Best Rangefinder For Hunting and Long-range Shooting 2022

Ranging a target is the first step in making an accurate shot. Still, most shooters don’t realize the importance because they are either shooting at known ranges or shooting rifles with superior ballistics. Wait, that doesn’t make sense; what do I mean?

Traditionally, rounds used for hunting and long-range shooting have been heavy. The British 303, the 30-30, the 30-06, Shotgun Slugs, .270, and the popular 7mm Remington Magnum. These are all traditional deer calibers with big, heavy rounds that could drop a deer at 200 yards. But you had to know your range because the drop was between +2 at 100 yards to -3 at 200. Wait, that doesn’t make any sense; why are you hitting 2 inches high at 100 yards? It is because the rounds would be zeroed at 175 to allow for a “battlefield zero”. In other words, before computers, laser rangefinders, and horus trees, you would zero your rifle at a middle distance between your short-range and long-range and hope that it would hit the 6-inch vital area with a bit of Kentucky windage.

Thankfully, we now have 308, 6.5, 300 win mag, and .223, rounds that don’t have the same drop rate at longer ranges. Unfortunately, in many areas, the calibers you are allowed to use when hunting is restricted to straight walled cartridges, such as the .350 Legend with a massive -8.1 inch drop at 200 yards. Luckily rangefinders have come a long way since walking a field and tying a knot in a string every 10 yards.

Best rangefinder

Types of Rangefinder

The First True Rangefinders

The first true rangefinders were coincidence rangefinders. These long tubes were often used on naval ships and with artillery. By adjusting prisms at each end of the device until they coincided in the view finder, you could measure the amount of adjustment of the prisms and determine range with fair accuracy.

Due to the size and time needed to find the range to a target, these have not been a viable option for decades.

Optical Rangefinders

Also called stadiametric rangefinders are magnified optic that can use known or estimated object size alongside a measuring scale to establish range. These have been made popular by military snipers and are still used in that function today.  Being a purely optical device, no batteries are needed which makes them very versatile.

These were a trade tool for a lot of early surveyors and cartographers in the past including those who worked on ordinance surveys and topographic maps.

There is a lot of skill and math in using an optical rangefinder which rules them out for most hobby professions where they would be too slow. However, in the hands of a skilled professional with a keen eye, range can be measured very accurately.  Sometimes down to inches.

Ultrasonic Rangefinders

Using high pitched sound, much like sonar, these rangefinders are popular with contractors to measure the dimensions of flat surfaces. Unlike lasers, they are capable of reading at shorter distances where the error in other rangefinders would be an issue.

Though ultrasonic devices do exist that can be used in the outdoor environment they are expensive and large. For the most part, they have been replaced by laser rangefinders in almost every market.

Laser Rangefinders are still an evolving technology but they have proved their worth in most every hobby and profession using them. Even the military has mostly switched to laser rangefinders.

Some of the most powerful models can reach out to distances in excess of 10 miles by use of a tightly focused laser that will shoot at and bounce back from your target to be read by the same machine.

If you look into purchasing a rangefinder now, this is almost universally the one you will end up with.

Who Use Rangefinders?

Hunters

The largest current market for rangefinders is in the hunting community. This market is so large that it has dictated the growth of laser rangefinder technology. Where early rangefinders were marginally accurate at measuring distance, today’s hunting rangefinders have a variety of features which make them more accurate and more useful to the modern hunter.

Some hunting rangefinders are developed with specific hunters in mind. Some models have software that can calculate arrow drop and factor in angles to provide the bowhunter with the best possible information to make his shot. The more advanced models may have target differentiation that helps to see through leaves and brushes, making the measurements all the more accurate

For rifle hunters, a rangefinder may have a built-in ballistic computer preprogrammed with common calibers and loads that can estimate the drop of his specific bullet out of his specific gun. Some are even matched with a rifle scope and can give adjustments in clicks rather than dimensions that may require math.

Golfers

Many golfers, both hobbyists and professionals, have adopted a rangefinder as a part of their standard gear. Much like with shooting, golf is reliant on judging range accurately.  A modern rangefinder can get a golfer to within a meter of the flag.  At least in measurement, actually getting the ball there is still on the golfer.

Just like hunting rangefinders, a golf rangefinder may have features to help the golfer improve his game. The most common feature is ‘Pinseeker’ which identifies the flag rather than the ground around it, making the ranged distance to the target more accurate.

Some of the higher end models will have an adaptive slope mode that can help calculate the amount of elevation change on a hole, either uphill or downhill. They may also have a mode that will help the golfer with club selection.

Militarys

The military has been a consumer of rangefinders for decades. All the way back to the time of coincidence rangefinders.  The military moved to optical rangefinders as soon as they were proven worthy and have since gone on to use the very best laser rangefinders available today.

The only military profession that still uses exclusively optical rangefinders is snipers. Most other equipment intended for long-range engagements use laser rangefinders, often ones mounted alongside the gun.

Many of the military’s rangefinders are purpose-built and are specially designed to fill a role. The rangefinder in a tank has the necessary programming to account for the main weapon on the tank. Even some handheld rocket launchers use a similar technology.

Most military-grade rangefinders are beyond the price of what a consumer could reasonably pay.

Map Maker, Cartographers, Surveryors, And Engineers

Specific rangefinders are used in a variety of survey and mapping-related activities including civil engineering tasks. These units are often mounted on a tripod to achieve the best results possible.  While some still have an optical capability, the use of the laser on the rangefinder is almost universal.

The only feature specific to a survey type rangefinder is the extreme level of accuracy desired, sometimes down to inches or less. Occasionally the more expensive units may have the ability to calculate GPS coordinates at a distance using the laser.

While these are the most accurate units available on the market they are often larger than would be convenient for a sportsman. They are also far more expensive, costing thousands of dollars or more.

A subset of these rangefinders are those intended for use in forestry and logging operations that have features appropriate to those conditions such as leaf filters and tree height measurement.

Why buy a Rangefinder?

Finding that perfect accuracy is the ballgame when shooting as a hobby. At most shooting ranges, you have limited distances that you can shoot, but in the field, it is a constant variable you need to be aware of. Distances for game can change quickly, and having the correct elevation or dope for a long-range shot is the difference between a clean kill and a miss.

What to look for?

Laser

Laser rangefinders are most common today; GPS and mechanical models exist but are either inaccurate or prohibitively expensive. Laser dispersion and power affect how accurate and how far a range finder can accurately range.

Range

Every Range finder has a maximum distance from the laser, being able to reflect off a surface and hit the rangefinder. Usually, it is measured off a reflective surface; however, the game is not reflective, trees and ground are also not reflective. The rule of thumb is to ¼ any range maximum range number not clarified.

Magnification

The Magnification of rangefinders are usually fixed between 4x and 20x. The greater the magnification, the more accurately you will be able to range, but the lower your field of view for finding targets. 7x-10x is the preferred magnification for most hunting and shooting rangefinders.

Battery

You never want to buy a rangefinder and need to find a specialized battery during your hunting trip before you can use it. Not only is it inconvenient, but some of the best hunting is in remote regions, and you don’t want to need specialized equipment.

Smart Scopes

Sig Sauer BDX

Sig Sauer BDX capable rangefinders, If you are looking for the latest technology, BDX Capable scopes from Sig Sauer are the wave of the future. Customizable BDC reticles are set through your cell phone or their rangefinder. The Sig Sauer BDX optics and rangefinder are fantastic for finding the correct bullet drop. Simply input your ballistic data into the App, laser the target with the rangefinder, and the BCD will light up on the correct hold for the distance.

Unfortunately, the system isn’t without its flaws. Elevation is an easily understood variable in shooting; the scope is not overly impressive because so much is put into the BDX system. The crosshair width is very thick to incorporate the system. But perhaps the most critical aspect is that you can see the future of the tech, accounting for windage and elevation. Windage is a much more complex variable for shooting. With Horus reticles, cheap and easy wind meters, and fast ballistic calculators, it will not be long before a system for windage and elevation is available for the majority of shooters.

Sig Sauer Kilo

The Sig Sauer Kilo is the standard of rangefinders, simple, low-cost rangefinders with good glass that can range a deer out to 800yards. The BDX Smart scopes are compatible with the BDX Kilos, and picking the best one for you depends on your budget and the distance you want to shoot.

The Kilo 1600 is perfect for most hunters, a solid mid-tier rangefinder that is accurate to 1000yards/meters. All Kilos are IP4 water resistant.  The budget model, the Kilo 1000, uses 5x instead of 6x and doesn’t have as powerful a laser. If you want a Kilo and the budget doesn’t stretch to the 1600, grab the BDX Kilo 1000x. The small price increase is worth the extra features and improved glass. But if you are looking for a deal check out the Kilo 1400 BDX and get the best of both worlds.

Bushnell Prime 1300 6×24

Bushnell is the name in hunting optics and has been for years; the prime 1300 has upgraded from older Bushnell models, a better lens coating makes the eyepiece brighter, Bushnell is claiming 2x brighter, the Exo coating maintains that brightness while making the lens less prone to scratches and damage while trekking out in the brush.

Speaking of Brush, the new Brush Mode allows you to ignore foliage while scanning for distance, allowing you to bullseye your target through cover. In our tests, the feature worked perfectly in the woods and through an acceptable amount of corn stalks.

The Bushnell is a great rangefinder that doesn’t break the bank and will accurately range deer to 600 yards, or at least our test girlfriend in carhartts out to 600 yards through corn stalks, and the price is low enough she won’t be that pissed after the walk back.

Vortex Ranger 1800

This might be the first list I don’t wholeheartedly recommend a Vortex Product over everything else because of the features and cost. The Vortex Ranger 1800 is a great rangefinder, but the glass wasn’t as impressive for the price, and it didn’t have any features that made it stand out over the others. It accurately ranged the test girlfriend in Carhartts out to nearly 900 yards, but it is the safe pick.

A high-quality rangefinder that is light, waterproof, easy to use, and carry, but I just want something a bit more interesting for the price.

Leupold RX-1400i

Leupold is the perfect gift for a hunting father-in-law or dad when you want a great product with no learning curve. The 5x rangefinder is a bit low magnification; there are not many bells or whistles, but the glass is clear, and the distance is accurate.

I learned how to range find with a Leupold and as most shooters will tell you, the great thing about Leupold is that they always do the job. The RX-1400i is light, rugged, and uses the TBR/W for holds and windage. Just select your cartridge, and it will give you the “True Ballistics Range plus your Wind hold.” I have to say it was close to dead on at 200 yards, but with only 25 calibers, it may lack your specific bullet ballistics if you use a boutique caliber.

Leica Rangemaster CRF 3500.COM 40508

Okay, there are a couple of great rangefinders in the sub $500s, but what if you need to use the best. Leica Rangermaster is about as high priced as I could justify without sending artillery as my day job. The glass is frankly a bit absurd; it is bright and clear at twilight or dawn. The 7x rangefinder was fast, weighed almost nothing, and easily connected to the Leica Hunting App for ballistics data and windage.

The Girlfriend in Carhartt test was a bust at 1350 yards we ran out of the line of sight before the Leica Rangemaster stopped giving us accurate readings; spotting game at that distance is going to be a problem because it lacks high magnification, but the coyote brown Carhartts were visible and read easily.

Unfortunately, the Leica test model was lost shortly after in a boating accident… Yes, a boating accident, and as it sunk beneath the 2 feet of solid ice, I nearly shed a tear that I would be able to use a rangefinder of such quality again. If I could afford it, it would be what I would pick.

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