Your eyes lie to you all the time. They tell you that the moving lights on your television are people. They tell you that there is water on the road up ahead. They even tell you that Scarlett Johansson is hot. All right, the last one is true, but that was just a lucky guess, eyes. Your eyes will also tell you that you know how far away something is. This determination can’t be trusted, especially when it really matters. Like when you are hunting. Or when you have $100 riding on your next drive down the fairway. For that, you need a rangefinder.
Typically, these are split into three groups: Those for hunters, those for golfers, and those for photographers. If you merely want to know how far away something is, any type will work. Some include trajectory assistance with one working for bows and firearms while the other helps you with choosing how hard to hit your ball. Depending on distance they can be accurate to within a few centimeters or a few inches thanks to laser-guided technology. Taking all this into account, we have the 5 best rangefinders for your needs.
Leica Rangemaster CRF 1000-R
Anytime, Anywhere: The 1000i is the only one that seems to make everyone happy. It uses a laser relay to determine distance, so it’s exactness is above reproach. It works out to 1,000 yards and has a measuring tool for inclination/declination as part of their Equivalent Horizontal Range (EHR) so hunters of both bow and rifle as well as golfers can determine the rise or drop to their target. For those that like to do their killing with accuracy it has an integrated Advanced Ballistic Compensation (ABC) that works from 10 to 600 yards so you can determine your bullet drop ratio.
Since Leica is first and foremost a camera manufacturer, they have given this all the kit a photographer needs. You’ll get 7x magnification out of the 24mm lens that will help you frame those long shots perfectly. For golfers it is small enough to fit in a pocket or a golf bag with ease. The only real drawback is that it is not intended to be tripod mounted, so hunters that work from blinds and photographers that need added stability will need to do a little rigging. [Purchase: $600]
Leupold RX-1000i TBR
Night Owl: The 1000i is meant for the hunter that prefers blood in the moonlight. Don’t be misled by the 1,000 in the name, it is only good to about 800 yards, after which you’ll notice some real degradation in accuracy. It uses an Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) that comes with three manual settings to help you acclimate to nearly any lighting conditions. Golfers can also use it with great efficacy, though many of the features are going to add cost without adding value.
You’ll only get 6x magnification, but the wide field range is intended more for finding and tracking a quarry than seeing something way over yonder. This has the tried-and-true inclinometer and True Ballistic Range (TBR) that made Leupold famous for helping hunters of any stripe get their kill with a single shot. Photographers that like to do their shooting at night will find it much more accurate than most incorporated camera rangefinders in the dark. [Purchase: $400]
Bushnell Tour Z6 Golf Laser Rangefinder with JOLT
Green Jacket Special: The first thing to know about the Z6 is it is permitted for tournament play, so if you are ready to take your game to the next level, this is the product to have by your side. The specialized JOLT technology will ensure that you are always aiming at the pin and won’t ever give you a false positive. Like most golf offerings out there it has much greater accuracy but about half the range of hunting or general use options.
Photographers will find that it works reasonably well as far out as 1,300 yards, just don’t expect pinpoint precision. Golfers will find it will hit a pin perfectly to about 450 yards, and if you need much longer than out on the links, you’re probably looking at the wrong hole, an accident that can happen to any guy. It will give you the range within 1/10th of a yard within it’s 10-450 yard range and always adjusts for aim to the bottom of the cup so that you don’t overshoot your target. The one thing you won’t get out of the Z6 is slope. [Purchase: $400]
Nikon Rifle Hunter 550
Bow Hunter’s Buddy: Yes, it has “Rifle Hunter” right in the bloody name, so you would think that it would be ideal for riflers, but in practice it will actually give archers the edge. Make no mistake, it will still do a bang-up job for those that prefer a bullet to an arrow, that just doesn’t seem to be its specialty. The inclinometer works on slopes as ridiculous as 89 degrees, so if you were planning to pick off a billy goat from the side of a cliff, this will have you covered.
The first clue that this is meant for bowmen is the 600 yard accurate range, which is a little on the light side for a true rifle rangefinder. It includes one of the longest battery lives in the business which is also ideal for those that need to spend time tracking down an injured animal. You can adjust to ranging smaller targets such as a lone buck, but this also helps photographers that want to get an elusive shot without frightening the object of their attention. Don’t expect much in the way of ballistics assistance, but that reduces weight on both the unit and the price. [Purchase: $300]
Bushnell G-Force DX
Welcome to the Gun Show: Now this the item that a rifle hunter should be packing around with him. It will retain its accuracy as far out as 1,300 yards so there is no guesswork involved. The Vivid Display Technology (VDT) is extremely crisp and clear even at long distances and low light conditions so you’ll never lose a beautiful 5 point buck to bad luck or bad equipment again. If you do, you have only yourself to blame.
The crosshair interface makes targeting prior to range checking accurate, though it does slow down the process somewhat. The inclinometer will help track bullet drop in inches, centimeters, MILs, or MOA for 8 different ballistic categories depending on what cartridges you’re packing. It has both rifle and bow modes in case you prefer to go back and forth, but it really shines when coupled with a rifle. The body is water and fog proof so you’ll be able to take the shot no matter what the conditions. [Purchase: $359]