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The 7 Best Range Finders for Hunters and Golfers

For both archery and rifle hunters, a range finder is essential to making an accurate, ethical shot. For golfers, it’s a check against unreliable estimates when preparing for a shot. These laser-driven, pocket-size items give you the information you need in the field or on the links for successful aim.

The basic function of a range finder is the same across almost all products: point the unit at a target (or something very nearby), press a button, and get a readout of how far away it is. How you intend to use it determines what additional features you’re going to care about. We’ve organized our favorites below in categories to help you find the range finder that’s right for you.

What to Consider

Magnification

Range finders usually feature a small amount of magnification: between about 5 and 10x. Being zoomed in a bit makes it easier to range a specific target in your field of view, which might be more than a mile away. It also makes it easier to transition from binoculars to range finder since binoculars are likely somewhere in the 8x to 18x range of magnification.

If you hunt only densely treed areas such as Eastern hardwood forests, a decent range finder may allow you to leave the binoculars at home. The same could be said for most riflescopes, but it’s not a good idea to use a firearm’s optics to scan an area for hopefully obvious reasons, so a range finder makes a better alternative.

Objective Lens Diameter

The viewing scope of the range finder is monocular like a telescope or spotting scope but generally has a much smaller objective lens. An objective lens diameter is basically the size of the viewing field created by the exit lens on your range finder. Most range finders fall in the 20 to 25 millimeter range. For comparison, most binoculars have 40 to 50 millimeter objective lenses and spotting scopes will be 50 to 100 millimeters.

While you might think it would be difficult to look one-eyed through an objective lens as small as those on range finders, the small form factor (most are designed to fit comfortably in one hand) makes them easier to keep steady for quick target acquisition. For longer distances, a tripod may be required to ensure effective, accurate ranging; higher-end range finders that can range more than a mile usually have a standard ¼-inch tripod mounting-plate hole.

Maximum Range Capability

The stat that most shoppers searching for a range finder focus on is the maximum distance a given range finder can accurately detect. The number listed by companies is often a best-case-scenario number based on the device’s ability to get a reading from a large, bright, reflective surface. Nonreflective items in the field, such as trees and smaller items like game and putting-green flags, are much harder to range accurately for these laser devices.

While price and performance often improve with rated distance, more is not always better. Keep in mind the distances you will most often be ranging and try to pick a range finder that’s suited to the task—ideally one created specifically for whatever it is that’s brought you here to look for a range finder. For example, most golfers can’t drive the ball farther than 300 yards, so there’s not much use in paying for a golf range finder that can range out to 4,000 yards. Likewise most archery hunters don’t take shots beyond 70 yards (and most much less than that), so they are mostly ranging distances within a few hundred yards at most when deciding on whether to take a shot.

It’s worth pointing out that most hunters aren’t capable of taking an ethical shot on an animal beyond 500 yards, and even the best long-range hunters with the best equipment are limited by ballistics to a little over 1,000 yards. Which begs the question: Why do you need a range finder that can give you distances upward of 4,000 yards? While range finders certainly are most important when preparing for a shot, hunters also use them to gauge distances. You might not shoot at the elk you see 2,000 yards across the valley, but it’s helpful to know how much distance you need to cover to get into shooting range.

How We Evaluated

My selections here are based on conversations with optics brand representatives, shop owners, hunters and golfers, as well as salespeople in big-chain outdoors stores. I have also used about a dozen range finders—from the cheapest you can get to the top-of-the-line—in the field hunting both archery and rifle in the Rocky Mountains for bighorn sheep, elk, moose, and deer over the past decade. I tested several of the range finders recommended below hands-on in the field to compare performance side-by-side and in real-world conditions. Our selections are largely available both online and in sport-specific stores locally.

Best Overall Range Finder

Vortex Impact 1000 Rangefinder

Vortex
amazon.com

$199.00

Key Specs

  • Objective Lens Diameter: 20mm
  • Magnification Range: 6x
  • Maximum Range Distance: 1,000 yards

Most rifle hunters want a range finder that’s easy to use and works when they need it to, at mostly modest distances. For hunters who aren’t shooting beyond 500 yards, a 1,000-yard capable range finder is plenty. Vortex states that the Impact 1000 can accurately range a deer at a maximum of 500 yards. (I’ve personally used this range finder and ranged objects in the 900s.)

For less than $200, you get decent range, decent optical quality, and some higher-end features such as Line of Sight mode, Angle Compensation mode, hold-to-scan for constant distance readouts as you move across different targets, and more. Vortex’s VIP warranty means you’re essentially buying one range finder for life. Note: A Vortex rep told me that this model and several others in its range finder lineup will be changing dramatically in 2022, so if you can be patient, you may be able to get even more bang for your buck with whatever replaces this entry-level model. Still, for an immediate solution, this model tops our list.

  • Affordable
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Limited range for long-distance shooters

Best Budget Range Finder

Bushnell BoneCollector 850 Rangefinder

Bushnell
amazon.com

$138.00

Key Specs

  • Objective Lens Diameter: 24mm
  • Magnification Range: 6x
  • Maximum Range Distance: 850 yards

By the time a hunter today pays for firearms and bows, clothing, binoculars, and all the accessories pitched as essential, most hardly feel like forking over several hundred more for a range finder. The Bone Collector 850 from Bushnell isn’t the cheapest range finder you can buy, but it’s the cheapest one I’d recommend.

The simple one-button operation and generous 24-millimeter objective lens make it easy to use for targets such as deer out to 400 yards, which is pushing the limits of your average hunter anyway. (Reflective targets can be measured out to 850 yards.) One feature missing is angle compensation, so hunters shooting at extreme uphill or downhill angles will need to make their own adjustments.

  • Affordable
  • Large viewing area
  • No angle compensation
  • Range for animals limited to 400 yards

Best High-End Range Finder

Maven RF.1 Rangefinder

Key Specs

  • Objective Lens Diameter: 25mm
  • Magnification Range: 7x
  • Maximum Range Distance: 4,500 yards

Hunting optics newcomer Maven makes one hunting range finder—and it’s a good one. Its direct-to-consumer business model keeps this well-made range finder under $500 while offering top-of-the-line features and, most important, high-quality Japanese glass that makes viewing far-off targets through the large 25-millimeter lens a pleasure. There’s also an unconditional lifetime warranty.

The red LED overlay is easy to read, and the menu and modes are simple to navigate without consulting a manual, but there are some advanced features such as Field and Forest modes which help improve accuracy based on the environment you’re hunting. The 4,500-yard maximum range is about as good as it gets and should be more than enough for even the most demanding long-range shooter.

  • Quality glass
  • 2.5-mile range

Best for Golf

Callaway 300 Pro Rangefinder

Callaway
amazon.com

$190.08

Key Specs

  • Objective Lens Diameter: Not listed
  • Magnification Range: 6x
  • Maximum Range Distance: 1,000 yards

Given the relatively short distances measured in golfing, any decent range finder will be adequate for estimating distances on the golf course. However, this golf-specific model from Callaway has a host of features that make it more appropriate for use on the links, including a Pin Acquisition Technology (P.A.T.) mode that helps the range finder lock in on small objects such as flags on the green.

It also has slope-angle compensation, which helps adjust your shot for uphill and downhill holes, with a physical on/off button to make it legal for tournament play. This newly updated model also is magnetized, allowing it to stick to a golf cart frame for easy access at every stroke.

  • Slope-adjusted distance
  • Pin-finding mode
  • Limited range if also used for shooting/hunting

Best for Archery

Leupold RX-FullDraw 3 Rangefinder

Leupold
amazon.com

$276.99

Key Specs

  • Objective Lens Diameter: 23mm
  • Magnification Range: 6x
  • Maximum Range Distance: 1,300 yards

Because arrows fall rapidly after a certain distance, bowhunters and archers need highly accurate short-range readings. Most practice at 100 yards or less and rarely shoot much farther than 70 yards. Similarly, shooting uphill or downhill can drastically change a shot’s trajectory (gravity has less of an effect as you move toward either extreme), so angle compensation is a must-have feature.

Leupold’s RX-FullDraw 3 is one of few range finders built with the archer in mind. It features not only angle compensation, but also a near range of 6 yards and half-yard accuracy out to 125 yards. The maximum range is an impressive 1,300 yards, which means it can do dual duty into rifle season or other distances far past bowhunting requirements. The main drawback is cost, as usually archery hunters can get away with using cheaper, lower-capacity range finders that cost less than $100, but serious bowhunters will appreciate the added features.

  • Slope-angle compensation
  • Half-yard accuracy
  • Expensive, for an archery range finder

Best Range-Finding Binoculars

German Precision Optics Rangeguide Binoculars

German Precision Optics
amazon.com

$1,699.99

Key Specs

  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50 mm
  • Magnification Range: 10x
  • Maximum Range Distance: 3,062 yards

Most rifle hunters know the drill: Scan the field with your binoculars. Find your quarry. Put the binos down and pull out the range finder to see how far away the animal is. Range-finding binoculars allow you to do all that without having to swap optics. The Rangeguide binoculars from GPO are on the high end for binoculars, but they put impressive range-finding capabilities into a high-quality, magnesium-bodied binocular for a single, quality optic that replaces two.

With generous, 50-millimeter objective lenses made with high-quality European glass, these binoculars are low-light all-stars and make scanning large swaths of country enjoyable. The 3,000-yard-plus range is downright impressive, and the Rangeguides have the features you want in a range finder, such as angle compensation, a bright, adjustable readout, scan modes, and some welcome surprises like temperature readout for long-range shooting adjustments.

  • Eliminates the need for separate optics
  • Long-range capability
  • Expensive
  • Heavy (35.2 ounces)

Best Scope-Paired Range Finder

Sig Sauer Kilo 1000 BDX Rangefinder

Sig Sauer
amazon.com

$201.54

Key Specs

  • Objective Lens Diameter: 20 mm
  • Magnification Range: 5x
  • Maximum Range Distance: 1,000 yards

Sig Sauer’s Kilo features its innovative BDX (Ballistics Data Exchange) system, which uses Bluetooth to allow communication between range finder and riflescope. When properly paired, the range finder will communicate distance to the scope displaying an LED holdover dot accurate to your rifle, caliber, and ammunition.

Even taking away the BDX functionality, there are more expensive versions of it with expanded ranges. Why feature this lower-end model? While it has a stated maximum range of 1,000 yards, in personal use I have ranged rocky hillsides as far as 1,200 yards. The 20-millimeter objective lens is on the small side, but the coated glass does well in low light and presents a high-contrast image.

  • Provides data to riflescope
  • Affordable
  • 1,000-yard maximum
  • Some techy setup required

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