Bow hunters, golfers, & sportsmen: listen up! We’ve rounded up the 40 bestselling, highest-reviewed laser range finders on the web and analyzed them by range, weight, accuracy, and more in an effort to bring you an abridged, side-by-side summary of the Top 6.
After the review comparison, we’re going to share some of the things we learned in the process, which includes all sorts of tips on how to shop for the best laser range finder for you, whether you are looking to take down a buck from 500 yards or make it to the putting green in a single drive.
At the end we’ll reveal out team’s pick for the best laser rangefinder of 2020.
SIG Sauer Kilo
Range capacity: Up to 1,200 yards
Objective lens: 20mm
Weight: 0.3 lbs
The SIG SAUER brand of electronic devices is known for their great balance of performance specs to overall price, and the Kilo model is exemplary of this. Here you have a 1,200 range capacity for less than two hundred bucks, with both LOS or AMR range capabilities and HyperScan technology. All of these great features are controlled by a remarkably minimalistic button panel, as opposed to some of the overly-complicated models that are popular among tech-heads.
The reason that the KILO is the only rangefinder from SIG Sauger on our list is because the Kilo is actually available in a number of different range options. They get pricier as the range goes up, but as long as you stick with this brand and model, you are going to be getting a great piece of technology. If the Kilo has any weaknesses, it might be with the aperture glass. Some users have noticed small, but ultimately ignorable imperfections around the edges.
Range capacity: Up to 650 yards
Objective lens: 25mm
Weight: 0.5 lbs
The Wosports 650 is a hunting specific range finder that even comes in a cool camouflage color scheme with a dynamic rubber grip and a max distance that you normally only find on more expensive models. While the range is slightly less than some of the higher-end SIG KILO models (like the one that kicked off our list) this is still one of the best range options that you are going to get without breaking $100.
One thing that we immediately noticed about the 650 was that much of this device is fairly exposed and does not seem like it is very water resistant. This means you might want to keep it out of heavy rains and snow. Our favorite feature is most definitely Golf Mode, which allows the user to accurately range distances of anywhere from 5 to 650 yards, with an innovative flag lock function that can set markings every 150 yards. The lessened durability and overall reliability of the Wosports 650 makes it more a beginner model than anything else, but it certainly is the best price option for deal-hungry hunters.
Best All-around Laser Rangefinder
Vortex Optics 1800
Range capacity: Up to 1,800 yards
Objective lens: 22mm
Weight: 0.5 lbs
Before you let the higher price scare you away, you should know that the Vortex Optics Ranger Laser Rangefinder is one of the most weatherproof rangefinders that we have ever used in the field. Even dense fog and heavy rain isn’t going to hurt this baby, which is why it is a very popular model among hunters and dedicated sportsmen and sportswomen who predict that they will likely find themselves in some more extreme weather. An adjustable brightness function is another plus that you simply don’t see on cheaper models, though it does have a limited functionality and cannot fully illuminate distant landscapes the way you think it might.
The Ranger is available in both 1800 and 1500, but considering the minimal price difference, we don’t see why anyone would choose the 1500 over the 1800. The top-mounted buttons take some getting used to if you are like us and are more familiar with the classic side-mounted style. In addition, the 2 button functionality of this model can be less intuitive than pads with more buttons.
Best Portable Laser Rangefinder
Nikon Aculon AL11
Range capacity: Up to 550 yards
Objective lens: 20mm
Weight: 0.3 lbs
This is hands down one of the most-sleek and compact rangefinders that we have ever seen. It holds and travels like one of those new digital video cameras, and just seems to fit nicely in the hand. As the smaller model in Nikon’s product line, the AL11 is a really popular choice among golfers as well as hunters, because it is small enough to fit in the side pocket of your golf bag.
The AL11 feature the same X6 magnification as the Vortex Ranger, but this one is significantly cheaper. The display screen is really well laid out and easy to read, and the one button operation is a far more simple system than any of the other rangefinders that we reviewed. There is of course a slight drawback in terms of effective range distance. At only 550 years, this is certainly not considered to be a high-range device, but it is enough yardage to accommodate casual sportsmen, and small enough to keep in your cargo pocket.
Best Bang for the Buck
Range capacity: Up to 1,300 yards
Objective lens: 24mm
Weight: 0.4 lbs
At under two hundred bucks, the Bushnell Engage manages to be one of the most effective laser range finder for hunting applications while not being nearly as expensive as some of the other brand name models that are on the market. When it comes to effective range finding in a number of different wilderness conditions and situations, you need a device that is reliable as it is easy to use. The Engage rangefinder offers brighter, larger optical displays than any other rangefinder on our list. An integrated Gun Mode allows hunters to accommodate for gravity fall … another feature that is pretty unique among the 2020 models (though we think this will become more and more common in the future). While we are always big fans of Bushnell’s optical technology, the accuracy of the Engage Rangefinder is not quite where we would expect it to be for the brand. Still, this is an all-around great purchase for just about any application.
Best Entry-Level Rangefinder
Range capacity: Up to 540 yards
Objective lens: 24mm
Weight: 0.4 lbs
The ProWild is one of the best laser rangefinders for anyone who is new to the concept primarily because it comes pretty much ready to use, right out of the box. Big name brand models that cost twice as much as this rangefinder fail to provide the kind of intuitive, simplistic operation that people need in order to get into the practice of accurate range finding, something that is as important for golfers as it is for big game hunters.
There is no illumination on the readout, which is certainly a big drawback of the ProWild, but sometimes you’ve just got to take them like they are. The ProWild is only a hundred bucks, which is certainly a budget-level pick, but don’t expect to get a piece of junk. You’re also getting TecTecTec’s 2-Year Happy Guarantee, and we bet you can figure out what that means.
Shopping Guide: How to Choose the Best Laser Rangefinder
When you think about it, laser range finders are pretty amazing pieces of technology. By accurately measuring the amount of time it takes for a laser beam to hit the target and return to the sensor, laser range finders can tell you exactly (down to the ½ meter, in some cases) how far an object or target is.
But not all range finders are made the same. Differences in lens quality, optical design, illumination, and magnification all come together to create a unique array of products. There are range finders that are better for hunting, range finders for playing golf, and range finders for professionals like survey crews. While our review focuses mostly on range finders for hunting and golf, a good range finder is a fun bit of tech that you don’t even need a good excuse for.
What follows is our comprehensive guide to how to choose a laser rangefinder for you, in the case that the products on the list simply didn’t make the cut.
Durability & Weather Resistance
If the reason that you are buying a rangefinder is to improve your hunting game, then it logically follows that you should look for a unit that is rugged enough to stand up to the rigors of wilderness activity. This means not only an overall high durability, but also a level of waterproofing and weatherproofing that is strong enough to prevent equipment failure while in the wild.
One of the problems with rangefinders is that they contain more sensitive electronic and optical components on the interior, which means that even the best models can’t take that much abuse without becoming either uncalibrated or broken altogether. If you drop a rangefinder out of a tree, for instance, it doesn’t matter how good it is. It is likely going to break.
Some range finders feature leather hand straps or non-slip rubber grips … both of these are good features to look for if you are going to be in wet weather situations.
Range Target Priority
When you point a range finder at a distant point, most models will be actually taking three different measurements as opposed to just one. Within the frame there is simultaneously the closest point, the farthest point, and the average. On rangefinders, the ability to switch between aggregate measurements and simple measurements is called Target Priority, and it is an absolute must for hunters and golfers alike.
Consider looking through your rangefinder at a deer in the distance. Imagine there are two tall trees and the deer is directly between them. It might be helpful in this scenario to take an average reading to estimate about how far the target is. Of course you could just as easily measure the front tree or the rear tree with Target Priority functionality.
The key to increasing the viewing distance of a rangefinder is to increase its magnification. If you have an expensive rangefinder with a 1000 yard range but no magnification, then it would be nearly impossible for the user to actually see the target that they are trying to range.
The average magnification factor for the rangefinders on pour list is about 4x, but there are plenty of 6x options that are not that much more expensive. For hunters, 4x magnification is just fine, but golfers tend to prefer 6x models as it is much harder to see things like golf balls and flags than an elk.
Rangefinders are going to vary pretty significantly in the amount of accuracy that they offer. This is such an important factor in choosing a rangefinder that today’s models are actually sold with an advertised accuracy rating, which is displayed as a + / -- symbol in product descriptions.
For instance, one rangefinder might have an accuracy of +/- 1 yard, while another might offer even more accuracy of +/- .5 yards. This might not seem like a huge difference at first glance, but it all depends on the size of your target … whether that is a big moving animal or a tiny, stationary golf hole.
Rangefinders utilize a lot of the same optical technology as binoculars, telescopes, and night vision goggles. Anyone who has had any experience shopping for any of those will know that they share one element that is perhaps more important than all the others, and that is the quality of the lenses.
Glass lenses can come in a staggeringly wide spectrum of both price and quality. High-quality lenses are not only more precisely shaped, but they also usually feature higher grades of optical glass. Better glass will provide clearer images even at long ranges.
If you are looking for high-quality optics and don’t mind paying an extra few bucks, then you might want to consider a Nikon rangefinder or a Bushnell rangefinder; both companies are known for making high quality lenses.
Price vs. Value
Range finders are one piece of technology where it can truly be said that you get what you pay for. While there are some awesome models for about a hundred bucks that can get the job done, investing extra money into a rangefinder is going to get you a direct, notable upgrade in accuracy, range, optical quality, or perhaps even all three.
Before you set out to choose a new laser range finder, you should take the time to decide which features and performance stats you absolutely need for your activity of choice. While it is possible to save a lot of cash by sacrificing optical quality, people who are serious about their sport might do well to spring for the better tech.
Conclusion: The Best Laser Rangefinder of 2020
Usually when our team designs these reviews, we try to mention more than one product as our top pick, simply to be fair to the fact that the best gear for hunting isn’t necessarily the best one for sports and recreation. While this isn’t the case for rangefinders either, this is one case where we can safely say that we have a Top Pick that satisfies both.
The Vortex Optics 1800 model laser range finder offers the most distance, best optical image quality, and highest accuracy rating out of all the products that we featured. It also happens to be the most expensive, but when you factor in additional features like high-control adjustment systems and waterproof casing, it becomes pretty obvious that this is the best pick for no matter how you plan on putting it to use.
But for those who need a good deal in order to get back out into the wilderness, you can rest assured that all of the 6 rangefinders on our list come fully recommended by our editorial staff. Hopefully, the information we presented to you here will help you decide which one to pull the trigger on. (As usual, pun strongly intended).
Frequently Asked Questions
The Vortex Optics Ranger 1800 offers the best range on our list. The optical quality is high, and a 6x magnification is more than enough for most targets. At 7.7 ounces it is an easy pocket carry for hunters, though it is a few bucks more than some of the other models that we featured.
Before you start shopping for a rangefinder, you should consider the activity that you are going to be using it for. Hunters should find something that is durable, weatherproof, and offers at least 4x magnification. Golfers and other sports users don’t need to be as concerned about durability, but they might require a better accuracy rating and an increased 6x magnification.
The good ones do! Magnification is a really important part of range finders, in that is allows the user to actually see their target in high detail, as opposed to having to guess from a distance. For example, m if you are trying to range out a deer that is 1000 yards away, you would have a hard time with it if all you were using were your bare eyes.
A 4x magnification factor, however, brings the target into easy view. Generally speaking, most laser range finders are either 4x or 6x magnifications, though there are probably some exceptions out there. 4x magnification is usually just fine for hunting, while golfers sometimes prefer a 6x magnification because golf balls are so much harder to see.
Laser range finders are a pretty impressive piece of technology. These devices use a bean of photons to determine the distance to a specific object or land point. Almost every laser range finder out there operates off of the “time of light” principle, which is simply a measurement of the amount of time it takes for a photon to reach the target, reflect off, and return to the range finder.
Because the speed of light is a constant, it is pretty easy for the onboard computer to convert the time of light into an accurate estimation of the amount of distance between you and your target.