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Pocket Rangefinder Review

Pocket Rangefinder Field Test Showdown

Over the past few months, I’ve been testing several high-end pocket laser rangefinders, like the new Vectronix Terrapin X and Leica Rangemaster CRF 2800.COM, alongside other popular, top-of-the-line models in the $1,000+ price range. I used all of them extensively, and took them out to the field to test their ranging performance side-by-side. This post summarizes those results and other noteworthy points about features on each one.

An accurate rangefinder is one of the most critical pieces of gear for long-range shooting. A few years ago, I wrote a post that quantifies how much range uncertainty can impact hit probability. The chart below shows what you can expect to happen to your odds of hitting the target with your first round as range uncertainty grows. You can see how quickly your hit probability drops off if your range isn’t accurate to within about 5 yards. (View the full post to learn more about how this data was calculated).

How Much Does Range Matter?

Side-By-Side Ranging Performance

To quantify the ranging performance of each pocket rangefinder, I ranged real-world targets at various distances under the same conditions. All of the data I’m showing below was collected within a 2 hour period on the same day. It was midday in bright, sunny conditions. I used a digital light meter to periodically measure ambient light to ensure conditions were consistent between devices.

Bright, midday conditions are the worst-case scenario for ranging performance, because light from the sun is also collected by the sensor and makes it harder for the rangefinder to separate the signal from the noise. Rangefinders will range further and more accurately at twilight conditions (i.e. sunrise/sunset) – but we aren’t always in twilight conditions! So I find it most helpful to see how they’ll perform in sunny conditions and if they meet my needs there, I can be confident they’ll perform virtually anytime I need a range.

1600 Yard Target

The long distance targets were steel targets that were all around 2 MOA in size. Rangefinders were all mounted on a tripod to keep them steady and ensure each range attempt was centered on the target. I did a similar rangefinder test a few years ago, but it was focused on ranging binoculars. The majority of targets on this test were the same targets from the same location as that previous test, and you can read more details about the targets and surroundings in that previous rangefinder field test post.

A couple of these rangefinders were able to accurately range out the farthest target I had set at that location, which was 1950 yards. Beyond that distance, I’d attempt to range specific hillsides at 2375 yards and 2507 yards, and even further if the rangefinder was capable. I ranged each target 10 times with each device. The chart below shows the results, with a breakdown of how many of those 10 range attempts were correct (within 5 yards), or if it gave an incorrect range (wrong by more than 5 yards), or if it failed to give a reading.

Pocket Rangefinder Review

You can see there was a wide range of performance. Keep in mind that I only tested high-end rangefinders (all have a street price over $1000), and many budget rangefinders might not even be able to range the 800 yard target in bright, midday conditions. In fact, the Leupold RX-1000i I tested a couple years ago struggled to get a range on the 800 yard target in ideal, low-light conditions (see the data). So even the “lowest performer” on this list, is still an excellent rangefinder compared to most other models on the market.

Here is a list of links to more details for each rangefinder, along with the current street prices:

The Top Performer: Vectronix PLRF

The Vectronix PLRF was the top performer, by a huge margin, which won’t surprise anyone who has ever used one. It gave an accurate reading every time I pressed the button out to just over 6,000 yards, which is ridiculously good performance in bright, midday conditions. The Vectronix PLRF is the only military-grade rangefinder on this list, so it’s no wonder it could range twice as far as any other rangefinder.

What makes military-grade rangefinders so much better?

The biggest differences comes down to the power of the laser. The key to getting an accurate range is to get enough energy on the target, so that it will be reflected back to the rangefinder and the device can separate the signal from the noise. A massive, instantaneous pulse of energy is ideal. A military rangefinder might produce a pulse with 100,000 watts of peak power, compared to 10-25 watts of peak power in consumer-grade rangefinders. There is a lot of technical details behind that difference, which I explain in this post, but the executive summary is the parts in a military-grade rangefinder are MUCH more expensive and overkill for distances 99% of shooters will ever engage. That’s why they’re all priced well over $5,000! It’s really only the guys shooting Extreme Long Range that need the level of performance the PLRF is capable of. If that’s you, Bryan Litz does a good job summing it up:

“Bottom line: unless you have access to a high-end military laser rangefinder, determining the exact range to target will be a significant problem for ELR shooters.”

Vectronix PLRF Rangefinder Models

Note: The model I tested was the PLRF 15, which has been replaced by the Vectronix PLRF 25C. The PLRF 25 is lighter, more compact, and features Bluetooth connectivity, all while still offering jaw-dropping ranging performance. The PLRF 25 currently is $9300 from EuroOptic.com, or $9800 for the model with the Kestrel firmware upgrade (so it can connect wirelessly to a Kestrel device).

Vectronix Terrapin X vs. Original Terrapin

The original Vectronix Terrapin was legendary in the long range shooting community. A decade ago it was the gold standard for consumer-grade rangefinders under $5000, but it was eventually discontinued. A rep from Vectronix told me the military has always been the primary customer they focus on serving. The original Terrapin wasn’t designed for the civilian mark, and while it found a niche among long-range shooters, it wasn’t a viable product for them long-term, so they had to cut it.

However, that all changed with the design of the new Vectronix Terrapin X. It was designed from the ground-up to serve the long-range shooter in the civilian world – who are usually under a tighter budget than military customers. The Terrapin X has a street price of $1,800, which is 80% less than the PLRF 25!

Vectronix sent me a Terrapin X to test several months ago, and I used it A TON! I carried it the NRA’s Whittington Center and to multiple matches, including the Q Creek Extended Long Range PRS Match in Wyoming. The Q Creek ELR match has much longer distances than most PRS matches. The average target distance was beyond 1,000 yards, and the furthest were over 2,000 yards. Many of the targets were set in difficult ranging situations (e.g. silhouetted on a hill, sitting low in tall grass). I shot the match with a couple friends, and we carried both the Terrapin X and my PLRF 15, and ranged every target with both rangefinders. The Terrapin X was both reliable and accurate, and we didn’t feel like the PLRF really gave a measurable performance advantage, even in that longer distance match. At the end of it, my buddy was set on buying a Terrapin X.

The big question a lot of us where wondering is this: Is the Terrapin X as good as the old Terrapin? The answer: YES!!! A close friend still has an original Terrapin rangefinder in great condition, so I took the two out over multiple days and tested them side-by-side in both bright/midday and twilight conditions. I can say with confidence that Vectronix successfully duplicated the performance. The rangefinders were virtually identical! It shocked me how similar the performance was. I couldn’t find any targets that one could consistently range and the other couldn’t.

I loved the 8x magnification on the Terrapin X, compared to 5x or 6x on many pocket rangefinders. The extra zoom in the optics can help you better pinpoint a target with the crosshairs. Case in point, magnification on the old Terrapin is 5x and the PLRF 15 is 6x, so 8x is an upgrade! 8x or even 10x magnification seem to be more ideal for ranging long range targets.

To be clear, the Terrapin X is not a military-grade rangefinder (based on a 905nm laser not 1550nm, and not regulated by ITAR), so it doesn’t have near the extreme range performance of the PLRF – but do you really need that? While it’s cool to know you could range 6,000+ yards with a PLRF, I’ve never found myself needing to engage targets that far out. That may be useful for calling in air strikes, but doesn’t serve any practical purpose for shooters. The Terrapin X was able to accurately range out to beyond 2000 yards in bright/midday conditions and could range hillsides out to just over 2700 in overcast conditions later in the evening, which should satisfy most shooters. However, if you need accurate ranges 3000 yards and beyond at any time of day, you need a military-grade rangefinder – it’s the only tool for that job.

The beam divergence on the Terrapin X is very similar to the PLRF. The PLRF 15 has a beam divergence of 0.5 mils x 2.0 mils, and the Terrapin X is 0.5 mils x 1.2 mils. A tight beam divergence allows you to get more energy on your intended target, and is typically better in most long range scenarios. (To learn more about beam divergence, check out this post: How Do Rangefinders Work?)

Ballistics & Kestrel Integration

The Gunwerks G7 BR2500 and Sig Kilo 2400 ABS both feature built-in ballistic calculators that are very accurate, and can be a critical feature when time is of the essence, like when hunting or shooting matches with unknown distance targets that you must range and engage while on the clock (like Steel Safari). Both of those devices allow you to setup ballistic profiles on the rangefinder, and then when you range a target it shows the distance followed by the elevation adjustment you need to dial. That functionality allows you to optimize your workflow so that you’re able to range a target, get behind the rifle, make the correction, and send a round in about 10 seconds.

In comparison, if I’m using a standard rangefinder without a ballistic engine, it will simply tell me the range, and then I have to go enter that into my Kestrel or an app on my phone, which will calculate what my adjustment needs to be for that distance, and then I can move to the rifle. Because I have to touch two devices, the workflow is not as quick and smooth. It might be a slightly faster to look up the range on a pre-calculated dope chart, but you have to ensure that matches your environmentals for the best accuracy.

A couple of these newer rangefinders feature Bluetooth connectivity, like the Vectronix Terrapin X and the Leica Rangemaster CRF 2800.COM, which allows you to connect them to your phone or a Kestrel Ballistic Weather Meter.

However, Vectronix rangefinders are only configured to do one-way communication with the Kestrel. When I connected a rangefinder to my Kestrel 5700 Elite with Link and Applied Ballistics, I could range a target with the rangefinder and let’s say the reading was 824 yards. That would be wirelessly transmitted and the target distance instantly changed to 824 yards on my Kestrel. The Kestrel then quickly calculates and displays the adjustment for that distance and the wind/environmental conditions I have configured. Then I can get behind the rifle, apply the adjustment, and make the shot. This still isn’t as smooth as an integrated ballistic engine, because I still need to switch between two devices, the rangefinder and the Kestrel, to get to my firing solution.

I asked Vectronix if they could do two-way communication with the Kestrel, and they said that was a possibility, but not how they designed it to work. I’ve suggested they change it to not just send the range to the Kestrel, but have the Kestrel send the elevation and windage adjustments back to the rangefinder so it can display those in the field of view. I’ve talked to engineers at Kestrel and Applied Ballistics, and they’ve confirmed that is possible. That would provide a streamlined workflow similar to what the Gunwerks G7 BR2500 and Sig Kilo 2400 ABS provide out-of-the-box, which is pretty ideal and I’d suggest even critical for serious hunters. When I went to hunt in Africa about 18 months ago, I actually packed my Gunwerks rangefinder over my PLRF 15 for that exact reason! There are times where you see an animal, and you only have a few seconds to take a shot. If you have to fumble around with a rangefinder to Kestrel to rifle setup, the firing solution might be extremely accurate, but the animal is already gone.

The Vectronix rep I spoke with said the company had solicited feedback from a group of respected long-range shooters and military teams on how the device should work, but to his knowledge none had suggested that functionality. That could mean it’s a bad idea (I’ve had a lot of those!), but that functionality seems to be the only path to a seamless workflow where you aren’t forced to switch between multiple devices.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Leica’s integration with the Kestrel is similar to what I described. Here is how they explain it in the 2800.COM’s User Manual:

“The LA+ setting allows you to use ballistic correction values calculated by Applied Ballistics as an alternative for Leica ballistics. This requires a relevantly equipped Nielsen-Kellermann device (Kestrel Elite models). It can contact your Leica Rangemaster, once you have activated its Bluetooth function. The Leica Rangemaster will then measure the range and the angle and sends the information to the Kestrel Elite device. That device will include the received data in its calculation of the ballistic values and will subsequently deliver the relevant correction values to your Leica Rangemaster.

The Vectronix X features on-board sensors that measure not just the range, but also the angle of incline and direction of fire. It can also display equivalent horizontal distance, which is the distance that gravity will act over. If you are firing a really long shot, those can be important inputs to enter into your ballistic calculator. The new Leica rangefinder also measures distance and angle of incline, and it also has a built-in compass to give you the direction of fire.

Here is another fact about the ballistic engines in the Gunwerks G7 BR2500 and Sig Kilo 2400 ABS, which I don’t say lightly: Their ballistic engines are very accurate. Both devices feature on-board environmental sensors for pressure, temperature, and humidity, and use those to customize the firing solution. Some rangefinders have ballistics features, but they’re based on pre-calculated tables and if you’re shooting small targets or long distances they aren’t reliably accurate. Honestly, I don’t trust most ballistic engines. I’m highly skeptical because I’ve actually tried to write my own and it’s difficult. There are so many compelling shortcuts you can take, but each one stacks on small errors, resulting in the final solution being a couple clicks off one way or the other. Often times if the bullet impact is off by a couple clicks a shooter will blame the rifle, the ammo, some “unseen wind,” or themselves – but if you aren’t using a proven ballistic engine with good inputs, often a bad firing solution is the real root cause. I’ve used both the Gunwerks ballistic engine and the Applied Ballistics engine for first-round hits out to 1 mile, and in my experience both are very accurate and trustworthy.

Both the Gunwerks and Sig rangefinders display the range (yards or meters) for a couple seconds followed by the elevation adjustment (mils or MOA). The difference comes in how they display the wind corrections. While it may come down to your specific application and personal preferences, I prefer how the Gunwerks model works, which allows you to use external buttons to cycle through wind corrections in 5 mph increments. When you first push the wind buttons, it will display what the hold would be for a 10 mph wind, and then you can toggle down to show a 5 mph or up to see a 15 or 20 mph wind. While that might not sound super-accurate, it is very quick and practical. If the wind is blowing 7 mph, it’s easy to think of that as 70% of the 10 mph or between the 5 and 10 mph holds. You might be thinking, “But, 7 isn’t exactly half way between 5 and 10,” and you’re right. But nobody in the world can actually call the difference between a 7 mph and 7.5 mph wind. It’s easy to fake ourselves out on how accurately we can call the wind. For practical shots inside of 1000 yards, I prefer the speed and simplicity of how the Gunwerks model displays wind corrections, but the Sig user interface is also an effective design.

What About Color Blind People?

Most manufacturers never consider the 7-10% of men who are color blind, and reading the display on rangefinders can be a problem for those people. There are a few types of color blindness, or more precisely color deficiency, and people are also color deficient to differing degrees. Honestly, I didn’t even realize I was color blind until I was in my 20’s and happened to be tested by an optometrist. The world looks normal to me! Here’s a quick test to see if you might be color blind. Can you see a one or two digit number inside all 6 of the circles?

Color blind test

The most common type of color blindness is referred to as red-green, which means greens, yellows, oranges, reds, and browns may appear similar, especially in low light. When trying to range a target in low light that is against a green or brown background red numbers can be hard to distinguish. In fact, a friend of mine struggles to see the reading on most rangefinders, because they virtually all use displays with red letters/numbers. I can usually see it, but the display has to be pretty bright. My buddy and I are both red-green color blind, but he is a “moderate protan” and I’m a “moderate deutan,” which are slightly different but represent the majority of color blindness.

We could both see the display on the Vectronix X very well, which means most color blind people should be able to see it well. I’m not sure why that was, because they use red letters and numbers like most rangefinders, but I’d suspect their display may be higher resolution, higher contrast, or is brighter than most. Whatever the reason, if you’re color blind, it’s a good rangefinder to try out.

Manufacturers, here is an idea I’d like to pitch: Allow us to toggle the display color, and we can avoid this issue all together.

Other Noteworthy Features

I used these rangefinders for a couple weeks, and a few I actually tested for months. So I wanted to point out a few other noteworthy things about each.

Most rangefinders have a “digital reticle,” which means you don’t see it until you press a button and the device turns on, then you press the button again to range. The Vectronix PLRF features an etched reticle, which is “always on.” The etched reticle is also finer than the digital LED reticle, and most people who used both said they preferred the etched reticle.

Most rangefinders had a way to mount onto a tripod, which is the best way to get an accurate range at long distance. Most had an integral tripod mount on the housing of the rangefinder, similar to a camera. The Sig Kilo 2400 ABS includes a tripod mount in the package. However, the Leica CRF 2800.COM requires you to buy an accessory to mount it into a tripod. It seems like that should be included on a $1000+ rangefinder capable of such long range measurements. However, it’s still one of the lowest priced models of the group.

Rangefinder tripod mount

The Vectronix Terrapin X was convenient to use in the rain. At the Q Creek ELR Match, we had a light rain the majority of the second day and we noticed the recessed lenses on the Terrapin X never needed to be wiped off (unlike the PLRF). Most people might be fair-weather shooters, so this may not matter – but for hardcore hunters and competitors who might brave rainy conditions that is a handy design feature.

Vectronix Terrapin X Review

Another thing worth mentioning is the Leica and Sig are truly pocket rangefinders, with much smaller form factors than the others – that actually can fit in your pocket.

Pocket Rangefinder

Those two are also about half the weight of all the other rangefinders. The PLRF 15 provides extreme performance, but its aluminum housing makes it noticeably heavier than the others. The newer PLRF 25 is slightly more compact and has a lighter weight housing, weighing in at 15.2 ounces. Here are the exact weights I measured for each of the devices I tested:

Rangefinder Weights

I hope all this info helps you get an idea for the real-world performance you can expect from this group of high-end pocket laser rangefinders. Like I said at the start, rangefinders are a critical piece of gear for long range shooters, so I just wanted to help my readers make informed decision on which might be best for their application.

P.S. While this isn’t related to pocket laser rangefinders, I did want to mention that Sig recently released the Sig KILO3000BDX 10X42 MM ranging binoculars and I’ve heard they offer amazing performance … especially for a current street price of $960. They’re not a military-grade rangefinder (based on a 905nm laser, not 1550nm), but if you’re interested in binoculars instead of a monocular like these – you might check those out. Also, you might check out my rangefinder binocular test results.

About Cal

Cal Zant is the shooter/author behind PrecisionRifleBlog.com. Cal is a life-long learner, and loves to help others get into this sport he's so passionate about. Cal has an engineering background, unique data-driven approach, and the ability to present technical information in an unbiased and straight-forward fashion. For more info, check out PrecisionRifleBlog.com/About.

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41 comments

  1. Why not include thw Bushnell I mile. It should out do the sig2400, and be dead evwn with the Gunworks.

  2. I have a Sig Kilo2200MR. It’s the only range finder if have used, and I like it. However, I wonder about the new binocular range finder from Sig. Does anyone have experience with this new offering?

    • Nick Vitalbo told me he was very impressed with it. He made it sound like a leap forward in terms of consumer-grade rangefinders. Nick is one of the foremost experts in lasers in the world, so his opinion carries a lot of weight in my mind. That’s the only report I’ve heard directly.

      Anyone else with first-hand experience with the Sig binos?

      Thanks,
      Cal

  3. Cal,

    Your reviews are some of the best and most helpful out there, as well as being enjoyable to read. I really appreciate your attention to details and practical matters. Thank you for contributing so much to the knowledge base of the shooting community and improving the sport.

    Best regards,
    Slater

    • You bet, Slater! Just trying to provide the info I’d want to see, and help other shooters make informed decisions. Nothing is worse than spending $1000+ and being disappointed with the performance. Thanks for taking the time to let me know you found it helpful.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  4. Cal, have you used our tested Newcon Optiks LRM’s? Specifically the LRM 3500 series or the better priced LRM 2200? Curious to see how they compare to those tested.

    • Hey, Dan. I actually hadn’t heard of Newcon Optiks, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good ones. Here is a link to those for others that might be interested in looking at them: http://www.newcon-optik.com/laser-rangefinder-monoculars/

      I took a look and the 3500 model has a 1550nm laser, which is the military-grade laser, and the specs say it’s capable of ranging out to 6,000 meters (and in another place it says 3500 meters). Based on that, I’d expect the 3500 model to outperform all of these but the Vectronix PLRF.

      Their LRM 2200 model is a 905nm laser, which is the consumer-grade laser … so I’m not sure how it’d rank on this list, but it wouldn’t be near as good as the 3500. I didn’t see prices, but I’d guess than it’s 25% of the price of the 3500. The LRM 2200 says it is rated out to 2200 meters in the specs, which I’d assume is in ideal/low-light conditions, so I’d expect it to not reach that far in bright, midday conditions. My guess is it’d be 20-40% less than that distance in bright, midday conditions and on the size targets I was ranging … but that’s just a guess.

      Hope that helps. Thanks for pointing those out.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  5. Is there a what the pros use (or match directors) for range finders? Particularly with matches where you have to range on the clock, or how the MDs get ranges for the match books?

    • Mitch, you’re reading my mind! I did ask the pros what rangefinder they’re using, and plan for that to be the very next post. I debated on whether to do this before or after that post, and went back and forth. Not sure there was a right answer. But I will share that info in the near future, so stay tuned!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  6. Hey Cal! Great post!

    Correct me if I’m wrong but the Gunwerks laser does not have a compass like the Kilo so it doesn’t capture the direction of fire?

    I went with the Kilo as it was a true full ballistic solution after setting the latitude up for the conditions you were in. Applied Ballistics also compensates for aerodynamic jump and G7 doesn’t.

    These 2 differences are subtle and like not an issue for hunting however. But between size and features I went Kilo……. Now I want the Terrapin X LOL

    Hope your doing well!
    God Bless

    Thanks for all the work you put in!

    • Audie, good to hear from you! The newest Gunwerks rangefinder does have a compass. Here is what I was able to dig up on specs from a review in Long Range Magazine: “Onboard sensors measure incline angle, compass heading, barometric pressure, and temperature.”

      You are probably right about it not accounting aerodynamic jump and latitude. Gunwerks really tries to strike a balance between something that is accurate AND easy to use, because their target customer is hunters … not engineers. Both of those are secondary elements that are relatively minor at distances inside of 1000 yards. To get aerodynamic jump, you’d have to enter the direction of the wind and speed somehow, which would mean the really quick and handy wind hold functionality I mentioned that I liked wouldn’t be possible. On latitude the user would have to remember to update it when they traveled, which a lot of guys might forget to do. So I bet both of those things were intentionally left out, because they are so minor and would erode some of the ease of use they were going for.

      But I’m totally with you. If you’re an engineer who understands all the details, the Kilo is probably the way to go. The size of the Sig is REALLY nice too.

      … and you should get you a Terrapin X! Ha! They’re pretty slick. I’d put it against any rangefinder under $5000! Cool little device. Really impressed with what Vectronix came out with.

      Good to hear from you! 😉

      Thanks,
      Cal

  7. Ok, I hate to ask an apples and oranges question, but I can’t think of anyone better to ask.

    If you could only buy one, would you get the Leica HD-B (there’s a newer 2200 model and new 3000 model) or the Terrapin X?

    Thanks. Your reviews are the best!
    SteveC

    • Great question, Steve. You’re right it depends on the application. But you asked a direct question so I’ll give you my answer – I’d go with the Leica HD-B. It’s an observation and ranging device in one, which is pretty ideal. And it’s really good at both. It’s not the best rangefinder for extreme long distance, so if that’s your intended use … I’d go with the Terrapin X. I have a lot of rangefinders at this point (like to tinker), but I probably pull the Leica HD-B’s out of my safe most often. Tough call though! Honestly it probably comes down to how you’re going to use it. Carrying binos and a rangefinder is not the most ideal solution, so if you can combine those … all the better.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  8. I have the Sig Kilo3000BDX binoculars and although I have not had a chance to test them rigorously, I have ranged a white house in bright sun light at near 2,000 yards off hand.

    Other reports I read are as good or better.

    I think the most important part is the Bluetooth connectivity to a Kestrel, smart phone and even a BDX scope.

    I haven’t tried that functionality yet but it allows you to range, generate a solution and then display elevation and wind hold dots on the scope reticle so you only need to range the target and go to the scope, no dialing. In a scout/sniper team situation, it would allow the scout to spot and with the push of a button range find and send a solution to the sniper’s reticle so that a shot can be made near instantly.

    Aside from the ranging performance and connectivity, the glass seems to be more than decent for a compact roof prism binocular. Not quite alpha class but not in that price range either.

    The one common complaint is that the diopter adjustment is fairly exposed and suceptible to being bumped out of adjustment. I haven’t had a problem with it myself but I can see how it could be with hard use.

    Lastly, it does not come with lens covers. That’s a bit disappointing at around $1,000.

    • Dan, I really appreciate you sharing your insight. I’ve heard similar stories about the results with the Sig binos. I appreciate your practical view of the other features as well. I do agree it can streamline the workflow, which is very valuable.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  9. Yes, Newcon are a Canadian company and their gear is military grade, top class and therefore pricey.
    I have quite some time behind their LRB4000CI binocular, which is nominally a 4000m device using 905m lasers.

    Like the large Vectronix devices, they are fairly large, weighty, but solid as a rock.

    It basically ranged everything you would want to point it at.

  10. great work – why do you think the sig performance was not as effect at 800 yards but so effective at 1K and 1180 yards? seems an odd distribution?

    • I bet it has to do with the shape and size of the beam, and how the device interprets the results. How the software sorts through the hundreds of readings it gets back to separate the signal from the noise is a HUGE part of the performance. At some level the software is even more important than the hardware. I heard when Leica went from the Leica 1200 to the Leica 1600 the hardware was identical … it was just an improvement in software. There are statistical tricks you can do to help separate the signal from the noise.

      If you really want to know you should go read this post I wrote that talks about that stuff more in-depth: How Do Rangefinders Work?

      Thanks,
      Cal

  11. Rich old leisure geezer range finders……What about the real world of working men who make up the majority of hunters.

  12. > How do MD’s get accurate distances?

    I’m not sure I know that, although there are some survey techniques using GPS that give very accurate readings (no, not using your phone).

    But one trick I use sometimes used is to INCREASE the reflectivity of the target!

    You can take an old road sign and use that, but they actually age out. One trick is to use reflective safety tape. I’ve come across two kinds, although there are probably many more: 1) used for safety at sea – the sort of thing you put on life rafts so that you can locate them at night and 2) tape used to define the outline of very large trucks (esp. here in Europe). These tapes (much like the material used in road signs) gives a mirror reflection back to the point of light striking it.

    Does it work? Well, I’ve only used it a couple of times, and I had no problem ranging the target. But I’ve done no real apples v oranges testing to detect a before/after difference. There are possibilities that some versions only work in a visible light range (i.e. not around 905nm).

    Anyway, if you aren’t able to range a target supposedly in a range of your device, then take a flat surface with some of this tape stuck to it, and try that!!!

    • That’s a good idea. What I’ve done in the past is park a vehicle at the firing position “broadside” and then go out to the target and range back to the vehicle. That is what I do on my own range when I really want a super-precise range for known-distance targets that I use for calibrating my ballistics. Whenever you’re doing calibration you want the most precise inputs as possible, and range is sometimes the biggest source of error in that equation for some guys.

      Scott Satterlee is the match director of the Q Creek Extended Long Range Match in Wyoming and he told me that is what he did too. He was also using a set of Vectronix Vector binos to range, so you had military-grade precision too.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  13. What can you tell me about the new Vortex 4000 ranger finder?

    • Well, it can’t range 4000 yards! 😉 Just joking. It seems like every manufacturer just keeps increasing that number they use for the models. Sure would be handy if they’d just put what kind of performance it gave as the model number, wouldn’t it?!

      I haven’t used one, so I can’t say for sure. My guess would be that it wouldn’t be quite as good as these others, just because of the $500 price point. That’s just based on my experience with budget rangefinders in the past (and these of course), so there is a chance the Vortex out-performs my expectations … but then again, I’ve tested a lot of rangefinders over the years and don’t get surprised often. I checked Nick Vitalbo’s rangefinder test results, and he hadn’t tested the 4000 model either … but the other Vortex models he’d tested weren’t quite as good as these other rangefinders either.

      Anyone else have experience with the Vortex 4000 rangefinder that you could share with the rest of us?

      Thanks,
      Cal

  14. Cal…a very sincere thank you for this and all of your reviews and hard work. I’m quickly approaching geezer status on a seriously limited budget. My “common man” solution has been a Bushnell Elite ConX ARC combined with a WeatherFlow (ARC capable) weather meter plugged into a smartphone…all information then dumped into GeoBallistics software. I’m something like $500 into the whole deal. Of course I could cook and eat a three course meal by the time I’ve figured out what I’m doing but it’s a bunch of fun!

    • Ha! I like like it, Paul. That is a good setup. When it comes to value, nobody beats Bushnell. I’ve tested a lot of stuff, and the performance per dollar almost always goes to Bushnell. Honestly, when I got really serious about data-driven testing I became even more impressed with Bushnell. Spend some time with it, and I bet it will serve you well!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  15. Guess I’m confused. If I am looking for a range finder out to 1,000 yards. The only one I could truly rely on is the PLRF 15. All but the Gunwerks appear to be too unreliable at 800yds, and the Gunwerks appears totally unreliable at 1,000yds. Am I missing something? Could there be an issue with that 800yd target??
    P.S. Thanks for the comment on red green color blindness. On several occasions over the years I have failed that test. I don’t see the need for red graphics in range finders. That being said, I used your intended color blind test and passed it with fly colors😄😄!!.. Maybe at 65 as other parts of me are failing that one is actually getting better. Thanks for including that test it really made my day!

    • Kenny, how they performed on different targets helps you understand how beam divergence and how the rangefinders process the information they receive back is so important. There wasn’t anything wrong with the 800 or 1000 yard targets, but the surroundings influence how much energy is reflected back to the rangefinder and some picked up more noise than others … resulting in inaccurate readings. My previous test itemized details about all the targets, but here are photos related to the 800 and 1000 yard targets:

      800 yard target

      1000 yard target

      The 1000 yard target in particular was a little tricky, because of the position of the target. I created this graphic to help you understand what I mean:

      1000 yard target ranging scenario

      That is about as tough of a ranging scenario as you can find. But it’s a real-world scenario. I’ve actually had scenarios at matches that were very similar to that.

      And that’s crazy you passed that color blind test. I just picked a random one off the internet, so it may not be comprehensive. I do know that I can’t see numbers in most of them. I wonder if it has to do with how your monitor displays the colors. I know graphics designers use little devices to calibrate their monitors to ensure the colors are displayed accurately, because they often are skewed in one way or another. So who knows!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  16. Being a color-blind individual who really struggles seeing a red LED reticle, one thing I like about Newcon Optiks is thier use of a black reticle in thierl LRF’s

  17. Have you used the newer HD-B 2200 or 3000?
    And if so, do they really range those distances?

    Thanks, again!

    • Steve, I haven’t used them … but having tested so many rangefinders, I’ve become pretty cynical about the numbers published by manufacturers. I almost always cut them by 40-50% in my mind. Often times they’re based on massive, highly reflective targets (like the side of a barn) in ideal twilight or overcast conditions. So it’s not necessary a lie (although sometimes it is) … but if that’s a deer, or even a normal size target in real-world conditions … it wouldn’t range near that far! The only one that isn’t true for in my experience is Vectronix. They are an under-promise/over-deliver type company, and I’ve never seen their published specs be bloated beyond what the device was truly capable of.

      Having said that, I’m probably about to replace my original HD-B’s with one of the newer models, because I do believe the Leica ranging binos are exceptional performers. But I don’t have hard data on what that performance is.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  18. You should check out the Leupold 2800 rangefinder. I cannot speak to its “true” accuracy, but I was able to range bluffs and eroded hills in the North Dakota badlands out to 2200+ yards consistently in midday and late day conditions. That Tibesaurus Rex fellow likes it too. It has a 7x larger than normal objective.

    • That’s awesome, David. I really appreciate you chiming in with that info. Rex is a call-it-like-you-see-it guy, so your report and his definitely peak my interest. That’s awesome that it has 7x magnification. I really hope we see a trend to higher magnification. It’s necessary as the performance of these things get better.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  19. I look forward to hearing what you think of them, as I do every test.
    Thanks

  20. Cal,

    Read through your rangefinder findings pretty fast, then noticed your notes on the new SIG KILO3000BDX binos. I just returned from 4 days at FTW Ranch in Texas where a friend and I were trying out the new KILO3000BDX binos together with the Kestrel 5700 Elite weather meters. The bluetooth pairing of the two units worked well, proving very convenient to range a target and then get/read the ballistic solution (i.e., elevation and wind hold) in the bino view finder without looking at the Kestrel. Note: to get a “meaningful” approximation of the wind hold on the bino the target direction and the wind had to be captured on the Kestrel before ranging with the bino. If the target and wind aren’t captured in the Kestrel prior to ranging, the wind hold displayed in the bino is almost certainly incorrect. Also, to get the ballistic solution to be displayed in the binos, the ballistics display on the Kestrel must be active.

    The binos do have some serious short comings which limit their usefulness in the field. First, the diopter and display focus adjustments are too loose to stay in place when taking them in/out of the harness. It’s a real pain in the neck to refocus both the diopter AND the display focus every time you use them.

    Second, the display does wash out in bright light, even at the highest setting. At times it was unreadable for me, but like you I am color blind and have had similar issues with other range finders. So this may not be an issue for most folks, but for those of us who are color blind it is. Your comments on color blindness/deficiency above are spot on. I hope the manufacturer’s are listening.

    Lastly, in bright light the bino image is “pretty good” but as the light dims, resolution diminishes. Certainly not “alpha” quality glass, but I imagine about right at the price point.

    The KILO3000BDX binos are useful at the range for shooting purposes, but less so on a hunt where much more time is spent glassing than shooting.

    • Thanks for the intel, Louis! Crazy how many of us are colorblind! I do bet we see a manufacturer or two respond after this post. Great balanced review. Thanks for taking the time to share.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  21. When we shoot ELR, we can’t drive to the firing position, so we pound in a couple of extra-liong T-posts and hang a reflective tarp right to the side of the shooting position. With a big, reflective target, our Sig Kilo 2000 works well beyond it’s advertised spec.

    Thanks for the review, Cal. Great work

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