Best Hunting Range Finders Reviewed and Rated
Range finders are a special piece of innovative equipment that has been evolving alongside camera technology. Highly utilized in hunting, range finders are revolutionary devices that can help you measure vast ranges of distance and detect your prey at long distances. Equipped with extremely powerful lenses, the gadgets can also help you increase the accuracy of your every shot. Usually paired with a rifle scope or a bow, a range finder is a must have for every hunter who wants to shoot accurately every time. This is why we rounded up the best hunting range finders on the market today.
One can excellently argue about whether one or the other accessories for a successful hunt is really necessary or not. For equipment or technology alone does not decide on the hunting success. Properly applied, however, one or the other aids can be quite a profitable thing on every hunt. A laser range finder is one such device that we no longer want to do without.
Our Top 3 Picks
Whether still hunting, chasing, in a relatively short distance or if being chased beyond the 300m mark when hunting abroad, a range finder can be greatly helpful. Knowing the distance between you, the hunter, and the chosen prey is one of the prerequisites for an impeccable shot.
You may wonder why you would need a range finder at all? However, the question is easy to answer – to measure the distance! Exact distances give the hunter action security and help the decision on shooting or not shooting to make. Being under or above the shot distance, can ruin your shot. Nevertheless, if your break point is to be corrected with a range finder, your accuracy will improve.
Leica is a relatively good brand of hunting range finders that is most popular in Europe. Usually their devices are professional grade and have an ergonomic design. However, they are not recommended in the US, Canada or other American countries, as they might be pretty expensive compared to devices from other manufacturers.
Nikon is one of the most famous brands of photography devices. They also develop range finders for hunting. Nikon has proven themselves to be able to produce reliable devices that are able to serve their purpose for multiple years.
Bushnell is one of the most popular brands out there. Usually providing with the most innovative laser range finder technology on the market, Bushnell range finders are able to determine shot angles and altered distances and more. This is possible because of the unique combination of software and hardware technology implemented. However, most of their best hunting range finders are relatively expensive, while the more affordable options don’t have the best features.
Factors to Consider
There are a number of factors you should consider when looking for a hunting range finder. The first thing you should decide is whether or not you want the latest generation of hunting laser range finders or you prefer to go with the old-style optics.
Usually, you will find a huge number of difficult-to-understand facts in the description of the range finder. However, we’re here to help you out with your choice.
- Magnification – Note that an important factor is the magnification. It represents how close your prey appears. For example, a magnification of eight times, means that the animal you are looking at, which is at 400 meters, will appear as if it is only 50 meters away.
- Lens Opening – Another important factor is the size of the lens opening. Specified in millimeters, the diameter of the lens opening shows how clear the animal appears on your range finder. Usually, the lens opening reflects the geometric light intensity and is determined by a mathematical formula.
- Twilight Factor – The so-called twilight factor represents the general performance of your device. The higher the number is, the better. Generally speaking, the twilight factor shows that the range finder has a good light intensity and that it can be used even with an increasing dusk. The numbers you should be looking for are about 18 or higher. However, even devices with lower twilight factors can still be useful for your hunting.
Other factors you might want to consider, include some of the ones listed below.
- The Number of Features you Need
- The Importance of the Size or Weight of the Device
- The Need of a Waterproof Device
- Field of View
- Battery Life and Type of Battery
Depending on the factors listed above, you might prefer one range finder over another. We’ve made our best shot to list the top OPTIONS currently available on the market.
10 Best Hunting Range Finders
1. Bushnell 4 x 21mm
Perfect in low-light conditions
Amazing distance from 10 to 600 yards
Lack of features
2. Wildgame Innovations Z6X 600
Requires some getting used to
3. HALO XRT 650
Amazing clarity and focus
Lack of functions
4. AOFAR 6 X 25mm
Missing English instructions manual
5. TecTecTec 6 x 24
Relatively good accuracy
Amazing features and functions
Great accuracy issues below 60 yards
6. Nikon 8397
Fast measuring speeds
Great in low-light conditions
Perfect features for its price
Easy-to-read screen display
Extremely Compact and lightweight
Relatively low upper limit of 550 yards
Relatively low practical limit of 250 to 275 yards
7. Vortex Optics Ranger 1000
Works amazing in low-light conditions
Has some accuracy issues
Only good up until about 700 yards of distance
Bushnell DX 1000
An advance rangefinder
Multitude of features
Relatively good optics
ARC optimization for both bows and guns
VSI rifle mode
Hard to use in low light conditions
Rangefinder has only about 300 yards functional capabilities
9. Visionking 6 x 25
Prefer for distance of 5m to 600m
Great even in light fog conditions
Lack of functions and features
Calibrated only in meters
10. Halo XL450
Lack of laser densitivity
For full clarity you will need to tweak the focus of the eye piece
Hunting range finders are important to determine the exact distance to the object display. A missed shot is always annoying. Good range finder hunting show the distance with a laser measured to within a meter of accuracy. They are small and portable and can easily be carried along during the hunt.
Usually, depending on the model you’ve purchased, there isn’t much you would need to do when it comes to maintenance, except keeping it out of water, if it is not waterproof and cleaning up the lenses with a cloth every now and then. Make sure that you use a non-abrasive cloth, so that it does not ruin the lens.
Criteria For Evaluation
Because of the heavy dependency on optical quality, ordering the list for hunting range finders was easy. Besides the lens, we focused on durability, features, brand recognition and included extras. Price wasn’t really a big factor so wasn’t included in our criteria when listing the range finders. The list is a very solid look at the current market, and should be accurate for a long time if you plan on making a purchase in the future. The hardest part of organizing the list was with durability, since it all comes down to the outer casing. It’s rare that buttons will break down on any of the devices on the list, so buyers that are extra rough with their products should be just fine.
Optical quality with the hunting range finders on the list came down to which brands put the most effort into making their lens top tier. It all starts out with the coating, which can fall into four categories. They all aim to reduce glare and provide crystal clear images, so there is no ‘bad’ category to choose from. The best category to end up in is fully multi-coated, which gives you the brightest image possible. This is of course depending on other factors, but for the best chance of getting an image that looks good at even the highest magnification, full multi-coated lenses are going to be where you want to start looking. The remaining categories that you are going to run into are coated, multi-coated and fully-coated. Buyers that find the best category too expensive can always go down to a different coating and get a great experience. To put it into brand terms, it is like deciding between Nikon or Bushnell-either way you’re going to win. Customers that have weak eyes will find that going for full multi-coated will be the best decision they ever made with a range finder. In hunting, the sharpness and clarity that it provides will do wonders as you zoom in and out on the field. When we ordered the list based on optical quality, we took into account that fully multi-coated was the best available while the remaining three categories were somewhat equal.
With all of the available models being small and portable, they can also be a liability if you’re rough with them. Ordering the list off of durability was tricky, since by default all of the items on the list can be broken easily if you focus on the glass portions. And buttons or knobs on range finders aren’t exactly brittle, and could be considered the last possible thing to fail. So with the durability criteria we made it a point to look at the casings that surrounded the lenses, making durability a lot easier to decide on. When your range finder is in your hands, it needs to be sturdy, with the ability to take a considerable drop. Models like the Bushnell Bone Collector are even built to be weather resistant, so their range finder is especially valuable to hunters. Since all ten of the products on the list had sturdy housing, what broke the tie was their overall resistance to the elements when exposed. This pushed a lot of key models to the top of the list, and in the case of Bushnell, made it one of the best values available.
Features came into play when we had to make the decision on how we would group the range finders with illumination and the ones without. This was a big decision since it is an optional mechanic, but one that greatly improves the user experience. Often those that don’t get range finders with illumination will at some point feel they are missing a big part of owning a range finder. To keep things fair for the people that really don’t want the illuminated feature, we used it as a tie breaker only. When two range finders of equal stature were paired up, the one with illumination would get an extra point and move up on the list. And in the case where it was two equal models with the illuminated feature, the one that handled it better would move higher. Other features that helped organize the list was zip mode, light handling, wide angle view and how smoothly the unit magnified while in motion. Any range finders on the list that stuttered when changing magnification were swiftly removed, as that can be a bit jarring to the customer that changes magnification multiple times a day.
Finding a compatible brand is important not only for customer service reasons, but also for buyers that want a small guarantee on their included warranties. Brands that have a history of great customer service went right to the top, which is exactly why Bushnell and Nikon are so highly recommended. Top brands also showed a proven track record of creating series of models that steadily improved on both small and big features. When you need to upgrade your range finder and you’ve been satisfied with X model for many years, getting the upgraded version of the unit is going to be the next step. So brand loyalty was an important criteria for how we ordered the list, as customers always want to back a name they can trust. For the lesser known brands on the list, their inclusion shows just how great their range finder hardware is compared to the rest of the market.
The last thing we looked at was extras, or accessories like cases, lanyards and adapters. All of the products were somewhat light in this regard, and came with the default options out of the box. Optional accessories are still available for all the models, with the major winner with this criteria being Nikon. Their huge selection beat every other competitor on the list, and offered many ways to improve your original Nikon purchase. Since the gap was so wide for the other brands, they were judged on quality of accessories rather than quantity.
How to check how accurate the range finder is?
As aforementioned, make sure to have the magnification and the lens opening in mind. The combination of these two factors will show you how accurate your range finder really is. Furthermore, make sure to check if your device has a twilight factor, so that you will be able to use it in low light conditions.
How much money should I save to buy one?
Depending on the type of rangefinder you need, you will need anything above of $70-100. If you want the best features, be prepared to spent a whole lot more. However, if you just want a good affordable rangefinder, there are multiple options. Make sure to check out our reviews above to find a great choice for you.
What are advanced range finders?
Advanced Range Finders are rangefinders that have a multitude of additional features that separate them from normal rangefinders. Usually, they are relatively more expensive.
Do I need one?
This depends on your hunting style, your budget and your need of the features that advanced range finders have over normal range finders. Usually, if you are new to range finders, make sure to purchase an affordable entry hunting rangefinder, so you can get used to using the technology.
How important is the battery type?
The battery type is important when it comes to the battery life and the weight of your rangefinder device. For example, if it uses 9V batteries, it will be heavier than other models.
Are range finders helpful just for hunting?
Range Finders are useful for more than just hunting, and have found a home with photography, golfing and many other avenues. Some even consider them a must have accessory that completely changes the way you do your job. For hunting, they have major upside whether you use a bow or a gun to finish off your prey. In order to be successful as a hunter your tactics have to be better than the game you’re hunting. And a good way to stay ahead of your game is with a range finder, which will instantly improve how you approach hunting. Ranging can be considered an advanced skill, so with the help of a range finder, users will be that much closer to adding a new skill to their arsenal.
What magnification should you look for?
When you’re out scouting and eventually ranging your target, magnification at a minimum of 4x is needed to get the best results. The average numbers are going to be between 4x-8x, but varies among the many available products. There are both short and long range finders that provide their own list of pros and cons. When looking at magnification by itself, the higher number will always reduce your field of view. As long as your range finder makes it easy to locate a target, the higher magnification won’t be an issue once you zero in on where you need to be. So settling on a range finder with great wide angle viewing (even at higher magnifications) is recommended, but purely optional.
What is F.O.V.?
When using a spotting scope, your field of view is the distance across your viewing field when looking at an object. A range finder that specializes in wide field of view will give you a much better chance of aiming and staying locked onto a moving object when using a higher magnification. You always want your field of view to be as wide as possible when using the maximum magnification settings, but you also want it to be just as good at the lower settings. Having crisp optics but an inability to follow a moving target is useless to a hunter, unless they are after stationary targets.
Do coated lenses make a difference?
Lenses are the most important part of a range finder. You can score an A+ on every part of a range finder model, but if the lens are average, then the entire product is a bust. Coated lenses are a big part of the quality, and they give users the choice of coated, fully-coated, multicoated and fully multicoated. The maximum amount of light that can be transmitted depends on the quality of the optics, and it also works hard to reduce things like glare. Although the quality of the lens is tied strongly to the cost of the product, great lenses don’t always mean a high cost to the consumer.
Is there a difference between a golfing and a hunting rangefinder?
This is one of the most hotly debated topics in the industry, with the long answer being that they have major differences. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use a golfing range finder for hunting, and some companies even include specialized features to make it useful for both sports. But to get the best of both worlds, it is generally believed that you should use a separate range finder when possible in order to maximize the benefits of your specific sport. Some features in a hunting range finder that are absent from a golfing version are zip mode, or the mode that ignores close objects and concentrates on distant ones. Being able to prioritize distant targets isn’t a feature that comes equipped with all golfing range finders, and is a prime reason to consider buying separate range finders depending on your usage.
Which modes are most essential?
The most essential modes with a hunting range finder are the magnification, the zip mode (or a similar software feature) and possibly illumination. Illumination is not something that will be a feature on every range finder, but is one that can really be helpful to hunters that are out when there is low light. The performance of illumination varies by model, and there is no clear cut winner when it comes to getting it right. Just including the feature in the product is a considered a step up, so users are quick to add it to their short list of must have features.
Do they all come with extras?
About the only thing that should be expected to come with the bulk of range finders are cases, and a possible lanyard. Yet the market for range finder accessories is huge, and users will be surprised with the ways they can add functionality to an old or new product. Some of the most purchased accessories are alternate cases, retractable tethers, adapters, conversion kits, bi-pods, mounts, staffs, remotes, filters, target plates and more. The bulk of them are really creative, and can extend the usefulness of your product beyond what you expected. A lot of the accessories are priced just right, so customers should think about including them with an initial purchase.
What are some cons of hunting rangefinders?
There are two main cons of hunting rangefinders; price and illumination. It’s hard to find a high quality range finder at a low price, and even when you do, some important features are missing. So in order to get a great range finder, you have to be willing to pay a premium price. Illumination is a con because it isn’t as good as it can be for most models. The range finders that do it will have a high price tag, so once again this goes back to price when talking about an important feature. Come prepared to spend a little for quality, and you’ll get a product that will improve everything about your hunting experience.
Which brands are the most respected?
Bushnell and Nikon are the most respected by a long shot, and that also goes for outside of the industry with other optical products. When you purchase a range finder from their line, it is guaranteed to have top tier optics attached. Think of these two companies as the safe bet for people that don’t want to take a big risk with an unknown company. The track record of Nikon and Bushnell is outstanding, and they always include the latest tech in their products. Nikon in particular is a safe bet for one of the best illuminated range finders in the industry when that feature is a priority.
Why isn’t X brand considered popular?
There are a lot of great brands that get ignored year after year from major reviewing outlets. Some of those brands are even considered innovators, going so far as to introduce new features into range finders while leading brands lag behind. Where the industry splits in two is with the quality of lenses. A range finder begins and ends with its lens, so no matter how many great features a brand crams into its product, the range finder itself will still be judged on optical quality. And for some of the lesser known brands in the industry, that’s a hurdle they just haven’t been able to get over.
Are illuminated range finders a must?
It all depends on what type of hunter you are. Take into account the hours of the day you usually hunt, and then look at what the light is like when you are the most active. This will determine the value of an illuminated range finder for your own purposes, and help you to decide whether it is a necessary feature or a toy. The illumination mode isn’t cheap, and will add some cost to your overall budget for a range finder. But it is an all important feature that will allow you to see better when there is low light rather than having to struggle to lock onto a target. Even if it turns out you don’t need the feature now, try to think about whether it will be a useful feature a few years down the road.
What is the most expensive one?
Range finders can often hit a high point in price when you’re going for absolutely everything, and the most expensive one with good features to hit the market was from Gunwerks for over two grand. This is the cream of the crop, and the top of the food chain when it comes to features. At the same time, a comparable Nikon or Bushnell brand can be purchased for 1/10th the price and perform exactly the same. Buyers shouldn’t get caught in the numbers game with range finders, and there is no guarantee that purchasing the most expensive product is going to give you all of the things you need. Your hunting range finder has to match your personality as a hunter. After going through a long list of other priorities, the last thing you should consider is the price.
We hope our best hunting range finders guide has helped you in finding the right one for you. Happy hunting!