Getting the best rangefinder is one of the top things that all hunters and long range shooters need to check off their must-have list. Whether you’re using a rifle or a bow, this neat little gadget will boost your efficiency and bring your shooting sessions to a totally new level.
And it only makes sense. Why rely on our eyes only when there are devices with powerful optics? But my eyes cost nothing, one might argue. Well, you don’t really have to sell your house to get a good rangefinder. There are decent options for a couple hundred bucks – or even less.
Just why is the best rangefinder so important for long distance shooting or hunting?
When your target is 20 or 30 yards away, it’s easy enough to aim at, even for beginners. Especially if you’re a hunter aiming for a bigger target, such as a deer or a boar.
Multiply the distance by 4-5 or more, add a few clouds and a sprinkle of rain. Spice it up with some wind blows and there you have it – average outdoor conditions. Guided by your eyes only, your bullet will likely end up 10 yards away, taking down an unassuming tree branch.
That is, of course, if you don’t have a rangefinder to help you read the distance as accurately as possible. Once you have that vital piece of info, the ballistics finesse is up to you. If you’re knowledgeable enough (or have a good mobile app), you’ll be able to factor in the drop of the bullet due to gravity, as well as the speed and direction of wind. (The latter will require a Kestrel meter, but that’s another topic that we’re going to revisit in a separate article.)
Main Concerns When Buying a Rangefinder
What Range Do You Need?
Laser rangefinders track down the object with the help of an invisible laser beam that locks in on the target, bounces back to a receiver, and measures the distance or so-called range.
That’s why range will be your top concern while trying to find a rangefinder that does the best job for you. Logically, cheaper options won’t be able to capture and measure great distances. With them, the most you can hope for is 200-300 yards of accurate readings. While that’s far less than a long range shooter needs, it’s probably good enough for bow hunters.
On the other hand, some state-of-the-art models will be able to range 3,000 yards or more, with far better tolerance for non-reflective surfaces. And they will rip you off accordingly.
There is an important caveat where range is concerned though. Even the best rangefinder’s performance in the field will usually differ from its advertised range. Now, this isn’t to say that the manufacturers are lying. Most of them aren’t!
The advertised number actually pertains to highly reflective surfaces. But if your target is non-reflective (as it usually is), the real number will be much smaller – about a half or even less. The range will also depend on lighting, type of surface, and other variables. Sure, you can beat these issues if you’re willing or able to splurge quite a lot of cash on an anti-reflective unit. But for most of us, it just isn’t an option.
How Fast Is the Rangefinder?
Long range shooters can rest easy on this account. But for hunters, it can often make a difference between a full and empty freezer (not to mention the ego). That’s because boars and deers won’t just stand there and not move until you get your readout. Especially if you have to take multiple readouts and compare because your tool is susceptible to errors and inaccuracy.
Unfortunately, some rangefinders will take their sweet time, especially if the weather conditions aren’t perfect. Which they often aren’t.
Software & Connectivity
Rifle hunters, I’m talking to you. Ballistics and gun shooting are part science, part art, but we live in an age when robust calculations are rendered obsolete. Why calculate manually when there’s software that can do it for you?
Some higher-end laser rangefinders will come with special apps. So, your smartphone can do all the manual work for you. If you buy a rifle scope from the same manufacturers, sometimes those devices can be hooked up, so that they share the data.
Does It Have a Crosshair or a Similar Mark?
Reticles are alright, but a rangefinder that doesn’t have a crosshair or anything similar will be difficult to use if you’re inexperienced. You need to aim it accurately at your point of interest, so you don’t end up killing a tree trunk.
Is It Weatherproof?
Hunting is a damp and muddy business as it is. But it can always get worse – for example, if your rangefinder breaks because it can’t withstand a few rain drops.
Now, most upper-level rangefinders will be waterproof and fogproof. But nowadays, even some cheaper items will have some basic protection.
Grip and Weight
You’ll need a device that won’t hold your hand down. That’s why both weight and grip are important. If your rangefinder is too bulky or heavy, it will cause imprecision. Even a 1/8-inch error is too much, since it may translate to a few yards when the bullet reaches its target. Or when it fails at it.
Does It Have an LCD or LED Display?
This is another feature that adds to the price of your rangefinder. But contrary to what it sounds like, it’s not just a fancy spec. A nice, backlit or light sensitive display can make a world of difference in low-light conditions, when your eyes can’t easily switch back and forth without taking some time to adjust.
Golfers, hunters and long range shooters – all of them need magnification to be able to see the target. But which magnification is good enough?
It will also depend on your particular needs. But we recommend not to go under 5x. Even that’s a bit obsolete, but it should still do the basic job.
You may also opt for a binocular rangefinder. They are typically more expensive and robust though. If you are really after good magnification, you’ll likely need a tripod too.
Does It Come With a Protective Case or Lanyard for Carrying?
Obviously, this won’t be your top concern. But it’s still important to keep it somewhere towards the back of your thoughts. A nice, sturdy case will make sure your rangefinder survives many adventures without a scratch. It’s certainly not a point you should easily discard, especially if your new toy was on the pricier side. If it doesn’t come with a case, it should have a lanyard – or at least a slot for one.
Rangefinder Reviews – 7 Best Rangefinder Options
1. Sig Sauer Kilo1800BDX 6×22 Rangefinder – The Best Rangefinder Overall
Sig Sauer is a very respectable firearms and optics manufacturer. And with this rangefinder, they absolutely live up to their reputation.
First off, the monocular has an anti-reflective coating. Which means that you can really believe them when they say it ranges up to 1,800 yards. And if your target happens to be highly reflective, it will beat its own specs!
It works best when paired with Sig Sauer BDX riflescope and the smartphone app, such that the rangefinder will forward the distance information to the scope automatically. Heck, you can even buy the two of these in a combo, if you need both.
As for its speed, you don’t have to worry as it’s capable of coughing out four range updates per second. That’s if you hold the button and scan. But you can also just click once and get the latest range. A nifty little way to add to versatility.
As expected, it costs a bit more than you might be willing to spend if you’re tight on the budget. But in terms of value, it will give you a real bang for your buck. I’ve seen rangefinders with similar specs that cost almost twice as much.
If your budget is more forgiving, you should consider getting their Kilo2400BDX model, which has even better specifications such as a light-sensitive display.
- Well built and durable
- Has anti-reflective coating
- Provides both vertical (incline/decline) and horizontal range
- Even better when paired with their riflescope
- Very fast (4 range updates per second in scan mode)
- Extremely accurate
- Excellent value for the money
- Easy to use
- Has lifelong guarantee for the mechanical parts and limited 5-year guarantee for the electronics
- Very lightweight
- None observed
2. ATN Laser Ballistics 1500 Smart Laser Rangefinder w/Bluetooth
Before we dive into the specifics, let’s get one thing clear. The ‘1500’ from this gadget’s name actually stands for meters. It’s 1,640 yards, so it’s even better than you may have guessed from the title.
You won’t have to fiddle with ballistics either, since you can hook this up with the ATN app via bluetooth to do the calculations in the background.
Similarly to Sig Sauer, ATN also offers an option to pair this device with their scope for best results.
- Covers a pretty long range
- Ranges up to 1,000 yards for non-reflective targets
- Very accurate
- Lightning fast
- Bluetooth connectivity
- It doesn’t seem to pair with some new scope models (ATN 4K)
3. Nikon 8397 ACULON AL11 Laser Rangefinder
This reasonably priced little beauty is a very compact thing, made to fit in any pocket. The internal display shows battery usage, which is particularly helpful when you’re on a whole-day trip. But it also powers off 8 seconds of inactivity, which helps save the battery. When there is a group of objects, it will automatically measure the distance to the furthest object.
However, its biggest downside is the maximum distance of 550 yards. Also, it doesn’t take into account slopes, inclines or declines of the terrain. If that suits your hunting or shooting habits, then it’s a very decent unit.
- Easy to use
- Has eye relief technology
- Multilayered coating
- Very compact and lightweight
- It goes easy on the battery
- The maximum range is 550 yards
- No slopes or angles, just horizontal measuring
4. TecTecTec ProWild Hunting Rangefinder
If your wallet is super tight at the moment, this model will be gentle on it. Of course, you can’t expect it to perform like a tiger, but it will still do the basic rangefinding. You know the drill: even a so-so rangefinder is better than none.
Of course, such a modest investment can’t perform miracles. It will probably fare well enough on golf trips or bow hunting. With its maximum of 540 yards range, it still gives you a few bells and whistles, including continuous scan mode and water- and dustproof body. The package even includes a pouch, lanyard, microfiber cloth for cleaning, as well as 2-year guarantee and lifetime customer support.
- Great value for the price
- Very affordable
- Good for bow hunting and golfing
- Fast enough not to affect your efficiency
- Has a pouch, lanyard, and a cleaning cloth
- 6x magnification is a great feature considering the price range
- Not powerful enough for long range shooting
- No backlit display, so it isn’t good for dusk or night shootings
- Can be inaccurate at times
5. Vortex Optics 1500 Ranger Laser Rangefinder – Great Value
Three technologies are combined to make this rangefinder one of the best options on the market. Firstly, there’s a so-called HCD (Horizontal Component Distance), which is default and is great for shooting on level ground or with moderate slopes. If there are slopes over 15 degrees, you can switch to LOS (Line of Sight) mode. Finally, if you’re aiming at a moving target, there’s the scan mode.
All of that makes this Ranger a device fit for all shooters, whether they are newbies, intermediate or seasoned. With the maximum range of 1,500 yards for highly reflective targets, it will range deer at up to 750 yards. Both accuracy and speed are remarkable. And Vortex Optics backs their product’s quality with a lifetime warranty.
Another handy feature is a neck lanyard and a utility clip which you can use to attach it to your belt.
- The reticle has three brightness modes for various conditions
- Sturdy, coated with a textured rubber armor for easy grip
- Extremely fast and accurate
- Has a neck lanyard and a utility clip
- Very small and compact
- Excellent customer support
- Lifetime warranty
- None observed
6. Leupold RX-1600i TBR Laser Rangefinder – Best for Hunters
This is certainly one of the best rangefinders for hunters because it lets you choose between rifle and bow modes.
The range covers up to 1,600 yards for highly reflective targets, 1,400 on trees, and 1,000 yards on big game. And that’s from the manufacturer – kudos for honesty and distinguishing between the tool’s potential and real performance in the field.
The reticle itself has three options: Plus Point, Duplex, and a mix between the two. Plus, there’s a scan mode to continuously update the ranges as you scan a moving target.
- Adjustable (bow hunting and rifle hunting modes)
- It doesn’t take forever to read the distance
- Gives very accurate readings
- Waterproof and fogproof
- A rugged little thing
- Easy to use
- 2-year warranty for electronics
- Customer support seems to be less than excellent
7. Bushnell Laser Rangefinder Bone Collector
The maximum range for this little gadget is 600 yards, so it’s far from being the best choice for long range shooters. Remember, however, that even this maximum range is possible in perfect weather and light conditions. Which means you can probably hope to range on a 200-yard object successfully. Especially if your target is a non-reflective big game. But if that works for you, who am I to judge?
In spite of its shortcomings, it remains very popular with hunters. Why exactly, apart from its groovy (or toylike – depends on the perspective) camo design and low price?
I suspect that the affordable price makes it a nice entry-level rangefinder for people who aren’t really eager to dish out hundreds of bucks upfront. The in-view LCD display isn’t backlit, so you’ll have some difficulty seeing the readout in darkish conditions. Also, the 4x magnification leaves something to be desired, but it works well enough for 200-300 yards.
In other words, bow hunting, yeah. But rifle hunting or shooting, meh!
- Lightweight and compact
- Pretty rugged
- Very affordable
- An okay entry-level tool
- Has a carrying case
- The maximum range of 600 yards won’t be enough for long range shooters
- It won’t range on big game at more than 200 yards
- 4x magnification isn’t powerful enough