September 08, 2014
By Josh Dahlke
Next to a reliable gun or bow, good glass is the most critical component in a serious hunter's kill plan. You'll rack up more consistent success afield if you slow your roll and open your eyes to the power of optics€¦guaranteed.
If you really want to enhance your predatory efficiency, consider investing in a binocular with an integrated laser rangefinder. This one tool will allow you to discover your quarry and determine its distance from your trigger with the press of a button. That's valuable, especially in a game where an entire season often boils down to a few calculated movements and just one moment of truth.
A new rangefinding bino is a purchase you won't regret, but you'll need to drop a considerable chunk of your hunting change to acquire one. Depending on your budget and demands, here are five of the best models on the market for your consideration.
Steiner | Nighthunter LRF
offers only an 8X30mm rangefinding binocular deemed as the Nighthunter LRF
. Despite its smaller objective lenses, it offered excellent low-light visibility. Surprisingly, I didn't find its profile to be remarkably more petite than most of its 10X rivals, but it is slightly lighter in weight.
This Steiner is a smooth operator with almost instantaneous ranging response from 22 to1,860 yards. Its small circular aiming ring makes it easier to laser precise targets, and the ranging button is super-crisp. Perhaps the coolest trait of the Nighthunter LRF is its Sports-Auto Focus system. Focus both eyepieces once at 20 yards and everything in sight will remain in focus, allowing for one-handed operation.
The Nighthunter is an underdog contender with surprisingly good glass, a sleek display, and a compact feel.
Bushnell | Fusion 1-Mile ARC
comes with the lowest price tag of the bunch. As the name suggests, its laser delivers 1-mile ranging capabilities — that's 1,750 yards, but it repeatedly stretched to read a reflective target at 1,815 yards during testing.
The rangefinder is remarkably fast, and its scanning mode does an impressive job of pumping out rapid readings on moving targets. Bushnell boasts about the bright-orange Matrix Display Technology, but it can be overwhelming if not properly tuned. This bino is bulging with legit technology, and a 'Bulletproof Guarantee ' says you can send it back within one year of ownership, but for the low price tag, you should be happy with the results.
Not the most ergonomic or brightest glass of the bunch, but its value is unbeatable with a price that is almost one third of its competitors.
Swarovski | EL Range
I've been privileged to hunt with an extensive variety of optics throughout my career, and I can confidently say Swarovski
glass has always stood in a pristine league of its own. The EL Range
continues Swarovski's tradition of optical excellence, but with the addition of an integrated laser rangefinder. Its minimum measuring distance is 33 yards (something that won't please bowhunters), and we got only sporadic readings slightly past 1,000 yards on reflective targets.
The red rangefinder readout shows line-of-sight distance and true horizontal distance based on target angle. If preferred, you can choose to view shot angle in degrees instead of the automatically corrected shooting distance.
The EL Ranges had arguably the sharpest image and most vivid viewing experience, but the ergonomics and rangefinding left much to be desired.
Zeiss | Victory RF
recently entered into the rangefinding binocular market with the Victory RF
. With its extreme all-day clarity and low-light viewing capabilities, this optic has earned the 'Victory ' title. The RF will instantly measure distances to objects from 10 to1,300 yards — the fastest laser tested. Critics agree, its ranging button is the
smoothest of them all, and the accuracy of its laser is superb.
A Ballistic Information System (BIS) lets you designate the rangefinder to work hand-in-hand with one of six trajectory settings to closely match your
chosen ammunition. The display will first tell you the line-of-sight distance and then the high or low aiming compensation (in inches) depending on the shot angle.
We prefer an open bridge design, but the clarity of the glass was superb, and the rangefinder was super quick.
Leica | Geovid HD-B 42
is ergonomically designed for extended hours of glassing comfort, and it offered exceptional clarity well past sunset. The HD-B's laser rangefinder is designed to measure distances from 10-2,000 yards, which proved true.
Most notable, however, is the Advanced Ballistic Compensation (ABC) system. Not only will this rangefinder dish out line-of-sight distance measurements, but an onboard thermometer, inclinometer, and air-pressure gauge combine forces to give you an astonishingly accurate true horizontal distance at any range. From there, it's a matter of selecting from 12 built-in ballistics curves to match your rifle cartridge or your own data with an SD card.
The Leicas had the best display, quickest and most accurate rangefinding, and supreme optical quality. It was the overall best in show.
The Essentials Gear Box.
Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.