Gear Test: 4 Top New Rangefinders

Range Finders

Photos by Adam Voorhes

Every modern big-game hunter should have a reliable general-purpose rangefinder. It should fit in a pocket and feature quality glass, angle compensation for steep shots, and the ability to quickly range a buck dogging a doe through a thicket at last light. I tested four new rangefinders for all of that and a little more. Here’s how they ranked.

THE TEST

I first tried each rangefinder in my backyard at a premeasured distance of exactly 50 yards. Next, I checked their advertised ranging capabilities on reflective targets—like big trees, a couple of Southern Baptist churches, and a dark rock bluff on the far side of Kentucky Lake—at 200 to 1,000-plus yards. Finally, I took a drive through the west Kentucky countryside on an evening when the deer were really -moving. I ranged more than 50 animals numerous times at distances from 20 to 450 yards to judge each unit’s real-world performance, including target acquisition, scan-mode efficiency, reading--return speed, and optical quality, especially in low light. Live deer—unlike the decoys or 3D targets common to other rangefinder tests—don’t stand still forever, and a bunch of them make for a pretty conclusive test of which rangefinder is truly best for hunting.

[1] Leupold RX-1200i TBR
$525; leupold.com

Leupold

Specs 6X magnification • 320-ft. FOV at 1,000 yd. • 7.8 oz. • Angle compensation • Scan mode • True Ballistic Range
HITS Optical clarity is excellent, target acquisition is fast, even through grass, and the readings are instantaneous. The 1200i proved dead-on accurate at a premeasured distance. It's compact, handy, and weatherproof.
Misses Even on the lowest setting, the LED display is bright enough to obscure a deer at last light. The TBR feature is cool (see below) but somewhat complex.
THE LOWDOWN This top-quality, all-purpose unit excelled in almost every test. It was the only model here that would return 1,000-plus-yard readings, and it has the best monocular by far. The TBR feature, which can be calibrated to a variety of cartridges, gives rifle hunters instant holdover values, making it especially useful for longer shots.

[2] Nikon Prostaff 7i
$300; nikonsportoptics.com

Nikon

SPECS 6X magnification • 393-ft. FOV at 1,000 yd. • 6.2 oz. • Angle compensation • Scan mode
HITS It was the best in the test at giving consistent, ultra-fast readings on deer in tall grass at 20 to 70 yards. It, too, was dead-on at a premeasured distance, and it's waterproof.
MISSES The optic is only decent; seeing deer at last light was a strain. The large readout and reticle covered entire animals beyond 200 yards. I couldn't get reliable readings beyond 700 yards, despite the 1,200-yard claim.
THE LOWDOWN The Prostaff 7i measures in .1-yard increments and is both precise and reliable. It was the Leupold's closest rival—at a little more than half the price, which is why it walks away with Best Value honors. Perfect for the budget-conscious hunter who still needs a top-quality rangefinder for bowhunting, gun hunting, or both.

[3] Wild Game Innovations Halo Xtanium 1000
$330; wildgameinnovations.com

Wild Game Innovations

SPECS 8X magnification • 262-ft. FOV at 1,000 yd. • 8 oz. • Angle compensation • Scan mode
HITS You can change the Xtanium's reticle to a small red OLED dot that is perfect for ranging small targets at last light. The scan mode gave reliable, instant readings.
MISSES When not in scan mode, it seemed the reading would return in just enough time for me to think, Hurry up, dammit. Though water-resistant, it is not waterproof, and it was a yard off on a premeasured 50-yard target.
THE LOWDOWN With a polished-metal finish and sci-fi styling, the Xtanium looks cool. It excelled in the target-acquisition test and provided good—though not great—all-around performance in both sunshine and low light. Readings were spotty beyond 600 yards, despite the 1,000-yard claim. Bottom line: It's a decent model at a decent price.

[4] Bushnell Truth With ClearShot
$280; bushnell.com

Bushnell

SPECS 4X magnification • 430-ft. FOV at 1,000 yd. • 6 oz. • Angle compensation • No scan mode • ClearShot
HITS ClearShot—which tells an archer whether he has a clear shot through cover to the target—works well. The circular reticle aids target acquisition, particularly in low light.
MISSES The unit had a tough time reading off even reflective targets beyond 200 yards and struggled on deer in sparse grass beyond 50. It was a yard off on the premeasured target, and it's not waterproof but "rainproof."
THE LOWDOWN A bowhunter can calibrate the reading display according to specific arrow speeds and sight-pin setups. That done, the unit shows a black bar indicating the highest point of the arrow's arc. It's an impressive feature on an otherwise ho-hum rangefinder. Definitely a bowhunter's tool, it's right at home in the whitetail woods.