Optics – Outdoor Empire https://outdoorempire.com Gear Up and Get Outside! Thu, 10 Aug 2023 13:43:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.2.2 https://outdoorempire.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/cropped-OutdoorEmpire_LogoDesign_ClearBack-Color-08-32x32.png Optics – Outdoor Empire https://outdoorempire.com 32 32 Everything You Need to Know About Scope Ring Torque https://outdoorempire.com/scope-ring-torque/ Fri, 03 Feb 2023 09:18:28 +0000 https://outdoorempire.com/?p=24568 Whether you are tightening down the mount on your first scope or confirming the seating of the optic of your favorite hunting rifle, understanding scope ring torque is essential. My first time tightening down my scope rings was done with the mindset of the tighter the better, and crank it until it doesn’t turn anymore. ... Read more

The post Everything You Need to Know About Scope Ring Torque appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

Whether you are tightening down the mount on your first scope or confirming the seating of the optic of your favorite hunting rifle, understanding scope ring torque is essential.

My first time tightening down my scope rings was done with the mindset of the tighter the better, and crank it until it doesn’t turn anymore.

However, this is the wrong way to look at setting up your scope in its mounts.

Torque is vital because loose rings cause the scope to move after each shot because of recoil. This will cause your optic to lose zero and cause you to miss shots without realizing your scope is off. Alternatively, if the scope rings are too tight, the scope can be damaged or screws stripped, making removal impossible.

However, there is much more to properly torquing down your scope rings than we’ve covered so far. In this article, we go over why properly torquing your scope rings is essential, how to torque down your scope rings properly, and a few helpful tips to keep your scope intact and zeroed.

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Scope Ring Torque Basics

Before we go any further, it’s important to answer the question: what is torque?

Torque can be defined as the force used to twist an object on an axis. In a screw, the torque is the force applied to turn the screw into the wall. Torque is measured in inch-lbs or feet-lbs.

Because torque is defined as twisting an object around an axis, it can apply to everything from swivel desk chairs to securing scope rings. In this article, we define it as the amount of force used on the bolts or screws to secure a scope ring or base in place.

Although we previously mentioned the consequences of failing to torque your scope rings properly, let’s take a deeper look into what can occur if done incorrectly.

Under Torqued

Several things can occur when you under-torque your scope rings or scope bases.

  • A shift in zero
  • A loose scope
  • Damaged scope
  • Repeated recoil damaging a shifting scope

Over time, scope ring screws and bolts that are not checked or Loctited will loosen, and in the most extreme cases, I have seen scopes fall out of the mount and break.

Over Torqued

Because most amateur hunters and shooters assume the tighter the better for scope ring mounts, a common mistake is to over torque your scope mount screws, which can lead to several issues.

  • Stripped screws
  • Tube bends
  • Damaged scopes
  • Water and fog entering the scope

Before we delve into torquing down your scope rings, you will need a few things.

Recommended Tools

While a torque wrench is not required to mount your scope correctly, it is the most accurate way to secure it.

Alternatively, you can use other wrenches or bits to tighten it down, but these often lead to over or under-torque.

There are two main styles of torque wrenches.

1. Driver-style torque wrenches: These resemble a screwdriver and can be set to a specific torque. When you use this torque wrench, you can turn it until it reaches the designated torque, at which point it will stop turning.

2. Lever-style torque wrenches: These resemble a socket driver and feature a torque setting gauge. Though these torque wrenches are more common in the automotive industry, smaller bottles can tighten your scope rings or base.

Popular models of torque wrenches used to torque your scope rings down include.

Wheeler scope ring torque wrench in case with bits
The Wheeler scope ring torque wrench is among the most affordable and well-liked by reviewers.

When purchasing a torque wrench, there are several things to look for.

  • The torque value is inch-lbs
  • It’s labeled for gunsmithing
  • It’s accurate
  • A clear, readable display

While the first two are self-explanatory, accuracy is paramount when torquing down scope rings. Most models of quality scope ring mounts have a designated torque level for you to reach. Exceeding this by even the slightest margin can cause damage to the scope’s integrity.

For the same reason, an easy-to-read display is essential so you know where you are in the torque process. Over or under-tightening due to misreading the display can lead to a loose mount or damaged scope.

Tightening scope rings with torque wrench with bubble level in lower right of frame
Besides a gunsmithing torque wrench, some basic bubble levels (lower right) are helpful to get your scope aligned properly on your rifle so your crosshairs are not slanted one way or the other.

Best Scope Ring Torque

There is no one size fits all torque for all scope ring mounts. As I said, most manufacturers explicitly state the intended torque to their scope base and scope rings.

Below is a chart of common torque numbers you will see on common scope rings.

Brand Scope Ring Torque Base Torque
Vortex 20 inch/lbs 20 inch/lbs
Leupold 15 inch/lbs 14 inch/lbs
Badger 15 inch/lbs 65 inch/lbs
Nightforce 15 inch/lbs 68 inch/lbs
Warne 25 inch/lbs 25 inch/lbs
Nikon 20 inch/lbs 35 inch/lbs
Hawke 16 inch/lbs 30 inch/lbs
Talley 15 inch/lbs 20 inch/lbs
Meopta 23 inch/lbs 40 inch/lbs
Riton 18 inch/lbs 45 inch/lbs

WARNING: This chart is not all-encompassing, and you should check the guidelines for your specific model of firearm, scope, and rings as listed by the manufacturers before starting the mounting process.

Scope Base Torque

Torquing down your scope base is a little different from your scope rings. For bases, you should always follow the recommended torque specs from the firearm manufacturer, not the mount or scope manufacturer.

The type of metal used to make the receiver may require different base torque specs. For example, steel receivers generally demand greater torque than aluminum.

The suggested torque for scope bases is often much higher than that of the scope rings. Additionally, you want to ensure your base is level and evenly spaced for your scope model.

Despite the frequent difference in inch-lbs torque between base and scope rings, the process is similar when mounting a base to your rail or gun.

If you improperly mount your base onto the gun, no amount of scope ring torque will be able to fix what is probably a canted base.

How to Torque Down Your Scope

After seeing all the specifications, tools, and disclaimers about over or under-torquing your scope, you are probably wondering why anyone would do this themselves in the first place.

However, it doesn’t take a gunsmith to torque down your scope correctly. Below, we take the guesswork out of the equation and will walk you through the torquing process.

Step-by-Step Process to Torque Down Your Scope

  1. Clear and safe your firearm.
  2. Place your rifle in a rest where it is sitting in the same position you would shoot in (trigger down, rail, and barrel up.)

    RIfle on gun vise on bench with scope ring torquing tools
    A decent gun vise will help in this process.
  3. First-timers must install the scope base onto your rail. Then you must follow the rest of the process to ensure the scope base is ready for use. (For more on this, see our “How to Install a Scope Base” article.)
  4. If the scope is inside the rings, with the top halves on, insert the screws into the holes.
  5. Most new scope rings come with an L-shaped hex key. Stick the long end of the key into the screw head while holding onto the short end of the hex key.
    Tightening scope ring base with l-shaped hex key
  6. Begin to tighten down the screws until you feel resistance. It’s essential not to continue tightening at this point and instead switch to your torque wrench.
    * Note: If each ring has one screw on each side, tighten them evenly, as tightening one side more than the other can pull the scope or rings off center. If there are two screws on each side, tighten them crisscross to avoid pulling the mounts one way or the other.
  7. Using your gunsmithing torque wrench, set the torque level to the manufacturer’s prescribed number.
    Hand using gunsmithing torque wrench to tighten scope rings on a rifle
  8. Tighten the screws down according to the manufacturer’s suggested inch-lbs. (DO NOT immediately Loctite after tightening!)
  9. Check all the screws again.

Once you have successfully installed your scope rings, I suggest taking your gun to the range and zeroing it. If you can successfully sight it in without any issues from your base or scope rings, take it home and then use Loctite if you choose.

While this takes up more time, another trip to the range, and spending ammo on sighting in your weapon, it allows you to check your work and correct any errors before making them permanent.

Should You Put Loctite on Scope rings?

Can you? Yes.

Should you? In my humble opinion, no.

Loctite is an anaerobic adhesive that, when applied to screws, hardens into a thermoset plastic on the threads of screws. It drives out the air bubbles and any moisture in the screw hole and solidifies the screw in place.

To be removed, regular Loctite must be treated with chemicals or heated to somewhere in the range of 500°F. Both of these methods can damage a scope badly.

While regular Loctite can help you retain the right torque on your scope rings, there are a few reasons I don’t recommend using it.

  • If you mess up the torque, it’s permanent.
  • Swapping scopes is complicated and messy.
  • If your scope breaks or needs repair, it’s a pain to remove.
  • Loctite acts as a lubricant when first applied and can often cause over-torque.

Instead, I recommend regularly checking your torque after every couple of range sessions or after each hunt. If you notice a shift in zero or licenses in the scope, it’s a good idea to grab your torque wrench and give everything a once over.

According to Warne, however, some scope ring bases may benefit from a small amount of blue thread locker in some cases. This may apply in cases where you intend for the bases to remain on the rifle permanently and the screws attaching the bases to the receiver are short and few in number.

Though it is not a good idea if you are using a single piece, direct mount scope rings are made to fit your particular rifle.

Which Loctite to Use for Gun Sights?

If you insist on using it, Loctite’s product is designed for scope rings and bases that avoid much of the mess and are much easier to remove. While I don’t use it, I’ve seen it used and heard zero complaints about it.

Loctite Purple Threadlocker (222) was designed to be used on and around scopes without the complicated removal process. Its non-wicking formula is easy to install, and the screw can be removed with a screwdriver, the same as if you had never applied it.

Blue Loctite may be used for scope bases, though confirming with the firearm and base manufacturers is recommended.

Never use red Loctite on riflescope rings.


If you plan on installing a new scope on your rifle or purchasing a new base and set of scope rings, it’s essential to know about torque.

How it affects your scope, how to use it properly to secure your optic, and what tools you need are all vital information for any shooter or hunter looking for a well-mounted optic.

Ensure you don’t over or under-torque your scope rings, as this can lead to misses and scope damage. Before you torque your scope rings down, purchase a torque wrench and follow the above steps to ensure your scope is on target and not going anywhere.


Do I need a torque wrench to set up my scope rings?

While it’s not required, it provides a more precise torque level to ensure you meet the manufacturer’s recommendation. Removing the guesswork on this will not only keep you from having a loose scope but also prevent you from over-torquing and damaging your optic.

Will Loctite keep my torque the same?

Maybe not the same, but it will keep it relatively close. Make sure to use the Loctite Purple Threadlocker (222), which was explicitly designed for scope rings and mounts.

However, I prefer to keep most chemicals and adhesives away from my scopes at all costs, so I check the torque every few range sessions, which usually takes less than a minute to confirm.

Which head or bit do I use to torque down my scope rings?

Some companies will send a bit with the scope mount, but most screws can be torqued with standard bits.

The post Everything You Need to Know About Scope Ring Torque appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

How to Range a Distance with Only Your Riflescope https://outdoorempire.com/how-to-range-with-only-a-scope/ Wed, 11 Jan 2023 09:24:14 +0000 https://outdoorempire.com/?p=23607 Whether you forgot your rangefinder at home, it broke in the field, or you want to learn how to find the distance to target without a rangefinder accurately, hunters sometimes use their scope to determine how far away a target is. The question most often asked is: Can you accurately use a scope to range ... Read more

The post How to Range a Distance with Only Your Riflescope appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

Whether you forgot your rangefinder at home, it broke in the field, or you want to learn how to find the distance to target without a rangefinder accurately, hunters sometimes use their scope to determine how far away a target is.

The question most often asked is: Can you accurately use a scope to range a target?

You CAN use only your scope to accurately range a target. Scopes usually have MOA or MRAD markings which are units of measurement that represent angle. Using a formula, hunters can place accurate shots on target out to 800 yards by plugging in the target size in inches and the target size in MOA or MRAD, depending on your scope.

This article covers how to accurately range your target with your scope and a few factors you should consider when using this method of determining distance.

Why Range Finding is Important

No matter what weapon system you use when hunting, gravity strongly affects the bullet trajectory.

Even the beloved, flat shooting 6.5 Creedmoor drops nearly 55 inches at 500 yards.

For hunters who don’t know how to or can’t determine the distance to target, this can mean missing the game entirely or nonfatally wounding an animal, causing unnecessary pain and suffering.

I’ve seen hunters guess at the distance to target or not factor it in, causing them to shoot both high and low, and miss a big trophy game at distances from 200-600 yards. To avoid this, hunters can purchase a rangefinder, use their scope, or use other methods

Related: How to Range Without a Rangefinder

How to Calculate Distance with Your Scope

Using your scope to determine the distance to target requires some simple math and a good scope. A good scope has hash marks (MOA/MRAD) etched into it, which allow you to range your target accurately.

Using this information and the height of your target, you can quickly come up with a solution that gives you a close approximation of distance and what your holdover should be.

The Formula

There are two formulas used to determine distance through the scope.

The first is the MOA (Minute of Angle) Formula:

Target Size (Inches) X 95.5
______________________  = Distance to Target
Target Size in MOA

The second is the MRAD (Milliradian) Formula:

Target Size(Inches) X 27.77
______________________  = Distance to Target
Target Size in MRAD

Here are two examples of the equation.

How to Range with an MOA Scope

Looking through MOA reticle of an actual rifle scope

16 inches is a good size from backbone to belly on a Whitetail where I come from. Through your scope, that area is covered by 5 MOA marks because of the reticle.

Your equation should go as follows:

________  =  ?

If you’ve done your calculations correctly, the distance to the target should be about 305.6 yards.

How to Range with an MIL Scope

Looking through MIL reticle of an actual rifle scope

For the same animal, let’s use the MRAD formula.

The deer measures 16 inches from belly to backbone and covers 1.5 Mil in your scope reticle.

_________  =  ?

If you did your math, it chalks up to about 296.21 yards.

Personal Experience

I used the MOA formula when shooting a large Whitetail in Mississippi with a Remington .30-06 at about 106 yards.

Alone at 7:00 am on a chilly December morning with the wind so cold I regretted not wearing a second pair of long johns, I heard the unmistakable thundering of hooves over the chattering of my teeth.

Buck fever took over, and as the deer rushed past my ground blind on the side of a dike overlooking the farm pond, I took point-blank aim, squeezed the trigger, and missed…twice.

Cursing myself for letting adrenaline get the best of me, I watched in shock as the deer sprinted to the levee’s end and slowed to a walk after hitting the food plot to my left. Whether he thought it was thunder or was just not as intellectually gifted as another whitetail, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

He was a big one. 16 inches was my guess, and it covered over 12 MOA. ( I shouldn’t have needed the formula at this distance, but I wanted to confirm my shot.)

I did the quick math ( I was a lot better at mental arithmetic back then), put the reticle behind his right shoulder, slightly higher than the center, and fired.

He dropped like he had been struck by lightning. I ran over, saw that he was still breathing, and put a security round in him to finish the job.

Had I not used the equation, I probably could have made the shot. But using that method definitely helped me put my bullet where it needed to go and gave me the confidence I lacked from my two previous misses.

Accurately Estimating Animal Size

whitetail deer in grassland

Estimating the size of an animal can be difficult, and it can have major implications on your shot if guessed incorrectly.

Plenty of outdoor publications provide general ballpark size estimates for various species of big game. It’s also recommended that you check your local fish and game website, which often provides an accurate list of sizes compiled by biologists to help you guess.

However, the two most accurate ways to determine an animal’s size are practice and recording the size of the game you’ve killed.

You can practice by guessing at objects in your backyard, in the woods, or on the street and then measuring them to determine how far off you were. With a bit of practice, you can get your approximations pretty close, allowing you to make an educated guess out in the field.

Recording the size of the game you killed can give you an idea of what to expect from other game in the region. If your area is known for trophy Whitetail or Mulies, a fluctuation of an inch up or down depending on how the deer looks is not a bad idea.

You may be asking yourself, does an inch make a major difference when shooting at a distance?

The answer is more surprising than you might think. For instance, let’s say you’re taking a shot at a deer that covers 4 MOA. The deer is 16 inches, but you guess 17.

________  =  A little over 400 yards

Not a bad shot.

Let’s look at the difference using the actual size of 16 inches.

________  =  386yards

Close distances will cause you to be off between 10-20 yards, but at 2.5 MOA, that’s over a 40-yard difference.

That’s why it’s essential to guess sizes accurately when calculating distance with your scope.

A Good Scope

While sticking to a budget is essential, don’t be cheap. Buy a good scope. Investing in a critical piece of hardware like a riflescope can help you accurately range your targets.

While hunters go back and forth on the pros and cons of MRAD vs. MOA, it’s more important to invest in a scope that works best for you.

If you find you can do the math better with one or like how it looks through the scope better, stick with that one.

When purchasing a scope you may use to range targets, it’s important to factor in three things:

  1. Scope clarity
  2. Hash mark definition
  3. Scope power

There are plenty of quality scopes at an affordable price, but don’t let the price tag be your deciding factor. Vortex, Nightforce, Leupold, and Zeiss all make quality scopes in a wide price range.


Many people think the wind is something you lick your finger for, feel the breeze, and can tell which way the wind is blowing. Most hunters don’t consider that the wind can be different from your position at the target with longer shots.

This problem can be solved with a high-end laser range finder and/or a ballistic calculator. Or you could just get closer to the animal; your choice.

Get a Rangefinder

Before delving into using your scope to determine the range, hunters must note that this method is an approximation and not exact science.

Using a rangefinder, you can determine the target’s precise distance without doing extra math or guessing at a target size.

Recommended: Best Rangefinders for Hunting

If money is an issue, budget rangefinders start at a little over $100 and are easily stowed in a pack or jacket during a backcountry hunt. These lightweight pieces of gear are worth their weight in gold, so serious hunters should look into purchasing one before heading out into the woods or backcountry in pursuit of big game.


Hunters can accurately range prey using a scope and some simple math. However, it should be noted that this does involve some guessing and the distance is often a close approximation.

If you’re like me and don’t want to pull out the phone or scratch paper, invest in a good rangefinder and save yourself a headache while getting an accurate distance on your next big game trophy.

The post How to Range a Distance with Only Your Riflescope appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

This is When You Need a Rangefinder for Hunting https://outdoorempire.com/rangefinder-for-hunting-when/ Wed, 11 Jan 2023 07:55:24 +0000 https://outdoorempire.com/?p=23591 Most rifle hunters associate the term rangefinder with Hollywood-esque long-distance shots like the Mark Wahlberg movie “Shooter.” If you’ve never used a rangefinder, you might think it’s only for absurdly long shots and that it has no place in an everyday hunter’s kit. That assumption is wrong. A rangefinder helps hunters by providing accurate distances ... Read more

The post This is When You Need a Rangefinder for Hunting appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

Most rifle hunters associate the term rangefinder with Hollywood-esque long-distance shots like the Mark Wahlberg movie “Shooter.” If you’ve never used a rangefinder, you might think it’s only for absurdly long shots and that it has no place in an everyday hunter’s kit.

That assumption is wrong.

A rangefinder helps hunters by providing accurate distances to their target. Knowing your distance can boost confidence in your shot. Alternatively, it can let you know if you need to be closer before shooting. By removing the “guesstimation” part of your shooting process, a range finder gives you the accurate distance to the target.

Additionally, some more expensive models provide horizontal distance and wind readings down range.

However, there is more to rangefinders than this rudimentary explanation, and below, we cover who should use them, when to use them, and a few recommendations.

Who needs a range finder?

This ties into the next section, but bow and rifle hunters and long-distance shooters should invest in a range finder.

Bow Hunters

For bow hunters, there are different pins on your sight for corresponding distances. Though it is possible to eyeball at closer ranges, knowing the exact distance to your target can help you select the correct pin and make an accurate shot.

Rifle Hunters

Rifle hunting is similar. While hunters may have different zeros for their scope (point of aim/point of impact) at 36 yards, 50 yards, or 100 yards, many times shots are taken for big game far past the zero.

Though it is possible to range find using your scope (see the corresponding article), using a rangefinder is the most effective and accurate way to determine an exact distance to factor into your shooting.

As a rifle hunter shooting out to the distance, a range finder takes the guesswork out of target distances, making it easier to adjust the scope.

When to use a rangefinder?

Anytime you are shooting an unknown distance, whether with a bow or rifle, a rangefinder is an invaluable tool.

Good rangefinders can help you range and identify targets that exceed where you are comfortable shooting. This can help prevent your bullet from falling short.

Basic Rangefinder Features

At a minimum, your rangefinder should be able to accurately read the distance from you to the target.

More expensive models can include:

  • Angel compensation, which is the ability to determine the horizontal distance from you to the target. This plays a major role when shooting in steep or mountainous terrain.
  • Larger objective lenses or higher-end glass optics.
  • Better ruggedization to protect it from the elements.
  • Additional in-display, ballistic-compensated measurements.
  • Bluetooth for connectivity with ballistics apps on smartphones or special riflescopes.
  • Additional sensors, such as thermometers and barometers.
  • Reading wind using a laser to detect dust in order to determine wind speeds.

Our Rangefinder Recommendations

Upgrade Pick: Maven RF.1
Best for the Money: Leupold RX-1400i
Budget Pick: AOFAR HX-1200T (affiliate link, FYI)

The post This is When You Need a Rangefinder for Hunting appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

How to Range Without a Rangefinder When Hunting https://outdoorempire.com/hunting-without-a-rangefinder/ Wed, 11 Jan 2023 06:14:37 +0000 https://outdoorempire.com/?p=23592 So you’re wondering if you need to fork out the change before a hunt and buy a rangefinder or if you can squeak by without one? Here is how to judge distance without a rangefinder and when it makes sense to do so. There are many reasons you might want to learn how to judge ... Read more

The post How to Range Without a Rangefinder When Hunting appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

So you’re wondering if you need to fork out the change before a hunt and buy a rangefinder or if you can squeak by without one? Here is how to judge distance without a rangefinder and when it makes sense to do so.

There are many reasons you might want to learn how to judge distance, aka range, without using a rangefinder.

  • You don’t want to spend the extra money on a rangefinder.
  • Rangefinders are not allowed in your hunting area.
  • You want to learn how to eyeball your shots without relying on additional equipment.

One of the first questions I always get when shooting any distance without using a rangefinder is: “Can you accurately determine the distance of a target without a rangefinder?”

Learning how to range your targets without a rangefinder is a viable way of determining distance. There are simple equations that can be done using your rifle scope to determine the distance to your target. There are also several other methods to help you accurately range your target.

In this article, we cover five of our favorite ways to range without using a range finder.

How to Determine Distance Without a Rangefinder

1. Equations

If you’re looking through a rifle scope, two simple formulas help you determine distance without a rangefinder.

This method is effective out to 800 yards, but it requires a relative knowledge of the size of your target.

You will need to know:

  • The size of your target
  • Your MOA reticle measurement


  • Size of your target
  • Mils reticle measurement

The Equation

MOA (minute of angle)

Target Size (Inches) X 95.5
______________________ = Distance to Target (Yards)
MOA Reticle Measurement

MRAD (Milradians)

Target Size(Inches) X 27.77
______________________  = Distance to Target (Yards)
Mil Reticle Measurement

If you’re like me, this is too much math. While it’s great on a range or for long-distance shots where doing some quick math on your calculator app won’t spook your quarry, it’s far from ideal when the pressure is on.

Related: How to Range a Distance with Only Your Riflescope

2. Markers

If you are hunting over a food plot, or long field, setting up markers at certain distances can help you range to target.

One of the most popular methods is colored tape, which will stand out against a forest or shrub background.

Placed along the edges of the field, this tape can give you an approximate distance of where your target is standing and allow you to adjust accordingly.

This method is accurate for about 300 yards and is best done in 50-yard increments.

3. Pace it

Before the hunting season, if you can walk your food plot or field, pace it out to know the exact distances, front to back, and side to side.

This will give you a rough approximation of any shot you will take inside the field or food plot. Using this method, you can identify reference points such as a specific tree, a feeder, a stump, or other geographic features to help you range when sitting in your stand or blind.

This is not a recommended technique for stocking, as walking all over your hunting area can spook any potential game that might wander through.

4. Practice Makes Perfect

Go to a range or build one for your bow or rifle so that you can practice determining distances by eye. This can be tricky at first, but with a little bit of practice, you can easily differentiate between 100-300 yards by eye.

Using 3D targets instead of paper, you can quickly learn to gauge distance and train your depth perception to eyeball ranges out to 300 yards.

5. Walk Your Eyes

Learning how to walk your eyes at 10-feet or 10-yard increments can be a great way to eyeball a target within 100 yards.

For bow hunters, this can come in especially handy when moving as little as possible is essential not to spook the deer.

This can be practiced by setting up markers at home or on the range and learning to walk your eyes from marker to marker.

The downside of this method is that elevation plays a factor, and if you’re used to measuring on flat ground, measuring in uneven terrain can throw off your intervals.

6. Other Solutions

Buy a scope with a built-in rangefinder. There are plenty of great scopes with built-in rangefinders in them. If carrying extra gear is your issue with a rangefinder, purchasing one of these will kill two birds with one stone.

The downside of these platforms is that they are not cheap.

For a solid scope/rangefinder combo, expect to pay north of $900 minimum for a budget option.

Conversely, a good hunting scope and separate rangefinder will run the same price and give you the best of both worlds.

When to Range Without a Rangefinder

There are a few scenarios when it really makes sense to employ your skills to estimate distance without a rangefinder:

  1. Your rangefinder fails – batteries die, gadgets fail, water and electronics are not friends. It happens.
  2. Cost savings – perhaps you don’t have the extra cash or you don’t want to spend it on a rangefinder, so a DIY measurment solution is in order.
  3. Close range hunting – when most of the hunting you do is within 200 yards and you’re using a rifle, you can likely do just fine without a laser rangefinder as knowing a precise distance is not as crucial to make a shot as it is at long distances.

The Elephant in the Room

While you can judge distance accurately without a rangefinder, it is much simpler to purchase a rangefinder to determine the distance to a target.

Not only will this save you from having to do any calculations or planning, but it is also far more accurate.

A rangefinder is like a calculator. You can do algebra by hand, but a calculator removes any chance of human error and is far easier and quicker to use.


If you’re going to do any long-distance shooting, targeting big game at the range, we recommend buying a good rangefinder and saving yourself time and trouble.

However, if you insist on sticking to your scope and eyes, or if your rangefinder fails and you still need a distance measurement, using markers, the MOA/MRAD equation, and training your eyes can be effective solutions.

Remember, without a rangefinder, all other methods provide an approximate distance to the target and not an exact calculation.


How can I train my eyes at home?

To train your eyes to measure distance, in your backyard or on your street, pick different items and range them either by walking your eyes or guessing. Then confirm it by pacing or using a rangefinder.

Which method is best?

The method I define as the most accurate for determining distance would be the MOA/MRAD formula.

A rough approximation of your target’s height can get you pretty close to being on target rather than relying on sight alone.

Which method is best for hunting deer?

In a field or food plot, markers are the best way to determine distance. It’s like having three-quarters of the equation finished, and all you’re waiting on is the deer to show up.

When hunting in the open or backcountry, you have some serious separation between you and the animal; so you’ll need the MOA/MRAD formula.

The post How to Range Without a Rangefinder When Hunting appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

The Best Hunting Zero Technique? Maximum Point Blank Range https://outdoorempire.com/best-hunting-zero-technique/ Tue, 06 Dec 2022 09:32:16 +0000 https://outdoorempire.com/?p=23579 It’s an exciting time when you finally put sights on that deer that you’ve been stalking for the past several hours. You’ve practiced proper trigger control and know how to steady your rifle to maximize your chances of hitting the deer in the kill zone. But how far away is that animal? And how far ... Read more

The post The Best Hunting Zero Technique? Maximum Point Blank Range appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

It’s an exciting time when you finally put sights on that deer that you’ve been stalking for the past several hours. You’ve practiced proper trigger control and know how to steady your rifle to maximize your chances of hitting the deer in the kill zone.

But how far away is that animal? And how far is your bullet going to drop?

In my opinion, the best hunting zero technique is the Maximum Point Blank Range zero. MPBR lets you place your bullet into an animal’s vital zone at short to long ranges without requiring any field math, Kentucky windage, or fiddling with your sights.

It’s a dismal feeling when you think you’ve hit an animal with a well-placed shot only to discover, after many hours and much tracking, that you hit it in the gut and caused a slow, painful death.

Accidentally shooting above the buck is better but can still cause the animal to bolt, potentially ruining your hunt.

And, while rangefinders are amazing tools, you don’t always have the time or ability to figure out that animal’s exact range and compensate accordingly.

But what does “Maximum Point Blank Range” mean anyway? And how can you use that to zero your rifle?

Why Use Maximum Point Blank Range Zeroing for Hunting?

If there’s one word I’d use to describe hunting with the Maximum Point Blank Range (MPBR) zero, that word is confidence.

You’ll be able to confidently take the shot on your game at short, medium, and even long ranges. Without using a rangefinder!

How does giving your rifle an MPBR zero accomplish this?

Why, it’s in the name: it maximizes your rifle’s point-blank range.

Many people use the term “point-blank” to refer to a target close enough you have almost no chance of missing. This common usage is not entirely correct, though they’ve got the right idea!

Properly speaking, point-blank range is the distance at which you can aim without having to compensate for bullet drop.

MPBR is a sighting technique that applies this idea to the specific animal (or target) you want to hunt. Aim for the center of the kill zone, pull the trigger, and you’ll make a devastating shot at 50, 100, or even 200 yards!

You may have but a fleeting moment to line your sights up on that moose or bear and take the shot. Spend some time at the range sighting in your gun and you’ll be able to take advantage of that moment.

How the Maximum Point Blank Range Zero Works

As you’re aware, bullets drop. They have an arc to their flight. Always a downward arc, technically, due to gravity.

Your sights, whether they’re iron sights, a red dot, or a telegraphic sight, do not arc. They point in a solid line, off to eternity.

Keep this line in mind.

Many people sight in their rifles at 100 yards and expect to hit below that at farther ranges. In this case, that line from the scope points slightly downward relative to the gun’s bore. It intersects with the bullet’s arc at a single known point, 100 yards.

This is fine for range purposes but we can do better.

MPBR points the sight’s line at an angle to intersect the bullet’s arc twice. If we had a chart with the sight-held level, it would look like the bullet’s curve would be rising at the first intersection and falling at the second intersection.

Illustration of bullet travel with maximum point blank range
Here you can see how a scope’s sight line intersects the bullet’s trajectory with both a 100-yard zero and an MPBR zero. The MPBR zero stays useful farther!

That first intersection is the Near Zero and the far intersection is the Far Zero. But that’s not all MPBR gives you.

Because MPBR is calculated using your chosen target’s vital zone size, the bullet will never rise (relative to your sights) enough to leave that vital zone.

You’ll hit high when the animal is between the Near Zero and the Far Zero, but never too high! (So long as you aim at the dead center of the vital area, of course.)

But the Far Zero isn’t your shooting limit. The bullet will continue to drop, but it’ll take some time for the bullet to arc downward enough to leave the vital zone.

The distance the bullet will travel before dropping out of the target area is the “maximum” part of “Maximum Point Blank Range.” It can be 40 yards past the Far Zero or more.

Using this zero, your maximum point-blank range will be 200 yards or more, depending on your rifle, ammo, and target.

How to Sight Your Rifle with a Maximum Point Blank Range Zero

So, setting up your rifle to take advantage of the MPBR hunting zero does take some math and even some research, but it’s all pretty easy.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Your target’s vital area size
  2. Your rifle sight’s height over the bore
  3. Your ammo’s initial velocity
  4. Your projectile’s ballistic coefficient

Let’s tackle those in order and then put them all together.

Target Size

You need to know how large a target you want to hit, measured from top to bottom. For a small deer’s vital area, this is roughly eight inches in height.

You’ll have to look up the kill zone yourself if you’re hunting another animal. You can also measure a paper target’s height and use that number.

Measure the total size of the target, not the distance from the center to the edge.

Sight Height Over Bore

You know how bolt-action rifles tend to have sights close to the barrel while modern sporting rifles such as ARs tend to have iron sights that stand several inches above the bore?

This actually works to the MSR’s advantage when it comes to MPBR!

Find the distance from your sight’s centerline to the middle of the bore. This is the sight height measurement. It’s different from gun model to gun model. For example, most AR-15s have an iron sight height over bore of 2.6″.

A slightly less precise yet still useful method of determining your sight’s height over bore is to measure from the middle of the bolt or barrel to the middle of the scope.

Measuring sight height on a bolt action rifle
This vintage Remington 700’s height over bore is 1.8125 inches.

If your rifle has a tapered barrel and iron sights, Brownells has a sight height calculator that can help you.

Projectile Velocity

Here’s where you need to grab a chronograph if you want to be truly accurate. You need to know your ammo’s initial velocity—the more accurate, the better. If you need to, you can use your ammo manufacturer’s data for this, though it won’t be accurate to your gun.

Variances in barrel manufacturing can affect velocity. So can atmospheric factors and barrel length. If these don’t match up with the manufacturer’s tests, then your velocity won’t be accurate.

A difference of 50 fps can result in an MPBR reading difference of 6 yards, which doesn’t render the calculation ineffectual but does add up.

Ballistic Coefficient (and Drag Function)

You must also know your specific projectile’s ballistic coefficient (BC). This measurement of the bullet’s shape helps shooters estimate the bullet’s ability to buck the wind. It’s complicated to calculate and changes based on the bullet’s velocity.

Thankfully, you can just get this off your bullet manufacturer’s website with little fuss.

Another factor, the drag function, also affects the calculations. It has to do with the bullet’s shape, such as the ogive’s shape (curved point) and the boat tail’s angle.

If the bullet maker shares this information, it’ll be a G followed by a number. G1 is the most common, though you’ll likely notice G7 on some very low-drag bullets.

Some manufacturers, such as Hornady, give you several BCs and specify which drag function to use. Make sure to match the BC to the drag function.

Don’t see a drag function?

Just use G1. It’s the most popular.

Putting it All Together and Calculating Maximum Point Blank Range

Now here’s the part you’ve been dreading: Doing the math.

Just kidding!

You can use an online calculator to figure out your MPBR.

Choose your drag function and enter the measurements you picked out above.

If you’re feeling spicy, you can click the box to enable atmospheric correction, though this will have a minor effect on your final results.

Click “Calculate Point Blank Range” and you’ll have five numbers:

  1. Near Zero
  2. Far Zero
  3. Minimum PBR
  4. Maximum PBR
  5. Sight-in at 100 yds

Maximum PBR will give you the farthest you can engage your target and still make a kill shot, provided you do your part well.

Near Zero, Far Zero, and Sight-in at 100 yds give you what you need to sight in your rifle for the Maximum Point Blank Range zero.

Sighting In Your Rifle with the Maximum Point Blank Range Zero Technique Step-by-Step

  1. Write down the results from the calculator and keep the info with you as you go to the range.
  2. Bring a target that’s good for sighting in rifles. I like to use those with 1″ squares so I don’t have to measure how far away my bullets hit.
  3. If this is your first time sighting in your rifle, then you will need to bore sight your rifle to get on paper before you throw lead down range.Otherwise, head to the shooting range!
  4. Look at those three numbers, the Near Zero, Far Zero, and 100 yards Sight-in.Which one is the closest to an easy-to-use round number?Choose the most convenient of the three and set up a target at that distance. This is likely the Near Zero or the 100-yard Sight-in.For either the Near Zero or the Far Zero, you want the bullet hole to be at the exact point of aim.For the 100-yard Sight-in, you want the point of impact to be the calculated distance above (or maybe below) the point of aim.
  5. Aim at the bullseye and shoot slow, controlled groups. I start with three-shot groups at first, then five-shot groups when I’m confirming that the rifle is sighted in.
  6. Shoot a group, observe the results, adjust your sights, and repeat until you’re on target.
  7. Now, test your rifle at various ranges.

You’ll hit below the bullseye up to your Near Zero, above it until the Far Zero, and below it past there, all the while staying in your target area.

Congratulations! You’re ready to hunt with full confidence in your ability to deliver a one-shot kill.

Example Maximum Point Blank Range Zero Calculations

While it’s best to enter information specific to your rifle and ammunition into the calculator, here are a few example calculations based on common hunting calibers.

Remington 700 Chambered in .270 Winchester

.270 Winchester is a venerable cartridge that’s effective against almost every game animal in North America. Many Remington 700s are chambered in .270, making this a rather common combo.

Out of a 24″ barrel, Hornady’s American Whitetail 140 gr InterLock bullet has an initial velocity of 2,940 fps with a ballistic coefficient of .486 and a G1 draft factor.

The average Remington 700 scope’s height over bore is 1.68″.

We’ll use a deer’s vitals for our target size.

This gives you a Near Zero of 26 yards, Far Zero of 281 yards, and MPBR of 330 yards. The bullet will hit 3.2″ high at 100 yards.

AR-15 Chambered in 5.56 NATO

AR-15s have become standard rifles for varmint hunting and even deer hunting in some areas. You’ll want to use a heavy-for-caliber bullet when hunting with 5.56 NATO or .223 Remington but that type of ammo is commonly available now.

So, with a sight height of 2.6″ and using Hornady BLACK ammo with 75 gr InterLock bullets, you can get a .230 BC bullet (G1 draft factor) moving at 2,321 fps.

This is good enough for coyote hunting, so we’ll use a vital zone of 5″.

With this data, you’ll have a Near Zero of 35 yards, Far Zero of 183 yards, and MPBR of 211 yards. Your bullet will hit 2.42″ high at 100 yards.

Your Average .308 Winchester Hunting Rifle

Open up most ballistic programs and you’ll find a 1.5″ scope height as standard. Grab a bolt-action rifle with a not-huge scope, or even some semi-auto rifles, and that will match up close enough.

Load up that .308 rifle with some Hornady American Whitetail 165 gr InterLocks and you have a fine hunting rifle. How does its MPBR hold up, though?

Use a velocity of 2,700 fps, .435 BC (G1 draft factor), and point the rifle at a large deer or small sheep for a target size of 12″.

You’ll get a Near Zero of 17 yards, Far Zero of 299 yards, and MPBR of 352 yards!

That .30-cal bullet will hit 4.8″ high at 100 yards.

This sounds high, but the Maximum Point Blank Range is working as intended. You’ll hit high out to almost 300 yards, but never more than 6″ high!

When to Use Other Hunting Zero Techniques

As much as I like using the Maximum Point Blank Range zero for hunting small and large game, it’s not perfect for every situation.

You may always hunt at the same known distance, such as from a hunting stand to the edge of a field. This will let you sight in your rifle so your point of aim and point of impact intersect at exactly that distance.

On the other hand, people who are hunting at very long ranges won’t see any benefit from using MPBR. It’s only useful for that indicated maximum distance. Then afterward, you’ll have to calculate bullet drop.

You might as well sight in that firearm with a more convenient zero.

And if you’re only going to shoot at paper or steel targets at specific ranges, then you’ll want the precision of a more specific zero. Especially when in a shooting competition where accuracy matters.

Also, the MPBR zero is designed for fixed elevation sights or sights where it’s a pain to adjust the elevation. If you have sights that are designed to be adjusted to compensate for range, then using an MPBR zero will muddy the calculations.

Examples are some high-end scopes and AR-15 iron sights with the elevation drum. Sight those in as recommended by the manufacturer and you won’t need to use the MPBR zero!


Calculating your Maximum Point Blank Range will give you several zeros you can use to dial in your rifle for hunting at various ranges.

Best of all, you won’t need any range measuring or elevation adjustment. Aim at the center of your prey’s vital zone and fire. You’ll hit right where you need to hit!

This is perfect for hunting in situations where that pesky deer can show up 50 yards away or 200. It’s also good for smaller targets.

Even some 3-gun shooters can take advantage of the technique.

Most of my hunting rifles are zeroed according to their Maximum Point Blank Range.

How do you zero your hunting rifles?

The post The Best Hunting Zero Technique? Maximum Point Blank Range appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

Should You Install an Optic on a Shotgun? https://outdoorempire.com/install-an-optic-on-a-shotgun/ Tue, 09 Aug 2022 13:48:11 +0000 https://outdoorempire.com/?p=22203 Shotguns are excellent tools for hunting, sport shooting, and self-defense. They’re versatile tools and are easy to pick up once you get the knack of pointing the firearm. Shooters transitioning to shotguns from rifle shooting often bring some of their training. Especially prevalent is the desire to assist their aim with a scope or red ... Read more

The post Should You Install an Optic on a Shotgun? appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

Shotguns are excellent tools for hunting, sport shooting, and self-defense. They’re versatile tools and are easy to pick up once you get the knack of pointing the firearm.

Shooters transitioning to shotguns from rifle shooting often bring some of their training. Especially prevalent is the desire to assist their aim with a scope or red dot, the same as they have on their rifle.

This leads to the common question:

Should you install an optic on your shotgun?

Naturally, the answer depends on how you’re using your shotgun. But you don’t have to look at a complicated table to figure out if you should use an optic with your shotgun.

The trick is to answer this question:

Are you shooting a stationary target or a swiftly moving target?

Optics on shotguns help improve your precision when shooting targets either moving slowly or not moving at all. However, they can slow you down when taking quick shots at flying birds or clays by distracting your eyes.

The reason this is the case may not be obvious, so we’ll cover the hows and whys optics are sometimes helpful and sometimes harmful.

Then we can answer what type of optic is best for your shotgun!

The Basics of Shotgun Sights

You may have noticed that I used the word “point” to describe the process of bringing a shotgun on target instead of the word “aim.”

That’s because shotgun shooting is more instinctual than rifle shooting. It’s kind of like traditional archery that way.

When shooting a rifle, or a handgun, you ensure a good hit by lining up the front and rear sights and superimposing them over the target. If the gun has been sighted in properly, the point of aim and point of impact will be the same.

Those guns function this way because they fire a single projectile that travels in a (hopefully!) consistent arc.

An optic lets you see that point of aim without having to align the iron sights, thereby improving speed and accuracy.

Shotguns, on the other hand, fire a cloud of projectiles, called the shot, in a semi-random pattern. A precise point of aim only tells you where the center of this cloud is likely to impact. Heck, no pellets may hit at the exact center!

This is why shotguns are a great choice against birds, from doves to quail.

The shot is also slower than the typical bullet. This introduces a noticeable travel delay, which becomes essential when shooting at a moving target such as a clay pigeon or the duck you just called in.

(I’m ignoring slugs for now but don’t worry, I’ll get to them in a little bit!)

For these reasons, shotgunners don’t bother aligning sights the same way a rifle shooter would. You need to be fast, but you don’t need to be nearly so precise.

Leading the target and following through after pulling the trigger are more important. And this means keeping both of your eyes on the prize.

Instead of iron sights, most shotguns have a bead atop the barrel, near the tip. It’s a quick point of reference that doesn’t distract your view of the target. This process is handled subconsciously once you’ve gotten used to a shotgun.

Some shotguns have a rib, a second bead halfway down the barrel, or both. These are tools to help ensure you’re consistent in mounting the shotgun. Your view of the bead(s) must be the same every time.

Because you’re focused on the target instead of the gun, you can direct your attention toward getting a quick hit.

Some shotgunners are so consistent they can remove their front bead and still hit 25 out of 25 clays!

Is It Worth Putting a Red Dot on a Shotgun?

So, what does an optic add to this equation?


Now, reflex sights are assuredly faster than a rifle’s iron sights, but that glowing reticle draws the eye’s attention. This can confuse your sight picture and slow down your shooting compared with bead sights, which blend into your subconscious.

Scopes, magnified or unmagnified, are guilty of slowing you down even further. But they still have their uses.

This means that shotgun shooting that relies on snapshots is hampered by adding a red dot sight.

I’ve seen people use red dots at the trap line, but it’s rare for them to outshoot someone with a bead.

On the other hand, if you need extra precision in your shooting—say, because you’re hunting deer with slugs—then an optic is worth adding to your shotgun.

An optic is a worthwhile addition to your shotgun against anything that moves at about human speed or slower. It’ll likely slow you down when shooting at anything running on the ground or flying through the air, though.

I’m not being definitive here because there are exceptions to both of my statements above. I know people who shoot pheasants better with a red dot than without. And I know people who can put a slug in a bullseye at 100 yards with a front bead but can’t seem to do that consistently with a scope.

You may have to experiment to see whether or not adding an optic is worth it to you.

Hey, that’s more range time, right?

Types of Shotgun Optical Sights

Red dot sights are the most commonly used shotgun optics but aren’t the only available options.

Let’s look at the three main types of shotgun optics to see which will work best for you.

Red Dot Sights

Holosun HS515CM
Holosun HS515CM

Red dots, also called reflex sights, impose a floating reticle in front of your eyes.

These sights are available as an enclosed tube or with an open emitter, shining their light upon the window to reflect the dot back at your eyes.

These optics work well with many shotguns because they let you focus on the target with both eyes.

Tube-style red dot sights are bulkier and heavier than ones with open emitters but are immune to a bit of snow or muck getting inside to block said emitter. The open-style reflex sight is lighter and smaller, especially the ones designed for use on a pistol.

You’ll often see these sights on the shotguns used by 3-gun competitors and for tactical shotgunning.

I’m a fan of the circle and dot style because the circle gives you a rough estimate of where the pellet cloud will impact, so you can still use your shotgun for snapshots.

I currently have a Holosun HS515CM on my self-defense shotgun, though I am planning to replace it with an HS507C soon to lighten it up.

Holographic Sights


Holographic sights are similar to red dot sights, except they use a laser to form a hologram as the reticle.

This hologram is unlike the reflected light of a reflex sight because it doesn’t need the view window to stay intact. Holo sights are an excellent choice for environments where you need extra durability.

Holographic optics also compensate for parallax better than red dot sights. In practical terms, this means you’ll be more accurate even if your shooting stance is slightly off.

However, holo sights are larger and heavier than any red dot sight.

I had my EOTech 512 on my self-defense shotgun for a time, but it was just too much weight, so I took it off.

Some people like them for self-defense or 3-gun shooting, though.

The EOTech XPS2 would be the better choice in this case because its smaller weight affects the shotgun’s balance less.

Shotgun Scopes

Vortex Diamondback 2-7×35
Vortex Diamondback 2-7×35

A scope may seem like a silly addition to a shotgun, but there are two use cases where you may want to use a magnified optic.

The first use is obvious: Slugs.

Shotgun slugs are like large, slow rifle bullets, so a more rifle-like setup is common with dedicated slug guns.

4x is the most common shotgun scope magnification, though I’ve seen some shotguns sports glasses that go up to 7x!

Turkey hunters may appreciate some magnification as well.

Unlike other birds, turkeys are often taken with as tight a choke as possible at a comparatively long range. And those darn birds seem to wear Kevlar jackets, so you need to put as much shot into the head and neck as possible.

This means precision wins out over speed.

The Vortex Diamondback 2-7×35 is my favorite shotgun scope. It’s inexpensive and has enough magnification to put that slug precisely where you want it to go.

Who Should Install an Optic on their Shotgun?

You probably have a good idea of whether or not installing a red dot or other types of optics can help your shotgunning by now.

For ground-based shooting, optics are a good choice. For wing shooting, however, optics tend to lose out to the good ol’ bead sight.

That’s not always the case, though.

For example, if you’re hunting rabbits, you need to swing on target rapidly and have great follow-through, much like partridge hunting. So, any optic may slow you down.

Upland bird hunting especially depends on well-placed rapid shots against panicking birds. My upland hunting shotgun will stay optic-free.

Conversely, if you’re cross-eyed dominant, a red dot sight can improve your ability to break clays by making your brain focus on the eye’s input in line with the shotgun.

And red dot sights are becoming more common for hunting slower birds such as ducks and doves. In that case, it’s a personal preference. I’ve tried red dots against even slow-flying targets, and my ability to track the target was impaired enough to not guarantee a killing blow against a live animal.

We don’t want to harm any animal and let it suffer, so all my wing shooting is done without an optic.

With these facts in mind, here’s a chart of various shotgunning disciplines and whether or not a certain type of optic can be helpful:

Use Red Dot Sight Holographic Sight Scope
Upland Hunting No No No
Rabbit Hunting No No No
Waterfowl Hunting Maybe Maybe No
Deer Hunting Maybe Maybe Yes
Turkey Hunting Maybe Maybe Yes
Clay Shooting No No No
3-Gun Competition Yes Yes No
Self Defense Yes Yes No
Survival Yes No No
Recreational Blasting Why not? Sure Nah

Pros and Cons of Mounting a Red Dot on a Shotgun

Still unsure if a red dot sight is right for you?

Here’s a list of arguments in favor of and against adding a reflex sight to your gun.


  • Can make your shotgun more precise (especially slugs)
  • Added visibility in low-light situations
  • Can help with issues such as cross-eye dominance by drawing the eye’s attention
  • Doesn’t require a strict form for accuracy, so those awkward shots are less awkward
  • May allow for a more natural and comfortable head position


  • The reticle can distract the eye, slowing your shot or affecting your ability to lead the target properly
  • Can run out of batteries or break, leaving you to rely on pointing anyway, just with a useless hunk of metal in front of your eye
  • Glare can reflect off the glass
  • Susceptible to snow and mud on the emitter or lens
  • Increases the upfront cost of using your shotgun


Unlike rifles, shotguns are not always upgraded when you install an optic.

Shotgunning involving instinctive shooting keeps your shotgun barrel and bead out of focus. Adding a bright dot to the picture may be distracting and interfere with your ability to lead a swift-moving target properly.

However, a red dot sight can be an excellent choice when you want to use your shotgun as a precise weapon.

And for slugs or turkey loads, a scope can improve your ability to put down that animal with one shot. That’s something we should always strive for.

Ultimately, though, the edge you get from an optic on a shotgun isn’t quite as strong as when you put the same optic on a rifle.

Try it out, though. You may be surprised at how much you like having a circle to show your shotgun’s pattern!


Can You Mount a Sight on A Shotgun without a Picatinny Rail?

Many shotguns that don’t have Picatinny rails are compatible with saddle mounts. You can also buy barrel clamps with a short section of rail for an optic.

Why Would You Have a Scope on a Shotgun?

Scopes can be used on shotguns to increase your effective range. This is primarily useful when hunting deer and turkey.

Do You Need an Optic on a Shotgun?

No shotgun needs an optic to be useful. If you have a consistent mount with a shotgun that fits you properly, you don’t need the front bead. A shotgun sight can improve your speed and precision in some cases, though.

Can You Install Pistol Red Dot Sights on a Shotgun?

Small reflex sights such as the Trijicon RMR and Holosun 507 are not only compatible with shotguns but also a great choice because of their light weight and small size.

Related: Hunting vs Sporting Shotguns: What They Are & Comparison

The post Should You Install an Optic on a Shotgun? appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

5 Best Rangefinders for Long Range Shooters in 2022 (In-Depth Reviews) https://outdoorempire.com/best-rangefinders-for-long-range-shooters/ Wed, 11 May 2022 14:39:32 +0000 https://outdoorempire.com/?p=4458 Long-range shooting is an exact science. To be successful, the shooter must know and understand a long list of variables. Of course, “long-range” is a subjective term, but for the purposes of this discussion, we will call it anything beyond 800 yards. Whether you are shooting those distances competitively, to harvest game, or just for ... Read more

The post 5 Best Rangefinders for Long Range Shooters in 2022 (In-Depth Reviews) appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

Long-range shooting is an exact science. To be successful, the shooter must know and understand a long list of variables.

Of course, “long-range” is a subjective term, but for the purposes of this discussion, we will call it anything beyond 800 yards. Whether you are shooting those distances competitively, to harvest game, or just for fun, knowing the range of your shot is a critical component of executing it.

The best laser rangefinders for long range shooting are the Maven RF.1, the Sig Sauer KILO5K, and the Leupold RX-2800 TBR/W. Each of these provides quick, reliable, and accurate distances, even beyond 1500 yards in various light conditions. They also provide angle-compensated measurements. 

However, they come at a considerable price compared to a typical golf or hunting rangefinder.

A quality rangefinder is an integral part of successful long-range shooting and the right one will become one of your most important tools. However, one that does not work correctly could totally prevent you from hitting your mark at long distances.

This article aims to help you know what to look for in a monocular rangefinder for long-range shooting. Based on our own hands-on experience and research, we’ll recommend the best rangefinders for long-range shooting that can help you advance your long-range shooting capabilities.

[This article was fully revised in May, 2022 by Chase Fly. The original article was authored by Travis Pike in 2018.]


DISCLOSURE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Links in this article are affiliate links. If you click on a link we may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Best Rangefinders for Long Range Shooting in 2022: Outdoor Empire Reviews

These are our top recommendations for long-distance rangefinders in 2022:

  1. Best for the Money: Maven RF.1
  2. Upgrade Pick: Sig Sauer KILO5K
  3. Also Great: Leupold RX-2800 TBR/W
  4. Budget Pick: Bushnell Prime 1800
  5. Best of the Rest: Vortex Razor HD 4000

Looking for a specific feature? Check out our quick-reference chart below:

Best for the MoneyUpgrade PickAlso GreatBudget PickBest of the Rest
maven rf.1 rangefinder
Maven RF.1
Sig Sauer KILO5K rangefinder
Sig Sauer KILO5K
Leupold RX-2800 rangefinder
Leupold RX-2800 TBR/W
Bushnell Prime 1800 rangefinder
Bushnell Prime 1800
Vortex Razor HD 4000 rangefinder
Vortex Razor HD 4000
Outdoor Empire Score4.
Max Range to Trees3000 yds2500 yds2400 yds1000 yds2500 yds
Magnification 7x7x7x6x7x
Objective Lens Diameter25mm25mm27mm24mm25mm
Weight10 oz7.5 oz7.9 oz6 oz9.9 oz
WarrantyUnconditional LifetimeUnlimited on optics, 5 years on electronics2 years5 yearsUnconditional Lifetime
Benefits- Intuitive and easy to use
- Premium optics and laser
- IP67 rugged
- Packed with high-tech features
- Compact and ergonomic
- Excellent glass
- Fast and accurate
- Built-in ballistics functions
- Cool display that changes from red to black
- Features on par with more expensive units
- Proven brand, product, and warranty
- Ergonomic and rugged
- Reliable
Drawbacks- No advanced ballistics calculations- Lacks tripod mount- Weak sauce warranty- Limited range and accuracy
- Optics just ok
- Slow to acquire a distance
- No ballistics functionality
CostCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

1. Best Long Range Rangefinder for the Money

Maven RF.1 rangefinder with Empire Crowned label

  • Outdoor Empire Score: 4.7
  • MSRP: $450.00
  • Bottom line: Premium glass, laser sensor, and warranty at a mid-range price

Though not an optics giant, Maven is an up-and-coming premium optics manufacturer that is run like a small direct-to-consumer business. 

We’ve been using the Maven RF.1 for a while now, and not just in testing. We’ve taken it to the gun range as well as out scouting and hunting for wild Idaho mountain turkeys. 

What We Like

The RF.1 has a commercial-grade laser sensor on board from a company out of Colorado called Laser Technology, Inc. This company primarily makes rangefinders for the professional measurement, land surveying, and law enforcement industries where long-range and accuracy are essential.

Though the distance rating to trees on the RF.1 is 3000 yds, we were able to range non-reflective hillsides at over 3200 yds. The tripod mount helps a lot for long-range. For closer objects, it gives readings fast and the accuracy checks out.

Maven RF.1 Rangefinder's eyecup in focusWe also love the crisp, clear image you see through the high-quality glass, even in low light or shaded areas. With bonus features like a diopter focus wheel and adjustable eye relief cup, the optics quality is better than most rangefinders.

This is the easiest rangefinder to use among any we looked at. Besides a menu and a fire button like everyone else, it also has a menu dial and a simple switch to change your target priority. This intuitive setup means less clicking and waiting to adjust settings. We found this super handy, especially being able to just turn the dial to adjust brightness or flip the switch to go between Forest (last) and Field mode on-the-fly.

Lastly, Maven’s unlimited lifetime warranty cannot be beaten. Outside of theft or loss, they will fix or replace your RF.1 no matter what.

Recommended: Detailed Maven RF.1 Rangefinder Hands-on Review

What We Don’t Like

Unlike most other brands, you can’t touch and feel a Maven in the store before you buy it. But they will send one to you to actually try out before you commit to purchasing.

The RF.1 is also one of the bulkiest rangefinders in its class. But the upside here is that it’s super rugged, even IP67 rated which none of the others can claim.

Finally, this unit doesn’t have any fancy ballistics features. It does give you either Line of Sight (with an angle of elevation) or angle-compensated measurements, but no in-display holdover and windage, or app connectivity.

By our assessment, this rangefinder offers the best bang for your buck. The price, though not cheap, is the same as what you’d pay for lesser products elsewhere.

2. Upgrade Pick

  • Outdoor Empire Score: 4.7
  • MSRP: $718.99
  • Bottom line: Packed full of tech for long-range precision rifle shooting

Compare prices at: Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, EuroOptic, Optics Planet

The Sig Sauer KILO5K is packed with features that can only be fully appreciated by those who geek out on long-range shooting. Those features come at a higher price tag, but Sig is ahead of the game on this front.

What We Like

Besides the super fast and reliable laser Sig puts in there, the KILO5K also has environmental sensors for air pressure and temperature. This comes into play when you connect the rangefinder via Bluetooth to Sig’s ballistics app where it can give you more precise calculations on how to aim. Not only will it compensate for elevation change, but also for weather.

It also uses Bluetooth to connect to the Basemap hunting app on your smartphone so you can record remote markers and navigate to those waypoints. We use Basemap and see how this could be a valuable tool for scouting. 

Precision rifle enthusiasts will also appreciate the more sophisticated reticle options and the support for Sig’s BDX (Ballistics Data Exchange) system. This allows you to use their app to set up the rangefinder to output calculations for specific guns and loads.

The KILO5K has great ergonomics and feels good in the hand.

What We Don’t Like

Though they advertise a max range of 5000 yards, the reported max to trees is 2500 yards, which is less than what we experienced with the Maven RF.1. It also lacks a threaded tripod mount, so keeping it stable enough to successfully measure those super long distances is going to be a challenge with the KILO5K.

The warranty is ok with five years of coverage, but that’s not as good as Maven or Vortex.

This is an excellent monocular rangefinder for long-range shooters who appreciate the bells and whistles. 

3. Also Great

  • Outdoor Empire Score: 4.7
  • MSRP: $599.99
  • Bottom line: Best from Leupold, fast and accurate

Compare prices at: Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, Optics Planet, EuroOptic, Sportsman’s Guide

It’s hard to go wrong with a Leupold rangefinder. They are loved by the people and with good reason because they’re fast, accurate, and reliable.

What We Like

The Leupold RX-2800 TBR/W has a compact form factor that is comfortable in the hand. We really like the rubber armor and extra ruggedness compared to other models.

Of all the rangefinders we evaluated, the RX-2800 has the largest objective lens (27mm) and the best clarity.

Leupold TBR level fire range diagram
This diagram, found in the manual, helps show what True Ballistic Range means.

Leupold’s True Ballistic Range and Wind (TBR/W) features also make this a great companion to a long-range shooter. While it does not connect to an external app or allow custom settings, it has a pre-configured library of 25 load groups that closely match most mainstream calibers. The level fire aim adjustments are directly displayed in the display and are relatively easy to interpret.

What We Don’t Like

The only thing there really is not to like about the RX-2800 is Leupold’s weak sauce warranty. A meager two-year limited warranty on electro-optics leaves one questioning whether they stand by their product and is enough to break a tie between this and something like the Maven RF.1 or the Vortex Razor HD 4000.

Overall, the Leupold RX-2800 TBR/W is an excellent monocular rangefinder for long-range shooters. Even with a shorter max range to reflective targets, our experience suggests Leupold specs in that regard hold up better than most. After all, this one has a max range to trees of 2400 yds, only 100 yds shy of the Sig KILO5K.

4. Budget Pick

  • Outdoor Empire Score: 4.2
  • MSRP: $249.99
  • Bottom line: Good glass and functionality at a low price

Compare prices at: Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s

With the Prime 1800 Bushnell managed to introduce a couple of interesting new features despite maintaining a relatively low price point.

What We Like

While the optical quality, effective range, and most other aspects of this unit are just decent, the display is really cool. Most of the best rangefinders for long-range shooters have red OLED displays that are great in low light, whereas lower-tier rangefinders have classic black LCD displays that are fine during the day, but terrible in low light.

Unlike its little brothers the 1300 and 1700, the Bushnell Prime 1800 has the new ACTIVSYNC display that automatically changes from black in bright conditions to red in low light. It’s a unique feature, especially at this price point.

We also like that it has a tripod mount, angle compensation, different rifle, and bow modes, as well as two different target priority modes, which puts it on a similar playing field as more expensive units.

What We Don’t Like

The Prime 1800 has had some reported reliability and quality issues based on user reviews. Bushnell claims a lifetime “ironclad” warranty, but the fine print says that only means 5 years for electro-optics. We also find that this unit is not quite as reliable at achieving its max advertised range, which puts it on the low end of distance capabilities for long-range shooting.

But still, at less than $250, the Bushnell Prime 1800 can do a lot of the things pricier units do for a long-range shooter, which makes it our budget pick.

5. Best of the Rest

  • Outdoor Empire Score: 4.2
  • MSRP: $729.99
  • Bottom line: Proven and trusted by users

Compare prices at: Optics Planet, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Guide

Vortex was perhaps the first optics company to offer an unlimited lifetime warranty, and the fact that they honor that for optics with electronics inside is icing on the cake. The Vortex Razor HD 4000 is a popular rangefinder among long-range shooters, and it’s a safe bet.

What We Like

The ergonomics, buttons on top, belt clip, and ruggedness of the Razor HD 4000 are all things we love about it. We also really like its ELR mode (extra long-range).

Overall it’s a reliable unit with a great reputation and guarantee.

What We Don’t Like

This unit has been available for a while now, and while it is still a great option, the alternatives have surpassed it in terms of technology and features.

Of the units we evaluated, the Vortex Razor HD 4000 was one of the slowest to acquire a distance. And the effective range is less consistent and generally shorter than the top three in our list.

It lacks any special ballistics functionality besides angle compensation, so long-range shooters will either need to do the math on their own or use an app.

However, despite having a higher MSRP, you can usually find it at retailers for a lot less, so it’s still a great buy.

Worthy Alternatives

Seven different rangefinders

While the following long-range rangefinders didn’t make our top pick list, they are certainly worthy of mention. Based on our research and having handled tried some of them in the store, we felt these fit the category and could serve a long-range shooter well.

Product Outdoor Empire Score (out of 5) MSRP Why It Didn’t Make the Cut
Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W 4.5 $399.99 Excellent rangefinder for the price, but shorter max range compared to top contenders.
Vortex Ranger 1800 4.3 $499.99 Great warranty and build quality, but lags behind price competitors in measurement speed, effective range, and features.
Leica Rangemaster 3500.COM 4.3 $1,249.00 High tech, high quality, but an even higher price compared to our top 3 picks that are just as good or better.
Sig Sauer KILO1600BDX 4.2 $354.99 Feels good, shoots fast and priced well, but it’s stuck in the middle in every way.
Bushnell Prime 1700 3.8 $209.99 Decent glass, but mixed reviews on reliability and limited range.
ATN Laser Ballistics 1500 3.5 $349.00 Reasonable price with a fancy app, but has a black LCD display and the build quality is weak comparatively.
Cabela’s Intensity 1600R 2.8 $179.99 Low-price leader, but feels cheap, can’t rely on it to range beyond 1000 yds, and has reliability issues.

Why You Should Trust Us

Chase Fly used to work professionally in the mapping, land surveying, and professional measurement industry. Whether it was helping DOT guys measure stockpile volumes or electric company crews measure spans of powerlines, Chase trained a lot of people on how to use laser rangefinders in real-world applications.

Man surveying baseball field with rangefinder on tripod
Chase Fly surveying the San Francisco Giants baseball stadium with a laser rangefinder in 2016.

Suffice it to say, he knows quite a bit about the technology and is pretty picky when it comes to rangefinder performance. His background enabled us to filter out a lot of the low-lying contenders during our research phase and to later evaluate and select the top performing devices for our list of best rangefinders for long-range shooting.

In preparation for this review, we researched dozens of rangefinders, then parsed out the ones that would qualify for long-range distance measuring (over 1500 yards). We evaluated and scored the 12 units listed above, and we tried many of them either in the store or in the field. We also interviewed experts at the optics counters of both Sportsman’s Warehouse and Cabela’s. From this, we learned from their personal experience and preferences, got an idea of customer feedback, listened to their recommendations, and gathered golden nuggets of insight.

Important Choosing Factors and Analysis

We based our recommendations above based on a combination of specifications, hands-on experience, and a score we gave to each rangefinder we evaluated. The Outdoor Empire score, compared against the product’s price point and alternatives, is how we ranked the products as we did.

The main decision-making factors that we used to score each product were: optics quality, display, form factor, durability, features, and value. We calculated a composite score out of five points for every rangefinder we reviewed. 

Distance Considerations 

Long-range is a term that’s different for everyone. It is relative to what the person is trying to do. For example:

  • long-range hunting for medium animals starts at 300 yards
  • long-range for 50 BMG competition shooters is more than a mile
red LED display of rangefinder focused on elk
Even 300 yards is considered long-range for many hunters.

Without a solid foundation as a shooter, it doesn’t matter that your 338 Lapua can reach 1000 yards if you can’t hit the target. So 1000 yards and beyond is almost universally accepted as long-range distance for shooters.

So when choosing a long-range rangefinder, you have to make sure it can reach out to at least 1000 yards with an accurate reading. If it can go a bit beyond 1000 yards, that’s even better.

The price difference between a 1000-yard rangefinder and a 1500 to 1600-yard rangefinder isn’t typically substantial. Being able to reach beyond a thousand yards accurately could be invaluable once you master that 1000-yard space.

We only considered rangefinders for this review that have a specified max range of at least 1500 yards. Though there are many excellent options that are not rated for that, given the advancements in technology over the past few years, this seemed to be a sensible cutoff for 2022 and beyond.

Two rangefinders sitting on glass case
For the purposes of long-range shooting, we ruled out testing less expensive rangefinders with a shorter range than 1500 yards.

Of all the rangefinders we tested, the Sig KILO5K has the longest specified range at 5000 yards, but the Maven RF.1 performs just as well in the real world. The Maven’s specs for soft targets and trees are slightly better than the Sig, but they both seem to hit semi-reflective hillsides at over 3000 yards without too much issue.

The Leupold RX-2800’s specs are not as sexy, but they appear to be the most realistic of all of them. Meanwhile, the Vortex Razor HD 4000 struggles the most to stretch its legs.

All of our top five picks will reliably range over 1000 yards in nearly any condition, and even well beyond that. They’ll all be more than adequate for long-range shooting.


The further you attempt to target at a distance, the greater accuracy you need.

A small inaccuracy at 100 yards isn’t a big deal at all. You can still hit your target. However, a slight inaccuracy at 1000 yards may result in a complete miss.

This means you should purchase a high-quality laser rangefinder from a reputable brand. It’s critical you search for unbiased reviews to give you a solid understanding of just how accurate it is.

You also want to make sure it’s easy to use, and you understand how to get an accurate reading from it.

Most rangefinders have slight variances between their accuracy ratings so it is not guaranteed to be spot on. They typically have a small inaccuracy, usually less than half a yard of variance.

Of our top picks, the Maven RF.1 touts the best accuracy and our experience confirms the specs, at least for close range. The Bushnell reportedly gets one-yard accuracy at any distance, but some user reviews suggest otherwise. See the table below for the manufacturer specified accuracies.

Accuracy (+/-) 0.5 yd 1 yd 2 yd 3 yd
Maven RF.1 < 300 yds 300-2000 yds > 2000 yds
Vortex Razor HD 4000 < 200 yds 200-1000 yds > 1000 yds
Leupold RX-2800 TBR/W < 125 yds 125-1000 yds
Sig Sauer KILO5K 0-500 yds 500-3000 yds
Bushnell Prime 1800 0-1800 yds

Optics Quality

hunter looking through Maven RF.1 front view
The Maven RF.1 has a crisp image with great color transmission.

Optics quality can be subjective. There are lots of factors involved like objective lens size, glass quality, clarity, coatings, color, and above all, light transmission. 

Every manufacturer has its own methods, often proprietary, of enhancing optical quality. Most reputable brands like Leupold, Vortex, Maven, and Leica have very good glass in their rangefinders that cost over $300.

In our analysis, we not only looked at the specs of the optics but scored them based on our own assessment of how well you can see through them, especially in low light.

Our high scorers for optical quality were the Leupold RX-2800, the Sig KILO5K, the Maven RF.1, the Leica Rangemaster 3500.COM, and the Vortex Razor HD 4000. Meanwhile, the low scorers were the Cabela’s Intensity 1600 and the ATN Laser Ballistics 1500.


5x vs 7x magnification optics
The difference between 5x and 7x magnification at 85 yds is amplified at longer distances.

Magnification is a fine balance to walk with long-range rangefinders. If you can’t get a solid picture of your target, how exactly are you going to range it?

You need enough power to see it well so you can utilize the rangefinder accurately. At the same time, too much magnification makes it insanely difficult to find and stay on target. It doesn’t only magnify your target, but also magnifies every breath, shiver and shake you make.

If you ever tried to use a spotting scope without a tripod (see how to choose a tripod), you know what I mean. Too much magnification is a bad thing. It also means the system is bigger and requires a larger objective lens.

In our experience and in keeping with the 1000-yard range theme, 7x is the sweet spot for long-range rangefinders. You can still hone in on close-range targets as well as those farther out. It’s also a good balance that keeps the device small and lightweight. 6x is a bit tight and something like 10x is not only rare to find in a rangefinder, but it is only useful for long-range while being difficult to use close up.

Half of the units we evaluated had 7x magnification, which is very common for this class of rangefinder, while the other half had 6x. Of the top 5, only our budget pick, the Bushnell Prime 1800, had 6x. Other hunting rangefinders we tested with 5x magnification were sufficient for hunting but too little for routing long-range use.


hunter looking through Maven RF.1 front view
The Activsync display on the Bushnell Prime 1800 is pretty innovative.

A long-range rangefinder display should be:

  • easy to read in low light,
  • easy to interpret,
  • and easy to navigate through the settings menu.

Bonus points may be awarded for special long-range shooting features like ballistics readouts or reticles. However, too much of that in the little real estate available in a rangefinder’s display can be a detriment to its utility.

All of our top picks faired very well here with our favorite displays being the Maven RF.1, the Leica, and the new display on the Bushnell Prime 1800 that turns from black to red according to the light conditions.

Old school black LCD displays are difficult, if not impossible, to see in low light and are usually only found on cheaper units these days. The Bushnell Prime 1700, Sig KILO1600, and ATN units had black displays. The rest of the units had red LED displays.

Form Factor

Man holding rangefinder to eye
The Sig Sauer rangefinders have excellent ergonomics and are pretty slim.

Size and weight are major considerations depending on what you are planning to do with the rangefinder.

  • If you are a simple bench rest competition shooter, size and weight don’t necessarily matter. You won’t be lugging that bad boy around much.
  • For a hunter or tactical user like a sniper, size and weight is a much bigger issue.

A sniper needs a compact but powerful rangefinder that can easily be packed away when on a mission. They also need to maintain a low profile as much as possible. In a hide, they don’t want a large machine to wave around. Slim, lightweight, and compact is a big deal for the gear that these guys use.

The most compact units we looked at included the Leupolds and the Vortex Ranger 1800 with the Sigs and the Leica coming in moderately slim. The Maven RF.1 and Vortex Razor HD 4000 were probably the heaviest (approx. 10 oz) and bulkiest compared to the rest. The Cabela’s and ATN are also rather bulky, though a bit lighter since they are made of cheaper materials. They all fit in the hand nicely.


Long-range rangefinders are made from various materials, some fragile and some rugged. Think about it. They have electronics, magnified glass lenses, and laser emitters. None of these are known for their durability. So the housing needs to be tough around those fragile materials.

The overall body strength of the device should also be durable. On top of this, you want it to be sealed against moisture and debris. You don’t need to dive at the bottom of the ocean with a rangefinder but you want it to resist some morning dew at least.

You have to remember, it’s a lot like binoculars and rifle scopes due to the use of optics. So you also want it to be fog proof and preferably nitrogen or argon purged.

Of the units we tested, the Maven RF.1 is the only one built to IP67 standards, meaning it can withstand multiple drops onto a hard surface from 1m above the ground and can be submerged 1m underwater for up to 30 minutes and still function.

Maven RF.1 laying in a river
We set our Maven RF.1 in the river for a few minutes, pulled it out, and it still worked, no problem!

Most of the rangefinders we tested were advertised to be at least water-resistant, if not waterproof, and had coated lenses to resist moisture buildup in the fog or rain. But few addressed shock. 

The toughest housings were made of stronger polymer materials with a magnesium or aluminum chassis like the Maven, Leupolds, and Sig Sauers on our list. But the Cabela’s, ATN, and Bushnell units were more plasticy and felt less rugged.


The right long-range laser rangefinder will not only tell you the distance to the target, but it will give you level fire range (a.k.a. true ballistic range) by doing a calculation that takes into account any elevation change between you and the target. Some call it angle compensation. All the rangefinders we considered for this list did this.

Adjusting settings in display of Maven RF.1
Some form of angle compensation mode is available on most shooting rangefinders.

Fancy Ballistics Calculations

Leupold has its TBR/W (True Ballistics Range and Wind) feature set which not only figures in angle compensation but also adjustments for specific loads and cartridges. You can then have the rangefinder display the distance to aim for along with the holdover in inches, milliradians, or MOA. So you have everything you need to dial in the turrets on your scope for an accurate shot.

For more details on how the Leupold TBR/W features work, check out our review on the Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W.

The Sig Sauer rangefinders we looked at support Sig’s BDX (Ballistics Data Exchange) functions including Bluetooth connectivity with a smartphone and the Sig app, or even compatible BDX rifle scopes. Beware that they do limit the effective range of the BDX features in the software of these devices, which is why the KILO1600BDX is only useful out to 800 yards with BDX.

Sig Sauer BDX app screenshot
Screenshot of Sig Sauer’s BDX app displaying load-specific ranges transferred from a rangefinder to a compatible scope.

Similarly, Leica’s Rangemaster 3500.COM connects to a smart device, even an Apple Watch, to give you those calculations.

Once you go through the motions, these features are not too difficult to figure out and understand. But they do all have their limitations and won’t work for every gun, cartridge, load, environment, and shooter.

Frankly, if you already use a ballistics app or are an avid shooter that can (or likes to) do these calculations yourself, these features are not a must-have. Solid core functionality, like what you find in the Maven and Vortex rangefinders, is sufficient for most.

Tripod Mount

One simple, mechanical feature that is extremely useful to long-range shooters is tripod mounting capabilities. This gives you the option to mount the rangefinder on a tripod for steady distance ranging

Even on our favorite units that range well beyond 1500 yards, it is often difficult to hold them steady enough to get a return on a distant hillside, let alone a small target. A tripod mount can resolve that problem.

Maven RF.1 Rangefinder on tripod
Tripod mounting capability makes a lot of sense when measuring long distances.

Of the units we tested, the following have a standard ¼” x 20 female threaded tripod mount, while the rest have nothing of the sort:

  • Maven RF.1
  • Leupold RX-2800 TBR/W
  • Vortex Ranger 1800
  • Bushnell Prime 1800
  • Vortex Razor HD 4000


The most valuable long-range rangefinder is not necessarily the most nor the least expensive. It’s the one that gives you the greatest cost-benefit, or essentially the most features, quality, and functionality for the lowest price compared to similarly priced products.

This is where the Maven RF.1 stands out the most, in our opinion. It’s not the cheapest, but it’s less expensive than the others with similar functionality and quality. We also think the Leupolds and the Sig Sauers offer great value, with the Vortexes coming up behind them.

The Bushnells offer decent value given their price, but the Cabela’s and ATN are about as good as you might expect for the cheaper price point. They don’t particularly stand out in any way.

The Leica offers the least amount of value. Not because it’s a bad machine, in fact, it’s one of the best. But it is so dadgum expensive that it’s hard to justify paying that much when others on this list do just as much or more for way less money.


Vortex VIP warranty
Vortex and Maven are the only ones offering true unlimited lifetime warranties on rangefinders.

A good warranty is a must-have on a rangefinder designed for long-range. It ensures that if you have an issue with the product, you aren’t out your initial investment. No questions asked lifetime warranties are great, but only Maven and Vortex offer it for rangefinders.

Likely, a good warranty covers and guarantees the electronics and quality for at least five years. This applies to Bushnell and Sig Sauer.

Leupold offers some of our favorite long-range rangefinders, but unfortunately, they have the weakest limited warranty of all at only two years.


Rangefinders fail for a variety of reasons, all of which tend to be amplified the farther away you are. Some rangefinders are simply not designed to be used at a long distance.

When it comes to long-range shooting, even though there are rangefinders for less than $100, it’s worth spending at least a few hundred bucks to get a mid-grade or premium long-range rangefinder. Save up a little longer if you have to so you can get a good one that may even last a lifetime.

Maven hat, cards, and box on a desk
Maven is a refreshing and innovative optics company and the RF.1 is a great buy. Even their swag is cool!

The Maven RF.1 is a great option that we recommend to any serious long-range shooter. It’s fast, easy to use, and super durable.

If you like all the bells and whistles, get the Sig KILO5K.

If you want a multi-purpose (hunting and shooting), semi-long range performer that won’t break the bank, the Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W would be our pick out of all of these. 

But if you are really only going to use a rangefinder for hunting, you probably don’t need to spend quite as much for extended max range and fancy features. In that case, learn more about rangefinders, how they work, and what products we recommend for other use cases in our comprehensive hunting rangefinder buying guide.


Rangefinder Reflective Vs Non-Reflective Target Range Explained!

The post 5 Best Rangefinders for Long Range Shooters in 2022 (In-Depth Reviews) appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

Review: Sig Kilo5K Rangefinder nonadult
Buyer’s Guide: Best Hunting Rangefinders Reviewed https://outdoorempire.com/best-rangefinder-reviews-advice/ https://outdoorempire.com/best-rangefinder-reviews-advice/#comments Thu, 05 May 2022 18:35:53 +0000 https://outdoorempire.com/?p=2327 If you’re like me, perhaps you’ve come to accept the fact that your internal tape measure isn’t entirely accurate, and you’re not the best judge of the distance between you and your target. If you’re a hunter, that inaccuracy will lead to missed shots and empty freezers. With all the options out there, it can ... Read more

The post Buyer’s Guide: Best Hunting Rangefinders Reviewed appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

If you’re like me, perhaps you’ve come to accept the fact that your internal tape measure isn’t entirely accurate, and you’re not the best judge of the distance between you and your target. If you’re a hunter, that inaccuracy will lead to missed shots and empty freezers.

With all the options out there, it can be difficult to confidently select one of the best hunting rangefinders to help solve your measurement problem.

After personally trying out multiple laser rangefinders, I have settled on two clear winners at different price points that offer the most bang for your buck.

DISCLOSURE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Links in this article are affiliate links. If you click on a link we may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

My favorite rangefinders for hunting are the Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W and the Maven RF.1. These offer the best cost-benefit compared to others in their price range. High-quality optics, easy-to-read displays, and features for both rifle and bowhunters mean you can’t go wrong with either one.

Besides these, there are a few runners-up that I would not hesitate to recommend.

When you’re in the field or at the range, you need to know the distance between you and your target so you can line up an accurate shot. Read on to know what to look for in a hunting rangefinder and why we make the recommendations we do.

[This article was fully revised in May, 2022 by Chase Fly. The original article was authored by Mckinley Downing in 2018.]

Best Rangefinders for Hunting: Outdoor Empire Reviews

Ultimately, the decision-making criteria that I consider when buying a laser rangefinder for hunting are:

  • Optics Quality
  • Display
  • Form Factor
  • Ruggedness
  • Features
  • Value

We looked at each of these factors for every rangefinder we reviewed and we calculated a composite score out of five points for each. 

This score compared against the product’s price point and alternatives are how we ranked the products as we did.

Best for the MoneyUpgrade PickAlso Great
leupold rx-1400i rangefinder
Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W

maven rf.1 rangefinder
Maven RF.1

Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W
Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W

Outdoor Empire Score4.54.74.5
Optics Specs5 x 21 mm7 x 25 mm6 x 22 mm
Max Range to Deer950 yards2700 yards1000 yards
Warranty2 year limitedUnconditional lifetime2 year limited
Benefits- Red display is easy to see in any light condition
- Easy to use and operate with solid documentation
- Intuitive controls and display are easy to use
- High-quality laser sensor with longer max range than competition
- Rugged, lightweight aluminum chassis
- Has upgraded glass and specs compared to the RX-1400i
DrawbacksWhile waterproof, it’s not super ruggedNo advanced ballistics or archery functionalityWeak warranty at its price point
PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

Best Hunting Rangefinder for the Money

Leupold RX-1400i with Empire Crowned label

  • Outdoor Empire Score: 4.5
  • MSRP: $199.99
  • Bottom line: Great buy, checks all the boxes

Compare prices at: Optics Planet, Sportsman’s Guide, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, EuroOptic

The Leupold RX-1400i is the best hunting rangefinder you can buy for cost-benefit. The price is on the low end for a rangefinder, but the quality and features are mid-to-high-end.

The optics expert at my local Sportsman’s Warehouse first told me about this one. He claimed it was his favorite, and they’re next to never in stock because they sell so quickly. 

I purchased this unit, and I’ve been using it for a while now out scouting, hunting, at the range, and in my backyard. And I love it!

Cheaper units that I considered aren’t nearly as useful and they only save you about $100. On the flip side, you have to spend double to get something better. 

What We Like

The optical quality is well-appointed for typical big game hunting, as is the max range of 1200 yards to trees and 950 to a deer. These are achievable estimates based on my experience with it. 

It’s super small and light so you can carry it anywhere. Waterproof and with a rubber grip, it’s rugged enough to hold up to the elements on a hunt.

It’s one of only two options I found in this price range with a red TOLED display, which I considered a must-have for it to be useful in low light.

Rangefinder in BOW mode
A bright red display and multiple modes make this a great hunting rangefinder.

The other benefit of this unit is that it has the True Ballistic Range® with Wind feature so you can get all technical and calculate the level fire range distance you should aim for based on the cartridge and load you are shooting. It’ll even help you figure out the wind correction you need to dial into your scope.

It also has a BOW mode for archery hunters. While I don’t see myself using this feature much, it was easier to use than I anticipated when I tried it out.

Recommended: Detailed Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W Rangefinder Hands-on Review

What We Don’t Like

The biggest drawback of this unit is the warranty. Of all the big (and small) optics manufacturers, Leupold has the worst warranty on electro-optics, including their rangefinders. The warranty only covers defects for two years, and then you’re on your own.

Even still, I’m a big enough fan of everything else about this rangefinder, namely the value of what you get for what you pay. I highly recommend the Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W for everyday, practical rifle and bow hunters.

Upgrade Pick

Maven RF.1 rangefinder with Empire Crowned label

  • Outdoor Empire Score: 4.7
  • MSRP: $450.00
  • Bottom line: Premium glass and warranty at a mid-range price

Compare prices at: Sportsman’s Guide, Optics Planet, Sportsman’s Warehouse, EuroOptic

To be honest, I didn’t know I wanted a Maven RF.1 until I got my hands on one. This rangefinder is amazing and it’s worth every penny!

It’s not the cheapest rangefinder out there, but it’s far from the most expensive. However, it is just as good or better than the other high-end rangefinders we looked at, and for a lot less money.

What We Like

The Maven RF.1 has the best price in its class. The laser sensor is of particularly high quality and demonstrated by its unrivaled max range of 4500 yards to a reflective target, or more realistically, 3000 yards to trees.

I hit hillsides at over 3200 yards with it in broad daylight when others would struggle to reach half their max range.

I also love the intuitive controls and bright red LED display. Unlike most rangefinders with two buttons, this one also has a dial to cycle through menu options and a switch to go between Forest and Field mode. These modes change the target priority on the fly without navigating a settings menu.

Maven RF.1 rangefinder on grass next to turkey poop
Only one of these items is crap. Hint: it’s the tom dropping on the right.

Besides that, it’s super rugged and backed by an unlimited lifetime warranty. Even if it’s your fault, they’ll repair or replace the unit without any BS.

Maven is still a small company based in a Western mountain town called Lander, Wyoming, where a human answers the phone. They’re innovative and only sell directly to consumers online, cutting out the middleman to keep prices low. Passionate hunters themselves, they’re the kind of business you want to support.

Recommended: Detailed Maven RF.1 Rangefinder Hands-on Review

What We Don’t Like

It might be hard for some to buy a premium optic without looking through it first. Maven has a cool loaner program so you can try it before you buy. Or just take my word for it that it’s awesome.

While the ergonomics are decent, the RF.1 is bulkier and heavier than most rangefinders we looked at.

And even though I don’t really care about advanced ballistics functionality and calculations, those who do appreciate that might be disappointed that this unit doesn’t have any of that like competing models from Leupold, Leica, or Sig.

Nonetheless, the Maven RF.1 nails the fundamentals and I recommend it to long-range hunters who appreciate premium glass without gimmicks. Or anyone that wants just to buy one really nice rangefinder in their life.

Also Great 

Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W
$379.99 ($38.00 / oz)
View on Amazon View at Brownells
08/15/2023 10:40 am GMT
  • Outdoor Empire Score: 4.5
  • MSRP: $399.99
  • Bottom line: Like the RX-1400i, but more rugged and better glass

Big brother to the RX-1400i is Leupold’s best seller, the RX-1600i TBR/W. This includes a thoughtful upgrade to some of the main decision-making criteria over the RX-1400i and a little extra range.

It has upgraded glass with a larger objective lens and more powerful magnification (6x vs. 5x). And it is notably more rugged with an aluminum chassis and better armor.

This makes it feel better in your hand and adds some peace of mind, especially given Leupold’s sub-par warranty on electro-optics. But those upgrades do come at double the price.

The Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W is an excellent choice for guys or gals with a bit more money and time to spend in the field hunting and at the range shooting.

Best of the Rest

Compare prices at: Optics Planet, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Amazon, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, EuroOptic

  • Outdoor Empire Score: 4.7
  • MSRP: $718.99
  • Bottom line: Packed with tech for long-range precision rifle hunting

The Sig Sauer KILO5K is a premium, feature-packed, long-range hunting rangefinder. It measures distances faster than the others we looked at, and it has more sophisticated reticle options.

With Bluetooth, it can connect to Sig’s ballistics app and the Basemap hunting app, allowing you to drop markers at remote distances. This is a pretty cool feature for scouting. It also has onboard sensors for temperature and air pressure.

While it says its max range is 5000 yards to a reflective target, its max rating to trees is 2500 yards. I was able to hit trees at over 2700 yards with the Maven RF.1, and while it doesn’t have as many fancy techy features as the KILO5K, it costs a whole lot less and does the same job.

Compare prices at: Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Brownells, EuroOptic, Palmetto State Armory

  • Outdoor Empire Score: 4.7
  • MSRP: $599.99
  • Bottom line: The best from Leupold at a reasonable price

The RX-2800 TBR/W is another excellent option from Leupold with rave reviews. It has everything you’ll find in the RX-1600i, but with a longer max range, upgraded glass to 7×27, and a tripod mount. 

While it doesn’t range as far as the Maven RF.1 and the menu isn’t as easy to navigate, it has the ballistics data and functionality that the Maven does not. This is an excellent choice for long-range hunters. 

Compare prices at: Optics Planet, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Sportsman’s Guide, Amazon, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’sBrownells, EuroOptic

  • Outdoor Empire Score: 4.3
  • MSRP: $499.99 (usually around $400 in stores)
  • Bottom line: Prolific and dependable, but lagging behind

I really liked the form factor and how rugged the Vortex Ranger 1800 is. I also love Vortex’s no questions asked warranty. This is a great product and you can’t really go wrong with it. 

However, it just doesn’t measure out nearly as close to the advertised range as the Leupolds and the Maven and it takes longer to get a reading. The guy at Cabela’s uses this one and said he once ranged an elk at over 900 yards, but normally the best he sees is less than that. It’s still his favorite, though. 

You get more bang for your buck with our top three picks. 

By the way, the Vortex Ranger 1300 is discontinued now. Though you may still find one in stores, maybe even on sale.

Compare prices at: Sportsman’s Guide, AmazonOptics Planet, Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, Brownells, EuroOptic

  • Outdoor Empire Score: 4.2
  • MSRP: $729.99 (available in stores starting at $500)
  • Bottom line: Trusty, famous, proven

This is perhaps the most direct competitor to the Maven RF.1 with similar functionality, warranty, form factor, and durability.

The Vortex Razor HD 4000 has been available for long enough to have gained a lot of popularity, and it is an excellent choice for long-range hunters. However, it is more expensive than the Maven and it has a shorter max range and the interface is less user-friendly.

Compare prices at: EuroOptic, Palmetto State Armory

  • Outdoor Empire Score: 4.2
  • MSRP: $354.99
  • Bottom line: Feels great in the hand, fast measurements

The Sig Sauer KILO rangefinders have perhaps the best ergonomics of all. They just feel really good in the hand. 

The KILO1600BDX is the closest competitor to the Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W in that they have similar ranges, ballistics functions, and quality glass.

A big difference is that the Sig connects to a ballistics app and can even directly pair with Sig’s SIERRA BDX scope. But note that the software limits ballistics calculations to a maximum of 800 yards. You gotta buy the more expensive one to make it work farther. 

When I tried it, the red LED display had a weird reflection inside the glass that was really annoying in low light. 

This rangefinder is really fast, giving you a measurement almost instantaneously. It’s a worthy option for precision rifle shooters and Sig fans.

Tidewe HR-F700
View on Amazon
08/15/2023 10:25 am GMT
  • Outdoor Empire Score: 3.0
  • MSRP: $69.99
  • Bottom line: Price is so good you almost have to try it

While I haven’t gotten my hands on the Tidewe HR-F700 hunting rangefinder just yet, thousands of reviewers on Amazon approve. And the specs and warranty aren’t bad either. If you’re on a tight budget but want a basic rangefinder that will function, the Tidewe appears to be a great choice. 

It has a basic line of sight mode and angle-adjusted measurements, which is on par with mid-grade rangefinders. With a rechargeable battery and decent water protection, it’s my low-budget pick.

Others We Evaluated

Hunting rangefinders in retail caseHere are some other rangefinders I looked at but didn’t include in the top picks. I researched all of these and tested some of them in the store.

Product Outdoor Empire Score (out of 5) MSRP Why It Didn’t Make the Cut
Leica Rangemaster 3500.COM 4.3 $1,249.00 Awesome with techy features, but way too expensive compared to the Maven RF.1 which performs similarly
Bushnell Prime 3.8 1300: $179.99

1700: $209.99

Low-end materials and black LCD for the same price as the Leupold RX1400i
Vortex Impact 1000 3.5 $269.99 Felt lower quality than most Vortex products, poor LCD, sluggish, overpriced
Sig Sauer KILO1000 3.3 $211.99 Same as Vortex Impact, competitive products on Amazon for half as much, but people like it
Cabela’s Intensity 1600R 2.8 $179.99 Only other one at this price point with a red OLED display, bulky, feels cheap, only basic features, just not as good as alternatives
AOFAR HX-700N 2.5 $89.99 Great reviews on Amazon and excellent price, but weak specs don’t offer as much value as others
Cabela’s Pursuit 850 2.5 $119.99 Feels cheap, bulky, no frills, overpriced compared to similar items
Simmons Pro Hunter 750 2.3 $99.99 Bulky, very short range, very basic

Why You Should Trust Us

Man surveying baseball field with rangefinder on tripod
Here I am surveying the San Francisco Giants baseball stadium with a laser rangefinder in 2016.

Previously in my professional career, I worked in the mapping and professional measurement industry. I helped land surveyors, civil engineers, mining companies, foresters, utility companies and various government agencies identify hardware and software solutions to help them with field data collection and mapping.

Among the many products I worked with were professional-grade laser rangefinders. I had the opportunity to train people on how to use them for everything from measuring heights of power poles to stockpile volumes.

From that experience, I learned what to look for in a rangefinder and it caused me to gain an appreciation for solid core functionality. My background allowed me to effectively filter out sub-par hunting rangefinders in favor of the best ones.

In preparation for this review, I reviewed dozens of rangefinders, closely evaluated and scored 18 of them, and tried many of those in the store and the field.

I also interviewed experts at the optics counters at Sportsman’s Warehouse and Cabela’s to get an idea of customer feedback, listen to their recommendations, and gather golden nuggets of insight.

The two rangefinders I recommend are the two I now personally use when I hunt or go to the shooting range.

Analysis and What to Look for in a Rangefinder for Hunting

Before shopping, determine some boundaries of what you need, what is nice to have, and what you don’t want. These external factors help narrow down what you’re shopping for and eliminate most of the hard decisions right off the bat.

When you evaluate each model, keep the following in mind.

Optics Quality

Vortex rangefinders front view
Vortex Ranger (left), Vortex Impact (right).

The longer you look through your rangefinder and the further away your targets are, the more you’ll appreciate good glass in the unit. Rangefinders are optics, just like scopes and binoculars, and there’s no substitute for good glass.

If high optical quality is important to you, then look for brands known for outstanding lenses. Generally speaking, Leupold, Sig Sauer, Bushnell, and Vortex are great starting places. Premium European brands like Leica and Zeiss have some of the best glass in the world.

Then there are the smaller up-and-coming brands like Maven, whose quality rivals that of the European optics giants and impressed me during this review in terms of light transmission and clarity.

Less expensive units typically have smaller lenses, lower magnification, and less special coating on the lenses.

Most rangefinders have a fixed magnification between 4x and 7x. This lets you see your target and get an accurate measurement while keeping the scope simple to operate but still usable.

If you’ll routinely use your rangefinder past 300 or 400 yards, consider getting one with a magnification of 6x or up. Hunters can generally get by just fine with 5x magnification.

The Leupold RX-1400i certainly had excellent quality for its price point, whereas I was a bit let down by the similarly priced Vortex Impact 1000. The mid-range units like the Leupold RX-1600i, the Vortex Ranger 1800, and the Sig Sauer KILO1600BDX were similar in specs and quality.


Cabela’s Intensity 1600R display
The Cabela’s Intensity 1600R’s red OLED display.

In my opinion, a red LED display is a must-have in a hunting rangefinder. They are markedly better than classic black LCDs, an older technology that is slowly being phased out. 

You usually have to pay $300 or more for a rangefinder with a red display, except for the recommended Leupold RX-1400i and the lower scoring Cabela’s Intensity 1600R.

Anything cheaper had black LCD screens, which, when combined with lower-grade lenses that transmit less light, were difficult or impossible to read in low light. And all the more expensive units had red LED displays that were more than adequate.

I also look for a display that is not too crowded with information. Some of the most crowded displays we looked at are the Sig units, whereas Leupold seemed to do a better job at displaying what you need to see.

And Maven took this a step farther, dynamically turning certain outputs on and off to show you only what is most relevant at any given moment.

Menu Navigation

man holding Maven RF.1 Rangefinder
The menu interface and controls on the Maven are the simplest out of all of them.

With only two buttons, most hunting rangefinders require a lot of button clicks to make changes to the settings, brightness, or modes. The units we tested mostly all work the same way, which is not entirely intuitive.

The one exception is the Maven RF.1, which is far more intuitive than the others. With more buttons and a dial, you can tweak settings way quicker, some without even entering the menu. The Maven is the only one where you could get away without ever reading the manual.


Reticles are a lot like knives; simpler is better. Simple crosshairs are ideal until you really get familiar with your gear. 

Many of the rangefinders reviewed give you several reticle options to select from. I lean toward a basic cross on the Leupold RX-1400i or a simple red dot on the Maven RF.1. Units like the Sig KILO5K have more complex reticles for more technical shooters, but these do not necessarily enhance overall performance.

Form Factor

Leupold RX-1400i in jeans pocket
The Leupold RX-1400i fits in my pocket.

The size and shape of a hunting rangefinder are important for two reasons.

  1. It needs to be small enough to be held comfortably.
  2. It needs to fit where you plan on storing and carrying it.

It’s popular for hunters to string a rangefinder on a lanyard and hang it around their neck, stow it in a bino or chest pouch, or clip it to their belt or chest strap. This obviously works better with more compact units.

The bulkier units we tested include the Maven RF.1, the Vortex Razor HD 4000, the Cabela’s Pursuit 850, the Cabela’s Intensity 1600R, the Simmons Pro Hunter 750, the Tidewe HR-F700, and the AOFAR HX-700N. So basically, the low-cost units and a couple of the higher-end units with bigger, better glass.

The smallest, most ergonomic units were the Vortex Ranger 1800, the Sig Sauer KILO1600BDX, the Vortex Impact 1000, and the Sig Sauer KILO1000. The Leupold RX-1400i is just as small but perhaps not quite as ergonomic. The size of the rest of the units we evaluated falls somewhere in the middle.


hunter looking through Sig Sauer KILO5K
Image source: Sig Sauer

Weight is important because it limits how long you can hold it up and how you can carry it. Holding it for a minute in the store says little about how you’ll feel after day three of a high country elk hunt.

Choose the lightest model that fits your specifications but doesn’t skimp on features. You want to get less weight. It’s better to have a usable piece of gear that is an ounce or two heavier than an ultralight piece of junk.

The Sig KILO5K weighs an impressive 7.4 ounces even though it’s the most sensor and feature-packed rangefinders we looked at. Compare that to 10.1 ounces on the Maven RF.1, which weighs twice as much as the Leupold RX-1400i. Most fall somewhere in the middle.


Maven RF1 partly submerged in water
Most hunting rangefinders are at least somewhat water resistant.

All things being equal, look for a rugged piece of gear. If you can’t take it under the rain or you have to worry about dropping it constantly, it won’t be as useful as something that takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.

Don’t get too caught up on how waterproof or shatter-resistant this model or that model is. Just look for something that is reasonably tough. Bonus points for an awesome warranty.

The most rugged units have an aluminum or magnesium chassis with more robust polymer components, rubber armor, and waterproof seals.

Super tough units we looked at include the Maven RF.1, the Leupold RX-1600i and RX-2800, the Vortex Razor and Ranger, and the Sig KILO5K. The least rugged were the Cabela’s models and the Simmons. I thought the Tidewe looked pretty decent for a unit under $100.


Different models have tailored special features designed to make their respective purposes easier. Decide your intended use for the rangefinder and research the available features. A certain company may have a setup you prefer once you have tested it.

Buyer beware. Avoid overpaying for things you may not use or something just nice to have.

Ballistics and Archery Calculations

Leupold trajectory infographic
Image source: Leupold

Some rangefinders have a whole bunch of features that help you predict shots and have ballistic reticles familiar to rifle scopes.

From displaying level fire range adjusted for the angle or steepness of the terrain to calculating windage and cartridge/load specific ranges, the big optics companies are incorporating more tech into their rangefinders. These are great once you get used to them but have been liable for more than one missed deer.

There are three categories of rangefinders with these features:

  1. No frills: just a line of sight distance
  2. Angle compensation: at least gives level fire range adjusted for the terrain, and often an angle which is especially useful for bowhunters.
  3. Advanced ballistics: cartridge, load, and sometimes weather adjustments

Most of the rangefinders we looked at fall in the second category with at least angle compensation. Those with advanced ballistics functionality include all the Leupold and Sig units, except for the Sig KILO1000. Though they do have that one in a BDX (Ballistics Data Exchange) version.

Maximum Range

Hunter in camo using rangefinder
Most distances I range while hunting are less than 1000 yards.

While maximum range is often touted as a key specification of rangefinders, I don’t see much added value in a rangefinder that goes out to 5000 meters as opposed to 1000. I’m a pretty conservative hunter, so as long as I can confirm a deer is within a couple of hundred meters, I’m good.

Though I will also want to range some farther distances to estimate hiking times or know how much I need to advance to get within shooting range of an animal. Far reaching rangefinders are particularly useful for long-range hunters, however. 

Max range is more associated with the class and price range of a rangefinder than it is the quality. I mainly just want to have confidence in the measurements given by a unit.

Also note that if your unit laser targets out to 1000 yards but doesn’t have any magnification, most of its capability is wasted.

The unit we reviewed with the maximum advertised range to a reflective target was the Sig Sauer KILO5K, though the Maven ranges farther to trees and deer, so the RF.1 takes the cake here.

Understandably, the cheapest units have the shortest range of around 700 yards, though I would only count on measuring distances half that far.

The Bushnell Prime 1700 is competitively priced and has a solid range. Our top pick Leupold RX-1400i is sufficient for the majority of hunters.


red LED display of rangefinder focused on elk

Some sports require more accuracy than others. A competitive shooter or long range hunter may want a minimum of +/- .5 yards.

When choosing a hunting rangefinder, keep these pointers in mind:

  1. Decide what you’re willing to settle for.
  2. Set a price range of what you’re willing to pay for.
  3. Get a unit that you can live with.

There are far more factors, including user error, that affect the accuracy of your rangefinder and the typical user will never use a unit to its absolute maximum performance anyway.

The Maven and the Leupolds provided measurements consistent with the advertised accuracy.

Target Priority

View of turkey through rangefinder
The Maven has Field and Forest modes, while most others call the latter Last mode.

Target priority on a laser rangefinder means it is calibrated or customizable to find either an aggregate or a simple measurement. In layman’s term, you can choose for the unit to find the closest, farthest, or average distance that it is pointed at.

This is important because if you have a deer standing behind a tree, but the tree is 25 yards closer than the deer, you won’t have the tree messing up the measurement. For a precise measurement, this is critical to get right. 

Generally, the thicker and the more varied your terrain is, the more essential this feature is. A farthest mode or the equivalent also helps improve performance in rain or fog, which is a huge challenge for any rangefinder since it fragments the laser light.

More and more units are moving to either a selectable or automatic target priority sensor to get more accurate results.

All the units we evaluated include some form of this functionality.

Scan and Horizontal Modes

Looking at display through Maven RF.1 Rangefinder
The best hunting rangefinders have a scan mode.

Scan and horizontal modes are essential only in certain situations.

If you need to collect a lot of data quickly about your surroundings, for example, if you’re turkey hunting with a bow and waiting for a gobbler to come in, then scanning the area and identifying landmarks in a hurry can be helpful.

Flipping the unit horizontally to look around a tree or have a better line of sight around an obstacle is somewhat overrated. You might never need to use your rangefinder horizontally, and paying more specifically for this feature is foolish.

Some models have it standard, but if it’s offered as an upgrade, steer clear and save your money.


Optics and electronics have traditionally been a “get what you pay for” type of gear. But competition and direct to consumer brands have been shifting that in the hunting consumer’s favor.

An inexpensive rangefinder can give you all the information you need to make an accurate shot at a distance but may lack the refinements and features you want. Whereas some big name brands like Leica, Sig Sauer, Leupold, and Vortex cost more than necessary simply due to retail markup.

The $200 price point for a rangefinder seems to be the best for most folks because it has the greatest cost-benefit. The Leupold RX-1400i is substantially better than any unit for $200 or less and it even has some of the $300-400 unit features.

Same story for the Maven RF.1, priced at $450 but competes with units that cost twice as much or more. Most importantly, these units do the job. 

So when you spend more, you enter the realm of the law of diminishing returns. This is where you pay a lot more for maginal enhancements. Personally, I try not to go there.


hand holding Maven Rf 1 front viewBuy from a company that offers at least a partial warranty. Everyone makes a lemon from time to time and you don’t want to be stuck with a broken piece of equipment because the manufacturer won’t replace it.

Most reputable brands offer a multi-year or lifetime guarantee on their product. Buy from them as much as possible. 

Here is a list of best to worst rangefinder warranties from select manufacturers:

  1. Maven: unlimited lifetime, transferable, no proof required, personalized service
  2. Vortex: unlimited lifetime, transferable, no proof required
  3. Sig Sauer: unlimited lifetime on optics, 5-year on electronic components
  4. Bushnell: 5-year unlimited “product lifetime”
  5. Leupold: 2-year limited

Vortex and Maven promise to repair or replace your rangefinder for pretty much any reason. Short of intentional damage, loss, or theft, they will put an operable unit back in your hands, even if it was your fault that it broke. No receipts required, fully transferable, awesome!

This is particularly unique for an electronic device like a rangefinder and one of the reasons we named the Maven RF.1 a top pick. Unfortunately, there’s a fair amount of fine print on the other brands.

It’s too bad Leupold only covers rangefinders for two years, putting them at the back of the pack in terms of backing their product. While this leaves something to be desired, their rangefinders rock, and their pricing is excellent, so it’s a tradeoff.

Hunting Rangefinder FAQs

hunter looking through the Leupold RX 1400i

1. How do laser rangefinders work?

All rangefinders that aren’t broken will give a readout of information relating to the distance away from your target.

Basically, when you trigger a rangefinder, laser light projects through the air in a cone shape with a rapid series of pulses. The farther the light travels, the larger the area of the circle of light, so to speak. So it’s not the size of a pencil lead out to infinity. 

The rangefinder sensor then receives multiple return measurements. These can be reflections of everything from particles in the air to solid objects like deer. 

The device then does some processing and selects the measurement to display. It displays the measurement with the strongest reflection, usually a solid object or a highly reflective surface.

Though many display the weakest (farthest), strongest, or average return depending on the mode it’s in for different conditions such as rain, forest, or open terrain.

Some give extensive information about bullet or arrow placement or angles between you and your target, while others just give the line of sight distance.

Related: How a Laser Rangefinder Works Explained!

2. What kind of batteries do rangefinders use?

Most laser rangefinders use a single disposable CR2 battery. These are easy to find online or in stores. You can even get longer lasting lithium or rechargeable CR2 batteries.

Some units come with onboard rechargeable batteries, just like a mobile phone. But the best hunting rangefinders still work with swappable batteries.

3. Are rangefinders legal for hunting?

There are a few restrictions for hunters besides not having a rangefinder mounted on your bow in some states. It’s good to check with your local game and fish agency, but there is typically no problem with using a rangefinder for hunting.


Best Rangefinders For Long Range Shooters

Hunting vs Golf Rangefinders

The post Buyer’s Guide: Best Hunting Rangefinders Reviewed appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

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Maven RF.1 Rangefinder Review (Worth Every Penny) https://outdoorempire.com/maven-rf1-rangefinder-review/ Sat, 30 Apr 2022 15:12:14 +0000 https://outdoorempire.com/?p=21894 When I got the chance to do a Maven RF.1 rangefinder review, I was stoked! I’ve had it for a while now and have used it quite a bit at the gun range, in the mountains turkey hunting, and in my backyard. For us to test the RF.1, Maven sent one to us here at ... Read more

The post Maven RF.1 Rangefinder Review (Worth Every Penny) appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

When I got the chance to do a Maven RF.1 rangefinder review, I was stoked! I’ve had it for a while now and have used it quite a bit at the gun range, in the mountains turkey hunting, and in my backyard.

For us to test the RF.1, Maven sent one to us here at Outdoor Empire. However, they had no influence on the content of this review. The opinions here are entirely my own and no one paid us for this article, though the links below are affiliate links, FYI. 

Maven is an optics company out of Wyoming that is making clever (and useful) changes to many of the staple optics products we all use, like scopes and binoculars. Then they sell directly to consumers, which seems to me to yield premium glass at mid-range prices. The RF.1 is no different.

The Maven RF.1 is a fully rugged, long-range laser rangefinder for hunting and shooting. It has a high-end laser sensor, user-friendly controls, and top-notch optical quality. Though it’s not the lightest or most compact rangefinder, it costs nearly half the price of its closest competitors.

Maven RF.1
  • Best price in its class by a long shot
  • High-quality laser sensor with longer max range than competition
  • Intuitive controls and display are easy to use
  • Unlimited lifetime warranty could make it the last rangefinder you ever buy
  • Field and Forest modes make it useful in both open country and dense vegetation
  • Bulkier and heavier than many alternatives
  • No advanced ballistics or archery functionality
View on Amazon View at Maven
08/16/2023 08:20 am GMT
man standing in San Francisco Giants stadium with laser rangefinder equipment
This is me surveying the San Francisco Giants stadium with a laser rangefinder measurement system from Laser Technology, Inc. in 2016.

On a previous career path, I actually consulted with and equipped land surveyors, mines, transportation departments and others on professional measurement equipment and software for field data collection. Laser rangefinders were among the tools I trained folks on to acquire precise measurements of all sorts of things. 

In particular, I supplied rangefinders from a company called Laser Technology, Inc. So I was pleasantly surprised to see the Laser Tech sticker on the bottom of the RF.1.

The review went pretty well from there. Read on to find out why we gave it our Empire Crowned Best Gear Choice label!

Maven RF.1 Hands-On Review

hunter looking through the Maven RF.1 Rangefinder

A newish optics company trying to develop their laser ranging sensor would have made me pretty skeptical that it could be any good. So discovering that Maven worked with Laser Tech to bring the RF.1 to market was great news to me and the first sign of quality. 

Laser Tech specializes in laser distance ranging technology. They hold several patents and have been doing it for decades, so this is not some cheap, experimental sensor inside the RF.1.

Besides having confidence in the measurements given, the decision-making criteria that I base my hunting rangefinder reviews on are as follows:

  • Optics Quality
  • Display
  • Form Factor
  • Ruggedness
  • Features

Spoiler alert: the Maven RF.1 gets pretty high marks in each category.

Optics Quality as Good as It Gets in a Rangefinder

Maven RF.1 Rangefinder's eyecup in focus
The adjustable eyecup and focus ring are unique to premium rangefinders like the RF.1.

When it comes to optics, I think the RF.1 is ahead of most rangefinders on at least four fronts.

Eye relief adjustment: Unlike less expensive rangefinders and even some in the same price range, the RF.1 has an adjustable eyecup. I found this helped keep the glare out of my field of view, and it’s nice for people who wear glasses.

Objective lens: The RF.1 has a 25mm objective lens diameter, which is notably larger than most hunting and shooting rangefinders. The clear glass lets in lots of light and the field of view is nice and large, which especially helps when you’re ranging objects that are pretty close to you. 

Maven RF.1 Rangefinder front view
The Maven RF.1 has a large 25mm objective lens with a crisp, clear view.

Magnification: 7x magnification is as good as it gets with rangefinders, and it is especially useful, necessary almost, for ranging distant targets. Most other rangefinders have 5x or 6x which is less good for long-range shooting.

Focus: Another feature only really found in more expensive rangefinders is a diopter focus adjustment ring around the eyecup. You can see what you want without the blur.

With this kind of optical quality, I find myself reaching for my binos less because I can both glass a ridge and get a measurement at the same time with the RF.1.

Nice Bright Red Display

red LED display of rangefinder focused on elk
Even when ranging elk at the brightest part of the day, the red LED display is easy to see on the RF.1.

After trying out 10 or more rangefinders, I knew that a red display was a must-have. 

The RF.1 has a nice, clear red display. With five brightness settings, I found it easy to read in both low light and bright conditions.

You can easily adjust the brightness settings on-the-fly by turning the dial on the side at any time, no button presses. I thought this was super nice compared to navigating through a whole menu on other rangefinders.

Easy to Understand

The display is also easy to interpret and read. I like how the default settings leave minimal information displayed, maximizing what you are viewing through the optic. By default, the display shows only the essentials:

  • Reticle (choice of five different designs)
  • Distance measured
  • Measurement display mode (angle compensated or line of sight)
  • Measurement type mode (field or forest)
Looking at display through Maven RF.1 Rangefinder
Even when fully active, the display is not too crowded so it’s easy to interpret what’s going on.

When you first turn it on, you also see a battery indicator. And when you are actively firing, it will show a little laser beam icon. You’ll also see the word SCAN below the output if you hold the fire button down to scan.

I like how this display is more dynamic compared to other rangefinders I’ve tried.

Even in special modes, it doesn’t just throw up a bunch of static information. It will automatically turn on or off different indicators from when you are firing to when the measurement is locked in. That way, you only see what is most relevant at any given moment. Very intuitive and user-friendly!

Best Menu Navigation I’ve Tried

man holding Maven RF.1 Rangefinder
The dial, buttons, and switch on the RF.1 make on-the-fly adjustments easier and faster than any other rangefinder I’ve tried.

Finally, navigating the RF.1 menu is also easier than other rangefinders and I attribute that primarily to the added tactile buttons and the dial.

Others usually have two buttons (mode and fire), so you have to click a whole bunch to change the settings. But you can navigate through the RF.1 menu way faster and change settings much more intuitively.

  • Fire button: powers unit on, triggers a measurement, exits settings menu
  • Menu/Enter button: cycles through settings, confirms selection
  • Dial: cycles through settings options forward or backward (no more clicking 10 times to get back to that option you accidentally skipped)
  • Field/Forest switch: switches between field and forest mode…duh

Let’s just say I didn’t have to read the manual to figure out how to change settings, and it was super easy.

Form Factor is a Tad Bulky

Leupold and Marven rangefinders front view
The more compact Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W compared to the Maven RF.1

The Maven RF.1 definitely feels good in the hand, but it comes in quite a bit larger than my other favorite hunting rangefinder, the Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W. In fact, at 10 ounces, it weighs twice as much and takes up a lot more volume in a pouch compared to the Leupold.

Recommended: Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W Review (Best Under $200)

That said, this is not a dealbreaker at all. It still has a sleek design with a grippy surface (the gray part) that makes it easy to hold onto. And I would expect it to be somewhat larger to house the larger and better glass.

What’s important is that it fits in a rangefinder or bino sidekick pouch just fine. The dial doesn’t seem to hang up on things as much as I expected.

If I could make this product better, I’d try to slim it down and improve the ergonomics.

Ruggedly Handsome

Maven RF.1 laying in a river
Seems waterproof enough to me. Still worked fine after this.

This is a strong point of the Maven RF.1. Not only are its looks as rugged as Kevin Costner’s, but it feels like it’s genuinely made of nicer materials than cheaper rangefinders. 

There are a lot of polymer pieces with rubberized armor. The knurled menu and focus dials are aluminum. The battery cover feels like durable metal, unlike the cheap plastic covers I’ve seen on others. The frame is made of magnesium and aluminum.

It does not appear to have an official IP rating (ingress protection), but I wouldn’t be nervous about taking it out to the field and dangling it from my bino pouch or belt. I expect this to hold up fine.

No Worries Warranty

In case it doesn’t hold up, Maven has a stellar warranty that is only rivaled by the likes of optics giant, Vortex

The RF.1 has an unconditional lifetime warranty. Maven will repair or replace it if something goes wrong.

Their warranty terms literally say, “We don’t care where or when you bought it or if it was your fault or not – if it says Maven, we will take care of it.”

That is pretty amazing! Especially for an optic with electrical components.

Obvious exceptions are loss, deliberate damage, or cosmetic damage that doesn’t affect performance.

Features Nail the Fundamentals

Maven RF.1 Rangefinder with pouch on wood
It comes with a microfiber pouch instead of a case.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that this rangefinder is packed with special features, but I do think it nailed the fundamentals.

Long-range Worthy

The maximum distance itself is not the top priority for me since it is more of a thing that classifies the rangefinder and its price point rather than determines its quality. 

And, frankly, I’m not usually going to seek out a rangefinder with as long of a range as the RF.1. I generally want a rangefinder to see if a deer or turkey is within my confident shooting range or estimate how long it’ll take me to hike in the hills from one point to another.

However, I do want to see how close to the advertised range a rangefinder is capable of. The 4500 yards claim of the Maven is bold. But being familiar with Laser Technology, who makes the laser sensor, it seemed feasible to me.

The maximum range specs of the RF.1 are:

  • 4500 yards (2.5 mi) to a reflective target
  • 3000 yards (1.7 mi) to trees
  • 2700 yards (1.5 mi) to a deer
  • 5 yards minimum range

When I was scouting for turkeys, I easily got a read on a non-reflective peak across a valley at a distance of over 3200 yards.

Locking onto a deer that far away would be pretty unlikely since it’d be such a small target at that distance, but I do believe you could get a range on whatever surface was right next to one. 

At the end of the day, I’m very confident that this rangefinder would be ideal for long-range shooting, whether for fun, competition, or hunting.

Tripod Friendly

Maven RF.1 Rangefinder on tripod
The tripod mount helps keep it stable so you can take advantage of its max range.

Speaking of long-range, the only way you could get a returned measurement at those great distances is if you can stabilize the rangefinder. Luckily, the RF.1 has a ¼” x 20 threaded female mount so that you can put it on a tripod.

This is a simple but handy feature you don’t find on most hunting rangefinders.

bottom of Maven RF.1 with threaded tripod mount
Standard mount point make it compatible with any camera or spotting scope tripod. And notice the Laser Tech label, a sign of a high quality laser.

Angle vs. Line of Sight Mode

While the RF.1 is not packed with advanced ballistics or archery-specific functions, it has the two main modes that hunters and shooters use 90 percent of the time.

1. Angle compensation mode (displayed as COMP) calculates an adjusted, horizontal-equivalent distance based on the line of sight distance and the angle of elevation.

2. Line of sight mode (displayed as LOS) gives you the direct line of sight distance, and it displays the elevation angle in degrees at the same time.

Adjusting settings in display of Maven RF.1
Thanks to the dial and multiple buttons, it’s super fast to switch between modes.

Angle mode is a quick way to calculate how you should aim your rifle or bow. While this is not as robust as some rangefinders like the Leupold TBR/W (Total Ballistics Range Wind) series that can give you distances to dial into your scope based on specific cartridges and loads, it is good enough for me.

Besides, people doing long-range shooting requiring on-the-spot math calculations are likely using either a ballistics app on their phone or a printed chart they carry. Meanwhile, people like me aren’t shooting that far out, and the basic measurement from the RF.1 is all I need.

measuring distance to wild turkey through rangefinder
Here I’m in Forest mode taking a line of sight distance to a wild turkey. Note the inclination angle displayed since it’s an LOS measurement.

Forest vs. Field Switch

Maven made this one pretty self-explanatory. Use field mode when you’re in more open environments with less vegetation and fewer obstructions to your line of sight. Forest mode is best for those areas that are more densely vegetated like in mixed forests.

When fired, laser rangefinders send out multiple pulses and subsequently receive multiple return measurements.

When in Forest mode, the rangefinder will display a distance based on the farthest measurement. This is generally the weakest returned pulse. It will try to ignore all the branches, foliage, and even moisture-filled air particles that may partially obstruct the laser’s path.

In Field mode, it will display the strongest measurement received.

I found these modes to work quite well, though I wouldn’t expect high accuracy in really foggy or rainy conditions or even some super dense forests.

Maven RF.1 Compared to the Alternatives

At $450 (MSRP), the Maven RF.1 is not cheap. But apples-to-apples, it is extremely well priced. Here are a few competitors in the same class and how they stack up against the Maven.

five rangefinders competitive to the Maven RF.1
The competitors are worthy, but more expensive.

Leupold RX2800 TBR/W (Check price): Given how much I like the more budget-friendly RX-1400i TBR/W from Leupold, this is probably the alternative I would most likely consider to take the place of my RF.1. This rangefinder has a shorter max range than the RF.1, but it matches the optics quality, display, and ruggedness.

I like that it is more compact and lighter than the Maven, and it also has the fancy ballistics features. But, the warranty is not nearly as good.

Vortex Razor HD 4000 (Check price): This is what I would consider the closest equivalent to the RF.1. It is the only alternative with a warranty as awesome as Maven’s. And it has similar optics quality, form factor, ruggedness, display, and features. It does have a slightly inferior max range, but not enough to sway a decision.

The biggest difference is the price. MSRP for the Vortex Razor HD 4000 is $729.99, $280 more than the Maven RF.1. However, you can usually find it at retailers for around $500, so pretty close to the Maven.

Leica Rangemaster CRF 3500.COM Rangefinder (Check price): While this high-end rangefinder from Leica is relatively close in specs compared to the RF.1, it costs nearly three times as much. The Leica does have some smart tech built-in where it can wirelessly connect to your smartphone or Apple Watch to use their hunting and ballistics app.

Other rivals include the Newcon Optik LRM 2200SI at double the price of the RF.1 and the Sig Sauer KILO5K, which boasts a marginally longer range for a lot more money.

Of all these, the Maven is the least expensive and has what is arguably a better laser sensor.

Bottom Line

Maven RF.1 Rangefinder back view
Once you look through this, you’ll understand.

I recommend the Maven RF.1 for long-range shooters and hunters that value high-quality gear. There’s no reason to spend even more money just for a bigger brand name. With quality glass, a high-performing laser sensor, and an unbeatable warranty, Maven will not disappoint.

You’ll probably love this brand anyway. Even their packaging was cool, all paper-based without a bunch of wasteful plastic wrap.

Truth be told, I was pretty happy when I settled on the Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W, which I still recommend for practical hunters that want the best rangefinder that the least amount of money can buy.

If you don’t see the utility in measuring distances out more than 1000 yards, the Maven is probably overkill and you’ll be happy with something less expensive like that Leupold.

Empire Crowned Award

Empire Crowned Best Gear Choice emblem
The Maven RF.1 rangefinder is Empire Crowned!

I know it’s tough to pull the trigger on buying an optic when you haven’t been able to touch and feel it in a big box store. But take it from me. This definitely looks and feels good in the hand.

Having manhandled nearly all the rangefinders available at Cabela’s and Sportsman’s Warehouse myself, I would buy the RF.1 knowing what I do now.

The Maven RF.1 is a high-end hunting and shooting rangefinder at a middle-of-the-road price. It makes great sense as an upgrade pick, a splurge, a one and done purchase, or even just more bang for your buck if you were looking at other mid-grade rangefinders. It’s more than I need, but it’s everything I want.

Maven RF.1
  • Best price in its class by a long shot
  • High-quality laser sensor with longer max range than competition
  • Intuitive controls and display are easy to use
  • Unlimited lifetime warranty could make it the last rangefinder you ever buy
  • Field and Forest modes make it useful in both open country and dense vegetation
  • Bulkier and heavier than many alternatives
  • No advanced ballistics or archery functionality
View on Amazon View at Maven
08/16/2023 08:20 am GMT

Recommended reading:

Best Hunting Rangefinders Reviewed

Best Rangefinders For Long Range Shooters

The post Maven RF.1 Rangefinder Review (Worth Every Penny) appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W Rangefinder Review (Best Under $200) https://outdoorempire.com/leupold-rx-1400i-rangefinder-review/ Fri, 29 Apr 2022 15:04:25 +0000 https://outdoorempire.com/?p=21887 There are many good options for hunting rangefinders, but I ultimately purchased the Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W, and I’ve been using it for a while now. I mainly use it for target shooting at the range and for checking distances while hunting. After researching dozens of good options, interviewing experts at optics counters, and trying out ... Read more

The post Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W Rangefinder Review (Best Under $200) appeared first on Outdoor Empire.

There are many good options for hunting rangefinders, but I ultimately purchased the Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W, and I’ve been using it for a while now. I mainly use it for target shooting at the range and for checking distances while hunting.

After researching dozens of good options, interviewing experts at optics counters, and trying out several different rangefinders for hunting, I chose the RX-1400i because it was handily the best bang for the buck.

The Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W is relatively inexpensive but has many features found only in high-end hunting rangefinders. It performs great in low light with clear optics and a red display. While it’s not the most rugged rangefinder, the compact form factor and reliable operation make it a great buy.

Leupold RX-1400I
  • Red display is easy to see in any light condition and is unique at this price
  • Easy to use and operate with solid documentation
  • Sufficient range for most hunting and shooting uses
  • Has more and better features than any other rangefinder for $200 or less
  • Ballistics functions are great for both rifle and bow hunters
  • Compact form factor and lightweight make it easy to pack around
  • While waterproof, it’s not super rugged
  • Only a measly 2-year limited warranty, not near as good as the competition
View on Amazon View at Optics Planet

Compare prices at: Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, Sportsman’s Warehouse

I used to work in the professional measurement and land surveying industry, and so I’ve used many different laser rangefinders to do a lot of things. This has made me rather judgmental when it comes to these devices, quickly seeing through useless bells and whistles and appreciating solid core functionality. 

Read on for my full explanation of why I think this is the best all around rangefinder for any pragmatic hunter.

Leupold RX-1400i Hands-On Review

hunter looking through the Leupold RX-1400i

At first, when I was shopping for a hunting rangefinder, I was overwhelmed by all the features and functions of all the different options available. 

Many seem to push the max range, but that doesn’t matter much to me for hunting. I really just want to confirm whether or not a deer is within a couple of hundred yards since that is the distance I am most comfortable shooting at.

I’m not the best judge of distance by the naked eye, so I wanted to be able to calibrate my estimates regularly in the field with a rangefinder.

So what do I care about? Ultimately, the decision making criteria that I base my hunting rangefinder reviews on are as follows:

  • Optics Quality
  • Display
  • Form Factor
  • Ruggedness
  • Features

The Leupold RX-1400i is not perfect at any of these, but it is good enough at all of them. Based on the above criteria, it compares better to the $300+ rangefinders than it does others at the same $200 price point.

Optics Quality

Leupold RX-1400i front lens view
While there is better out there, the glass on this Leupold is nice and clear.

Leupold is an optics powerhouse. While the RX-1400i may not use their finest glass, I find it more than sufficient for the task of ranging critters across a draw or a target at the shooting range.

With 5x magnification and a 21mm objective lens, it is on par with other rangefinders priced between $200-$400 in terms of optics quality. And it was certainly good enough for me, even in low light conditions.


When it comes to the display, there are really three things I was looking for, and this Leupold met them better than the rest.

1. Is it easy to read, even in low light?

As far as readability in low light goes, the Leupold RX-1400i was by far the best among all the rangefinders I tested that cost less than $300. With a red TOLED display and adjustable brightness settings, I could read the display in both bright midday sunlight and the low light of early dawn.

Red LED display of Leupold RX-1400i
While not the brightest in broad daylight, the red LED display of the Leupold RX-1400i is easy to read.

Most other rangefinders in this price range have the basic black LCD, which can be nearly impossible to read, even in moderately low light.

One downside of a red display is it can be hard to read in bright daylight. But with three brightness settings and three reticle options, you can easily adjust the display for the conditions. I thought it was good enough midday and great at dawn and dusk.

2. Is it easy to understand what you see on the display?

Some rangefinders have lots of crazy and cool but sometimes useless functionality. And those rangefinders often come with crowded, convoluted displays. Not so with the RX-1400i. 

Rangefinder view of geese
The display is not overcrowded by default.

What you see is plain and simple:

  • Reticle
  • Battery indicator
  • Distance measurement
  • Unit of measurement
  • Current mode
  • Optional: ballistics readout or inclination, depending on mode

You see what you need to see without overly obstructing the view of what you are actually targeting.

3. Is it easy to use and navigate through the menu functions?

With only two buttons on the device, it takes a few clicks, but the navigation is relatively straightforward. 

  • The Power button turns it on, takes a measurement, or cycles through the selection options for each setting in the menu.
  • The Mode button brings up the settings menu with a long press and cycles through different settings with a short press.
Settings menu on rangefinder
It takes a few clicks, but the settings menu is relatively easy to interpret.

The display automatically turns off after 20 seconds, so most of the time, I only ever push the button twice: once to turn it on and once to take a distance.

I’d say it’s very easy compared to the many different recreational and professional laser rangefinders I’ve used. They even include a quick reference card that fits in the pouch that I found quite handy in the field.

Form Factor

The bottom line here is that it’s compact, lightweight, and feels good in the hand. That’s what matters and, in my opinion, the RX-1400i felt better than most.

Man's hand holding rangefinder
The small, compact form factor feels good in your hand.

It’s not bulky and there is no fat on it. You could even slip it into or clip it onto a bino pouch or chest rig without it being a bother.

The rubberized grip is sufficient to keep you from dropping it, even when it’s wet or humid. This feature is lacking on other rangefinders under $200 that I saw, most of which have a basic plastic housing with no frills.

Its small size and weight (only 5.1 oz) make it one of the most compact in its class. I could easily stick it in my jacket or even my pants pocket when hiking around.


Leupold RX-1400i top view with rubber armor
The rubber armor on the RX-1400i is not found on most rangefinders under $200.

While it’s not the most rugged hunting rangefinder out there, it is good enough for me. 

Apparently, it is also rated to work in extreme cold and hot temperatures. I did use it below freezing and the performance was unchanged. Though, I would expect shorter battery life in either the heat or the cold.

I would be concerned about shock or drop protection. It is a plastic housing made of a lightweight polymer. It’s not like the aluminum or magnesium housings of more expensive rangefinders, but it’s as good or better than any other in its price class.

The Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W is waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about rain, fog, or humidity. It doesn’t have any official IP (Ingress Protection) rating.

Rangefinder floating in river
I dared to test its waterproofness in a river and it still worked afterwards. It even kinda floats!

As far as dust goes, so far so good. No issues to report on dust getting inside the optic.

To get a truly ruggedized rangefinder that is fully protected from the elements and drops, you’ve got to move into a much higher price point. Better construction and materials get expensive.


Where to start? The RX-1400i is packed with features compared to other budget hunting rangefinders.

Can it really range out to 1400 yards?

I never got it to range out that far. But the truth is, I don’t really care. I only need to measure out to a few hundred yards, maybe up to a thousand, if I want to estimate hiking time.

The farthest I ranged to some trees was about 980 yards (manual says max of 1200 yds) and I was happy with that.

I did test it against my favorite high-end rangefinder, the Maven RF.1. At one point, I was hitting a hillside at 1230 yards with the Maven, and the Leupold couldn’t give me a reading. Same for a range of 2500 yds, but I didn’t expect the RX-1400i to hang with that. 

Recommended: Maven RF.1 Rangefinder Hands-on Review

These specs are always more mathematical, and lab estimated rather than thoroughly real-world tested. It’s the same with the professional-grade measurement equipment I’ve worked with.

What does the TBR/W stand for?

Leupold TBR level fire range diagram
This diagram from the manual demonstrates well what True Ballistic Range means.

This is perhaps one of the main features of the RX-1400i that sets it apart in its class. TBR/W stands for True Ballistic Range® Wind which is Leupold’s name for some pretty cool ballistics functions.

In a nutshell, this rangefinder can tell you what distance you should aim for (level fire range) based on the cartridge and load you are shooting, even in steep terrain. It can also help you calculate the wind correction you should dial into your riflescope. Pretty cool!

3 Ranging Modes

There are three main modes for measuring the distance to a target:

1. TBR: the effective ballistics range between you and the target, adjusted for inclination. This is the distance you should consider when aiming your rifle.

2. BOW: the equivalent horizontal distance you should aim for with a bow, also adjusted for the angle.

Rangefinder in BOW mode
In BOW mode you get an angle-compensated distance.

3. LOS: this is the straight line of sight distance without any angle correction or ballistics consideration.

For Rifle Hunters 

In TBR mode, there are 25 different load groups you can set the rangefinder to and they include the associated calibers and loads in a detailed chart they provide. It then has five different functions that will display outputs that correspond to your selected load.

1. BAS: the equivalent horizontal range.

2. HOLD: how much holdover to use with the line of sight distance displayed and how many inches above or below the target you should aim.

3. MIL: like the above, but displays holdover in milliradians.

Rangefinder in rifle mode
Here the RX-1400i is in rifle mode displaying in mils.

4. MOA: shows the minute-of-angle adjustment for your target so you can adjust your scope accordingly.

5. TRIG: shows true horizontal, vertical, and line of sight range so you can do the math yourself…if you’re into that sort of thing.

While I haven’t used this myself in a real-world scenario (I did test it), I appreciate the math it could save me from doing. At first, it seemed pretty complicated to me, but a quick read through the user guide and it’s actually not hard to use this feature.

Wind Mode

Leupold manual excerpt on wind correction feature
Here is the diagram from the manual on how to use the wind correction measurement.

The Wind mode is interesting. It gives you an estimated MOA correction you should make if there is a 10 mph wind blowing at a 90-degree angle to your muzzle.

Since you can change those default values of wind speed and angle, you’ll still have to do some math to use this feature. But once you get the hang of it, it might save you some time to get a long-range shot off quicker because it helps you know how much to adjust your scope for wind.

Last Target Mode for Bad Weather

Another handy feature this rangefinder has is the Last Target mode. This is designed to help the laser provide accurate measurements even in foggy or rainy conditions.

The way it works is that the measurement displayed will be the last, or farthest, distance returned by the laser. Normally, the measurement you see is the strongest return the laser receives.

However, when in Last Target mode, it simply displays the last measurement which should be the farthest and is often the weakest object in terms of reflectivity.

Setting rangefinder target priority
Last target priority mode is handy for vegetation and bad weather, but it doesn’t work 100% of the time.

This helps in moist air because it is supposed to filter out many potential reflections of water particles in the air from rain, fog, snow, etc.

One day at the range, I had all four seasons, including rain and snow. The rangefinder worked great at distances of 100 yards or less, even with large snowflakes and light rain. I can’t say from experience how it would do in dense fog, but I think this feature is useful. 

The Last mode could even help in a dense forest with lots of branches through which you might be trying to range a whitetail.

Leupold RX-1400i Compared to the Alternatives

five competitive rangefinders to the Leupold RX-1400i
These are the closest competitors to the Leupold RX-1400i.

While it’s an entry-level product from Leupold, the RX-1400i has the functionality of mid-range options from competitors. However, in the same price range and class, the following are the main rivals I compared.

Cabela’s Intensity 1600R Laser Rangefinder: This is the only other rangefinder I found in the same price range that had a red display. However, it is a little bulkier, and it just feels like it’s of lower quality, cheap almost. It has very basic features and functions, none of the ballistics info, and not the best user reviews, so I ruled it out.

Bushnell Prime 1300 Rangefinder: This is a tad cheaper than the Leupold. The look and feel are on par with the RX-1400i, and it has better magnification (6x). It even has an Angle Range Compensation mode, though it’s not as advanced as the TBR. But it doesn’t have the red display, which is something I was pretty set on.

Vortex Impact 1000 Rangefinder: This is the first one I was leaning towards in large part due to the great brand reputation and the fact that I have other Vortex optics.

But it has a black LCD that is hard to see, none of the ballistics features, it doesn’t feel as good in the hand, and its range is more limited than the RX-1400i for the same price. The lifetime warranty, however, is better than Leupold’s two years.

Sig Sauer KILO 1000BDX Rangefinder: At the same price, this one probably comes closest to the Leupold, but it’s still not quite there. It has a shorter range (though its big brothers can solve that), reportedly short battery life, and that darned black LCD.

While it doesn’t have the onboard ballistics calculations of the RX-1400i, it does connect to the Sig Sauer ballistics app and can even sync with their Sierra3 BDX scope, which is pretty slick. It also comes with a better five-year warranty, but user reviews are less good.

Truthfully, the closest competitors are something like the Vortex Ranger 1300 or better, which cost at least 50% more.

Empire Crowned Best Gear Choice

Empire Crowned Best Gear Choice emblemThe Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W really has everything I would expect and more from a rangefinder that costs $200. That’s why we’ve awarded it with our Empire Crowned Best Gear Choice label.

If you’re willing to spend another $100-300, you can definitely get a more rugged rangefinder, or one with longer range, more functions, better optics, and maybe some bells and whistles. But do you need that?

That’s what it came down to for me. I was interested in some of the more expensive options. But the fact is that I wouldn’t use most of the features they have. 

However, more technical long-range hunters/shooters, gear geeks, or people who are really hard on their gear might be better off looking at a higher grade of a rangefinder.

Or, on the contrary, if you have a really limited budget and need the cheapest functional rangefinder possible, there are some decent options for around $100 or a little less. These are no-frills and basically, only give you a distance measurement.

If you like what the RX-1400i does but you’re looking for a step up, you can’t go wrong bumping up to its big brother, the Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W. For twice as much money, you’ll have more range, more rugged housing, and better glass. For $600, the RX-2800 TBR/W is about as good as it gets with double the range.

Rangefinder set in tree bark

At the end of the day, I just need to know how far my target is to dial in a shot or how far that next ridge is so I can guesstimate how long it’ll take me to hike over there.

The Leupold RX-1400i does that and then some. I like it. I’ll keep using it. And I recommend it for any other practical hunter out there.

Leupold RX-1400I
  • Red display is easy to see in any light condition and is unique at this price
  • Easy to use and operate with solid documentation
  • Sufficient range for most hunting and shooting uses
  • Has more and better features than any other rangefinder for $200 or less
  • Ballistics functions are great for both rifle and bow hunters
  • Compact form factor and lightweight make it easy to pack around
  • While waterproof, it’s not super rugged
  • Only a measly 2-year limited warranty, not near as good as the competition
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Compare prices at: Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, Sportsman’s Warehouse

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