One of the most important and fundamental tools you can get as a shooter is a rangefinder, period. From hunting to plinking to competition, a rangefinder is critical for making accurate shots from long distances.
|Nikon Prostaff 1000|| ||$166 Shop NowClick to read my review|
|Bushnell Nitro 1800|| ||$350 Shop NowClick to read my review|
|Vortex Razor 4000|| ||$470 Shop NowClick to read my review|
|Sig Sauer KILO8K-ABS|| ||$1466 Shop NowClick to read my review|
From budget-friendly options to professional-grade equipment, there is a huge range of quality, style, and features on the market these days.
Not to be confused with birdwatching or golfing rangefinders, a good shooting and hunting rangefinder will make a world of difference in your firearm life.
We’ll break down what you need, why you need it, and what the best laser rangefinders on the market today are so you can choose what is best for you!
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How Does A Rangefinder Work?
In a very, very simplistic way of explaining this — a laser rangefinder (LRF) works by shooting a laser at a target and measuring how long it takes for the reflection to come back to the LRF. Some fancy math later and you have your range +/- a few yards normally.
This is the super short version of how they work. There are multiple modes, multiple ways of doing the math, and a lot more details if you’re really interested — but all of those topics don’t really change much for you the shooter.
Why Do You Need A Rangefinder?
How far something is away from you is the most critical thing to answer before taking a shot. Humans have pretty good vision, but estimating the range in our heads is a very hard skill to master and even the best are normally wrong as often as they are right.
At long enough range, being wrong by 10 or 15 yards can mean the difference between a hit and a missing.
Don’t guess, use a rangefinder.
Above that, LRFs have a lot of features these days and can do a lot more than just tell you how far something is. From giving you a complete ballistic solution telling you how much to dial/hold over your target to reading the weather for you, a good LRF is like having your own personal spotter in your pocket.
What You Need Most
First you need a LRF that can reach the distances you’re going to shoot. If you’re a woods hunter then almost anything will be good enough. But long range shooters need better kit. How much better depends on how far you shoot.
Whatever your “normal” range is now, make sure to get an LRF that can do more than that so that you can grow as a shooter also.
Keep in mind that LRF max range is normally a bit optimistic. If the max deer range is 800 yards, assume the real range is more like 650 or 700.
After that, look at the extra features you can get. Bluetooth and ballistic calculators are amazing features to have. A great display is nice. Being able to read the weather or connect to a weather station is amazing.
Get the best you can afford, you deserve it.
Best Rangefinders 2022
Nikon Prostaff 1000
If you need a simple and cheap option, Nikon is here for you. While Nikon killed their scope line a few years ago, they still support the firearms community (and other outdoor communities) with their laser rangefinders, spotting scopes, binoculars, and more.
While I would never say the Prostaff 1000 is a great rangefinder, it gets the job done. And really that’s what counts.
The glass is not amazing and can make it harder to spot what you’re trying to range even in the best of conditions. Out to about 300 yards it works great, but past that and it can get iffy.
While Nikon claims the Prostaff 1000 can range out to 1,000 yards, they don’t give specifics as most brands do. Normally, a brand tells you how far a laser rangefinder can range on deer, trees, and reflective surfaces. Nikon just says “6-1,000 yd.”
Mine was fine and accurate to about 300 yards on steel targets, but past 500 and it returned some very wrong information. My guess is that “1,000 yards” requires a reflective target and ideal conditions.
300-500 yards isn’t “long range” by some standards, but it’s a great place to start and more than enough for most hunters if you’re not doing anything extreme.
You get what you pay for, but it’s durable, accurate, and easy to use.
- Cheapest option
- Easy to use
- Great for beginners
- Limited range
- Not great glass
Bushnell Nitro 1800
Most people think of Bushnell as the Walmart bubba deer rifle scope brand, but those people are wrong. Well, they’re right — but Bushnell has a lot more to offer also.
I admit I was one of the unwashed masses that kind of wrote Bushnell off for a long time. Over the past few years though that has changed a lot.
A friend of mine got on me to try the Nitro 1800 and I’m glad I did. After using it for a while now and taking it to a couple of matches, this has become my go-to recommendation for a budget-minded, well-rounded, do-all kind of rangefinder.
While the price seems like it won’t have any cool features, Bushnell actually knocks it out of the park by including Bluetooth and an app for this LRF.
The app is loaded with Applied Ballistics and a huge suite of pre-set ballistic information, plus the ability to add custom profiles.
This feature used to be reserved for high-end LRF so to find it at this price is AWESOME.
From large caliber to .22 LR, the Bushnell app has almost everything factory-made and makes it easy to range something and dial a perfect shot with the ballistic information it provides.
You can even pair the Nitro to a Kestrel weather station for a more complete environmental and a better solution.
My one gripe is that the display isn’t illuminated, but that actually hasn’t held me back yet. If it isn’t bright enough to see the display, it’s likely too dark to take an ethical shot anyway. At least that has been my experience so far.
Still, sometimes it’s a little hard to read if I’m shooting into shadow.
Bushnell quotes the Nitro 1800 as having a deer range of 800 yards, a tree range of 1,200 yards, and a reflective target range of 2,000 yards.
I didn’t get to check the 2,000-yard claim, but the deer and tree claim seem pretty spot on from my testing.
- Great all-round option
- High value to cost ratio
- Bluetooth app with Applied Ballistics
- Non-illuminated display
Vortex Razor 4000
I love Vortex products, except for their rangefinders. But the Razor 4000 is the exception to that rule.
I’ve tried almost all of Vortex’s LRF and the only one I can stand to use is the Razor 4000. It’s a little expensive, but it’s a great piece of equipment and makes me wonder why the lower-tier options are so… not great.
Ranting aside, the Razor 4000 has some outstanding glass that makes seeing what you want to range very easy. The display is super bright and great to use with little to no eye strain.
Vortex packs the Razor 4000 with 3 laser rangefinding modes — normal, normal (scan), and ELR.
Normal is… normal and just gives 1 reading when you push the range button. Scan is activated by holding down the range button and gives you a constantly refreshed range — this can improve the accuracy of the range and let you track moving targets.
ELR mode takes longer to read but gives you a much more extended max range. This is hard to use by hand and really should be paired with a tripod for best results.
Vortex claims a deer range of 1,600 yards in normal mode and 2,000 yards in scan mode and a crazy 2,200 yards in ELR mode. Tree range is 1,800/2,200/2,500 yards and the reflective range is 2,400/2,400/4,000 yards.
That is some crazy yardage.
The downside is that that’s about it for what the Razor 4000 can do. It has a great display and it can range really far away. It has no app, no Bluetooth, no ballistic solutions, and no Applied Ballistics integration.
If you’re a budding ELR shooter, this is a great value since you’re likely doing your ballistic calculations on the side. But for hunters, PRS/NRL shooters, plinkers, and general long range shooters — I would rather have a shorter LRF range but better features like the Bushnell Nitro 1800 offers… or go big and get a Sig 8k.
- Very clear glass
- Great display
- ELD mode for up to 4,000 yard ranging
- No ballistics mode or Bluetooth
Sig Sauer KILO8K-ABS
I don’t think there is another laser rangefinder on the market right now that can really compete with the KILO8K-ABS. Now granted, the KILO8K-ABS is also almost double the price of most other high-end LRF.
While the price hurts, a lot, you’re actually getting a LOT for money. Sig Sauer does a horrible job of telling you what is in the box so let me break it down for you.
First, you get a really nice carrying case. And you get a real nice belt holster thing. Both are well made and very useful.
More importantly, you get a Bluetooth-enabled wind meter and a Sig Sauer KILO tripod adaptor, very handy.
Plus you get the KILO8K-ABS itself and this is one beastly tool.
Sig has packed a LOT of features into this unit but I’ll focus on the highlights. 4 major features are included:
- Onboard Environmental Sensors for Real-time Ballistic Calculations
- Drop Remote Waypoints With Basemap App
- Applied Ballistics Elite With Complete AB Bullet Database, Up to 25 Custom Bullet Profiles and 8 Onboard Ballistic Groups
- BDX 2.0 Enabled With Low Energy, Long Range Bluetooth
Taking them one at a time — the first is exactly what it sounds like, the KILO8K-ABS has a full suite (except wind, that’s why they give you the wind meter) of environmental sensors. Pressure, temp, and humidity are read by the laser rangefinder itself and that data is passed on to the onboard computer for ballistic correction.
The waypoints with the Basemap app are actually really cool. Basically, if you have the Basemap app (kind of like HuntX if you’re familiar with that) you can range something and have it drop a pin on your map. This is super cool for scouting paths, tracking game, finding your way home, or anything else you might want to do in the field.
Applied Ballistics Elite is the best version of AB you can get. This is the most powerful, has the most options, and allows for up to 25 custom profiles so you can do a LOT of shooting off of one app. This is the workhorse that does all of that math for you.
BDX 2.0 is Sig’s scope/laser rangefinder/app system that lets you do some fancy things if you have a BDX scope. Totally not required when using the KILO8K-ABS, but a nice feature to have if you use a Sig BDX scope also.
The BDX system also supports connecting to external units like a Kestrel or Garmin device to use it as your weather station. While my KILO8K-ABS gave good results using the onboard sensors, it seemed a little faster and a little more accurate when connected to a Kestrel.
Not super practical if you’re in the field hunting, but a wonderful feature if you’re on a firing line shooting, spotting, or competing.
And on top of all of that, the glass in the KILO8K-ABS is simply amazing and the 304×256 px OLED display is wonderful. Super easy to read, easy to use, and always bright.
Sig boasts the KILO8K-ABS as having a deer range of 2,000 yards, tree range of 2,500, and a max reflective range of 8,000 yards.
I’ve tested mine to 1,500 and had zero issues even on dirt-covered small-ish rocks, so I believe at least their first two numbers. 8k yards on reflective sounds crazy but I’ll find a way to test it… someday.
This is one expensive unit. But you get a lot for your money in features, tools, and capability. If you’re looking for the best and are willing to pay for it, this is it.
- Complete enviorental sensor suite
- Amazing display
- Bluetooth connect to external Kestrel and ballistics app
- Complete onboard Applied Ballistics Elite w/ database
- Very expensive
As I said before, my go-to recommendation is the Bushnell Nitro 1800. The Bluetooth connection to the Bushnell app is amazing and the price is perfect. From beginners to competition shooters, the Nitro 1800 has a lot to offer.
But if you can afford it and are doing some serious long range shooting/competition, I strongly recommend the Sig Sauer KILO8K-ABS. This is a super tool that makes a lot of tasks a lot easier.