RANGEFIND­ING BINOC­U­LARS

Outdoor Life - - GEAR -

GREAT BUY

SIG Sauer KILO3000BD­X 10x42 $1,200 Light­ning-fast, fully com­pat­i­ble with SIG’S BDX bal­lis­tics soft­ware, and ex­tremely cus­tomiz­able, the KILO3000BD­X is one of the most com­plete in­te­gra­tions of elec­tron­ics and optics that we’ve seen. Its abil­ity to de­liver very good im­age with an ex­cel­lent rangefinde­r for $1,200 makes it a wor­thy Great Buy award win­ner. The Nikon, Vor­tex, and SIG rang­ing binoc­u­lars share many of the same in­ter­nal com­po­nents and ex­te­rior ar­chi­tec­ture (and price). The three share sim­i­lar op­ti­cal scores too. But the SIG stands alone in that it con­nects to a mo­bile app that al­lows users to down­load spe­cific bal­lis­tics. Its laser is also more pow­er­ful. We ranged non­re­flec­tive tar­gets out to 2,822 yards (2,312 to re­flec­tive tar­gets), and the unit de­tected a greater va­ri­ety and size of soft tar­gets than its peers. The unit fea­tures the full suite of modes, in­clud­ing an­gle-mod­i­fied rang­ing, line-of-sight rang­ing, and range mod­i­fied by in­for­ma­tion from Applied Bal­lis­tics’ li­brary of bul­let dy­nam­ics.

EDITORÕS CHOICE

Zeiss Vic­tory RF 10x42 $3,300 This rangefind­ing bino does al­most ev­ery­thing right. Its flu­o­rite glass is among the best in the field. Its bal­ance and er­gonomics are so nim­ble and its pro­file so slim that it’s hard to be­lieve there’s a laser and pro­ces­sor in its guts. Its abil­ity to con­nect to a mo­bile app through Blue­tooth was the fi­nal de­tail that pushed the Vic­tory RF to our top spot of 11 units in our laser rangefind­ing binoc­u­lar test. The Zeiss is not quite per­fect. The rang­ing but­ton, out on the right-hand bar­rel, caused testers to lose their grip on the op­tic when ac­ti­vat­ing the rangefinde­r. And the pro­ces­sor, es­pe­cially in scanning mode, is slower than we’d like. Also, it’s very ex­pen­sive (al­though the non­rang­ing Vic­tory binoc­u­lar costs $2,800). But the laser is pow­er­ful—we rou­tinely ranged non-re­flec­tive tar­gets to 2,100 yards—and pre­cise. The Zeiss has the full gamut of modes, and the mo­bile app al­lows users to load spe­cific bal­lis­tics data in the Vic­tory RF’S brain.

Le­upold RBX-3000 HD TBR/W

• 10x42 • $3,000 This long-an­tic­i­pated rangefind­ing bino has the most com­plete soft­ware pack­age in our test, in­clud­ing sep­a­rate ri­fle and archery modes and the abil­ity to in­put wind holds. It dis­plays holds in MOA or mils, as well as stan­dard holdover val­ues. It does not con­nect to an app or ex­ter­nal de­vice; in­stead, users match their ri­fle load to one of 26 bal­lis­tics groups in the unit’s li­brary. The optics are ex­cel­lent, plac­ing the Le­upold just behind the high-end Euro­pean brands. The laser is very good, giv­ing us read­ings to 2,600 yards on soft tar­gets and as close as 5 yards in archery mode. The pro­ces­sor is quick, es­pe­cially in its ex­cel­lent scan mode. If we have any gripes, they are the weight and squar­ish pro­file, as well as the com­pli­cated menu op­er­a­tion.

Swarovski EL Range

• 10x42 • $3,300 With its ex­cep­tional glass (it pro­duced the best im­age in the test) and won­der­ful er­gonomics, this Swarovski has been on the mar­ket for eight years. It’s had some up­grades in that time, in­clud­ing the vivid or­ange ar­mor of our sam­ple, and some im­prove­ments to its laser and pro­ces­sor. But the “baby bump” dis­ten­sions on its belly re­main, as does its rel­a­tively slow rang­ing speed. The laser is ad­e­quate—we ranged re­flec­tive tar­gets to 1,800 yards and non­re­flec­tive tar­gets out to 1,600 yards—but with a min­i­mum dis­tance of 33 yards, it’s not ideal for bowhunters. We also like its abil­ity to match rang­ing with bal­lis­tics from a suite of cal­iber fam­i­lies, and its grippy open-hinge de­sign.

Le­ica Geovid HD-B 3000

• 10x42 • $3,000 From the com­pany that pi­o­neered rangefind­ing binoc­u­lars, this up­dated ver­sion of the ven­er­a­ble Geovid took the top spot for op­ti­cal qual­ity. Its er­gonomics are also among the best in the test, with cur­va­ceous lines and a very wide field of view de­fined by its rev­o­lu­tion­ary Perger Porro prism. But its rangefinde­r hasn’t quite kept up. The re­sponse time is slow, and while we man­aged to range distances out to 2,434 yards (the com­pany claims 3,000 yards), the Le­ica is at its most pre­cise on tar­gets in­side about 800 yards and as close as 10 yards. Modes in­clude line of sight and an­gle com­pen­sa­tion, plus it de­liv­ers holds that cor­re­spond to clicks on the tur­ret of a ri­fle­scope.

Vor­tex Fury HD5000

• 10x42 • $1,200 This is an ad­e­quate rangefinde­r housed in a de­cent binoc­u­lar, but the name may be a bit mis­lead­ing. We man­aged to range re­flec­tive tar­gets out to about 1,500 yards and non­re­flec­tive tar­gets a bit be­yond 1,200 yards. More im­pres­sive is its close-rang­ing ca­pa­bil­ity. We ranged tar­gets just in­side 2 yards, mak­ing it an ex­cel­lent choice for bowhunters. The Vor­tex has a wide range of modes, its dis­play pro­vides a good amount of in­for­ma­tion with­out ap­pear­ing clut­tered, and the “horned” ret­i­cle is fast and pre­cise. We also liked the su­per-quick scanning mode. But we’d like to see more pos­i­tiv­ity of the op­er­at­ing but­tons, and con­nec­tiv­ity to a bal­lis­tics app.

Nikon Laser­force

• 10x42 • $1,200 Con­gru­ent in form and func­tion to the Vor­tex, the Nikon re­turned sim­i­lar op­ti­cal and rang­ing per­for­mance. We man­aged to range re­flec­tive tar­gets to 1,900 yards (right in line with the com­pany’s claims) and non­re­flec­tive tar­gets to 1,778 yards. Our min­i­mum rang­ing dis­tance was 10 yards. The pro­ces­sor speed is ad­e­quate, the dis­play is clean, and the ED glass is bright. But the unit is miss­ing some im­por­tant ca­pa­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing the in­te­gra­tion of a bal­lis­tics cal­cu­la­tor and the abil­ity to switch rang­ing modes be­tween first or best tar­get. The Laser­force does have a very good an­glecom­pen­sat­ing rang­ing func­tion.

GPO Rangeguide

• 10x50 • $1,600 A new rangefind­ing binoc­u­lar from a rel­a­tively new brand, the Rangeguide won the low-light por­tion of our test thanks to its big 50mm lenses, though the im­age showed no­tice­able pe­riph­eral dis­tor­tion. The rangefinde­r’s op­er­a­tion is basic, with best- and last-tar­get modes and ei­ther line-of-sight or an­gle-com­pen­sat­ing rang­ing, but it lacks a bal­lis­tics li­brary or the abil­ity to con­nect to an app or an ex­ter­nal data source. The rangefind­ing ca­pa­bil­ity of the GPO, which stands for Ger­man Pre­ci­sion Optics, is pretty good. We ranged re­flec­tive tar­gets out to about 1,900 yards, not the 2,800 yards GPO claims. Our close-tar­get limit was 6 yards. We like the pre­cise cir­cu­lar ret­i­cle and clean dis­play, and while the scanning re­turn is pre­cise, it is also glacially slow. The length and for­ward-heavy bal­ance of the unit makes it hard to hold still, but it works well when mounted to a tri­pod.

Steiner LRF 1700

• 8x30 • $2,040 A bare-bones rang­ing binoc­u­lar, the Steiner is a lit­tle out of phase with con­tem­po­rary de­sign and per­for­mance. First, the binoc­u­lar: This is a ver­sion of the aut­o­fo­cus­ing Preda­tor that ap­pears in our mid­size binoc­u­lar test. The porro-prism de­sign bal­ances well in hand, but it’s bulky, and the 30mm ob­jec­tive lenses don’t gather nearly the same amount of light as the 42mm units in our test. The rangefinde­r is slug­gish and limited in its reach. The far­thest tar­get we ranged was a bare hill­side at 1,231 yards; min­i­mum dis­tance was 22 yards. We loved the pre­ci­sion of the cir­cu­lar ret­i­cle—we ranged an 8-inch steel plate at 820 yards—and the dis­play is clean. But the pro­ces­sor is very slow and doesn’t in­clude any of the modes that most rangefind­ers of­fer, in­clud­ing an an­gle-com­pen­sat­ing range, the abil­ity to tog­gle be­tween first and best tar­get, or a bal­lis­tics in­ter­face. The por­ro­prisim de­sign, while bulky, is among the eas­i­est in the test to hold steady.

Sight­mark Soli­tude

• 10x42 • $450 Com­pared to a stan­dard binoc­u­lar, bi­nos containing laser rangefind­ers use dif­fer­ent lens coat­ings, gen­er­ally a shade of aqua green, to boost the vis­i­bil­ity of the red LED (light-emit­ting diode) dis­play that fires up when you hit the rang­ing but­ton. Sight­mark’s Soli­tude doesn’t have the ad­di­tional coat­ing, because the LCD (liq­uid crys­tal dis­play) is a per­ma­nent fix­ture in the im­age. It oc­cu­pies the bot­tom third of the right-hand bar­rel, with a hor­i­zon­tal bar sep­a­rat­ing the ret­i­cle and dis­play from the re­main­der of the im­age. We’d over­look that clunky dis­play if the rest of the de­vice was up to snuff, but while we got a max­i­mum range of 936 yards, testers were un­able to con­sis­tently range smaller tar­gets in­side 600 yards. Min­i­mum dis­tance for us was 6 yards. The price is cer­tainly ap­peal­ing, but the unit doesn’t have an­gle com­pen­sa­tion, tar­get­pri­or­ity modes, or a bal­lis­tics in­ter­face, and the im­age is un­der­whelm­ing.

Pul­sar Ac­co­lade LRF XP50

• 2.5–20x42 • $6,000 This fu­tur­is­tic, wildly ex­pen­sive unit doesn’t ex­actly fit the def­i­ni­tion of a rangefind­ing binoc­u­lar. First, it’s a monoc­u­lar. Sec­ond, it’s pri­mar­ily a ther­mal de­vice that hap­pens to con­tain a rangefinde­r. It’s also a $6,000 video cam­era, Wi-fi sta­tion, and digital spot­ting scope. Why in­clude it in this lineup? Because it’s also in­dis­putably cool, and an in­cred­i­ble tool for hunt­ing hogs or preda­tors at night. The heart of the Ac­co­lade is a sen­si­tive and tun­able ther­mal sen­sor ca­pa­ble of pick­ing up heat sig­na­tures out to 1,450 yards (the com­pany claims 2,000 yards) in com­plete dark­ness. The rangefinde­r, tied to the ther­mal im­age, is ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing pre­cise ranges of larger tar­gets to about 1,100 yards. The dis­play can be mag­ni­fied up to 20X, and dif­fer­ent col­ors and con­trasts can be used to in­crease tar­get res­o­lu­tion. You can record the dis­play and stream it to a de­vice us­ing on­board Wi-fi.

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