5 Best Rangefinders for Hunting (Jan. 2017)
There are some purists who would be out there hunting with nothing but their bare hands if they could, but there’s something to be said about taking advantage of technology. Whether you like to hunt with a rifle or a bow, it’s very important to know the range of your target.
You can hunt and still be humane, despite what people might say.
It’s not always easy to eyeball how far away your target is. That’s where having the best hunting rangefinder can be very useful. Before you take a shot, you need to be sure that it’s from a distance that will kill the animal, instead of just injuring them. If they’re injured and they run away because you tried to shoot from too far, which can also drastically reduce your accuracy, then you’re going to have to chase that animal down, whether it takes hours or days, that’s your responsibility.
Here is a List of the Best Rangefinders of 2017[table id=3 /]
Avoid situations like that by making sure you’re within the correct distance, depending on what you’re using to hunt. Having a low quality range finger can be worse than not having one at all, because it can give you a false sense of distance.
Thankfully, most of the ones on the market aren’t terrible, but there is still a noticeable difference between the best rangefinder and just an average one, and we’re here to help un-muddy the waters so that you can choose the perfect tool for the job. When the job is something this important, when we’re talking about the difference between potential animal suffering or not, as a responsible and compassionate hunter, the ball’s really in your court.
You’re not in it alone!
We’re here to help. We’ve taken a look at countless ranger finders so that we can bring you a handful of options to choose from. We’ve narrowed down your search, but at the end of the day its still up to you to make the decision. We’ve made that decision as easy as possible, by filtering out any range finders that lack quality, that are overpriced or overrated, that have too many negative reviews, or that simply don’t offer a good value.
You can be rest assured that any item appearing on this buyer’s guide is going to be a product of quality, that’ll last you many seasons, and that will do as good a job as possible. Still, not everybody has the same wants, needs, or budget, so we’ve broken things down to ensure that there’s something for everyone on this list, and that nobody is stuck using a product that’s anywhere less than great. If it made our list, you know it’s a quality product and a value buy.
Let’s start by going over a bit of basic information and explaining some of the features that these range finders may have. Knowing the difference between certain stats, and how that impacts the performance of the device, is crucial. You don’t have to be an expert, so we aren’t going to go super in-depth, but we’ll certainly provide enough information to help you make an informed decision.
Choosing the correct magnification:
You’ll notice various levels of magnification while shopping for a range finder. From something like a golf scope with one lens, to an advanced hunting range finder with multiple lenses, it’s not always easy to pick the right one.
On top of that, a device with multiple lenses can have different types of coatings, that even vary between each lens. We’ll cover the different types of lenses in just a moment, but first you’ve got to decide how much magnification you’ll want, so let’s look at some of the pros and cons.
You’ll often see magnification ranging between 4x, 6x, or 8x. The higher the number is, obviously, the more of a magnifying effect you’ll have, which means you’re able to get a better view of your target. However, greater magnification leads to a decrease in your field of view, which can make it a bit trickier to actually track down your target in the distance quickly.
The distance for rangefinders usually starts at a few yards, meaning it won’t really be accurate for something that’s a yard or two away, but that’s okay because you’ll never need that. The maximum distance that a range finder can be accurate at will vary, however it’s usually up to around 1000-1600 yards. The accuracy level at these distances is typically within about half of a yard, which is plenty accurate. If you’re ever at a point where that 0.5 yards is going to be the deal breaker, just don’t take the shot, get yourself into a better position first.
Different types of range finder lenses:
There are numerous lens types available for rangefinders, which can assist them in working better in a variety of different environments. The lenses and their coatings have an impact on the amount of lighting that can get through, which impacts the laser’s strength and ability to travel to and from the rangefinder. The amount of light that the laser is able to transmit is determined by these factors:
- Coated: At least one lens surface is coated with a single layer of chemical coating.
- Fully-coated: Every glass lens surface on the rangefinder is coated with a single layer.
- Multi-coated: One lens surface is covered with multiple coats.
- Fully multi-coated: All glass lens surfaces are coated multiple times.
Looking at the best laser rangefinders:
With some of the background information out of the way, let’s dive right into it now. Here’s a look at five different rangefinders. Some of them are more entry-level (But still perfectly capable of achieving a level of quality that you need), and some of them are higher end. If you can afford a better one, do it. If you can’t afford to spend that much on a rangefinder, don’t get discouraged – it’s not necessary.
As we mentioned in the introduction, everything on this list is a great product and a solid option – you can’t go wrong with any of them. None the less, we wanted to include options and variety to make sure that there’s something for everyone, without making any sacrifices to quality. As such, even the most affordable ones on this list aren’t the cheapest options out there. As we discussed, you should just skip the very cheapest options because this is a very important tool, and it’s your responsibility to get it right, so don’t take any chances.
This is one of the top sellers, so it’s worth mentioning first. There’s a reason that so many people choose it. The price is right, that’s for sure. At under $150, it does a great job. It has accuracy of +/- 1 yard, which isn’t as good as some of the others we’ll be taking a look at, but again – if you’re in a situation where that extra .5 yards is going to make a difference, you’re in the wrong situation to begin with.
This rangefinder has a magnification of 4x, meaning you’ll have a larger field of vision when you’re trying to pinpoint your target, but you won’t be able to see quite as close up since it’s less magnified. An 8x rangefinder will have you seeing things a lot more closely, but again, at the expense of a greatly reduced field of vision.
This is a simple device with just one button, a weather resistant housing, and it comes with a case. One of the downsides is the fact that it’s only good up to 600 yards, whereas some of the devices we’ll be featuring can do a lot more than that. If this one suits your needs, all things considered, it’s a great buy – but if you’re at a greater distance, you’ll find exactly what you need further down on this list.
This model by Nikon is quite similar to the one we just looked at. It also sits well above the line of the bare minimum that we’d recommend. Again, there are less expensive options out there, but we can’t recommend anything lower than these because when it comes to something this important, it would be foolish to start shopping at the entry level – so we skipped right ahead to mid-level.
This rangefinder has a slightly lower maximum range than the Bushnell we just featured, at 550 yards. A nice thing about the Aculon is that it’s very compact, light, and portable. Also, Nikon is primarily known as a camera company, but what’s one of the most important features on every camera? The lens. So you know you’re getting a quality lens when you buy from Nikon.
It’s water resistant and rainproof, but you won’t want to take it swimming with you, obviously. If you’re aiming at multiple targets off in the distance, it is programmed to give you the distance of the furthest one, which can be useful if your target is slightly obscured by grass or something like that. It also features a simple one-button operation.
We’re getting up there in price and quality now, this is one about twice as expensive as both options we’ve looked at so far. Is it twice as good? That can be a tricky question to measure. Also, often with these types of things, as you spend more and more, you aren’t necessarily getting an increase in value that scales directly to the price.
For example, something that costs twice as much isn’t necessarily going to be twice as good, it might be roughly 1.5x as good, but that’s the cost you have to pay when you get into higher-end items. There’s certainly a point of diminishing returns with anything that costs more money, not just the best rangefinders, but if you want that upper-level of performance, it’s just the price you’ve got to pay. It certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. In other words, the difference between a $50 and a $150 rangefinder is generally going to be more drastic than the difference between a $150 rangefinder and a $450 model. None the less, the $450 is going to reach heights that the cheaper ones simply cannot. So if you want that top tier of performance, if it has the features and the abilities that you need, you’re still getting your money’s worth either way.
Back to this model in particular – the rugged design means it’ll be reliable by your side when you need it without having to worry about it breaking easily. The distance varies depending on lightning, etc, but it’s going to be great at 600 yards and has been reported accurate at closer to 1000 yards, too. People use it for hunting as well as golf. It has 6x magnification, right in the middle sweet spot of magnification and field of vision, so you aren’t making any major sacrifices in either department.
This rangefinder right here is serious business. It’s the most expensive, and the best, that we’re going to be looking at today. This is going to be plenty more than the majority if hunters will need, but if you factor in the amount you’re already spending on everything else if you’re a dedicated hunter and outdoorsman, it’s not a huge expensive considering you’ll be getting one of the best range finders available without dropping a small fortune.
Earlier, we talked about the point of diminishing returns. Making the jump from something in the sub-$200 range to this one that costs right around $400 can be a very worthwhile investment, however going from $400 to an elite-level range finder than might cost $600 or $800 isn’t going to have nearly as big of an improvement in quality, and is basically reserved for the professionals who make a living hunting and can afford to write-off the higher gear costs. Having said that, again, this guy right here is absolutely stunning and plenty more than most people will ever need – let alone being able to tell the difference between this or something higher-end.
In other words, if you can afford to drop $400 on this Bushnell Rangefinder, do it.
It’s fully waterproof, not just water resistant like a lot of the options on this list. That makes a difference!
Also, the total range from this one makes it the best rangefinder for longer distances compared to everything else we’re going to feature. It is accurate from 5 yards, all the way up to 1760, with accuracy of +/- 0.5 yards, and it displays in increments of 0.1 yards. It can calculate your bullet drop and compensate for that, and other factors.
The only downside compared to some of the other options, is that it’s a little bit bigger and heavier, but that’s because it’s a lot more powerful.
Now, if you were interested in some of the models we looked at earlier, but unimpressed with the 550-600 yard maximum distance, and not quite tempted by the Tactical Elite by Bushnell that we just looked at, here’s a solid unit that fits somewhere in the middle. It offers 800 yards worth of range, which is a great upgrade from 550, but still nowhere near the 1760 – but at less than half the price, and only a bit more expensive than the 550-600 models, if you need that extra bit of range, this is a very smart buy. It fits nicely into the middle ground.
The reviews are more than solid, the price is great, and it’s a Bushnell so you know it’ll be good. This is a fairly simple laser rangefinder, one of the best you’ll find at this price. It won’t be a top performer in lower light, and it lacks the Clearshot feature that the Bushnell Truth editions have, but it’s still a strong choice if nothing else on this list has captivated you yet.
Have you tried any of the best rangefinders for hunting, archery, golf, that we’ve mentioned on this list? Did you have a good experience with them, or did you have any problems? Make sure you let us know, because the options of experienced hunters help us to include the best products for our readers. If you know of another rangefinder that deserves a spot on here – don’t be shy – let us know!