December 27, 2020
When taking a shot on a monster bull with your bow, every yard counts. Knowing the exact flight path of your arrow and the exact distance to your target will ensure a clean, quick kill.
Rangefinder technology has been advancing quickly over the years, especially in the world of long-range rifles. For quite some time now, rifle hunters have been able to enter ballistic information into their rangefinders to receive information leading to—in theory—a perfect shot. This technology has never been used in the world of archery—that is, until now.
Leupold’s new RX-Fulldraw 4 is revolutionizing the way archers look at rangefinders. Any serious archery hunter knows that shots at extreme angles are tough and easy to miss—even when you have a rangefinder that calculates distance for angle. What sets the RX-Fulldraw 4 apart from the competition is that you can enter personalized ballistic information into the rangefinder so you receive pinpoint-accurate yardages before you take your shot.
Some of the basic features of the Fulldraw include: a max range of 1,200 yards (reflective surface), three reticle options to customize the viewfinder to your eye, a 6X magnification lens and three rangefinding settings—LOS (line of sight), TRIG (true horizontal distance), and BALL (Archer’s Advantage software ballistic calculation).
The RX-4 Fulldraw 4 has capabilities that make it a great choice for archery and rifle hunters alike. Leupold claims this rangefinder to have an effective range of 1,200 yards on a reflective target, 1,100 yards on trees, and 900 yards on an animal. These ranges are all expansive when you consider this tool was built with the archery hunter in mind.
While testing the rangefinder, the farthest range I could bring up was 796 yards. My target was a dull-colored, dusty sagebrush. I was very impressed by this; I often range hillsides and trees while on the hunt just for personal reference when considering a stalk. With that kind of distance, I won’t hesitate to keep this rangefinder in my pouch during rifle season.
The speed of the laser is good—not the fastest, but definitely not the slowest. Leupold’s DNA (Digitally eNhanced Accuracy) system provides a quick and accurate laser. The Advanced OLED technology can be adjusted so that the display can be seen easily in any lighting.
Glass and Reticle
Clear glass makes all the difference when looking through optics. Leupold did a great job and used high-quality glass for a great viewing experience. Looking through the 6X magnified lens was comfortable, and target acquisition came easily. The 6X magnification is more than enough for the rangefinder, and the fully multicoated lens system is so clear that when using the rangefinder on an elk hunt, I found myself reaching for it, rather than my binoculars, to pick apart timber while in a calling sequence.
The rangefinder has three reticle options to fit the user’s preference: the Plus Point, reticle with Plus Point, and just a plain reticle. I prefer to use the reticle with Plus Point; it is the most appealing to my eye.
Ballistic Calculation with Archer’s Advantage
Now to the fun part. The RX-Fulldraw 4 uses specific information from your bow and arrow setup when using the ballistic setting. Once you have entered your arrow’s weight, the arrow’s speed (measured at 36 inches), and the distance from your peep to the center of your arrow while at full draw, the rangefinder will use angle compensation technology and the ballistic data to spit out a yardage that will leave your arrow tracking perfectly for the 10-ring.
I am a stickler when it comes to archery equipment. Missed shots are inherently part of hunting, but I study my equipment, practice often, and build my setup to negate any possible issues while in the field. With that said, I needed definite proof that the RX-Fulldraw 4 would live up to the promises on the box.
My archery hunting setup consists of a Prime Black 5 with 80-pound limbs (pulls a peak weight of 82). I have a 30.5-inch draw length, and my arrow weighs in at 502 grains. My bow spits those arrows out at right at 299 fps—just the way I like it. After measuring my peep height, I found that it sits roughly 3.75 inches (input as four inches in the rangefinder) from the center of my arrow while at full draw. Once I confirmed and double-checked all this information about my setup, I turned to the little box of technology that was going to turn this information into a dead bull elk—at least that’s what I was hoping for. I’ll try and report back on that in a later issue.
After entering the information into the rangefinder, it was time to shoot. I grabbed my target and headed to a place where I could get some serious shot angles and a decent amount of distance. I shot at several distances, with three two-shot groups at each range—one arrow shot at the BALL range and one at the TRIG. Using an Option Archery Option Eight sight, I was able to dial my single pin for exact yardages to ensure an accurate test.
I first ranged at 20 yards, on flat ground, to see if there were any differences. The two settings were within 0.1 yard of each other. The next shot I took was at 40 yards, at an angle of -11 degrees. The BALL reading came in at 39.6 yards and the TRIG reading at 40.7 yards. In my experience 40 yards—especially when shooting heavy arrows—is a distance that a yard difference will change your point of impact. The shots confirmed what I believed, and the BALL setting proved to be more accurate. The three shots for 39.6 hit the center every time, while the shots for 40.7 were consistently a couple of inches higher.
The next shot sequence I went to was at the steepest angle I could accommodate for: -20 degrees. The discrepancies between the two settings at this angle were more extreme: almost two yards. The only issue was I couldn’t find the angle at farther than 23 yards. Even a two-yard difference at a yardage this close didn’t yield a noticeable change in my point of impact.
A 30-yard, uphill shot at a 9-degree angle offered more conclusive results. The difference between the two settings was 0.4 yard; 33.1 yards was the ballistic reading while 32.7 was the true horizontal distance. While the yardage difference wasn’t dramatic enough to see a huge difference in the point of impact, there was small change. While shooting for the ballistic distance, I was dead center while the other shots were consistently lower by roughly an inch.
Western hunting tends to push the limits of someone’s effective archery range. So, I stepped back to 70 yards to see what my ballistic data would offer for that shot. At an angle of -3 degrees, the BALL setting came in at 73.7 yards and the TRIG setting came back at 74.5. Roughly a yard at 70 can make a big difference on your point of impact. When shooting for the ballistic range, I found my mark every time. When shooting for 74.5 yards, I found my arrow to be consistently—between four and five inches—high.
All of the point-of-impact differences were minuscule to say the least. But I can confidently say that the ballistic calculations in the RX-Fulldraw 4 have earned my trust. I will be hitting the field knowing that my point of impact is spot-on when using the BALL setting.
There is one more feature I intentionally elected not to test: the Flightpath feature. It can be activated when using the rangefinder in the BALL mode. When turned on, you will notice a “high-point” indicator that shows you the maximum height your arrow will reach during flight, allowing the hunter to see if it will hit any obstructions on its way to the target. Even though I didn’t test this feature, I can say with confidence that I will trust it when there is a big bull in range.