display brightness control and a big price tag. It was the clear choice for long-range performance for years.
Leupold RX-1200 I TBR/W
The Leupold RX-1200 I TBR/W with DNA Laser Rangefinder. A feature rich but compact rangefinder that earns top marks in field tests and user reviews. It produces fast and accurate results, perfectly clear optics, and has a very useful True Ballistic ResultsCalculator. The Leupold rangefinder represents one of the best compromises between quality and price in the marketplace today.
Nikon 8397 ACULON
If your budget is limited or you’re buying your first rangefinder then look no further than the Nikon 8397 ACULON Laser Rangefinder. The ACULON has plenty to offer on its own even at a relatively low price point. It has solid range, accuracy combined with bright optics and compact size. Even though the ACULON does not match the range and accuracy of the other models but this Nikon is one of the best rangefinders offering real value for money.