November 17, 2022
By Ben LaLonde
Hunting season is upon us in many states and not far away in others. If you’re hunting with a rifle, an absolute must-have piece of gear is a good rangefinder. If you don’t have one yet and are in the market, the ones in this list should at least be on your radar. Is it worth spending the money on a set of high-dollar rangefinding binos that reach out beyond 4,000 yards? Will a low-budget set get the job done? I’ve used both, and many in between. I’ve found many in the mid-budget range, $350-$800, will get the job done sufficiently.
Important Rangefinder Features
- Speed and Accuracy - When ranging game, especially in the heat of the moment, it is not always easy to be absolutely stable. A quality rangefinder is going to give fast and accurate measurements. The faster you can get an accurate reading, the sooner you can take your shot.
- Reticle type - Reticles have come a long way on rangefinders. OLED reticles are often preferred, especially in this price range. Illuminated reticles should be dimmable for low light but also adjustable for brighter settings.
- Built-In Ballistics - The addition of ballistic calculators into rangefinders in recent years has been a gamechanger for hunters and shooters alike. Is it absolutely necessary? No. Is it a huge advantage? Definitely.
- Build Quality and Construction - Plastic versus Metal, glass coatings, etc., These are factors that determine the longevity and clarity of the optic for years to come.
- User-Adjustability - This mostly comes in with diopters and rubber eye cups, which can be adjusted and fine-tuned for ensuring clear focus on the reticle display, no matter who the user is.
Leupold RX 2800 TBR-W
While this rangefinder hangs out around the $600 MSRP mark, it is absolutely packed to the brim with features. Leupold re-engineered their ranging system with their Alpha IQ technology. The Alpha IQ system uses a tighter laser beam with a higher pulse rate, meaning the user gets a faster and even more accurate readout than prior systems. The lightweight but rugged body is machined aluminum and has been completely waterproofed for function in any conditions. It has also been coated with a rubberized “armor” which features aggressive texturing top and bottom. It also features an integrated 1/4”-20 threaded hole in the bottom to mount it securely to a tripod.
The red OLED display is adjustable for brightness and features different reticle options for you to tailor to your preference. The multi-coated lenses and 7X magnification offer excellent light transmission, both of which are crucial at first and last light. The TBR-W ballistic software built into the rangefinder features a number of profiles to select which one correlates best with your bullet’s trajectory. The TBR-W system offers ballistic solutions in MOA or MRAD to 800 yards, and it offers wind compensation solutions as well. Testing this rangefinder off my back porch gave me clear readings out to the farthest objects I could find, well beyond 2,200 yards without issue. The “Last Target” and scan modes ensure the rangefinder is measuring your target, not grass and twigs between you and your quarry. The TBR-W takes the complex equations of ballistic calculations and simplifies them quite a bit. For a “do it all” type rangefinder, I found the Leupold RX-2800 TBR-W checks the boxes.
Vortex Viper HD 3000
Vortex has rangefinder options in just about every price bracket. The one featured here is the Vortex Viper HD 3000. This option features multi-coated anti-reflective lenses for maximum light transmission, especially in common low-light scenarios. While it doesn’t offer ballistic calculations for elevation and windage, the Viper HD 3000 does offer both line-of-sight readouts, and the Horizontal Component Distance (HCD) mode. HCD takes inclination into consideration when shooting up or downhill, and it gives you a true distance readout. I found this exceptional for archery hunting from a tree stand. For rifle hunting, the compensation works well within ethical ranges to ensure you are making a clean shot. The Viper HD3000 features a red OLED display. Rubber armor, tripod screwhole and a metal belt clip ensure you have a solid mount, whether hand holding or tripod mounted.
Leica Rangemaster 2800.COM
Next one on the list is the Leica Rangemaster 2800.COM. Leica really packed this piece with options, and the MSRP of $749 does indeed reflect that. However, these options seem to be well thought out. From a construction point of view, Leica went with carbon fiber reinforced plastic, which still provides a fairly rugged build but also comes in weighing less than 7 ounces. It is watertight to 1 meter of depth, so no worries if it takes a dip while crossing over water. Bluetooth connectivity allows the user to work with Leica’s own ABC Ballistics app on a smartphone. Not only that, but the bluetooth allows you to connect and share data directly with a Kestrel Elite weather meter/ballistic calculator, giving you the most up to date data based not only on your distance and inclination but on your current location’s weather and elevation.
The Data gleaned from these connections and calculations is then shown on the LED display, which automatically adjusts in brightness to ambient lighting conditions. When ranging distances less than 200 yards, ranges are displayed in 0.1 yard increments, and further ranges allow readings out to 2,800 yards. Using the scanning mode, one can receive an updated reading every 0.3 seconds. Using glass and coating Leica is known for, the 7x magnification offers the crystal clear image Leica is known for.
Bushnell Nitro 1800
This rangefinder comes in at the lower end of our budget, but it still has a lot of great features that put it on this list. The biggest feature it includes is the use of Applied Ballistics software to give you ballistic solutions to 800 yards straight out of the box. By using the bluetooth connectivity to the app, you can upgrade the ballistic programming to give you solutions to 2,000 yards.
Structurally, the Bushnell Nitro 1800 doesn’t feature the heavy duty aluminum construction that some of the aforementioned models do, but the plastic housing does keep weight low at a mere 5.7 ounces. Rubberized sections top and bottom give solid purchase on the rangefinder, and raised, rather than flush buttons allow for ease of use even with thick gloves on. The Nitro 1800 also features their ARC(Angle Range Compensation) system. This gives you the automatic adjustments you need for high angle shots. Within the ARC system is the option to switch between normal, bow, and rifle. This rangefinder only has a black LCD display, not the brilliant red options that come standard with other models in this roundup. The reticle does feature a few options to use based on your preference. This model also doesn’t feature the mounting point for tripod screws, and one may wonder about the long-term durability of the plastic housing. All in all, though, for what it does offer, the Nitro 1800 is a solid option for its price.
SIG Sauer KILO5K
The last rangefinder we’re going to look at here is the KILO5K from SIG Sauer. This rangefinder is both the heaviest and most expensive on the list with a weight of 8.2 Ounces and MSRP of $769. It offers a lot in a compact package, though. SIG Sauer claims maximum reflective target ranging out to 5,000 yards, and I’ve seen it happen when messing around with it. The rangefinder features Applied Ballistics and environmental sensors on board. It can be connected to the BDX app on your phone to create your custom ballistic profiles, which then produce aiming solutions on the red OLED display.
The aluminum body is rugged, and rubber inserts offer optimal grip even in nasty weather conditions. Speaking of nasty weather, the entire unit is IPX-4 rated for water resistance, meaning as long as you’re not diving with it, water, dust, and grime will stay out of the delicate electronic components. The multi-coated lenses give high clarity in most light conditions at 7X magnification. Multiple reticles and ranging modes give the user customization of their setup, and provide the best ranging system for the conditions he is hunting. The rangefinder is fully compatible with any of SIG Sauer’s BDX series scopes and can connect directly to Kestrel and Garmin devices.
Every single one of these optics will get the job done and do it well out to distances well beyond the terminal performance of your bullet. I prefer to practice at extended distances well beyond how far I’ll ever take a shot on an animal. Building skill at extended ranges gives me confidence in my ability to make clean, ethical shots when I’m hunting. Having a rangefinder that can range those distances and beyond is absolutely necessary. Any of the above options will give me the information I need to make the shot when it counts. When you hit the woods this hunting season, be sure your rangefinder will perform so you can make your first shot count.