If you’ve ever gone hunting and wanted to know how far away your prey was…. If you play golf and really wish you knew which club to pick to get your ball onto the green…. If you find yourself in a tactical situation and need to determine the distance to that bad guy…. If you…. We’ll let’s wait with that last use for rangefinder binoculars for just a bit.
Let’s first take a look at what range finder binoculars are and how they work. Then we’ll examine some of the major players in the rangefinder binoculars field. Finally, we’ll get to that last possible use of rangefinders.
If you just can’t wait and want to peek ahead, you can click one of the items in the table below. Otherwise, be patient and keep reading. You’ll get to it eventually.
- 1 What Are Rangefinder Binoculars?
- 2 How Do Laser Rangefinder Binoculars Work?
- 3 How Do You Use Rangefinder Binoculars?
- 4 What Are the Top Brands of Rangefinder Binoculars?
- 5 Leica Geovid HD-B Laser Rangefinder
- 6 Bushnell Fusion 1-Mile ARC Binocular Laser Rangefinder
- 7 Swarovski Optik EL Laser Rangefinder
- 8 What Are the Best Rangefinder Binoculars for Golf?
- 9 What Are the Best Rangefinder Binoculars for Hunting?
- 10 For What Other Reasons Might I Use Rangefinder Binoculars?
What Are Rangefinder Binoculars?
The word range can have different meanings in different contexts. It can be part of an appliance in your kitchen on which you cook delicious meals. Range can mean the wide open spaces, especially those found in the western part of the United States.
Mathematically speaking, range can mean the difference between the highest and lowest numbers in a set. It can be an area for flight-testing missiles.
The list could go on, but the meaning we’re concerned about in the term rangefinder is the distance from your current location to a target object.
Rangefinder binoculars, then, help you find how far it is from you to whatever it is you’re looking at in the distance.
There are actually two types of these binoculars. One has a reticle inlaid with the lens glass. If you’re not familiar with the term reticle, just think crosshairs and you won’t be far off.
The other kind of rangefinder uses a laser beam to calculate the measurement of distances. It is these binoculars that we’ll concentrate on here.
How Do Laser Rangefinder Binoculars Work?
Laser rangefinders have a button that you press to initiate the sending of the laser beam. You try to have the beam strike the object you’re looking at way over yonder.
Built into the binoculars is a high-speed clock that measures how long it took for the laser to go out to the target and return to the binoculars.
A laser is a form of light, so it travels at the known speed of light. The binoculars use that information and the time elapsed on its clock to calculate the distance, which it then displays to you on a screen.
How Do You Use Rangefinder Binoculars?
Knowing how rangefinders work inside, as described above, it’s fairly easy to figure out how to make your binoculars do their job.
Some binoculars have more than one button that you can press. You obviously need the one that shoots out the laser. With your finger on that button, look through the lenses at your target – a deer, the pin on the 15th hole, or whatever.
Line it up and hold them as steadily as possible. Then press the button. The results should be visible nearly instantaneously. Remember, we’re working at the speed of light here.
If you get no reading or a reading that just doesn’t seem right. Try again. Some targets are more difficult to hit the first time than others.
Now that you have the basics under your belt, so to speak, let’s take a look at some specific laser rangefinder binoculars and their possible uses.
What Are the Top Brands of Rangefinder Binoculars?
There are several rangefinder binoculars brands that could contend for the top position. We’ll examine just three of the possibilities here. If your favorite maker isn’t among these, that doesn’t mean they produce inferior binoculars. It’s just that you can only compare a few models at a time and expect to come away with a judgment as to which one is best for the task at hand.
The designers that we’ll look at are Leica, Bushnell, and Swarovski. We’ll point out the pros and cons (if any) of each of their best products.
The Leica model we’ll check out is the Geovid HD-B Laser Rangefinder. The Bushnell is the Fusion 1-Mile ARC Binocular Laser Rangefinder. The Swarovski is the Optik EL Laser Rangefinder.
Leica Geovid HD-B Laser Rangefinder
You most likely would use the Leica Geovid HD-B while hunting or target shooting.
The manufacturer lists the maximum range of these binoculars at 2000 yards, which is well over a mile. However, that is probably under perfect conditions. With any rangefinder binoculars, you should expect accuracy at one-third of the listed range at all times and one-half of that distance most of the time.
Some owners have reported pinpoint accuracy at nearly 1000 yards. Accuracy over 1000 yards degrades because the ballistic calculator only works up to that distance.
The model features automatic adjusting that alters ballistics based on the atmospheric conditions when in use. It also has fantastic optics with the ability to view targets clearly at over 1,500 yards. Its field of view is 300 feet even at 1,000 yards.
While you might use the rangefinder more often when the sun is low, realize that it can also perform well in bright sunlight.
To activate the target circle, you press the appropriate button once. Pressing it a second time gives you the range either in metric or standard units of measure.
Note that the displays appear in the right tube. This is significant if you have any problems with your right eye. If you do, the Leica Geovid HD-B may not be for you. You may instead be more interested in the Swarovski EL model (see below) which produces its displays in the left tube.
You may find that the Geovid HD-B is easier to hold for longer periods of time because of its open bridge format and curved barrels.
The Leica comes with a removable, programmable micro SD card. You can enter your rifle’s ballistics so it can compensate for temperature, inclination, and pressure differences from the standard.
Some users have reported a small disappointment in the lens caps. Sometimes they don’t stay on very well. If you find that’s a problem, you can easily get third party caps that will do the job better.
Cal Zant at Precision Rifle Blog [link] has done extensive testing on several rangefinder binoculars. His results place the Leica Geovid HD-B at the top of the charts based on raw test results alone.
Bushnell Fusion 1-Mile ARC Binocular Laser Rangefinder
The Fusion 1-Mile from Bushnell has a long laundry list of features that you’ll be sure to appreciate. Its model name tells you that it can range out to a mile. What it doesn’t tell you is that it is only about 50% accurate at that distance and that under ideal conditions. That said, it does have some of the most accurate readings when doing offhand siting.
The Bushnell rangefinder has several individual bow and rifle modes that help maintain this accuracy. Different calculations are needed depending on your style of hunting. The Fusion rangefinder binoculars provide you with the math needed for each situation.
The Bushnell Angle Range Compensation (ARC) technology claims to give you the exact distance to your target, whether you’re in bow or rifle mode. Rifle mode also figures the holdover (up to 199 inches) for you.
A feature you might not fully appreciate until you need it is the four brightness settings in the Fusion 1-Mile. Depending on ambient lighting conditions, you may want to adjust this setting so you can still easily read the display. When you make a change, you will still get true color fidelity so you can quickly decipher what it is you’re seeing.
A small, but perhaps important downfall of this set is that they don’t seem to always fit properly into the case provided for them.
Cal Zant (mentioned above) calls the Bushnell Fusion 1-Mile ARC Laser Rangefinder Binoculars the best rangefinder binoculars for the money.
Swarovski Optik EL Laser Rangefinder
The Swarovski EL binoculars can range to around 1500 yards. This isn’t quite as good as the Leica model mentioned earlier, but it’s still very good.
The proprietary SWARO-AIM system shows you a corrected distance based on the angle of your target compared to your location. When you activate the system, you see both the straight-line distance and the corrected distance on your display. This makes using a ballistic reticle in combination with this information a breeze.
With the EL Range, you get a scan mode that is especially useful with moving targets.
These binoculars perform quite well even in low light conditions. Many other models can take time to adjust to darker surroundings, but not the EL Range.
You do need two good eyes to use the rangefinder itself. The red LED target circle appears in the right tube, but the distance readout appears in the left. Fortunately, Swarovski provides a diopter on each eyepiece so you can focus accordingly.
Like the Bushnell model above, you get several brightness levels for the LED displays. You can set this manually, or you can trust the automatic mode to get it right for you.
It used to be that rangefinder binoculars either gave you measurements in yards or in meters, but not both. The Optik EL Rangefinder lets you decide which you want to see and does the conversions as needed.
What Are the Best Rangefinder Binoculars for Golf?
Of the three models mentioned here, any of them would probably serve you well on the golf course. That said, they were really created more for the hunter than the golfer (or the birder).
If you’re a golfer, you may want instead to look into dedicated golfing rangefinders. Many of them provide output specifically directed at golfers. They can even tell you which club to select based on personal information you provide.
What Are the Best Rangefinder Binoculars for Hunting?
Again, the models from Leica, Bushnell, and Swarovski described above are very good quality rangefinders. The one that is best for you depends on where, when, how, and how often you intend to use them.
Any of them would be a good investment, so part of the equation is how much you have to invest.
Keep in mind too that these rangefinder binoculars reviews are not intended to be thorough. There are features of each not discussed here. I tried to hit the highlights of each. If you need a certain item not mentioned here, you should check into a more detailed review before making your final decision.
For What Other Reasons Might I Use Rangefinder Binoculars?
While hunting (rifle or bow) and birding are probably the most common uses for rangefinders, you can also find uses for them in forestry, photography, and tactical operations.
If you’re still wondering what that unusual use for rangefinder binoculars is, I’ll tell you it’s actually a “sub-use” in the hunting area. Most people would use them for deer, elk, moose, and other large game.
Some people use them when hunting p-dogs; that is, prairie dogs!
You might think this is cruel at first until you realize how much damage and injury these little varmints can cause. Hunting them, often with rangefinders as an aid, is the only way to rid an area of them to keep it safe for other animals and humans.
Do you have a unique or specialized use for rangefinder binoculars? If so, tell us about it in the comments. Maybe someone else will benefit from the information you can provide.