A good hunting rangefinder can mean the difference between your next big trophy—or going home empty handed!
To avoid getting stuck out in the woods with a dud, it’s important to do the research before you make a purchase. Although rangefinders all perform the same task—calculating the distance between the user and an object in the viewfinder—different models vary in their accuracy, features, and abilities.
We looked at some of the most popular models among hunters today, searching for the models that deliver best in the areas that count. We scoured blogs, review sites, and online retailer ratings to determine which models and brands work best in real life applications. In the end, we’ve come up with a few great models to recommend to you! We’re confident they’re the top options on the market, and our in-depth reviews will show you why!
Check out our top 3 picks first:
|Top Pick||Leupold RX-650|
|Best Quality||Leupold 112179 RX-1200i TBR W/DNA|
|Most Affordable||Nikon Aculon|
Best Value Bow Hunting and Shooting Rangefinders
- Leica Rangemaster
- Nikon Aculon
- Leupold RX-650
- Leupold RX-1200i
- Sig Sauer Kilo 2000 (ultimate pick)
- Bushnell 202442 The Truth ARC 4x20mm Bowhunting Laser Rangefinder with Clear Shot (honorable mention)
- Nikon Prostaff 3I Rifle Range Finder (honorable mention)
This Leupold is our most affordable recommendation. We’ve recently started recommending this instead of the Nikon Aculon, because the Leupold packs some extra range and noticeably better accuracy, for barely any more money! It’s all you need if you don’t hunt past 650 yards, and it makes a good starter rangefinder for new hunters.
It gives you lots of bang for your buck. Compared to others at the same price point, the Leupold provides greater magnification power and a wider usable range. It’s equipped with 6x magnification, and it’s good out to 650 yards for reflective ranging (deer are rated for about 500 yards, but we’ve found that this one can easily be used for taking deer at 600).
While it can’t compete with the more expensive Leupold or Sig Sauer below, this one’s pretty close to spot-on within its range. It can occasionally be fiddly to get locked-down, but once you’ve sighted your target, it’s very accurate. It’s more precise than comparable Nikon offerings, as well as cheaper options from other brands.
The glass is excellent. That’s one key feature that lets down a lot of other budget rangefinders. In this case, Leupold’s glass is actually great. It’s fully multicoated, and has impressive clarity and light transmission for the price.
The glass is paired with a high-contrast LCD display. In our experience, it’s perfectly legible in a range of conditions. It’s not as sophisticated as our more expensive picks, but it covers all the basics quite well.
Unlike the majority of budget rangefinders, it’s actually enjoyable to work with! The fast-focus eyepiece is user-friendly, and easy to work with in the field. The Leupold offers more eye relief than others at this price, too.
It’s a little tank, even though it weighs less than half a pound. The Leupold is completely fog-proofed and waterproofed. It’s covered with a rubberized grip material for shock absorption and traction. In terms of ruggedness, it’s much better than any of the competition in its class.
The Leupold uses a standard CR-2 lithium ion battery, which is a common type used in cameras. We like that because it makes things easy to replace. Plus, using a standard cell is much less expensive than proprietary power cells like most brands require you to use.
It’s a solid investment. The Leupold comes with lifetime warranty coverage on the optics, and two years of coverage for the electronic components.
It comes with a lanyard and case.
Obviously, this one’s limited to anything under 650 yards. It’s not good for anything long-range, and you should expect to use it beyond its rated range. If you regularly hunt further out, get one of our more powerful picks.
While very good, this Leupold is imperfect. It’s usually dead-on once you get something in sight, but it doesn’t lock onto targets (especially smaller ones) as easily as the 1200i or Sig Sauer below.
Unlike Leupold scopes, it’s not made entirely in the USA. It’s about half-and-half between American-made components and imported ones.
This Leupold RX-1200i is the successor to the massively popular Leupold 112179 RX-1000I TBR. The RX-1000I was a phenomenally good rangefinder in its own right, and this new model adds some extra range and a few smart design tweaks. The Leupold is compact, precise, and solidly-made. It’s our top recommendation for the average hunter.
There are few models below a thousand dollars that can compete with the Leupold RX-1200i in terms of accuracy (the Sig Sauer is an exception!). Professional testers and reviewers are pretty much unanimous in saying that the Leupold’s precise readings were delivered faster than any other model they had ever used. It’s rated out to 1250 yards (and 1000ish for deer).
Of course, some eyepieces fare well in the lab, but not so much in the woods. That’s not the case with the Leupold! It’s one of the best on the market when it comes to practicality and real-world functionality. It’s easy to use, has a bright, legible display, and provides excellent visibility and accurate readings in pretty much any condition.
We can’t say enough about this model’s crystal clear optics, including the interior LED display. The interior readings can be adjust for light level at different times of day, so this unit can be used from dawn until twilight. It works phenomenally well, and gives you excellent visibility.
It has 6X magnification, so you can see clearly out to the limits of the unit’s ranging capabilities. With fully-multicoated lenses, the 1200 rivals a lot of scopes for its clear, bright image transmission.
This one’s a good choice for people who like value, since it has lots of features built in:
You’ll have three different reticles to choose from: Plus Point, Duplex, and Duplex with Plus Point.
Fast-focus eyepieces make for easy, accurate field adjustments.
The Scan mode keeps targets locked and gives you real-time range updates without you having to adjust on the fly.
In addition to the highly useful True Ballistic Range calculator, the RX-1000I also comes with an inclinometer, which can adjust readings to account for slopes. This feature gives you the angle of your shot, and then gives you a readout to help you adjust for your scope without having to do any guesswork. This model also lets you choose between the TBR and normal LOS (line of sight) modes, so you can choose which one works best for each shot.
In terms of accurary, this one’s good to 1/10th of a yard. Only the pricier Leica Rangemaster and Sig Sauer can compete with that!
The build is the quality that customers have come to expect from Leupold, and it’s rare to see one with so many features in such a compact package. This thing is seriously sturdy and can survive a healthy amount of abuse and harsh weather on a hunting trip—including a fall from a tree stand. Testers have dropped it plenty of times, sometimes from as high as 20 feet, and the device had survived without any noticeable damage.
Probably the most appealing and unique feature, however, is the True Ballistic Range calculator of the Leupold (hence the TBR part of the name).
The TBR feature allows users to compensate for the ballistics and trajectory for dozens of different rifle cartridges based on seven pre-loaded groups. This latest version adds two new ballistic group zeros at 200 and 300 yards.
This feature also works with bows for roughly 124 yards.
The OLED display and lithium ion battery last for quite a long time in the field, so runtime isn’t a problem in the slightest. The display is colored for visibility, and we’ve found that it’s very legible in all conditions.
Even though it’s small and lightweight, the construction of this unit is rugged enough to handle any harsh environment. It also comes with a carrying case that you can attach to your belt.
This high-performance option isn’t the most expensive model on the market today, but there are many others sold at half the price. For serious hunters, the RX-1200i is well worth the money, but inexperienced or occasional hunters may want not want to commit to the investment.
Likewise, this is a real hunter’s tool. It’s packed with lots of features, and if you’re not a passionate, regular hunter, you might never get to all of them. They’ll still drive up the price, though, and make the learning curve a bit steeper. So if you are looking for a simple, inexpensive model, or this is your first rangefinder purchase, you may want to consider some of the more stripped down, less expensive options.
The Sig Sauer below might not have all the Leupold’s features, but it does have a greater range and snappier refresh rate. If you’re more concerned about power than perks, go for that one!
It can take a while to get a feel for the display and codes. There aren’t really any full words on the display, so you have to learn the Leupold shorthand for everything. We think it’s easy enough to adapt, but some folks might want something with less of a learning curve up front.
Unlike Leupold scopes, it’s not made in the USA.
Sig Sauer’s Kilo rangefinder is actually a few years old, but we still think it’s the best long-range option on the market. It’s good for reflective targeting out to 2000 yards, and is insanely precise. You can clock targets over a mile out to within 1/10 of a yard. It also has lots of smart features onboard to match its brute strength. We think it’s the long-range hunter’s dream machine!
It has as much range as you could ask for. As we already mentioned, this thing is capable of giving accurate readings over a mile out! Of course, it gets more mileage with reflective targets, but even the most demanding hunters should be more than satisfied. The Sig Sauer is rated at 1200 yards for deer. We’d say it’s actually good for slightly more, but soft targets are always trickier to deal with.
It refreshes very quickly, so it’s as accurate as it is powerful. When it’s in “scan” mode, it’ll refresh 4 times per second. As a result, you get real-time readings with moving targets, and when you’re on the go yourself. The fast refresh rate and superb accuracy are two key reasons why Field & Stream rated this “Best of the Best”!
The OLED display saves power over traditional LCDs, so this gets remarkably good battery life over less-powerful competition.
We also like OLED because it has crisper, clearer definition than LCD. When you’re hunting, that means better legibility and less frustration! It also intelligently adjusts according to an internal ambient light sensor, in order to give you optimal legibility in any conditions. That might sound like an over-engineered feature, but it does wonders in different lighting conditions.
While still relatively simple, the computer gives you all the key readings and options you need. It works in both meters and yards. It’ll also calculate angle as well as distance, so you can make adjustments when you take the big shot.
We have no complaints in the quality department here. The Sig Sauer has a terrific reliability record, and it feels rock-solid. It’s waterproof and fog-proof, as with our other picks. The optics are even better than the Leupold’s, which is saying something! They’re clear, crisp, and fog-free!
The Sig Sauer uses a standard CR2 battery, like the Leupold’s, so it has a relatively low upkeep cost.
There are a few finish options: matte gray or a camouflage. Both of them have rubberized grips above and below. We think they both look great, and it’s nice to have options.
It’s covered by a lifetime warranty on the optics, and a 5-year policy for the electronic components. We don’t think you’ll have any need to use the coverage, though. These are fantastic tools.
This is a very expensive rangefinder. It costs as much as a decent scope, in fact. We only recommend this to serious hunters who will get their money’s worth from it. Interestingly, though, it’s still cheaper than a Leica Rangemaster, despite having a greater range.
We’re recommending this as our top pick because it has a massive range and impeccable reliability. Personally, we think those things are more important than having a bunch of extra features and gimmicks. The Sig Sauer doesn’t do temperature or barometric pressure readings. You need to do your own adjustments for those factors before you take your shot.
Leica’s Rangemaster CRF series are phenomenal rangefinders, though they’re overkill for the vast majority of marksmen. The CRF-1000B was the only model which beat the Leupold 1200i in a field test from Outdoor Life magazine. The CRF 2000-B remains one of our favorite rangefinders, and is a premium alternative to the Sig Sauer for those who want even more finesse and precision! It’s too expensive for us to include in our top three, though.
High-quality hunting rangefinders are a big investment. If you’re buying one for the first time, you may not be ready to spend several hundred dollars on an unfamiliar device.
Luckily, you don’t have to break the bank to find a solid rangefinder. Though you may not get all the bells and whistles of high-end models, many inexpensive rangefinders perform well in the most important areas—accuracy, optics, and range.
Few models embody this idea better than our top budget-friendly pick, the Nikon 8397 ACULON. It’s a stripped-down, compact model that delivers where it counts. Even better, it comes at a fraction of the cost of many competing models.
The ACULON has a 550-yard ranging capability, with 6x zoom and accuracy within 1 yard. Reviewers claim that this rangefinder delivers the bright, clear optics that Nikon products are famous for.
The build of this rangefinder is durable, yet lightweight and compact. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket or the palm of your hand. The casing is also waterproof.
The Nikon Aculon series used to be our budget recommendation, until we discovered Leupold’s excellent budget offerings. We still like the Nikon’s, and so we’re including them here as a slightly less expensive alternative.
The Aculon 8397 is a very serviceable rangefinder under 500 yards. It’s extremely lightweight, but still has good glass and respectable precision. This is the least we think you can spend for a decent rangefinder. It works quickly, and the simple design makes it very accessible to newcomers.
On the other hand, it’s not quite as powerful or as accurate as the Leupold. It’s a bit less reliable, too. So, if you can afford the Leupold, we do think it’s a better buy.
How We Compared Rangefinders:
- Magnification power: the magnification power of your rangefinder dictates how far you can see through it, and how much you can enlarge the image of your prey compared to what you can see with your naked eye. The higher-power the rangefinder, the further out you can hunt with it!
- Usable range: usable range is similar to magnification power, in that it’s going to dictate how far out you can use your rangefinder. They’re not quite the same, though! Usable range can actually be a bit further or a bit shorter than the power of the glass, since it depends on the electronics. We searched for models with a nice balance of the two. That leaves you with a tool that’s good for about as far as you can see through it. We like to avoid pieces which make you think you can measure ranges further than you actually can.
- Glass clarity: the clarity of your glass isn’t as important as it would be on a scope, since you’re not using the rangefinder for the actual shot. However, having a clear glass means you can be sure that what you’re targeting is actually the game, and not the tree next to it! Clear glass also transmits light better, giving you a better picture. We searched for really high-quality glass as much as we looked for accurate electronics.
- Accuracy: it’s a no-brainer that you want to have an accurate rangefinder. We looked for the most accurate models using professional test ratings by leading hunting periodicals and empirical data rather than going by the world-of-mouth of buyer reviews.
- Waterproofing and shock resistance: depending on how and where you hunt, and how your rangefinder fits in with the rest of your gear, these features can be make or break! We looked for quality waterproofing that actually kept pieces safe. We also tried to find the most drop-proof models. There’s no point spending $100+ on a piece of glass that will break when dropped! Let’s face it, you’re going to drop yours at least once in the field, no matter how careful you are. So, it’s important to end up with something that can handle the rough and tumble, especially if you’re going off-piste.
- Ballistic settings and extra features/tech: being able to account for different variables like wind, altitude, and plain bullet drop makes a rangefinder more versatile and produces better results in the real world. We’ve looked for models that give you a lot of value for money with some extra features like these.
|Product Name||Range in yards||Price||Extra Features|
|Leupold||1,000||$$||True Ballistic Range calculator|
|Leupold 112179 RX-1200i TBR W/DNA||1,600||$$$||Advanced Ballistic Compensation|
Final Comparison: Which Long Distance Hunting Rangefinder is Right for You?
The Leupold RX-650 is the best choice for anyone who’s on a budget and who doesn’t shoot at very long ranges. It’s got by far the shortest range of our picks, but it’s still enough for many folks. As long as you don’t hunt more than 500 yards out, we don’t think you’ll have anything to complain about!
Leupold’s RX-1200i is our recommendation to the average hunter. It gives you about twice as much ranging capability as the RX-650, without costing a fortune. This is as much as most people need in a rangefinder. Still, if you’re into the longest distances, you should spend more for the Sig Sauer.
The Sig Sauer Kilo 2000 is our ultimate recommendation to the ardent marksman who hunts at very long distances. It’s overkill for many folks, but if you know you’ll make use of its power, worth it.
If you want to look at more rangefinders from Leupold, Nikon, Leica and other top-selling brands—or if you want to see how our picks stack up against the competition—check out the best-selling rangefinders on Amazon right now.