I know hunting can get expensive quick, and the last thing that you want to do is pay too much for something that you dont need or doesnt work well. However, doing something like not paying enough for something that is used all the time (or not buying one at all) is just as bad. We know you’d rather spend your time out in the field chasing down big game or sitting in a tree stand, so we took the work out of finding the best rangefinder for you. We have rangefinder reviews, a full rangefinder guide (that you can find here) and much more to help you select the rangefinder for you that will fit within your budget and meet your needs in the field.
What Is a Rangefinder?
In short, it is a device that will help you stop guessing how far away your target is, and will tell you that distance for sure. If you typically hunt with a bow or a muzzle loader, knowledge of the exact distance between you and your target can mean the difference between bagging that trophy white tail buck or bull elk that you have been after your entire life and going home with nothing but an “I got close, but estimated distance wrong and missed” story.
These things will totally, 100% take the guesswork out of your estimation, and will allow you to shoot better or tell you if you need to get closer to your target. They are used in both golf and hunting, and there’s a reason for that which we will get to later. In addition to golf and hunting, they can also be used for photography, forestry, and in the military. You’ll want to get the best rangefinder you can afford, as well. The units are also used in the home, though a bit differently (mostly as laser tape measures or to figure out how tall a tree is).
We have arranged a table below for you, showing the top 10 rangefinders (there’s a full table comparing them all on the site as well, but we think these are some of the best ones on the market today). The table has information such as:
- Brand name and model
- Maximum Distance
- Price. Price of course will vary, but we have arranged them from low ($) to high ($$$$). These prices do vary based on sales at amazon and some other things, but generally, $ will be $100-$200, $$ is $200-$300, $$$ is $300-$600, and $$$$ is anything above $600.
- Average user rating on amazon.com
Are you interested in skipping the guide and just want to see the top units on the market today? Head over to our top gear page and get your self equipped!
The Ultimate Guide
|Nikon ProStaff 3 Laser Rangefinder, Black||6x||550 Yards||$||4|
|Nikon ProStaff 5 Laser Rangefinder, Black||6x||550 Yards||$$||4|
|Bushnell Team Primos The Truth ARC 4 x 20mm Bow Mode Laser Rangefinder||4x||850 Yards||$||4.5|
|Leupold RX-1000I W/DNA Black||6x||500 Yards||$$$||5|
|Bushnell Fusion 1-Mile 12x 50mm ARC Binocular Laser Rangefinder with Matrix Display||8-12x||1,760 Yards||$$$$||5|
|Weaver 8 x 1000 Yard Laser Rangefinder||8x||1,000 Yards||$$||5|
|Leupold RX-750 TBR, Black/Gray||6x||750 Yards||$$||5|
|Buck Commander 8 x 1000 Yard Laser Rangefinder||8x||1,000 Yards||$$||5|
|Nikon Team Realtree Laser 1200 Rangefinder||7x||1,200 Yards||$$$||5|
|Vortex Optics Ranger 1000 with Horizontal Component Distance Rangefinder RRF-101||6x||1,000 Yards||$$$||4.5|
Types of Rangefinders
Rangefinders have quite a few uses, so it’s important to get a unit that is made for hunting. The most other common rangefinders are made for golf, and do not work well for hunting at all. This makes sense if you think about it. When you’re on the fairway and trying to figure out how far away the pin is, you pretty much have a clear line of sight from your ball to the spot of the pin. When you’re hunting in the woods or from a tree stand you dont have a clear line of sight (typically). There’s usually other trees and brush in between you and your target. Getting a hunting rangefinder is important as it will help you find the distance between you and your target, as opposed to you and a tree that happens to be partially in the path between you and your target. Getting a unit specifically for hunting will help you make sure that you’ve got the correct distance and that you can put the proper amount of power behind your shot (if you’re bow hunting) to get it the distance it needs to go.
Uses While Hunting
These things can be really handy when you’re in the field searching for that trophy, but they are not just for finding distance between you and your target. They also work great at figuring out distances to trees, rocks or other physical landmarks near your kill zone so you know about how far the animal is without having to consult your unit while the animal is walking by. You can just draw your bow and know that when your target is in front of the tree it’s 34 yards away and you can go ahead and bag your trophy. Here’s a video from Mudd Creek Outdoors showing you how to do it:
One of the other benefits of being able to measure the distance to trees is that if your target is stationary (say feeding or bedded down) you can range in the animal, then range in a nearby tree or rock that you want to sneak up to and take a shot from. You can subtract those two distances to figure out how far of a shot you’ll need to to take. This will tell you if you’re close enough or if you’re too far for the shot you want to take and you need to move closer. I’ve had plenty of times where I thought I was close enough to shoot, but after ranging in I found that I could get a bit closer behind a well covered tree or rock and take a much higher percentage shot.
How They Work
To put it simply, they send out a laser that will hit the target you’re trying to hunt, and the beam will bounce back and when that happens the unit calculates the distance between you and your target based on the time it took the laser to get from you to your target and back again. It sounds pretty simple, but in reality there are a lot of different things that could come into play when you’re using one that could muck up your results if you’re not careful. These things include wind, rain, other objects (like rocks and trees) and many other things.
There is also part of the technology that can skew results. You have to think of a rangefinders beam as a flashlight. Now imagine that you’re holding that flashlight walking around and you stand close to the wall. When you’re standing close to the wall with the flash light pointed at that wall, you’ll notice that the beam from the flashlight is very focused on the wall, and the circle shape that it leaves is very focused and very small. Now, when you start to take steps away from the wall, your circle of light gets bigger and bigger. Unfortunately the same thing happens when you are ranging in a nice bull elk. The closer the elk is to you, the better reading you will get from your unit and the further away you get, the less accurate your unit will be. As we all know as hunters, we want to be as accurate when shooting as possible so we dont miss our target completely and end up going home with nothing but a story. We also want to make sure that we are able to take a clean shot, and having an accurate range on your target is very much a part of that.
If you’re a bow hunter, your unit will still work the same as the ones specifically designed for rifle hunters will work, but they may not work as well. A lot of bow hunting depends on getting close to your target, and that usually means above the animal (or below) on a hillside. Taking shots like this can be extremely rewarding, but they do come with some risk because you are not shooting straight – you’re shooting from below or above the target, and you need to determine how that will affect the flight path of your arrow. Typically, this is done with math (and it gets more complex the more things that you factor in – like the arrow dropping over a certain distance) and no one wants to do all of that math in the field when you’re focused on trying to bring home something to hang on the wall. (We have a full bow hunters guide if you are looking to find one specific to bow hunting)
To fix that problem, many manufactures have created a system called ARC, which stands for angle range compensation. This will not only return the range of your target when you’re out hunting but if you have it in the ARC mode (typically only for bow hunters) than it will also include a “shoot like” distance. For instance if you’re above a nice bull elk and ready to shoot but he is 25 yards away according to the rangefinder, you may need to shoot like he’s 20 yards away because of the fact that your elevation is higher than the elk and you are shooting downhill.
Advantages of Carrying a Rangefinder
- Certainty - Say you’re looking across a field and find your trophy bull elk that’s somewhere between 300 and 400 yards. It’s a great opportunity and a trophy bull that you really want to harvest. How far (exactly) are you from your future trophy? Are you 325 yards or is it closer to 390 yards? How far is that going to drop over the distance between you and the bull? If you’re guessing you could end up shooting too low and watching the shot whiz between the legs of your trophy just before it scurries off. With a rangefinder, you can know with a high degree of certainty how far away you are, and in turn make the proper adjustments so that you can harvest that trophy bull elk.
- Shot Selection – When you’ve got an animal in your sights and you’ve ranged it in with the range finder but have found you’re too far to shot, you can use your rangefinder to take the distance between where you want to shoot (say behind a large rock that you will sneak up to) and then calculate the distance from your trophy to the point where you plan on taking your shot. For instance, if there was a white tail 120 yards away from your current position, but there’s a big rock closer to the animal that you can sneak up to and get a better shot from that is 75 yards away from you, you know that you’ll be taking a 45 yard shot when you get in position behind the rock.
If you’re unsure of what rangefinder will work best for you, that is exactly why we are here. We have rangefinder reviews, guides on why and how to use a rangefinder when you’re out in the field, and how to pick a good rangefinder based on your budget. If you’re unsure of anything, make sure to check out the reviews we’ve done for each product on our blog.
5 Best Rangefinders Reviewed
Nikon ProStaff 5, Camo
The Nikon Pro Staff 550 rangefinder is a great all around piece to add to your hunting pack. It does not have all the bells and whistles such as 12x magnification and it does not do angle compensation, but it does one thing and it does it very, very well. The Nikon ranges in accurately to the 1/2 yard up until 99.5 yards, then at 1 yard increments from 100 yards to a range of 550 yards. The maximum range for the unit is 776 yards, which should suit field uses for just about every hunter out there.
It’s also waterproof and fog proof, so it wont let you down when you’re in the tree stand or brush early in the morning waiting for that trophy to wander by your hiding spot. One of our favorite features on the Nikon though is the tru-target ranging system (developed in house by nikon). The tru-target ranging system lets users prioritize targets. This means that you will be able to distinguish between something small and difficult to range under normal circumstances (like a fencepost), or you can quickly get a read on that trophy bull elk headed your way. By being able to prioritize your targets, you reduce those annoying false readings that occasionally happen. In addition to the tru-target technology, it also has advanced ID technology. Advanced ID technology allows you to compensate for different shooting angles, up to 89 degrees (though if you need more than that, you’ve got a problem). This advanced ID technology will also help you account for bullet drop when shooting and takes the guess work out of things like holdover when you are taking your shot.
This Nikon rangefinder is a great all around piece to take with you on any hunt, and comes in towards the lower end on price. With it’s 6x magnification and max range of 776 yards, plus waterproof casing and a fog proof lens, you just cant beat this rangefinder. This rangefinder is versatile and can handle many years of hunting trips. With stats and features like that, you cant go wrong.
Bushnell Team Primos The Truth ARC Bow Mode
The Bushnell bowhunter Team Primos the Truth rangefinder is one of the most compact in its class, but is also one of the best rangefinders out there. This rangefinder is specific to bow hunting however, so if you typically use a rifle you’ll need to look at some of the other rangefinders that will better meet your needs. Its got a 4x magnification lens, and can range out accurately from 7 yards to 199 yards, with a maximum range of 850 yards.
The best part about this rangefinder though is the ARC Bow Mode. The Bushnell Team Primos can easily calculate shooting angles and will let you know quickly what pin you need to use, or can calculate the angle that you’re shooting from (if you’re in a tree stand) and will calculate true distance so you dont over or undershoot. This functionality is also available without any extra presses of the buttons, how ever it does only work up t 199 yards. Once it hits 199 yards, it switches to what they call “true line of sight mode”.
This unit is very thin, and easily fits in a shirt pocket. In addition to that, it’s also rainproof, and will make a great companion when you take down that trophy whitetail buck.
With the awesome ARC bow mode, a solid 4x magnification and a trusted names in the field like bushnell and team primos, you cant go wrong with this one. It’s a great one for bow hunting. Not only that, it’s priced under $200 on amazon, its one of the best rangefinders that’s wallet friendly.
Bushnell Fusion 1 Mile ARC Binocular with Matrix Display
This is bushnell’s pull out all the stops, top of the line binocular and rangefinder combo. We have selected the 8x32mm version (it also comes in 10x42mm and 12x50mm). Since we are only curious about rangefinders, we will leave the (rather impressive) binocular specs out of this, and concentrate on the rangefinding portion of this tool. The unit has a maximum distance of 1,760 yards (approximately 1 mile) and is accurate to +/1 1 yard. Like the Team Primos bushnell, it has ARC technology, and will help you compensate for changing angles on the fly.
This one isnt just for the bow hunters though. In addition to providing line-of-sight, angle and true horizontal distance up to 99 yards for the bow hunters it has some great features for rifle hunters. It calculates line-of-sight, angle and bullet drop/hold over for up to 199 yards. With the ARC system, it has a +/-90 degree range to help you compensate for the distance between you and your target so that you can always take the right shot. The Bushnell Fusion 1 Mile Arc Binocular unit with Matrix Display has multiple modes (brush, bullseye and scan) that will help you distinguish between targets and make sure that you’re always on the right one. During our testing, we were always able to range in our object with one of the modes or another with out any trouble.
Since this unit is a combo unit, it’s a bit larger than the previous ones that we’ve reviewed, but it has a lot of added functionality. This is a very solid (but also very expensive) choice, but it can replace the binoculars that you use to glass while hunting with no trouble at all.
Leupold RX-1000I W/DNA
Next on our list of top choices is the Leuplod RX-1000I W/DNA. It’s got a maximum range of 800 yards and 6x magnification, allowing you to easily spot targets from your stand or blind. Its small and light weight, coming in at just under 8 oz, so it will not be a burden to carry with you out in the field. Due to its size, it’s also very easy to operate the unit with 1 hand – even if it’s sweaty from being in a glove all day or if it’s wet outside. The size also makes it easy to put the unit in a shirt, pants or coat pocket. This one is rechargeable, meaning that you wont have to fuss with not having the right size battery or pulling it out to find a dead battery (you just need to make sure to keep it charged).
It comes with Leupolds DNA technology (Digitaly eNhanced Accuracy) tool, allowing you to take advantage of quick results from the unit that are accurate to within 1/10th of a yard, against all backdrops, textures and colors. It comes with the true ballistics range software as well, which allows a user to match their rifle’s ballistics to the rangefinder. Once the rifle is matched, the rangefinder will calculate holdover, angle adjustment and true horizontal distance, so you dont miscalculate and send a bullet whizzing over your trophy.
Last but not least is optical quality of the Leupold RX-1000I. It doesnt come with your standard LED technology, but something they call OLED (Organic LED) that produces a much clearer image in low light conditions, which will be great to help you harvest that early bull elk right after sunrise.
With great optics and features like the DNA technology and true ballistics, this is a great choice for a rangefinder, and you will not be disappointed when you get into the field with it for the first time. With a trusted name in optics like Leupold, you cant go wrong.
Nikon Prostaff 3 APG in Camo
Last, but most certainly not least on the top 5 list is the Nikon Prostaff 3 APG with a Camo finish. This unit features a max range of up to 550 yards, and it ranges in to the half yard up to 100 yards. This range is plenty far enough to get a good read on that target you’ve been stalking and will allow you to have greater success on your shots and stalks by taking the guesswork out of the range.
The unit is water and fog proof, and was designed for the rugged use that hunters will typically put it through, while being lightweight enough and small enough to be easily carried on the belt and not interfere with any of your other hunting gear. As far as optics go, it’s got a great 6x magnification power nikon lens, with an anti reflective coating and an easy to read LCD Display. Nikon was thinking of hunters use in the field when they made this unit, so it’s got 1 button operation for quick check on your trophy while they are walking towards your tree stand or you are stalking them.
The small size and durability of this unit, plus the adequate range of 550 yards and a great nikon lens make this an optimal rangefinder for any hunter. The price comes in at just under $200, so it wont break the bank, either. This one is a great value for the money, but the optics and features made us include this in our best rangefinder list.
Your Shot: Which One Fits Your Needs?
Now that we’ve listed our 5 favorite rangefinders which are some of the best rangefinders on the market, and 5 more great options in the comparison table, it’s time to make your move. Determine what the best rangefinder is for your needs. These needs include anticipated field use, cost, durability and whatever you think will help get you an accurate range on your target.
Like every other market, there are new products all the time. We keep up with every latest rangefinder release and will add new units to the chart when we get a chance to review them. If you feel like we missed a great one, drop us a note in the comments and we will get it added to the list!
Post by Wesley Levy