Imagine standing in a thicket of alders, with a heavy mist falling around you. You give a chirp on your cow call and from just out of sight a bull lets out a raspy bugle that pierces the quiet morning.
He is close enough that you can hear branches snapping as he closes the distance to you. You start scanning for a shooting lane that he is likely to pass through. You find a likely gap and pull out your hunting rangefinder to check the distance.
As you aim the rangefinder at a tree in the shooting lane, pressing the button gives you a result you were not hoping for- “err.”
This has not happened before in similar conditions and your heart sinks.
The bull is still coming, so you give one more cow call and clip in your bow arrow release. Just then he steps out from behind a thick pocket of brush. He is inside of about 50 yards and moving at a perfect angle towards your shooting lane.
The bull thrashes some trees with his impressive antlers, moving closer to the gap in the trees. As he steps behind one last tree, you draw your bow. With no range number from the finder, you are forced to guess.
It looks like 30 yards.
You settle your bow sight 30-yard pin on the sweet spot as he steps out from behind the tree and release your arrow to watch as it dives under his belly.
As the bull crashes off your head drops in disappointment. You pace off the distance to where he was standing and discover he was 42 yards away- still within your comfortable range, just one pin off.
For those who have experienced something similar or those who wish to avoid that, this article is here to help you find a rangefinder that will not let you down in the moment that counts.
The 4 Top Hunting Laser Rangefinders of 2018: Outdoor Empire Reviews
There are tons of models in the market, let’s wade through catalogs and online stores to pick out the winners and losers that you should trust with your hard-earned cash.
These are our top recommendations for hunting rangefinders in 2018:
- Best for hunting: Get Bushnell Scout DX 1000 ARC (read 170+ Amazon reviews)
- Best archery and bowhunting: Get Bushnell The Truth with ClearShot (read 170+ amazon reviews)
- Best for the money: Get Halo XRT6 (read 230+ Amazon reviews)
- Best budget rangefinder: Get Simmons Volt 600 (read 25+ Amazon reviews)
- Best long range shooting: Get Vortex Ranger 1500 (read 35+ Amazon reviews)
- Best golf: Get TecTecTec VPRO500 (read 2,130+ Amazon reviews)
*Looking for a specific feature? Check out our quick-reference chart below:
|Magnification x Objective Lens||6x 21mm||6x 22mm||4x 20mm||6x 24mm||4x 20mm||6x|
|Size||1.3 x 4 x 2.9 in||3.9 x 3 in||1.4 x 3.8 x 2.9 in||4.2 x 3.0 x 1.7 in||1.9 x 3.6 x 4.2 in||4 x 2.8 x 1.6 in|
|Weight||6.6 oz||7.7 oz||6 oz||8 oz||7.7 oz||6.5 oz|
|Range||5-1000 yards||1500 yards||7-850 yards||600 yards||10-600 yards||540 yards|
|Reflective Ranging Performance||1000 yards||9-1500 yards||850 yards||-||600 yards||-|
|Tree Ranging Performance||650 yards||-||600 yards||-||400 yards||-|
|Deer Ranging Performance||325 yards||9-750 yards||200 yards||-||200 yards||-|
|Rangefinder Accuracy||+/- 1/2 Yard||+ / - 3 yards @ 1000 yards||+/- 1 yard||+/- 1 yard||+/- 1 yard||+/- 1 yard|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Best Overall Hunting Rangefinder: Bushnell Scout DX 1000 ARC
If you’re on the field regardless of the season, the conditions or how tough the hunt is then you need some serious gear.
Especially out west when you’re hunting at unknown ranges, a good laser rangefinder can be a vital piece of gear whether you have a bow or gun. If you’re this guy, the Bushnell Scout DX 1000 ARC is your rangefinder.
This is a fabulous piece of equipment. It has every doodad and gizmo you could want in a ruggedized shell ready for the field.
At the heart of the system lies Bushnell’s technology to help both gun and bowhunters. When you input the information from your gun or bow, it calculates the distance that the arrow or bullet will travel, which is different from the line of sight and is much more accurate.
- For gun hunters: it will literally call your shot before you make it taking into account terrain, trajectory, and exterior ballistics and display it quickly and accurately. If you can call the wind, then you can nail targets further than you ever thought possible with it.
- For bowhunters: you’ll appreciate the technology inside that will alert you of any brush in the way of your arrow. This means when you line up the laser, it searches for tree limbs or bushes in the arrow’s flight path and can predict if you’ll hit it or not.
At the push of a button, you have information from 5-1000 yards accurate within ½ of a yard and displayed within 1/10 of a yard. This is simply incredible. The display can be in either MOA or Mils for shooters and the clear shot archery features work from 5-99 yards.
It does all these while being a lightweight and rugged unit. It comes with a carry case, neck strap and battery for starting up right out of the box. If you’re the “buy it once” type, go for this one!
- Finds distances out to 1000 yards
- +/- .5-yard accuracy
- Takes a single CR2 battery
- Weighs 6.6 oz
- Lifetime warranty
2. Best Archery and Bowhunting Rangefinder: Bushnell The Truth with ClearShot
Bowhunting has its special quirks and accurately judging the distance that your arrow will travel to the target is one of them. Having a good rangefinder and knowing your setup really well will have you reliably put arrows into the kill zone of your chosen game.
The problem comes when you don’t know your setup at the angle that you need to thread the needle through the bush or the angle that you’re shooting from your tree stand makes it a difficult to call your shot.
Bushnell heard the call and their response is a new technology called ClearShot.
It takes a reading and references your synced bow data to let you know the distance that your arrow will travel — very different from the line of sight distance, and whether there is something in the way of your shot.
This is incredible. That feature alone sets it heads and tails above all others for archery hunting but it comes with all the features and quality you can expect from a Bushnell.
There was some serious thought put into this unit, everything from the rainproof housing to the 4x magnification for lasing targets works well.
You can use it for the distance from 7 yards out to an impressive 850 but the bow mode works only from 7 yards to 199 yards.
The computer calculates the distance of the shot from a +/- 90-degree angle so whether you’re in a tree stand or a steep canyon, you’ll be able to get an effective measurement.
A starter battery, carrying case and a neck strap are included. Everything you need to take advantage of this equipment is there conveniently and easily to get started with.
- Finds distances out to 850 yards
- +/- 1 yard accuracy
- Takes a single CR2 battery
- Weighs 6 oz
- Lifetime warranty
3. Best Rangefinder For The Money: Halo XRT6
Getting performance for your money is important these days when electronics are getting so expensive and constantly changing. The key for this is to look for diamonds in the rough that do their job well, including a right balance of quality and price.
The unit doesn’t have a ton of features because it’s a simple tool for ranging target but it has a very cool scanning mode. This is almost unheard of in its price range. But it is invaluable for setting up a blind or tree stand and want to lay out a shooting card with all the landmarks you can see.
- Rain resistant and is sufficiently rugged for the job at hand.
- It runs on the uncommon CR2 battery, but most rangefinders do so stock up before you head out.
- The clear LCD display and reticle makes it easy and fast to get range information without fumbling.
It does all these for a steal of a price and shouldn’t be overlooked while shopping for a rangefinder.
Halo makes a laser rangefinder at just about every budget but their XRT6 is a usable unit for most any hunter, golfer or shooter. It is based on a vertical 6x magnification scope offering precise measurements out to 600 yards within +/- 1 yard accuracy.
- Finds distances out to 600 yards
- +/- 1 yard accuracy
- Takes a single CR2 battery
- Weighs 8 oz
- 1 year warranty
4. Best Budget Rangefinder: Simmons Volt 600
If you’re in the market for a no frills, get-it-done rangefinder, then you’re looking at the bottom end of the budget spectrum. Simmons has you covered with the Volt 600.
This is as good as it gets when you have a small budget. There are cheaper rangefinders out there but this is the best one in the price range. It is more durable and uses the common 9v battery compared to others that take odd sized batteries and have fragile glass.
- The case is a black durable plastic. It isn’t shiny and doesn’t stand out.
- It is regular-shaped so it’s easy to hold.
- There are a few comforts like a built-in lanyard hole and a one-touch operation.
All you must do is hold the button down for three seconds and the LCD display readouts your distance when you look through the optic. The readout can be switched between yards or meters, which is a lacking feature on many rangefinders in this price range.
The only downside is that it doesn’t come with a lanyard or battery strap. This shouldn’t be a problem in the field but just a minor gripe about the package.
It works from 10 yards all the way out to 600 with an accuracy of +/- 1 yard.
The 4x20mm scope makes it easy to see all the way out to 600 yards for a deer or turkey sized target. The further you get out, the harder it becomes to hold so be very careful to get a good rest and a good reading.
- Finds distances out to 600 yards
- +/- 1 yard accuracy
- Takes a single 9v battery
- Weighs 7.7 oz
- 1 year warranty
Target Shooting & Golf Rangefinders
1. Best Long Range Shooting Rangefinder: Vortex Ranger 1500
The fad of obliterating milk jugs at 1,000 yards and beyond is creating an arms race among companies supplying the armed consumer. Manufacturers are clamoring to supply shooters with better and more accurate guns, optics and electronics to make reaching out easier than ever before.
The need to have an accurate dope for your rifle means having an accurate range to the target. If you’re hunting at long range or participating in a competition that allows it, carrying a high-powered laser rangefinder is an ideal way to get an accurate distance between you and the target.
The best laser rangefinder for long range shooting is an offering from Vortex — the Optics Ranger 1500 RRF-151. The idea behind it is to make it so powerful that you won’t want to leave it, and small enough that there’s no reason you wouldn’t have it.
- Has an awesome side mounted clip and loop for the included lanyard.
- It is small enough to wear around your neck, and the side mounted clip can be put on either side or taken off completely.
- Runs off a single CR2 battery which is becoming more common but still needs to be bought at an electronics store.
This unit gives a distance reading out to 1500 yards easily with +/- 3 yards accuracy. The built-in 6x magnification lets you see targets far away with clarity, thanks to the fully multi-coated and O-ring sealed glass.
The LCD display is intuitive to use and fast to read for making a shot quickly. The unit can be used horizontally and in scan mode for good versatility; the readout can be in meters or yards.
- Finds distances out to 1500 yards
- +/- 3 yards accuracy
- Takes a single CR2 battery
- Weighs 7.7 oz
- Lifetime warranty
2. Best Golf Rangefinder: TecTecTec Rangefinder VPRO500
Golf can be an expensive sport. A good set of clubs can cost a pretty penny, and joining a club means hefty range fees. That leaves little room in the budget for goodies like a laser rangefinder. That doesn’t leave you with few options though.
Thanks to the internet, there’s literally hundreds of models to choose from. Among the best comes from a sleeper of a company, TecTecTec with their top selling VPRO500. This is a simple high-quality laser rangefinder perfect for golf, and doubly perfect for someone on a budget.
When you shoot a laser at a target in golf, it’s normally much smaller than a target or a game animal that a hunter would use a laser rangefinder on.
Therefore, it’s important to not only have a sensitive sensor to use it out to the flag or the spot on the fairway, but it’s also essential to have great accuracy when you get there.
The palm-sized unit comes with:
- starter battery
- cleaning cloth
- carrying case
If you need an out of the box, working unit for the driving range or the fairway, this is a great option at an outstanding value.
The only downside is that it uses a hard to find CR2 battery, which is available at specialty electronics shops and online shops. But if you need it in a pinch, you may be out of luck.
Normally, sensitivity, accuracy and low cost don’t go hand in hand but this model offers a range finding capability out to 540 yards and has a readout accurate within a +/-1 yard.
This is astounding for the price it’s selling for. It is only 6.5 oz, it’s small, and has an auto shut off in case you forget to turn it off (making the unit easier to live with).
- Finds distances out to 540 yards
- +/- 1 yard accuracy
- Takes a single CR2 battery
- Weighs 6.5 oz
- 1 year warranty
Consider These Factors When Choosing a Unit
All rangefinders that aren’t broken will give a readout of information relating to the distance away from your target. Some give extensive information about bullet or arrow placement, or angles between you and your target, while some just give the distance.
When you evaluate each model, keep the following in mind.
All things being equal, look for a rugged piece of gear. If you can’t take it under the rain or have to constantly worry about dropping it off your golf cart, it won’t be as useful as something that takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.
Don’t get caught on how waterproof or shatter resistant this model or that model is, just look for something that is reasonably tough.
If you drop anything from a tree stand, then it’s going to break. Similarly, if you kick a rangefinder into a pond on the edge of a golf course, you’re equally out of luck. Look for a durable gear that lasts a reasonable amount of time.
Target priority on a laser rangefinder means it is calibrated or customizable to find either an aggregate or a simple measurement. In layman’s term, this means that you can choose for the unit to find the closest, farthest or average distance that it is pointed at.
This is important because if you have a deer standing behind a tree but the tree is 25 yards closer than the deer, you won’t have the tree messing up the measurement. For golfers, this means being able to select which obstacle they’re pointing at.
Generally, the thicker and the more varied your terrain is, the more essential this is. For a precise measurement, this is critical to get right. More and more units are moving to either a selectable or automatic target priority sensor to get more accurate results.
If your unit laser targets out to 1000 yards but doesn’t have any magnification, most of its capability is wasted.
Most rangefinders have a fixed 4x or 6x magnification built into it. This lets you see your target and get an accurate measurement while keeping the scope simple to operate but still usable.
If you’ll routinely use your rangefinder past 300 or 400 yards, consider getting one with a magnification of 6x or up. Hunters rarely need more than 4x magnification and golfers could really use a 6x to look for flags and a small spot of the fairway.
Most laser rangefinders use disposable batteries to run. This is a blessing and a curse. If you live in a rural area with no electronic shops, getting a unit that runs on a common battery is important because you have to order batteries online if you run out and it could be a problem.
Some units come with onboard reachable batteries, just like a mobile phone. If you’re using it for golf or sports where you’re unlikely to be away from a power source then this is fine. Otherwise, opt for a battery-operated model.
Scan & Horizontal Modes
Scan and horizontal modes are important only in certain situations.
If you need to collect a lot of data quickly about your surroundings, for example if you’re turkey hunting with a bow and waiting for a gobbler to come in, then scanning the area and identifying landmarks in a hurry can be helpful.
Flipping the unit horizontally to look around a tree or have a better line of sight around an obstacle is somewhat overrated. You might never need to use your rangefinder horizontally and paying more specifically for this feature is foolish.
Some models have it standard but this is sometimes offered as an upgrade. Steer clear and save your money.
Reticles are a lot like knives, simpler is better.
Most, if not all, rangefinders have an LCD display that allows you to see the measurements and the reticle. This display is easily washed out with light, easy to fumble with during stress and very easy to confuse if you aren’t practiced with it.
Simple crosshairs are ideal until you really get familiar with your gear.
Some rangefinders have a whole bunch of features that help you predict shots and have ballistic reticles familiar to rifle scopes. These are great once you get used to them but have been liable for more than one missed deer.
When you buy your laser rangefinder, most companies include a lanyard or strap for carrying, a starter battery and a carrying case. These are the manufacturers that think about the consumer. Some units are bare-bones, without a case or a battery, so make sure to read the fine print.
If your unit uses a specialty battery, make sure to order them either before you buy or right after. You don’t want to wait for a week to try out your new gear!
Buy from a company that offers at least a partial warranty. Everyone makes a lemon from time to time and you don’t want to be stuck with a broken piece of equipment because the manufacturer won’t replace it.
Most reputable brands have multiyear or lifetime guarantee on their product. Buy from them as much as possible.
Stop & Think!
Before you go shopping, determine some boundaries of what you need, what is nice to have and what you don’t want. These external factors help narrow down what you’re shopping for and eliminate most of the hard decisions right off the bat.
What you plan on using your rangefinder for is the biggest external factor that affects your purchase.
A laser rangefinder for golf has a totally different set of features and priorities than a unit made primarily for hunting. While there are a lot of crossovers and you certainly could use most models for either job, each model has specific features you should pay attention to.
Hunting rangefinders are mostly camo or black while a golf rangefinder may be bright yellow or white. It is typically designed for faster operation and has a software for arrow and bullet compensation.
A golfing unit, on the other hand, is more precise and has more magnification for picking out small details on the fairway. It also has a better battery life because it is used more often.
Make sure to check our full comparison article on golf rangefinders vs hunting rangefinders!
Find out if the rangefinder is allowed for:
- Hunting in all the areas you plan on using it in.
- Tournament if you’re a competitive golfer.
Every tournament has different rules and so do states regarding the use of electronics during hunting.
For hunters, there are a few restrictions besides having a rangefinder mounted on your bow.
For golfers, there are all kinds of restrictions that get technical-specific. When in doubt, ask for help before you buy because you don’t want to waste your money on something you can’t use.
Size is important for two reasons.
- It needs to be small enough to be held comfortably.
- It needs to fit where you plan on storing and carrying it.
It’s popular for hunters to string a rangefinder on a lanyard and hang it around their neck. This obviously works better with small units. Most come with a small belt case for use on the golf course if you’re inclined.
However, if you choose to carry it, protect the lenses and make sure you don’t bang it around too much or it’ll quit on you when you need it most.
Weight is important because it limits how long you can hold it up and how you can carry it. Holding it for a minute in the store says little about how you’ll feel after 12 holes of golf or day three of a high country elk hunt.
Choose the lightest model that fits your specifications but don’t skimp on features to get less weight. It’s better to have a usable piece of gear that is an ounce or two heavier than an ultralight piece of junk.
Battery life is essential because if your batteries die, you’re left with half a pair of binoculars. Battery life can be extended by using the correct, high-quality batteries.
Here are other suggestions:
- When golfing, you’ll be using your rangefinder a whole bunch so get a unit that’ll last all afternoon.
- If you buy a unit that burns batteries, consider getting rechargeable lithium-ion batteries so you don’t have to constantly buy new sets.
- Always carry a spare set of batteries with you to be on the safe side.
Different models have tailored special features designed to make their respective purposes easier. Ballistically calibrated reticles for bows and guns, golfing-specific target priorities and extended magnification are all common on the market.
Decide your intended use for the rangefinder and research the available features. Companies compete with each other and they have similar features but a certain company may have a setup that you prefer once you have tested it.
Buyer beware, avoid overpaying for things you may not use or something that is just nice to have.
Some sports require more accuracy than others. A golfer will appreciate a +/-1 yard while a competitive shooter or long range hunter will need a minimum of +/- .5 yards.
When choosing for a unit, keep these pointers in mind:
- Decide what you’re willing to settle for.
- Set a price range of what you’re willing to pay for.
- Get a unit that you can live with.
There are far more factors, including user error, that affects the accuracy of your rangefinder and the typical user will never use a unit to its absolute maximum performance anyway.
The longer you look through your rangefinder and the further away your targets are, the more you’ll appreciate good glass in the unit. Rangefinders are optics, just like scopes and binoculars, and there’s no substitute for good glass.
If high optical quality is important to you, then look for brands that are known for outstanding lenses. Nikon, Leupold, Bushnell and Vortex are great starting places and they have some of the best rangefinders in the world.
This is sort of a gray area. Optics and electronics are very much a “get what you pay for” gear.
While there are deals that the more you spend, the better off you are; an inexpensive rangefinder can give you all the information you need for making an accurate shot at a distance but may lack refinements and features that you want.
Be judicious about where and what you shop for and when in doubt look for reviews. People love to help each other out and if there’s a great product for cheap, it’s usually well known.
Leading Rangefinder Brands
There are so many good brands putting out quality products now and if you stick to a well-known company, it’s more likely a good buy.
There are definitely lemons from everywhere but for the most part, companies stick to their section of the market and serve a specific group of people and budget range.
Halo is known for their interesting designs.
They have weird looking angular constructed rangefinders that feel better in the hand than how they look to the eye. They have different types of rangefinders and serve the middle of the road market in terms of price, quality, and features.
They have some awesome deals.
- Very good beginner laser rangefinders. Though they lack a lot of luxuries and create comforts, they have a bare-bones and dead reliable approach to building gear.
- They are easy to use since you won’t find a ton of settings on these rangefinders.
- Their odd shapes make them easy to hold even with gloves.
- Their smaller sizes make them comfortable to wear on a lanyard for quick hunting.
Not many golfers use these. They’re more of a hunting specific brand but there’s no reason they can’t be pressed into dual service.
They build everything reasonably well for the price and does a good job of making sure that even under stress or adverse condition, you can still use the rangefinder. These make them a great option for youth hunters who are just getting started.
They simply work and are hard to break without costing an arm and a leg to get one for your kid or as a gift.
Bushnell is a huge company that makes dozens of different kinds of optics that serve every part of the market and budget spectrum. They’re by far the most common optic company in the United States and you can find their products anywhere optics are sold.
Their ubiquity is because of their trust, their quality and in part because of their innovation.
- They make different models and play around with designs and features more than any other company. This has led their competitors to copy their lead and coming out with features very like theirs.
- They make it possible for rangefinders to tell you if your shot is clear for an arrow or a bullet.
- They have rangefinders that can factor in elevation, the angle between you and your target, and predict the distance that your bullet or arrow travels and use that to tell you how far to aim or which pin to use.
This is a huge step up in technology that Bushnell still stands out. They’re also one of the affordable brands out there without skimping on quality or materials.
Bushnell has become the optics giant that they are by providing smart designs for little money. For a hunter or shooter, they’re by far the best brand you can buy.
Simmons is a bargain brand of hunting gear.
They have models of game cameras, scopes, and laser rangefinders as well as soft gear and some general use items like knives and flashlights. Their laser rangefinders are a diamond in the rough though and they don’t get the level of respect they deserve.
If you’re in the market for a laser rangefinder that simply gives the measurement and nothing else, no frills no fuss, then this is your brand.
- They make different levels of quality and they can generally be found for about half of what their competitors charge.
- They aren’t that durable but for the price, they can be hard to beat. They go on sale very often so you can pick up a decent rangefinder under $100 that’ll get the job done.
For a starter brand, I’d say opt for a slightly better brand because they can be tad fussy. They don’t have target priority so you must be careful where you aim and be 100% sure of what you’re doing.
Don’t hand this to a youngster just starting in bowhunting because they’re liable to miss or wound an animal by misjudging the range with one of these units. They certainly work but they’re slightly hard to use because they lack a lot of features and comforts.
Nikon is an optics powerhouse that makes everything from medical equipment to eye glasses and sporting optics.
They’re known for providing medium grade consumer products at competitive prices. They make several laser rangefinders and the only true dual-use models that work equally both on the golf course as they do in the hunting woods.
- Their best feature is the crystal-clear glass they produce and the well thought of controls. Some companies are notorious for having hard to use equipment, but Nikon is the opposite.
- All their products are on the smaller side of the spectrum being considerably lighter than their competitors.
- Their models are great with battery life and a few of them take common battery sizes that can be found all over the place.
They are good for those who want an all around model at a good price that lasts.
More professional golfers use this than any other brand of rangefinders. They’re becoming more and more common with hunters as well. They have a thoughtful design that paid attention to details and used high-quality materials.
I would never hesitate to recommend Nikon for any of their products especially their rangefinders.
Leupold is without a doubt the great American optics giant.
No one can touch the quality of optics that Leupold produces, even those that cost twice as much but lack features and refinements that Leupold offers. They have more government contracts around the world, serving more military and police units than any other optics manufacturer.
- As far as sporting optics go, they are a medium to high-end brand even with their entry level products.
- Their laser rangefinders, while newer on the market, are becoming preferred by professional golfers especially for their quality and ease of use.
Leupold has one of the best guarantees in the industry because they know how long their equipment lasts, which is near forever.
Their hunting specific models leave a little to be desired, especially for the price. But their golfing and general outdoor models are fantastic.
If you have it in your budget, Leupold is a phenomenal option for people who want a high-quality rangefinder that will outlast them with a level of near luxury refinement.
This is strictly an import company that manufactures products overseas and repackages them. They make more than just rangefinders. They offer an extensive line that has decent quality for very cheap.
This is a low-end company that is good for anyone looking for a featured rangefinder for less money.
- They have lots of products to choose from and they all perform as advertised.
- They make products for both golfing and hunting, even their low-end units have features that American made rangefinders don’t have unless you spend substantially more.
- They’re also one of the few manufacturers who make units that use common batteries.
- They lack some of the refinements and ruggedness of more expensive brands.
As an entry level or backup piece of gear, they can be hard to beat. And if you don’t mind an imported item then this should be on your list.
Be a Smart Buyer!
Buying a laser rangefinder these days is easy because of the internet and a market flooded with options. If you need to purchase one, there’s the exact model you’ll love out there, you just have to find it.
Before you reach for your wallet, take a step back and genuinely consider what you need and how you’ll use it in the field or on the fairway; and only buy for that. Don’t spend extra on features you don’t need or a brand that isn’t worth it.