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Published Sep. 18, 2021

The best rangefinder for hunting sort of depends on how you’ll use it. The best rangefinding binocular — capable of ranging 6 miles and giving you aiming solutions for any bullet and load — might be overkill for a bowhunter looking for fast, precise ranges inside 50 yards.

Regardless of utility, the state of the rangefinding arts is in ascension. Lasers are faster and more precise than ever, and the optics that deliver images and ranging displays are integrating with processors and mobile apps to provide extremely powerful and useful interfaces. About those optics: glass and coatings have kept pace, so that even handheld rangefinders for hunting are clearer and brighter than ever. And rangefinding binoculars are capable stand-alone binoculars, even without powering up their prodigious electronics.

Best Rangefinder for Long-Range Shooting: Zeiss Victory RF

Key Features 

  • Superior optics
  • Integration with mobile app
  • Aiming solution informed by on-board weather station

Why It Made The Cut

Many laser rangefinding binoculars lead with their software or their ability to compute range-informed aiming solutions. The Zeiss Victory RF is first and foremost a world-class optic—a clear choice for the best rangefinder for long-range shooting. The rangefinder is marvelous, but this unit defines the axiom that you have to see a target in order to engage it. Integration with a very good mobile app is a critical bonus.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Capable of detecting targets out to 2,500 yards and as close as 10 yards
  • Links via Bluetooth with Zeiss’s Hunting App, which allows users to input custom ballistics data or to reference a full library of standard loads
  • Display is simple and intuitive

Cons

  • The ranging button, on the lower end of the right hand barrel, is in awkward position
  • Circle reticle could use some additional variation

Product Description

The Victory line represents the best of German optical traditions. The glass is bright and sharp, and the oversized focus wheel turns as though it’s powered by ball bearings. The optic’s balance is perfect, and makes the 2-pound binocular seem much lighter.

Zeiss’s rangefinder is fairly standard in terms of its modes and horsepower. It features accuracy to +/- 1 yard inside 600 yards, and emits a laser wavelength of 905 nanometers. The circular reticle is precise and easy to use to range targets in just about any light conditions or distances. We should note that Zeiss advertises ranging capability to 2,500 yards; I ranged a reflective steel roof of a neighbor’s barn at 2,700 yards, but for deer-sized targets the effective range is more like 1,200 yards.

The optical coatings are among the best in the business, and the very crisp — and expensive — fluorite lenses render beautifully resolute and defined images. We should note that if you compare the image in the Victory RF to that delivered by a non-ranging Zeiss binocular, you’d probably find the rangefinder image slightly darker. That’s because the coatings used to enhance the red LED display tend to mute brightness just a fraction of a stop.

But compared with rangefinding binoculars from just about any other brand, you’ll find that the Zeiss Victory RF is heads and shoulders above the competition in terms of image quality. And the rangefinder is pretty snazzy, too.

Best Rangefinder for Hunting with Bluetooth: Leica 2800.COM

Key Features

  • Full compatibility with Kestrel Elite devices
  • Easy integration with Leica’s ABC ballistic program through mobile app
  • Excellent glass and optics for a handheld laser rangefinder

Why It Made the Cut

While most hand-held laser rangefinders are configured mainly for hunters, the Leica 2800.COM is purpose-built primarily for long-distance precision rifle shooters. It’s the first Leica with integrated Bluetooth connectivity, precisely to communicate with Kestrel and similar weather stations to make hyper-informed shooting solutions. The display presents either linear or incline-adjusted ranges along with either the amount of holdover or the number of clicks to be delivered to the riflescope in order to make consistent first-shot hits.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Integration with Kestrel Elite shooting platform
  • Wonderful ergonomics and responsive controls
  • Range from 10 to 2,700 yards
  • Red LED display is clear and uncluttered

Cons

  • Disappointing battery life
  • Laser return rate dips dramatically when Bluetooth is connected

Product Description

The ultimate hand-held monocular rangefinder for serious shooters, the Leica 2800.COM is on the leading edge of combining in-unit ranging with ballistics information provided through a Bluetooth connection. That ability to fetch custom load dynamics allows this unit to deliver informed shooting solutions no matter the distance, conditions, or trajectory of the bullet.

It’s a fitting part of Leica’s evolution in laser rangefinding. The German company was one of the first to combine premium optics with a laser rangefinder in its original rangefinding binocular, the exceptional Geovid. Leica has brought much of the same optical excellence to this 7x unit, which features nice glass and good coatings. Most shooters aren’t concerned with the image delivered by their rangefinder as much as they care about the ballistics software, but Leica has ensured that even long-range targets are visible and crisp.

The display features fairly standard modes, including linear distance and angle-adjusted range. Its 4-digit red LED display is crisp and easy to read in all light conditions. But shooters will love the choice of three aiming solutions: true range, holdover, and click values (which can be configured in MOA or mil values). Onboard ballistic curves are used to determine values based on caliber, bullet type, trajectory, velocity, and bullet weight.

But it’s the ability to link to Leica’s Hunting app, where shooters can store custom load information and a dizzying number of calibers and loads, that makes the 2800.COM a remarkable tool in the field. Also connecting wirelessly to Kestrel weather stations, the hunting rangefinder can incorporate wind, temperature, air pressure, and angle to inform even the longest shots. It’s a handy and extremely powerful device that’s small enough to fit in your shirt pocket.

Best Budget Rangefinder for Hunting: Bushnell Prime 1800

Key Features

  • “ActivSynch” display automatically switches between red and black for best visibility
  • Useful range of 5 yards out to 1,800 yards
  • Excellent ergonomics

Why It Made the Cut

The Bushnell Prime 1800 does everything just about right. It is in the sweet spot of ranging capabilities. It is priced very attractively. It’s optics are bright and clear. Its day-and-night display is one of the smartest in the business. And it is consistently precise.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • ActivSynch sounds like a gimmick, but it works marvelously, morphing from high-contrast red in dark conditions to equally high-contrast black in daylight conditions
  • Hand-gripping ergonomics are excellent
  • With 5-yard minimum ranging, this is a very good bowhunting unit
  • Very fast processor inside 600 yards
  • ARC (Angle Range Compensation) technology is excellent for delivering true distance of inclined targets

Cons

  • No connectivity to a mobile app
  • No ballistics library

Product Description

Don’t expect a lot of fancy electronics and ballistics gymnastics. This unit is simply a fast and reliable laser paired with decent optics and a basic menu of targeting options that are delivered by the best display in the business, Bushnell’s “ActivSynch” light-sensitive display.

Our testing nearly proved up on the unit’s claim of 1,800 yard ranging; we got a target as far as 1,742 yards and as close as 5 yards. That wide range makes this a good choice for rifle hunters or archers on a budget.

The image was satisfyingly bright. The near and far target modes are among the most sensitive we tested, and the line-of-sight and angle-compensated modes are spot-on. The “ActivSynch” display, which changes automatically from black to red depending on light conditions, is a nice feature on a price-point rangefinder.

Best Hunting Rangefinder with Angle Compensation: Vortex Ranger 1800

Key Features

  • Horizontal Distance Mode provides accurate readings in any terrain
  • Tripod-adaptable to stabilize readings at extreme distance or in windy conditions
  • Deer-sized targets are rangeable from 10 yards to 900 yards

Why It Made the Cut

Small enough to be unobtrusive, powerful enough to help make any reasonable hunting shot, and very affordable, this is one of those must-have pieces of kit for almost any hunter. It’s simple enough to use quickly and intuitively, but has enough computational horsepower to help with even very long and high-incline shots.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • “Horizontal Component Distance” reading for angle-compensated ranging
  • Tripod adaptable
  • Price is accessible
  • Warranty is one of the best in the industry

Cons

  • Optics are disappointing
  • No Bluetooth connectivity to a mobile app

Product Description

For a handy, extremely portable, and rugged device that will make any hunter shoot better, this is a hard unit to beat. While we especially like Vortex’s “Horizontal Component Distance” readings for angle-compensating ranging, the line-of-sight mode works wonderfully, too.

It’s a great rangefinder for mountain hunters. The internal inclinometer — that’s the digital carpenter’s level that determines the angle of the shot — is useful up to 60 degrees of either incline or decline, and shots that are steeper than that are described more accurately as cliffs.

The optics in the 6x objective lens are a little murky, but the display is clean and intuitive, and the modes are perfectly suited for hunters, whether treestand whitetail hunters or steep-country sheep hunters. We especially liked the fast and precise scan mode to track moving targets, and we appreciated the rugged chassis and weatherproof seals.

Final Thoughts

Laser rangefinders are the ultimate hunting and shooting tools. After all, if you don’t know the precise range of your target, then your shots are educated guesses. Thanks to a wide variety of laser rangefinders for hunting on the market, you not only don’t have to guess, but can shoot as precisely as your abilities allow.

Methodology 

The conclusions in this buyer’s guide are derived from Outdoor Life’s annual optics test. We invited all brands to submit new laser rangefinders — either binoculars or monoculars — to the evaluation. Our team of hunters, precision shooters, and gunsmiths spent three months with products testing them on the following criteria. 

  • Battery life (How long does the battery last under normal use?)
  • Resolution and Brightness (Is the glass clear? Is the display easy to read?)
  • Warranty (Does the company back their products?)
  • Ranging Capability (How far does it range?) (Does it range accurately?)
  • Mobile App Integration (Does it connect with a useful app?)
  • Durability (Can it stand up to abuse?) 

We considered the full range of features, but also the intuitiveness of their controls and various modes. 

Things to Consider Before Buying a Rangefinder for Hunting

If you’re in the market for a hunting rangefinder, consider these three primary features:

Configuration

Full-sized binoculars incorporating laser rangefinders are do-all products that combine the optical horsepower of a binocular with the computational capabilities of a rangefinder, thereby saving you from lugging two separate devices into the field. But rangefinding binoculars are bulky, hard to deploy with a single hand, and are generally more expensive than hand-held units.

Software

Basic laser rangefinders have two basic jobs: precisely range a distant target, and provide some ability to customize the result, either by selecting a target mode or an angle-compensating feature. Sophisticated rangefinders add ballistic calculators, extensive libraries of bullets, weather stations, and even GPS and Bluetooth functionality. If you don’t need all those add-ons, or if you struggle with using this fairly complex technology, why pay for it?

Portability

This last consideration is important for bowhunters, backcountry adventurers, and anyone who measures the contents of their backpacks in ounces instead of pounds. The most feature-laden rangefinders are also the heaviest and bulkiest, so if you can get by with just a few key features, you’ll be happier miles from the trailhead.

FAQs

All the answers to your questions about picking the best rangefinder for hunting.

Q: What is the best laser rangefinder for the money?

It’s hard to beat the Maven RF.1. The 7-power monocular has excellent glass and coatings, the laser is fast and precise, and the display brightness and mode controls are on the outside of the housing, which makes field adjustments easy and intuitive.

Q: What is the best rangefinder for shooting?

I’ll give you two best options: Sig Sauer’s brand new KILO10K, and Vortex’s Fury HD 5000 AB. Both feature excellent lasers (though Sig’s is by far the most powerful, capable of ranging targets out to 6 miles) but what makes them essential tools for long-distance precision shooters is their ability to accept custom ballistic information from their associated mobile apps. And both connect to Kestrel and Garmin shooting systems.

Q: How accurate are cheap rangefinders?

Even laser rangefinders that cost less than $300 will range targets within about a yard of deviation at 500 yards. Obviously, that means that the deviation shrinks the closer the target, an important consideration for archers, who generally engage targets under 100 yards.

Q: What is the best rangefinder for hunting?

The Bushnell Prime 1800 is a good example of a laser rangefinder configured for hunters. It has a range of about 1,800 yards, which is plenty of reach for hunters. And its near-target ranging is as close as 5 yards, perfect for bowhunters. It’s easy to deploy with a single hand, and its ActivSynch display automatically adjusts for daylight or twilight ranging conditions, an important consideration for hunters who are out at first and last light.

Outdoor Life Values

Outdoor Life editors don’t just enjoy hunting and fishing as hobbies—the pursuit of these passions make us who we are. Our writers are diehard outdoorsmen and women, too. For more than a century, OL has been evaluating the latest and greatest outdoor gear and providing our readers with no-B.S. reviews. We test products in the field under real-world conditions. We write about the pros and cons of every product we review so that you know exactly what you’re getting if you decide to purchase the gear we cover. Only the best hunting, fishing, backpacking, camping, and survival gear will make the cut in our reviews and roundups. If we’re covering it, you know it’s legit.

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