There are many uses for laser rangefinders and a large number of rangefinder products today. Everyone can find an ideal rangefinder that meets needs and budget.
It’s difficult to believe that the ubiquitous laser beam—that we use daily in applications from cash registers to hair removers to computer mice—was only invented in 1960. Soon after, in 1964, the first laser rangefinder came into being. First used for industry and military purposes, the laser rangefinder’s uses have magnified even as the cost of the units has dramatically declined. Today we use handheld lasers to measure the size of the spare room for carpet, while rangers use rangefinders to count the various species of trees in a forest.
The outdoorsman’s world, particularly in the sports of range shooting, hunting, and archery, has made good use of this new technology. Rangefinders have removed the guesswork surrounding target distances for the archer and shooter, increasing accuracy and increasing enjoyment. This laser rangefinder 101 article will review and compare three rangefinders, each with an appeal to a different group of sportsmen, but accessible to all.
Vortex Optics Ranger Laser Rangefinders
Vortex Optics are among the most highly regarded products in the sporting world. The Vortex Ranger Rangefinder is no exception. Even though it’s a high-end product among laser rangefinders—and especially those reviewed here—it is admired and quite well-reviewed. As with all Vortex products, the visuals are clear and sharply focused. The Vortex Ranger is recognized for the quality of its HCD (horizontal component distance) mode that yields an angle-compensated display, automatically enabling the user to know not just the line of sight distance to a target, but how much the sloping ground adds to that distance. The device also features a LOS (line of sight) mode that is uniquely useful to hunters and range shooters interested in tracking ballistics, particularly at ranges beyond 500 yards and slopes of greater than 15 degrees. The smooth scan mode allows the user to pan the landscape or follow a moving animal. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Vortex Ranger is the precision with which it measures the distance to a range of 1800 yards. For the experienced hunter or range shooter who wants to test the ultimate limits of a rifle or personal skill, the Vortex Ranger gives the needed technical support to that opportunity. One topic that is seldom discussed in reviews of rangefinders is the great fun users experience when trying them out. The advanced LOS display in the Vortex Ranger gives a startling view of horizons at sunrise and sunset, something it is capable of doing because of its ability to collect and transmit light in low levels of illumination.
Using a 6X magnification, the Vortex Ranger has a 22-millimeter objective lens that yields accuracy to 3 yards at 1000 yards distance. With a maximum angle reading of plus-or-minus 60 degrees, it has a linear field of view of 315 feet at 1000 yards and an angular field of view of 6 degrees. The Vortex Ranger has a multi-level arrangement of lenses that are set up both outside and inside the rangefinder; the purpose of this is to cut down on reflected light and make the objective appear clearly in the eyecup. The unit is 5” long, 4.1” high, and 2.7” wide. It weighs 11.4 ounces. It’s powered by a single lithium battery which is included. The Vortex Ranger comes with a belt clip that can be attached to either side of the housing. Sockets for lanyard attachments are provided next to the eyecup.
As amazing as is its high quality and numerous features, the Vortex Ranger is equally astonishing for the number and quality of excellent reviews it has received. Ranking at #6 overall in Laser Rangefinder, this instrument boasts a 4.8 out of 5 Star rating with almost 600 reviews. Of its purchasers, 86% rate it at 5 Stars. What sort of comments have they made? Many of its more than 360 5 Star reviews compare the Vortex Ranger favorably to other—often more expensive—laser rangefinders, including Leupold, Leica, and Zeiss. A frequent comment is that the Vortex Ranger has features and dependability that more expensive devices do not. Many reviewers discuss trying to determine the ultimate range to which the rangefinder is accurate; the problem they encounter is finding other ways of measuring distance against which to test the Vortex Ranger. Other users have marveled at the device’s virtually instantaneous speed of reporting, especially at distances of 600 yards and under.
- Dependably accurate and built with quality.
- Exceptionally clear optics.
- Worth the expense.
- Trouble using in bright sunlight.
- Doesn’t achieve promised distance.
- Ranging affected by changing light conditions.
Vortex Optics Impact Laser Rangefinders
A second Vortex product to be reviewed is the Impact Laser Rangefinder. The Vortex Impact has many of the same features found in the Vortex Ranger, though it is rated with an effective distance capacity of 850 yards. The Vortex Impact has a Horizontal Component Distance (HDC) mode, scanning mode, and a Line of Sight (LOS) mode just as the Ranger does, but at a substantially lower price. The Vortex Impact falls into the mid-range of cost not only for other Vortex products but for laser rangefinders as a whole. The same quality construction, clear optics, and dependability for which Vortex is recognized are present in the Impact as well. Vortex has placed the Impact in this middle range in part as an intentional way to serve the archery community as well as target shooters and hunters. While the LOS mode, which measures out to distances over 800 yards, is clearly of interest to shooters, it is the HDC mode that is an outstanding companion for the archery hunter, enabling a detailed grasp of the true yardage to a stationary or moving target within 100 yards of the user. The intuitive diopter allows extra magnification and focus. All features operate with two simple buttons.
Using 6X magnification, the Vortex Impact offers a 341 feet field of view and a 6.5-degree field of view at 1000 yards. The minimum detection range is 5 yards. Sized to quickly slip into an available pocket, the unit is quite small: 3.77” long and 3” wide, and it weighs in at 5.5 ounces. It has a non-illuminated display and features multi-coated lenses to enhance light gathering in low light conditions. Shockproof and waterproof, it’s powered with a readily available CR2 battery that’s included with the Vortex Impact. The menu is intuitive to facilitate ease of use. The various range modes can be set to read either in yards or meters. The rangefinder comes with a soft carrying case, a lanyard, and a lens cloth and a warranty.
Like the Ranger, the Vortex Impact has a great number of reviewers who are also pleased with the rangefinder. The instrument is ranked #3 in Laser Rangefinders. With a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars, 75% of purchasers gave the Impact 5 Stars. Among their comments, many reviewers praised the simplicity of the rangefinder with the two-button, intuitive operation. Many users praised the accuracy of the Vortex Impact, especially in distances up to 500 yards. More than one reviewer commented that a really important reason to buy the Impact was to avoid learning how to use all the features of more advanced rangefinders. The VIP warranty, which of course applies not only to the Impact but also the Ranger, was frequently mentioned as a plus by several purchasers. If there is one critical comment, it is that the distance reading, while dead-on accurate, may not be instantaneous with the Impact.
- Works as promised even in low light.
- Very simple and dependable.
- Compact and accurate.
- Black reticle difficult to read in low light.
- Better for archery than shooting.
- Needed more than 15-millimeter eye relief.
Halo Range Finder Hunting Laser Range Finder
The third and least expensive rangefinder to be reviewed is the Halo XL450. It’s one of five Halo XL rangefinders and, as the 450 indicates, it sports and effective range of 450 yards. While the Vortex Ranger is the most useful of the three devices we are reviewing for long-range shooting and the Vortex Impact is suited both for shooting and archery, the Halo XL450 is the best suited of the three for archery, but also works well for shooting sports. The scan mode of the instrument is set up to range targets at multiple distances with the single touch of a button. All operations are handled by two buttons, one of which is the off-on switch. The Halo XL450 has a focusing eyepiece and gives quick readings. It allows for easy angle compensation in areas where the ground is uneven with settings that offer either simple distance or distance with the angle of incline. Readouts can be checked in meters or yards. It comes with a wrist lanyard. The Halo XL450 works well in all weather conditions and cycles to the off position after 20 seconds of inactivity.
Bowhunters, in particular, have warmed to the use of the Halo XL450. This may be in large measure because of its completely silent, one-button operation, quick response time and ability to automatically compensate for slopes in calculating distances, a feature called Angle Intelligence Technology. That the device is not as effective at longer ranges is not a significant factor to bowhunters.
In terms of specs, the Halo XL450 has a 6X magnification and a maximum effective range of 450 yards within an accuracy of 1 meter. The device is water-resistant and the body of the rangefinder is ergonomically designed to be held and operated in a single hand. The unit is 4” long, 2.5” high and 1.5” wide, and weighs 8 ounces. It is intended to provide comfort and ease of use for an entire day in the field. Its scan mode locks multiple targets at various ranges. It’s powered by a CR2 lithium-ion battery with a life expectancy of 1 year at constant use.
The Halo XL450 has been reviewed by an amazing 892 purchasers and has acquired a 4.3 out of 5 Star rating. Of its users, 65% have rated it at 5 Stars. What sorts of comments have been made? Several purchasers commented that, despite needing to wear eyeglasses, they were able to use the unit successfully with relative ease. Many bowhunters expressed satisfaction with the Halo XL450. Some have commented that rangefinder is easy to carry and that it is a tool that can be dropped inside a game bag and forgotten about until the next time needed. Other reviewers commented that the best verification of the rangefinder’s ability was the game they downed by relying upon the distance supplied by the Halo XL450: coyote, turkey, and deer. Finally, some purchasers expressed that they initially were leery of the product because it is relatively inexpensive or because of negative comments. Upon buying and using the rangefinder, however, their fears were allayed by the excellent performance of the device.
- Excellent for bow hunting.
- Complete accurate within the stated range.
- Great value for the money.
- Comes with no case.
- Needs better eye relief.
- Needs internal illumination.
The technology of the laboratory has come to the outdoors in the many laser-powered devices we use to measure distances. Different sportsmen, however, have different needs to fulfill with their laser rangefinders. Some deer hunters want to judge the speed at which a game animal is moving across a field of view. Some target shooters need a rangefinder to help judge the ballistics of the bullets fired at distances of half a mile. Some archers need a device that remains completely silent as they gauge the distance of an animal moving toward a tree stand. Each of the devices we’ve reviewed is well-tested and has demonstrated its useful and unique merits to hundreds of purchasers. With different price tags and different qualifications, each one of these laser rangefinders is a worthy tool for the right sportsman.