rangefinder binoculars - Binoculars and rangefindersNo hunter should go afield without a good set of binoculars, and laser rangefinders have also become a must for the modern hunter. Until fairly recently, you had to carry these two items separately, and often one was forgotten or left behind to save weight. Now, however, hunters have the luxury of rangefinding binoculars which combine the features of both.

I’d wondered about the pros and cons of the various models currently available, so I decided to try them out and report on my findings. With thanks to the kind folks at Bushnell, Leica, Swarovski and Zeiss (unfortunately I wasn’t able to get my hands on Steiner’s Nighthunter 8×30 LRF in time for testing, but I understand it’s comparable to the models tested), here is a rundown of some of the offerings available. But first, some comments.

Lightest Weight – Bushnell Fusion 1 Mile ARC
Brightest* – Swarovski EL Range
Best Features – Swarovski EL Range
Most Vivid Colours* – Zeiss Victory
Best Ergonomics – Leica Geovid HD-B
Longest Measuring Range – Leica Geovid HD-B
Best Rated Battery Life – Zeiss Victory
Best Value – Bushnell Fusion 1 Mile ARC
*Testing was conducted under a variety of atmospheric and lighting conditions.

These are premium optics and all are worth your time to take a serious look. They feature fully multi-coated lenses, resulting in outstanding brightness and clarity, along with the highest quality laser rangefinders built in. As you’d expect, such performance comes at a price, ranging from about $1,200 up to $3,700.

A feature that’s recently been added to many rangefinders is angle compensation. Simply put, shots at extreme uphill or downhill angles don’t drop as much as their line-of-sight distance would suggest. All models tested have some version of this technology, by various names, though not all function quite the same.

Bushnell Fusion 1 Mile ARC 10 x 42mm
(8 x 32mm and 12 x 50mm also available)
As the name suggests, this unit will range highly-reflective objects out to one mile. The display brightness can be adjusted to suit the lighting conditions, which is very handy. Several operating modes can be selected, and in Bow Mode its ARC (Angle Range Compensation) technology displays the true horizontal distance. The same information in Rifle Mode (including hold-over) is only available when the ballistics of the load being used have been entered. The Fusion is perhaps not quite as a bright as some of the others tested, but they are still outstanding, and a great value at around $1,200.

Leica Geovid HD-B 10 x 42mm
(8 x 42mm also available)
Leica still offers their original Geovid HD-R series, which does not provide angle compensation, but the newer Geovid HD-B series uses Advanced Ballistic Compensation – once the ballistics curve of your particular load has been input (also accepts data for handloads and other specialty ammo) – to provide Equivalent Horizontal Range and Point of Aim data. The ergonomic design of this unit gives a very comfortable fit in the hands, and the ranging is fast and bright out to 2,000 yards. Cost is about $3,100.

Swarovski EL Range 10 x 42mm
(8 x 42mm also available)
This unit is quite compact and feels very good in the hands. It is also possibly the brightest glass I tested, and the display brightness is adjustable. What I really liked is that it’s the only one that determines the angle and provides corrected shooting distance (beyond bow ranges) without having to input ballistics data. This gives you the flexibility to use different guns or provide ranging data to your hunting buddy without having to re-program the unit. I would prefer if the ranging button were on the right, as I’m extremely right-handed and its position on the left feels a bit odd. The ranging function/re-set is a bit slower than the other units, but is still less than a second. These have a range of 1,500 yards and sell for about $3,100.

Zeiss Victory 10 x 45mm RF-T
(8- or 10-power with 45mm or 56 mm lenses also available)
These have a range of 1,300 yards. The Zeiss showed the brightest and most vivid colours, particularly greens; even more vivid than the naked eye. The clarity and brightness was what you’d expect from fine European optics costing about $3,700. They are a bit heavier and bulkier than the other models tested. My only critique of these optics is that the ranging display and reticle could be a little brighter, as it can be a bit hard to see in bright sunshine or against a snowy background. Similar to the other units, the Ballistic Information System uses pre-inputted load data to calculate correct point of aim to allow for distance and angle.

If you’re tired of lugging two sets of optics around your neck or not having the one you really need, not only will all-in-one rangefinding binoculars solve that problem, but they’ll allow you to spot, assess, and range the animal all at the same time, leaving precious more seconds to take the shot.