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:
Best Value Bow Hunting and Shooting Rangefinders
- Leupold RX 1200i
- Leica Rangemaster
- Nikon Aculon
- Leupold RX-1200i TBR/W with DNA Laser Rangefinder Mossy Oak (ultimate pick)
- Bushnell 202442 The Truth ARC 4x20mm Bowhunting Laser Rangefinder with Clear Shot (honorable mention)
- Nikon Prostaff 3I Rifle Range Finder (honorable mention)
1. Leupold 112179 RX-1200i TBR W/DNA
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 most hunters.
There are few models below a thousand dollars that can compete with the Leupold RX-1200i in terms of accuracy. 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.
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.
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 Leica beats it!
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.
We’re very impressed by the clear, bright optics of this model, even when focused on objects at the further end of the RX-1200i’s range of 1000 yards. Readings are fast and accurate, thanks to Leupold’s DNA software.
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.
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.
The Leupold RX-1200i is our favorite model overall, for its compact, lightweight design and mid-range price. Though it’s not the most powerful model on the market, in terms of performance and quality, the RX-1200i more than dominates its price bracket. We recommend it to the average hunter who wants something capable and accurate without spending a fortune on the Leica.
2. Leica Rangemaster CRF 1600-B
In a field test from Outdoor Life magazine, only one model beat the Leupold in the long-distance accuracy category—the Leica Rangemaster. Our pick is a higher-powered version of that model, with a few other excellent features thrown in.
Of course, the improved accuracy and distance comes with a higher price tag. But for serious hunters willing to invest in quality, the Leica is a critic and customer favorite with near-perfect ratings across the board.
This Rangemaster has an astounding total range of 1600 yards with bright and clear optics. Users also report this one often works in the dusk hours, long after the light has become too dim for competing models.
Like our top pick, the CRF 1600-B also features ballistic-calculating functions. Leica’s ABC (Advanced Ballistic Compensation) doesn’t just compensate for bullet type and caliber, however. Their calculator also factors in air pressure, temperature, and incline for a super accurate and fast reading.
The CRF 1600-B also comes with a useful “scan mode” which allows user to cycle through targets in the rangefinder’s line of sight.
Those who reviewed this model couldn’t say enough about how much they liked the CRF 1600-B. The performance this unit delivers in the field is well worth the extra cost.
Owners assert that this rangefinder delivers the fastest and most accurate results of any unit they’ve ever used. Some reviewers even said they were able to range objects beyond the limit listed by Leica.We found reviews from previous buyers who got accurate readings on larger objects out beyond 2000 yards in good conditions, and successfully measured difficult, smaller targets at 1000 yards in full sun.
The view through the CRF 1600-B remains clear, despite the level of lighting—whether you are hunting in the bright sunlight or evening hours. The display is also easy to read, according to reports. Previous buyers said it particularly outperformed the competition in darker conditions, when other models wouldn’t be nearly as usable. That’s thanks to the quality of the optics, as well as the brightly-lit display.
Like our top pick, the CRF 1600-B is portable and lightweight. It also has the added bonus of being waterproof up to 3.2 feet.
The only downside of this model is the price, which is on the higher end of the medium price bracket.
Though it’s certainly no small investment, those who have bitten the bullet (so to speak) and purchased this rangefinder are almost universally very glad they did.
With powerful optics, an enormous range, and a host of useful and technologically advanced features, the CRF-1600-B is another model we highly recommend.
3. Nikon 8397 ACULON Laser Rangefinder
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 ACULON is currently the best-selling hunting rangefinder on Amazon by a wide margin, and it’s easy to see why. Experienced hunters and first-time buyers alike praise the performance of this inexpensive model in the field—many agreeing that it is superior to rangefinders sold at twice the cost. They said that while it might not have as many frills, or as notable name recognition, it was just as accurate as more expensive models they’d tested it against.
With its single button operation, the ACULON is also easy to use. Simply aim, click, and this model delivers quick and accurate readings on the large, bright LCD display.
The compact size was also a strong selling point for many users. Portability is an important quality in good hunting gear, and owners appreciated that the ACULON could be worn around the neck (with the accompanying lanyard) or kept in a pocket. They said that since it has a very readable reticle and snappy reading speeds, it’s great for picking up and getting a quick reading without having to take a big pause.
Though it’s advertised primarily as a hunting rangefinder, many reviewers say the ACULON makes a solid showing in other fields, as well. Several golfers favored this rangefinder over the generally pricier golf-specific models on the market. That’s great news for hunters who also enjoy hitting the links every once in awhile. It doesn’t have any distance or slope compensation features, but most recreational hunters or casual sportsmen found that it served their purposes perfectly well.
The shortcomings of this rangefinder are to be expected in this price bracket. Critical reviewers claimed that the ACULON was not as accurate or far-ranging as they would have liked.
A handful of reviewers also found the light weight to be something of a downside—they complained it was difficult to keep steady while getting a reading. Though the majority of reviewers loved the compact build of this model, it may not be the best choice for individuals with unsteady hands.
The Nikon 8397 ACULON is proof that great things come in little packages—and that higher cost doesn’t always equal better performance.
Though our other models may best the ACULON in range and accuracy, Nikon’s rangefinder is the one of the best values available on the market. With its low cost and high performance, we highly recommend this model for first-time buyers, or any shopper with a tight budget.
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|
|Leopold||1,000||$$||True Ballistic Range calculator|
|Leica||1,600||$$$||Advanced Ballistic Compensation|
Final Comparison: Which Long Distance Hunting Rangefinder is Right for You?
Our top pick is the Leupold RX-1200i TBR W/DNA—a feature-heavy but compact rangefinder that earns top marks in field tests and user reviews. With fast and accurate results, crystal clear optics, and the ultra-useful True Ballistic Results calculator, we believe the RX-1000I is the most solid compromise of quality and price on the market today.
If you’re willing to spend a bit more cash for a lot more value, however, we recommend the Leica Rangemaster CRF 1600-B. You’d be hard-pressed to find any model that can outperform this rangefinder in the field. Near perfect reviews across the Internet can confirm—if you invest in this rangefinder, you won’t be sorry.
Alternatively, if you aren’t sure you have the budget for our other models (or if this is your first rangefinder purchase), we recommend checking out the Nikon 8397 ACULON Laser Rangefinder. Though it’s one of the least expensive models you can find, the ACULON has plenty to offer on its own. The bright optics, solid range and accuracy, and compact size are all strong selling points for our top budget-friendly pick.
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.