The best rangefinders for hunting aren’t always the most expensive rangefinders, as one might expect. “Hunting” is a rather ambiguous term, the practice of which can vary widely depending on a hunter’s chosen game, geographical location, and tool of choice (rifle, bow, bazooka, etc). There’s a wide variety of hunting rangefinders on the market, with an even wider array of capabilities, and it’s important to understand which functions you will need for your specific style of hunting. Understanding this could be the difference between spending $100 on a hunting rangefinder and dropping $500 or more.
Not to get preachy or anything, but to me, ethical hunting is something all hunters should strive to practice. For those unfamiliar with the term, ethical hunting simply means that the hunter strives to harvest their quarry in the quickest and most efficient way possible, causing the least amount of pain for their prey. In this day and age, and especially for those of us not blessed with the wisdom of age and extensive experience, technology like hunting rangefinders can aid a hunter in taking high probability, ethical shots that will kill animals quickly and minimize the risk of merely wounding the animal, leading to undue suffering.
In the sections below, we will explore our picks for the best rangefinders for hunting, their key attributes, downfalls, and what type of hunting they suit best.
Researching rangefinders for hunting was a pretty extensive process, with a lot of fun and interesting rabbit holes to stumble into along the way. Like binoculars, rangefinders can be pretty complicated in their construction alone, having to take into account such aspects as glass quality, glass coatings, magnification powers, objective lens size, housing-case material, and water- and fog-proofing. Fortunately, a lot of this knowledge had already been gathered while researching our binocular recommendations a few months back.
The real complications come in the features that set rangefinders apart, which are all the electronic gadgetry shooting honest-to-god laser beams, collecting laser beams, and translating laser beams into useful ballistics information. Being a bowhunter, who usually hunts from a treestand in a wooded area with a max shot range of 40 yards, I’ve never really had much need for ballistics calculations. Fortunately, there are plenty of websites out there that can teach you everything you need to know to make a sound rangefinder pick, such as this informative article from Bushnell.
Armed with my new knowledge, I scoured other top rangefinder lists and product reviews, while pitting them against the recommendations of fellow hunters in my life. What I’ve produced is a list I’m confident will help you make a smart decision on the best hunting rangefinder to meet your needs.
As one might guess by the name, the Vortex Optics Ranger 1800 Laser Rangefinder accurately ranges distance out to 1,800 yards with nearly instantaneous readings. The device’s primary display mode is for Horizontal Component Distance (HCD), which does a bunch of fancy math and gives the user only the horizontal distance needed for an accurate shot (also called Angle Range Compensation), which is what you’re looking for when you have to take a shot at a steep up or down angle.
The Ranger 1800 also has a Line Of Sight (LOS) mode, which gives you the actual “straight-line” distance to the target (accounting for vertical distance as well), which is useful if you prefer to calculate your own ballistics. Plus, the Ranger 1800 has a “scan” function that allows you to pan over the terrain in front of them while the device kicks out a series of ranges, allowing you to easily track animals on the move.
The Ranger 1800 is a highly durable, waterproof rangefinder with Vortex’s signature green rubber coating. It features a 22mm objective lens, with 6x magnification. All lenses are fully multi-coated allowing for maximum light transmission on top of three internal brightness settings to give you the best results in whatever daylight you’re working with.
+/- 3 yards @ 1,000 yards
Calculates Angle Range Compensation
Scan mode for moving targets
Three brightness modes
1,800 yards may not be long enough for some ambitious shooters
A bit pricey
It’s no great secret that hunting can be an expensive hobby if you let it. Sometimes, for the sake of your wallet, you have to cut spending and, oftentimes, you can do so without sacrificing a lot of quality. The AOFAR HX-700N Laser Rangefinder is a good example of an inexpensive piece of equipment that will still get the job done and is our best budget rangefinder.
Lightweight, durable, and waterproof, the AOFAR HX-700N offers extremely accurate distance readings out to 700 yards, which for most weekend woodsmen (and all treestand bow hunters), is plenty of distance to get the job done. The AOFAR HX-700N offers two modes, one for distance and one for the speed of a moving target. This rangefinder doesn’t have a lot of fancy bells and whistles, but its thousands of reviews suggest there’s a lot of happy hunters out there using it.
The AOFAR HX-700N does come with a few extras, including a carrying case, a carabiner, a lanyard (so you don’t drop it out of your treestand), a cleaning cloth, batteries, and an owner’s manual. If your rangefinder needs are limited and so is your budget, the AOFAR HX-700N is a solid choice.
+/- 1 yard @ 700 yards
Accurate, high-speed range readings
Scan mode for moving targets
May not be a long enough range for some hunters
Doesn’t offer different modes of range computation
Leupold Optics has long been a favored brand in the world of hunting binoculars and scopes, and it turns out it doesn’t disappoint in the realm of laser rangefinders either. The Leupold RX-2800 holds true to the company’s standard of excellence with its employment of its True Ballistic Range/Wind (TBR/W) technology.
This system allows you to tailor your experience down to the type of cartridge you are hunting with, while also utilizing angle and wind compensation. Along with the ballistics technology, the Leupold RX-2800 offers a Scan mode for tracking moving targets and a Line Of Sight mode. You can also employ the Last Target mode, which ensures a reading on the last target in the laser’s path, eliminating the risk of an inaccurate reading caused by branches or brush encroaching in your line of sight.
The Leupold RX-2800 has a max effective range of 2,800 yards and is accurate to within a half yard. The lenses on the RX-2800 are fully multi-coated, giving you the clearest picture possible, and the device itself is both waterproof and fog-proof, so you should have no performance issues in less desirable weather. The body of the RX-2800 is made of aluminum and is partially coated with textured rubber, making the rangefinder both durable and easy to grip.
+/- .5 yards @ 2,800 yards
True Ballistic Range/Wind technology (can tailor to munition type)
Three reticle options
Might be a bit overkill for bow hunters
Best for Long Range Shooting
Remember that one time you were out hunting and you had to take a 2.5-mile shot on an old bull elk meandering through a Montana river valley? Me neither, but a hunter can dream, right? Fantasies of world record rifle shots aside, the Maven RF.1 Rangefinder is powerful enough to get you the range on such a shot, even if your lack of shooting prowess doesn’t allow for it.
With a max range of 4,500 yards, you’ll be able to get accurate (within three yards) ranges of objects and animals over 2.5 miles away. The Maven RF.1 Rangefinder features top-of-the-line, award-winning coated glass, coupled with five levels of brightness settings, to give you the best picture possible, even at extremely long ranges.
The Maven RF.1 Rangefinder has both an Angle Compensation mode and a Line Of Sight mode. It also has functionality that allows the hunter to toggle between Field and Forest settings. Field mode allows you to acquire ranges to smaller targets while ignoring larger objects in the background. As you might figure, Forest mode is best for in the woods and allows you to range objects behind trees and brush. It’s also the preferred mode in rainy or snowy conditions.
Rangefinders calculate distances by shooting a laser that then bounces back from the intended target. When the laser signal returns to the device, it can then calculate the distance. Naturally, the farther the target, the longer it takes for the laser to return, so it is imperative to be able to keep your rangefinder steady and on target. For this reason, many hunters recommend rangefinders that are adaptable to tripod mounts. Such is the case with the Maven RF.1.
+/- 3 yards @ 2,000 to 4,500 yards
Calculates Angle Range Compensation & Line Of Sight
Field & Forrest Modes for filtering obstructions
Five brightness modes
May not be worth the price for hunters not looking to take long shots
If you like to hunt, but you’re also kind of a nerd, you’ll really get into the ATN Laser Ballistics 1500. This is one of a few laser rangefinders that utilizes Bluetooth technology to provide the tech-savvy hunter with quality ballistics information to give them the best shot possible.
The ATN Laser Ballistics 1500 can be used as a regular rangefinder or paired with either an ATN Smart HD Scope or an ATN app compatible with any Android or iOS operating system. If used with the ATN Smart HD Scope, the Ballistics 1500 will feed key sight adjustment data directly into the scope. If paired with a smartphone, the ballistics data is sent directly to the app and you can then make manual adjustments to your traditional scope based on the Ballistics 1500’s recommendation.
My hope is that future versions of the app will include an option to browse local “Deer In My Area,” allowing the hunter to swipe left or right depending on their interest in killing that particular animal. They could call it “Timber” or “Plenty Of Tail” or “Fur Finder”. I don’t know, I’m not a marketing guy.
6x / not specified
+/- 1 yard @ 1,500 yards
Syncs with ATN Smart HD Scope
App compatible to both
Android & IOS systems
Two-year warranty Waterproof
May be cumbersome to deal with a rangefinder, phone, and rifle while hunting
Unnecessary for bow hunters
More tech, more to go wrong
SIG Sauer is one of the most recognizable brands in firearms, so it should come as no surprise that its accessories are high-quality, too. That’s right. I just called a rangefinder an “accessory.” So, when you rugged hunters buy one, you’re “accessorizing.” Anyway, sorry.
The Sig Sauer Kilo1000BDX is an affordable option for someone with a moderate budget who’d still like to get a whole lot of functionality out of their rangefinder. This rangefinder includes the fairly standard Line Of Sight mode and Angle Modified Range mode (a fancy way of saying “angle compensation”) but also includes an Applied Ballistics Ultralight mode. The Applied Ballistics Ultralight mode feeds data into the device’s Ballistics Data Xchange (BDX) system. Lightening fast calculations are done, using the shooter’s ballistics profile and environmental data to then kick out precise elevation and windage calculations. If you’re pairing this device with a compatible SIG scope, the ballistics and range information can be transmitted over almost instantly via Bluetooth connection.
The SIG Sauer Kilo1000BDX also features a Hyper Scan mode, which provides four range readings per second, and a RangeLock mode, which provides the last range result when scanning long-range targets. This is an excellent feature for someone like me who has the short-term memory of a goldfish and usually ends up scanning the same damn terrain feature 50 times before finally remembering its distance.
Bluetooth-compatible with SIG Sauer scope
Applied Ballistics Ultralight mode for tailored ballistics calculations
HyperScan and RangeLock functions
Range may not be as long as some rifle hunters would like
Our verdict on rangefinders for hunting
The six rangefinders I’ve listed are obviously not the only rangefinders on the market with comparable functionality, but based on my research, rangefinders like the Vortex Ranger 1800 and the AOFAR HX-700N will get you the most bang for your buck (or doe). If you think I’ve overlooked a rangefinder model or you have additional feedback on any of the models I’ve selected, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.
What to consider when buying rangefinders for hunting
The most important thing to consider when you’re shopping for a rangefinder is what kind of capabilities you expect to need. If the extent of your use will be ranging from a treestand while bowhunting, you probably don’t need to spend money on anything super fancy, but if you’re planning to stalk an elk and take long-range rifle shots up some distant mountain slope, you may want to invest a little more.
Types of rangefinders for hunting
Basic model rangefinders typically come with limited mode options. These rangefinders may be hit or miss when it comes to offering angle range compensation, so you’ll want to do your research before you make your purchase. In any case, these rangefinders will usually allow you to switch between yards and meters, give you an angle reading, and have a speed setting for ranging things on the move. Typically, as the price goes up, the more functionality you’ll get. This pricing correlation also applies to the durability of the device (lens glass and picture quality also usually improve with price as well).
Rangefinders in this category will have built-in software that can offer a hunter a ballistics solution along with their range readings. The hunter is able to tailor their rangefinder to their specific needs, entering things like environmental data and cartridge information. What results is specific recommendations for sight adjustments based on all gathered data.
A few rangefinders on the market can now use Bluetooth capabilities to sync with either a
“smart scope” of the same brand or a cell phone app. Range, environment, and ballistics information is relayed to the connected device which then either syncs accordingly or offers adjustment solutions for the best possible shot.
Some binoculars have rangefinders built right into them. If you’re looking to cut down on the number of items you need to keep track of in the field, a binocular/rangefinder combo might be the way to go. Keep in mind, though, that these binoculars are often much heavier and harder to operate with only one hand like a traditional rangefinder.
Key features for rangefinders for hunting
Angle range compensation
Angle range compensation is your rangefinder’s ability to take a “line of sight” reading and calculate only the horizontal distance to the target. This is an important feature to have if you anticipate that you will be firing from either above or beneath your target at any significant angle. When you’re adjusting your sights, you want to only account for horizontal distance to the target. For a more detailed explanation, check out this article or consult your local physicist.
A rangefinder is all well and good, but if it doesn’t have enough magnification power, you may not be able to get the reticle fixed in the right spot, resulting in a bad read. Most of the rangefinders on our list range from 5x to 7x magnification. When you get into the higher magnification, it becomes more difficult to hold the rangefinder on target to get a proper read, so you may want to consider utilizing a tripod or bracing the rangefinder against a tree or other fixed object.
Like binoculars, the quality of a rangefinder is often determined by the quality of the glass used in its lenses. This is, after all, an optical device, so it would make sense to buy a range finder that gives you the highest-quality picture possible. Most rangefinder manufacturers use identical glass coatings to what is used in binoculars, to maximize light transmission, reduce glare, prevent scratching or chipping, and give the user the best possible experience.
Rangefinders for hunting pricing
In general, if you’re a bowhunter and you hunt from a static location, you can get by pretty cheap when it comes to rangefinders. A decent bare-bone rangefinder is going to run you between $50 and $150 and should give you the distance readings you need for an effective hunt. As the price increases, so does the software capabilities and the strength of the rangefinder’s build.
As you start to get up over $150, you see the ranging capacity increase along with the quality of the lens glass and coatings. This is where you also start to see multiple modes of distance calculation, with most offering Angle Compensated Ranges and Line Of Sight Ranges modes.
At $250 and up, the software of the rangefinders only gets more sophisticated. A lot of them offer individualized setups to give you ballistics reading tailored to your specific setup and needs.
FAQs about rangefinders for hunting
You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.
Q: What is the easiest rangefinder to use?
A: The AOFAR HX-700N is probably the easiest rangefinder to use, simply because it has the fewest fancy features. That being said, many rangefinder manufacturers have put a lot of time and effort into simplifying their user interface to lower the chances of complications in the field.
Q: Do you need a slope on a rangefinder?
A: It depends on your terrain. If you plan to hunt from an elevated position or you’re roving through mountainous terrain, you’ll probably want to have a rangefinder that accounts for slope and calculates your distance using Angle Compensation.
Q: How long do laser rangefinders last?
A: Like anything, the better you care for it, the longer it will last. That said, when I asked Google this same question, the most common answer was about five years, but this probably has a lot to do with the frequency of use as well.
Q: How do you bow hunt without a rangefinder?
A: Some bowhunters, especially treestand hunters, circumvent the need for rangefinders by pre-marking range distances within their field of fire. This can be done by measuring the distance from the base of your tree to prominent features (like trees, rocks, fences, etc.) in the surrounding area. Having these known distances to key features can help a bowhunter estimate their target’s distance by means of comparison.
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