HUNTING

The Best Hunting Rangefinder: What to Get When Precision Matters

Best Hunting Rangefinder
Shawn Harrison
Written by Shawn Harrison

You might think that all rangefinders on the market can easily do what they were designed to, that is telling you how far away your target is. Conversely, only the best hunting rangefinder can be used proficiently for all hunting purposes, but you’ll have to know how to decipher its technical details.

So that’s why we’re here: we’ll help you find your way through all these technicalities in order to pick a product that’s right for you. Afterward, we’ll take you through a selection of our favorite items, in the hope, you’ll find something you really like here.

How to Choose

Below are some of the factors to take into account when picking the right rangefinder for your needs.

Quality

Since price and quality are inexorably related, you can assume that a rangefinder that costs a bit more is a better product. That’s generally true if you’re talking about the extremes of the spectrum when comparing a very cheap and a very expensive item.

Choose Quality Hunting Rangefinder

However, the products that can be found in the middle range are of similar quality, which is why it’s better to save up and invest in a durable, reliable item. The best option for you may be a rangefinder that, albeit manufactured from top materials, doesn’t have a lot of extras, but can help you get your job done fast.

Range and distance

Although we’re talking here about rangefinders for hunting purposes, you might be into target practice or golfing as well. But even if that’s the case, you shouldn’t settle for a product that has a lower maximum range. Or you may be more interested in shooting at lower ranges, but having a maximum range of at least 1000 yards is the way to go.

Keep in mind though that this measurement is done in perfect weather and otherwise the perfect conditions. The reflective surface used for getting the maximum range out of your rangefinder works differently when the weather’s less than perfect, which is usually the case.

If you’re choosing a more qualitative, hence a more expensive item, you have more chances of its measurements being more reliable on the field. Otherwise, you can even subtract up to 50% or more out of the maximum range stated in the official description, especially if you’re hunting medium to big animals.

Precision

Angle compensation is one of the most important features you’ll have to check for in the rangefinder you consider acquiring. Although you might find this measurement under a different name, you should know it regards the level difference between you and your quarry.

Hunting Rangefinder Precision

Since you’ll never shoot an animal that’s exactly at the same ground level  with you, you’ll get an inclination between your positions. This incline will affect the way in which your bullets or your arrows move and finally reach their target.

So either you adjust your shooting by doing the math for yourself or by following your instincts if you’re a good shot, either you get a rangefinder that has a good angle compensation feature. This will let you know how far you can shoot, getting you a more precise shot.

Size

Size is directly related to portability, which is why you need to clearly have in mind the specific purpose for which you need the rangefinder, as well as the type of hunting trip you’re taking.

The bigger rangefinders:

  • Require a tripod to be set up on.
  • Need a carrying case for transportation reasons.
  • Are more difficult to handle and to hold.
  • They have more options.
  • Their buttons are bigger and therefore easier to operate.

The smaller rangefinders:

  • Are extremely portable.
  • They can easily be used without any tripod.
  • They’re easier to handle on the field.
  • May have fewer options and extra features.
  • Their buttons may sometimes be too small, therefore require more time to operate.

User-friendliness

You obviously need a gadget that does its job fast, that means telling you the yardage in no time and with extreme precision, while also having some sort of angle compensation features.

User-friendliness

That means you should ignore the glamorous extra features if your product doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. Moreover, ensure that readability is something your rangefinder offers, as you don’t want to squint whilst hunting to understand what it displays.

Type

When it comes to laser rangefinders, you’ll have to choose between:

First priority rangefinders:

  • Get you the read on the closest object in has in view, and discounts objects further apart.
  • Work better on shorter distances.
  • Are better suited for activities like golf.

Second priority rangefinders:

  • Get you the reading on the farthest object in view, disregarding the one that’s closest to it.
  • Are better for activities like hunting, especially treestanding when the trees and bush that are closer to you get ignored while the machine focuses on the game that’s usually further away.
  • Work better on longer distances.

However, you can use both these types of rangefinders interchangeably, although that would mean more hassle. And you have to concentrate on fast, accurate use particularly when you’re out hunting because otherwise, you would have to get more than one reading and constantly changing the modes.

Hunting Rangefinder Types

Pro tip: if you want a good rangefinder to use for both types of outdoor activities, get one that can switch between modes easily, at the simple push of a button. You can either choose one that effects the change temporarily or on a semi-permanent basis.

Reticle

The reticle is basically defined as your aiming point that you place over your target, and you can choose between different sorts of aims:

The black line aims:

  • Aren’t illuminated.
  • Work well when it’s light, but don’t help much at dusk, dawn or when it’s really dark because they blend with the environment.
  • Are influenced by shadows.

The LED aims:

  • Are illuminated.
  • You can adjust how brightly they shine for most products on the market.
  • Work better when it’s dark, but can’t really be distinguished from the environment when it’s light out.
  • May even cause some problems at dusk, because they mess with your night vision mode, making you unable to see what’s beyond the bright aiming point.

So what can you do? Either you know perfectly well the time of day when you’re hunting and pick a rangefinder that can accommodate that, either get a product with the backlighting feature. That’s because it doesn’t shine as brightly as LED aims, and can help you regardless of the light level outside.

Items to Choose from

These factors are definitely not worth ignoring because that could jeopardize your purchase. Investing in a good, quality product means doing your research first, so we’re here with a few options to look at before making the final decision.

Simmons 801405 Rangefinder, 4x20LRF 600

Simmons 801405 Rangefinder, 4x20LRF 600

Weight: 6.4 ounces

Dimensions: 3 x 5 x 5.5 inches

Specifications: 4x magnification; 10-600 yards range; vertical design; one-button operation; LCD display; weather-resistant

Best Use: close range hunting

Description: This 4.2 stars and $129.97 Simmons 801405 Rangefinder, 4x20LRF 600 is a great gadget to provide you an accurate reading if you’re hunting at a close range. It’s even good for golfing or for other sorts of outdoor sports, considering it can measure the distance as close to 10 yards.

When you’re out hunting, the maximum range specified is 600 yards, and all that with a precision of just 1 yard more or less.

The 4x magnification is another good feature, considering that it will magnify your target up to four times for better visibility. Its vertical configuration is a compelling feature, especially if your on-field purposes include efficiency and compactness. Besides, the reduced weight and dimensions render this item extremely portable.

The handling of the Simmons rangefinder can easily be done with the simple push of a button, and you’ll get a very bright and pristine image especially if you’re hunting during darker conditions. That’s because it has an LCD display which will increase the luminosity of your aiming point.

The 9V batteries it works on aren’t included, which is actually not a tragedy considering they’re easy to find. The included extra is the carrying case, which is a nice plus for portability reasons.

Bushnell Michael Waddell Bone Collector Edition

Bushnell Michael Waddell Bone Collector Edition 4x 21mm

Weight: 8 ounces

Dimensions: 3 x 5 x 5.5 inches

Specifications: 1 yard accuracy; 10-600 yards display; one-button operation; 4x magnification; 20 mm objective; weather-resistant; included case

Best Use: close range hunting

Description: This 4.2 stars and $137.58 Bushnell Michael Waddell Bone Collector Edition 4 x 21 mm is another good rangefinder to work with at a closer range hunting, or when you’re doing other outdoor sports that require measuring distance.

That’s because it can offer you a good distance estimation of maximum 600 yards, under ideal conditions. The lowest point it can get to range-wise is 10 yards, so that’s pretty close too.

The 4x magnification and 20 mm objective contribute to an increased visibility and accuracy of your shots. The fact that it has bright and clear optics is another plus, especially when you’re working in poor lighting conditions.

We really like that this product has a number of user-friendly features, like its ability to render precise measurements considering its accuracy is about one yard more or less. Besides this, even if it’s a small, compact item, you can easily operate it by the mere push of a button.

The fact that it’s lightweight and has reduced dimensions is another plus on the field, considering its high portability contributes to its easy handling too.

We also like to see our products made from quality materials, and this rangefinder is one of the good ones, considering its housing is resistant to rain and most on-field damages. The design is quite appealing too, seeing as it’s a Realtree Xtra camo that looks both stylish and professional, helping you stay stealth.

Nikon 8397 ACULON Laser Rangefinder

Nikon 8397 ACULON Laser Rangefinder

Weight: 5.6 ounces

Dimensions: 3.6 x 1.5 x 2.9 inches

Specifications: clear screen displays; 1-yard intervals; one-button operation; second priority rangefinder; multilayer coatings

Best Use: hunting

Description: This 4.4 stars and $149.98 Nikon 8397 ACULON Laser Rangefinder comes with strong recommendations courtesy of the Nikon reputation, one of the best brands in the optics area.

That’s why you can rest assured you’ll get a quality item, which is very efficient seeing as it will do its job in practically no time with increased accuracy. Besides, it’s rainproof so it even withstands bad on-field weather.

Amongst the features we like for our rangefinders, portability is perhaps one of the top 5. But this particular item is especially good since it’s very compact and weighs less than most of its competitors.

It can easily fit in your palm, which means it can easily be carried even in your pocket or on your belt without adding too much bulk to your equipment.

The user-friendly design can be noted in its intuitive operation, considering you only need to push a button to make it work. Once you get your reading, it will automatically shut down a few seconds later, without you having to do anything.

You’ll get the accurate distance measurement instantly, but if you keep the button pushed, you can get more measurements while scanning your environment. That means you can use this gadget both for hunting as well as for golfing.

Since it’s a second priority rangefinder though it’s better to use it for hunting because it will focus on a further away object. That is of great help when you’re hunting and you have a lot of branches or leaves around that cloud your vision.

The optics are great too as you’ll get a 6x magnification and a 20 mm objective, with long eye relief and multicoating.

All these features work together to offer you a pristine image, very clear and natural because light reflection is drastically reduced. And we also like that it works on a vast array of distances between 6 and 550 yards, in 1-yard intervals.

Bushnell G-Force DX ARC 6x 21 mm Laser Rangefinder

Bushnell G-Force DX ARC 6x 21mm Laser Rangefinder

Weight: 0.2 ounces

Dimensions: 5.7 x 5 x 2.9 inches

Specifications: 6x magnification; 21 mm objective; 5-1300 yards range; angle compensation; bow and rifle modes

Best Use: long range hunting

Description: This $356.31 Bushnell G-Force DX ARC 6x 21 mm Laser Rangefinder is likewise amazing when it comes to portability.

Just think it weighs only 0.2 ounces, which is practically nothing, even less than a quarter. Its dimensions are small too, so you can easily pack it and carry it with no trouble regarding it becoming too voluminous.

The fact that it has a 6x magnification is great in regards to visibility, seeing as you’ll be able to magnify your target up to six times, getting a very detailed picture of your surroundings.

And you’ll get a good, accurate reading between 5 to 1300 yards, meaning you’ll be able to hunt even medium to large animals at a bigger distance. Conversely, you can focus on closer distances too.

We appreciate the included angle compensation arc too because it will account for differences in distance that come with the variations in level between you and your game.

The fast speed of its measurements, along with this sort of precision are great features, but what we love most about this item is that you can change between a bow and a rifle mode. Basically, you can use it with any sort of weapon, which is indeed a user-friendly characteristic.

Carl Zeiss Optical Inc Victory PRF Monocular

Carl Zeiss Optical Inc Victory PRF Monocular

Weight: 10.9 ounces

Dimensions: 1.9 x 3.9 inches

Specifications: 2 elements achromatic lens; multicoating; Lotutec coating; Carl Zeiss monoculars; LED display; Ballistic Information System; 1300 yards range

Best Use: long-range hunting

Description: This 4.5 stars and $578.99 Carl Zeiss Optical Inc Victory PRF Monocular really takes the cake when it comes to quality of design and manufacturing.

That’s first because it renders a very clear image, that catches amazing details at a very long distance. You can count on its 8x magnification to get your game in the limelight, and a long eye relief that gets you a wide field of view.

Apart from this, the objective has a 26 mm diameter and lens that is 2-element achromatic, meaning there’s a good color contrast.

The multicoating feature minimizes light reflection, therefore helping you get a clearer image, with no glare or flare whatsoever. The LED display will also work great during dark when you want a brighter aiming point.

The great manufacturing can secondly be noticed in its exterior, which has a Lotutec coating. This makes the Carl Zeiss rangefinder repellant to water, dirt, and grease so it can withstand even the toughest on-field conditions without getting damaged too fast.

The 1300 yard maximum range is a pretty decent one if you’re out hunting bigger animals like deer on a longer range, and you can count on its effective measurements thanks to the Carl Zeiss lifetime warranties on all its optical components.

Leupold RX-1200i TBR/W with DNA Laser Rangefinder

leupold-rx-1200i-tbr-w-with-dna-laser-rangefinder

Weight: 13.6 ounces

Dimensions: 6 x 5 x 3 inches

Specifications: True Ballistic Range; 6x magnification; 22 mm objective; 320 feet. FOV; 320 feet.1215 yards maximum range; included inclinometer; rubber eyecups   

Best Use: hunting

Description: This 4.9 stars and $319.99 Leupold RX-1200i TBR/W with DNA Laser Rangefinder is great for most hunting trips, especially treestanding. That’s because it can easily distinguish between various colors and movements you’ll find in your background.

Apart from that, its True Ballistic Range is amazing because you’ll get all the necessary details regarding how far your target is, the inclination angle and the MOA adjustment.

The optics are another feature we really like about the product, seeing as it offers a 6x magnification and a 22 mm objective that helps you achieve a clear picture at a wide enough field of view of about 320 feet. Its multicoating reduces flare and glare, rendering light transmission easier for a better image.

The maximum range in ideal conditions is 1215 yards, but the official description states it’s big enough even for on-field conditions. As such, you’ll get 800 yards max for deer hunting and 900 yards for trees, which is more than other similar products can offer.

The Digitally eNhanced Accuracy feature makes this product very reliable when it comes to the precision of its shots. It also offers options for fast focus and scan mode, meaning you can get different calculations for various distances.

The included inclinometer will help you measure the distance by accounting for the angle variations, and you get other user-friendly features like the quick set menu and the rubber eyecups that can be folded down.

Nikon 8377 Riflehunter 1000 Rangefinder

Nikon 8377 Riflehunter 1000 Rangefinder

Weight: 6.9 ounces

Dimensions: 2.9 x 1.6 x 4.6 inches

Specifications: ocular contrast; adjustable LCD display; +/- 89° angle compensation; 1000 yards maximum range; interchangeable first and second target priority modes; 0.1 yards increments reading

Best Use: rifle hunting

Description: This 4 stars Nikon 8377 Riflehunter 1000 Rangefinder is another one of Nikon’s great models, especially since it has amazing features like the ocular contrast. This will allow for automatic adjustment depending on the light conditions, so you can hunt in broad daylight or at night.

The Active Brightness Control feature is a great system in that regard because the LCD display will either turn gray when it’s light out, or orange when dark.

We particularly have a weakness for versatile items, and this is definitely one of them for other reasons. For instance, the large ocular, wide field of view and +/- 89° angle compensation enable you to take more accurate shots, at a maximum range of 1000 yards.

Plus, you can easily change between the two modes of first and second target priority, meaning you can use this rangefinder either for golfing or for hunting.

The optics and display are great  features because they include multicoating for better light transmission and reduced flare, as well as a 6x magnification for rendering more details. The 0.1 yards increments regarding reading and measurement are the proof of outstanding precision too.

But this rangefinder is likewise sturdy and durable, very appropriate for extended on-field use. That’s because it’s both waterproof and fog proof, and it can withstand plenty of damages and scratches.

Not to mention that it’s small and compact enough to easily be carried around even when you’re constantly on the go.

The Right Rangefinder for You

… may be only a click away. So let us know what your choice is, but first, tell us more about yourself. What are you planning to use this gadget for? What are your usual hunting trips like?

What are the most important/ least important rangefinder features in your opinion? Plus, if we’ve missed anything in this article, the comment section awaits below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shawn Harrison
Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison is our expert in hunting. He was born in Alaska, so hunting was his hobby since high school. Later, Shawn took a Hunter Training at Alaska Department of Fish and Game to structure his knowledge and now he is open to share his knowledge with our readers. Shawn is taking ‘Safety First’ approach on all of his trips, especially is some people are going hunting for the first time.

  • Chase Oliver

    I am both a long-range shooter and bow hunter, so wanted a rangefinder that was accurate at both long and short distances.

    At first, I felt a little disheartened, as I struggled to find a rangefinder that offered the versatility I desired, that was until I found the Bushnell G-Force ARC.

    The G-Force is programmable for both rifle and bow shooting and has the best accuracy I’ve seen from a range finder to date. It is incredibly durable considering its size and weight (I initially expected it to damage relatively easily), however, I have dropped it, knocked it and used it in the pouring rain and below-zero conditions without affecting its performance.

    You will certainly struggle to find a rangefinder with its durability, accuracy, and features crammed into such a small size from other competitors.

    • Dennis Owens

      Bushnell is known for its great range of scopes and rangefinders. It is one of the most accurate rangefinders that you can find in the market. Definitely a hunting equipment that has the capacity to amplify your hunting experience.

    • Shawn Harrison

      Bushnell is known for its great range of scopes and rangefinders. It is one of the most accurate rangefinders that you can find in the market. Definitely a hunting equipment that has the capacity to amplify your hunting experience.

  • Chris Marks

    I’ve been using the Simmons 801405 for a little over a year and although it’s not quite as fancy or expensive as other rangefinders, it is simple to use and perfect for +/-1 yard in accuracy, which is exactly what I needed and well suited to sighting in my turkey gun.

    It should be noted that the Simmons does not calculate elevation, personally, I wasn’t expecting it to nor does it claim to, however, I know a number of hunters who look for this specific feature.

    A brilliant rangefinder and a pretty reasonable price.

    • Dennis Owens

      The raw experience you can get from utilizing a Simmons improves your calculating and estimation skills. I agree, this model attracts a particular audience of hunters because some prefer a more comprehensive rangefinder.

    • Shawn Harrison

      The raw experience you can get from utilizing a Simmons improves your calculating and estimation skills. I agree, this model attracts a particular audience of hunters because some prefer a more comprehensive rangefinder.

  • Joseph Peterson

    I’m a big fan of Nikon products. They’re all great and easy to use. This one is everything I needed for spotting. It’s sharp, accurate and it’s easy to store. It works excellent when there isn’t much light. A great feature is that it’s waterproof and it doesn’t fog up at all. As far as I tested it, 600 meters is its limit, but for me it’s more than enough.

    • Dennis Owens

      Aside from great lineup of cameras, Nikon can also be a brand worth considering when you’re looking for rangefinders. It is indeed waterproof, which is very helpful in terms of tackling high humidity locations or rainy places.

    • Shawn Harrison

      Aside from great lineup of cameras, Nikon can also be a brand worth considering when you’re looking for rangefinders. It is indeed waterproof, which is very helpful in terms of tackling high humidity locations or rainy places.

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