Just picture it. It’s archery season and you are in the woods in your tree stand hunting for that buck you’ve been dreaming about. You start to hear the soft crunch of that monster buck approaching that you have been tracking for ages. Then you see him pop out, but you don’t know if he’s close enough to take the shot! Ah! You don’t have a rangefinder!!
You’ve worked too hard to get in a position to see that buck so you want to be as precise as possible, don’t take a chance, a rangefinder for bow hunting is what you need to get you the perfect shot on that trophy buck.
- Quick stats(for you “too long didn’t read” people)
- Now to get down to business!
- Meeting the Rangefinders
- A quality rangefinder is a must have for the serious bow hunter. Come people, get with the times!
Quick stats(for you “too long didn’t read” people)
If you are in a rush to get to the woods with your new rangefinder, here is the quick list of my favorite rangefinders and why:
|Product||Build Quality Rating||Performance||Feature Highlights||Bang for your Buck|
|Halo XL 450||7/10||6.5/10||– Best price
– Durable build
|Nikon Prostaff 1000i||7.5/10||8/10||– “Tru Target” ability
– 5 year warranty
– Ranges out to 875 yds
|Vortex Optics Ranger||9/10||8.5/10|| – Lifetime warranty
– Very durable build
– High contrast lens
– Tripod mount
|Leupold RX – 1600i TBR/W||9.5/10||10/10||– Most consistent reading
– Trophy mode
– Ranges out to 1570 yds
– Wind calculations
|Nikon Arrow ID 7000 VR||8.5/10||9.5/10||– Ranges at 1/10 yd increments
– “Tru Target” ability
– Vibration Reduction
– Fully water submersible
Now to get down to business!
What is most important when choosing a rangefinder?
This is obviously the number one thing for most people and for obvious reasons. Money don’t grow on trees.
Quality of the build of the product:
People don’t want to buy junk. Plain and simple.
Specs or features:
This is obviously important as well because we want our range finder to do all that we need it to do. You’ll learn all of the basic and advanced features in this article. But I will be writing an article soon on the inner workings of how rangefinders work to learn more of the nitty-gritty details. We’ll start with what we have here for now though
Next we want to evaluate how well the rangefinders features that if comes with actually works. Does it actually do it’s job, or is it just there so you can say “My rangefinder spits out money and poops rainbows”. You know, the typical bull crap features that aren’t actually features.
Meeting the Rangefinders
Halo XL450( Best on a budget)
The Halo is a great pick for the beginner bow hunter who is not wanting to drop a giant wad of cash on this new piece of gear. It does all the essentials you need to instantly improve your accuracy with you bow or crossbow. Honestly, even if you are a seasoned archery hunter but just don’t have a rangefinder yet, you will still find that you will wish you had made this purchase long ago.
Here’s the good
- It has angle compensation. So it has the ability to calculate for those steep tree stand angles. If you read my in depth article on how rangefinders work you’ll learn more about this. But basically any rangefinder that comes with angle compensation is a must have for bow hunting. It allows you to get the true distance and accounts for the steep incline.
- It has a pretty accurate reading. Only off a yard or so.
- This rangefinder says it ranges up to 450 yards (hence the name) when ranging a flat or reflective surface like metal of some kind. And I found that to be pretty accurate. You can half that distance on a standard hunting surface. So ranging natural surfaces will get you around 200 yards
- It’s got a pretty rugged build for the price and claims water resistance. So you know it’s gonna hold up somewhat in the weather.
- It has a built in scan mode so you can keep a constant bead on that moving target.
- The price! Really that’s the best thing about this. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that some of these others have, but for under $100, it more than gets the job done.
And here’s the ugly
- Not a great warranty. Only a year coverage where as the rest have at least 2 years.
- Seems to take a bit to actually get a reading on the target.
- Not great focus past 100 yards. It seems to not have the magnification to handle really well the longer range stuff.
- It has a pretty slow reading time compared to the others on this list. But it’s cheap so that’s what yah get.
- Probably the biggest issue to me is the inability to range well in low light. Let’s be honest, a big chunk of those monster kills are in early morning or late evening so… Low light. Now there are a few little tricks for getting around this that still make it workable, but probably not what most people want to deal with.
Nikon Prostaff 1000i (Recommended starter rangefinder)
Now as we move up the price range a bit here, we get to a great Nikon model. This is still on the budget friendly side of the Nikon stuff, but still a well performing piece of gear. If you end up going with this guy, make sure you get the 1000i NOT the 1000. Even though the 1000 is “Amazon’s choice”, it doesn’t come with angle compensation. As we know, that is very helpful to have for archery. There aren’t a lot of issues with this one, and that’s why it’s a total win for best starter rangefinder.
Here’s the good
- Unlike the Halo, ranging in low light shouldn’t be an issue with this. It has a special lens system that gives you nice contrast in all situations. That monster kill isn’t sneaking away in the dark with this rangefinder
- The Prostaff comes with scan mode.
- It has angle compensation. Again, this is a must have for archery.
- It comes with a 5 year warranty. That’s pretty solid if you ask me.
- It ranges distances faster than the Halo. You can definitely tell it is a step up in quality from the Halo.
- It ranges up to about 875 on both reflective and natural surfaces. This is pretty rare as most rangefinders cut their distance in half on a natural or rough surface. Obviously for bow we won’t need near that far but hey, now you got a decent rangefinder for rifle too!
- Claims to be rainproof.
- Probably the most unique feature this one has is the “Tru Target” ability. Basically it can shoot through some branches or cover and hit another target. Then it lets you toggle between the 2 if you want to know the range of either. Definitely nice to have if you are hunting in a thick wooded area.
And Here’s the ugly
- It has kind of a cheap plastic feel. Doesn’t really impress me with the quality.
- Just not as polished of a performing piece of gear as the nicer stuff.
Now we are getting to the fun stuff! This is a good one for sure and almost won my vote for Best overall in 2021. You’ll see why it didn’t if you keep reading. The Vortex is highly popular on Amazon with a five star rating. And for good reason. Just know with this level of gear, you are going to be paying a good bit more than the first two.
Here’s the good
- It has angle compensation.
- Equipped with scan mode
- It’s fully waterproof!
- This has the BEST warranty out of all of these. It’s a lifetime warranty. Not only that, but it’s fully transferable. Meaning you don’t have to be the one to originally purchase it. If you send it to them they will give you a new one. That’s always legit!
- It has a very rugged build quality that is tough to beat up.
- High contrast lens for low light hunting
- It has a nice little tripod mount. That’s another thing the others don’t have. Pretty useful if you are at the shooting range, but if I’m being honest, it’s not gonna help when you are out in the stand.
- It will range up to 950 yards on a reflective surface, and 800 on standard targets or natural targets. That’s pretty dang far!
And here’s the ugly
- This wasn’t quite as fast as the other rangefinders in this price range.
- It also doesn’t range as far as it’s competitors.
- It’s also gets pretty shaky when you get ranging further out.
Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W (Best All Around Rangefinder)
And now the top dog! This rangefinder is just solid all around. True in accuracy, distance and consistency. Just the truest in every sense of the word. You’ll see why this will soon become your favorite pick too.
Here’s the good
- The fact that it is a Leupold. Seriously. So many people love this company. It’s just one of those sort of iconic companies that just makes really great gear. They are well loved and very trusted. That gives this one an upper hand against something like a the Halo or a Vortex. That’s actually one of the reasons I picked this over the Vortex.
- It has really great angle compensation software Leupold calls True Ballistic Range. It’s essentially just like all the other angle compensation, but the quality of Leupold.
- Also 100% waterproof. At least they say it is.
- It also has a scan tool of course.
- A really fun feature is something they call Trophy Scale. It basically counts the points/score for you so you can know for sure if you wanna take the shot. It’s also fun just to checkout bucks that may be too far away to hit.
- Does well in low light. You can still easily see the display.
- This was the ONLY rangefinder I found that actually ranges as far as advertised. It can reach out all the way up to 1570 yards on both reflective and normal surfaces. Now that’s far! Obviously we would never need such a distance for archery, but it’s nice to know you could use this for long distance shooting as well.
- It has 3 different reticles to choose from. Not a must have but kinda neat.
- It is the most consistent over all the rangefinder. This one never has a wonky reading. You can count on this Leupold to give you the perfect measurement every single time you are ranging. Unlike some other rangefinders, this is even very consistent in the short ranges. Some other rangefinders can get a little goofy in reading this close. Obviously, this is very important for bow hunting.
- And now, possibly my favorite feature that makes this ones really shine. It has a wind detection feature that really comes in handy for bow and cross bow hunting. As you know, wind effects arrows quite a bit more than bullets.
- This does feel a little too nice. Sorta like I feel like I don’t want to drop it or get it roughed up at all. Which is not great for hunting. I’m not saying It feels cheap. Definitely not. It just sort of feels like you are taking your Corvette on the gravel roads when you take this thing out in the elements.
- The warranty is only a 2 year warranty. That’s not the best compared to some of the others.
- It does have some history of having issues after the warranty is up. Not enough to dethrone this pick but worth noting.
Now in our top price range we get to another very solid Nikon. The main reason this was not my pick is because it is a little more expensive and doesn’t have all the features I like for bow hunting. It does have some other things in it that still make it a great choice if it’s what you like.
Here is the good
- This rangefinder could be the most waterproof out of them all. It has the ability to actually be fully submerged in water for extended amounts of time. So if you drop it in a puddle or creek and it takes a bit to retrieve it you are (most likely) safe.
- And this one has the all important angle compensation.
- It ranges up to 1000 yards on a standard and reflective surfaces which is more than enough.
- Just like the Nikon Prostaff, it has the “Tru Target” technology to allow you to range through thick brush. This seems to be a common Nikon feature, and definitely a great tool to have.
- It also has scan mode.
- The clarity of the Arrow ID lens is spectacular! Very well contrasted display.
- The lens has a lot of nice features. It is also fog proof so when it’s cold and you are breathing heavy, you won’t need to worry about clouding up that lens.
- This one is kinda like the Vortex in it’s rugged, rubber type build. It just feels like it is made to be dropped. Definitely better than the Leupold in that area.
- And now one of the coolest features on this Nikon is the vibration reduction system (Hence VR in the name). No matter how much buck fever or shaky hand you have. If you are ranging 1000 yards out or 20 yards out, just hit a button and it will lock on for you and instantly make it not shaky so you can easily get your range.
- Another really great thing about this rangefinder, and a big reason why I included it in this list, is it gives you readings in increments to the tenth of a yard. So you can be even more accurate and know that buck is 20.7 yards away! Now how much does this help? I don’t know. But it’s cool to think it might.
- Probably the biggest downside to this one is that Nikon doesn’t actually make them anymore. They are still on sale through Amazon and other places of course, but no longer supported by Nikon.
- And because they are not made anymore, It’s unknown about the warranty they may or may not have.
- It is also the most expensive of all of these rangefinders. And when comparing all of them, you can see that it’s not exactly the practical purchase.
A quality rangefinder is a must have for the serious bow hunter. Come people, get with the times!
Now you know enough about all the features of the best rangefinders out there to make your own purchase. You don’t have to just take my word for it. Although I would take my word for it and get yourself the Leupold RX-1600 if you can swing it. If not, you do you dude! The bottom line is, if you are serious about bow hunting and want to give yourself the peace of mind in knowing you have the right distance, you need to get a rangefinder.