Out on the range with Richard Saunders

Richard Saunders casts his eye over a selection of laser rangefinders to find out which ones really can go the distance!

Thanks to their relatively low power, we can use air rifles in environments that are too dangerous for powder-burners – whether that’s a farmyard in the countryside or a shooting range in the suburbs.

Fired from a legal-limit air rifle, a .22 pellet will travel at around 550 feet per second. Lighter .177 flavours can get to around 770 feet per second, but even at those speeds, gravity has the last word over the relatively short distances involved.

Therefore, understanding trajectory is key to accuracy at a variety of ranges. Zeroing gives you two aim points – distances at which the crosshairs coincide with the pellet as it passes through the horizontal plane on its way up and down relative to your line of sight. Knowing the amount of holdover and under you’ll need for other distances is vital if you’re to hit targets or kill humanely.

Time spent at the range, or using ballistic programs such as Chairgun, will tell you how many mildots you need. And that’s great. Such information will make you more accurate, but only if you can translate that knowledge when it really matters. In other words, what’s the point of knowing you need two mildots at 40m if you haven’t a clue how far away that rabbit is?

The solution, of course, is the laser rangefinder, and we’ll be taking a look at the pros and cons of 10 products ranging from £109.95 to £615.


Nikon Monarch 7i VR

Nikon’s Monarch 7i VR is at the top end of what you’d expect to pay for a rangefinder, but spend just a few minutes with it and you’ll soon realise why.

Measuring just 99 x 75 x 48mm and weighing 200g, it will fit into just about any pocket, although it comes with a black carry pouch which closes with an elasticated loop and hook rather than a noisy plastic catch. This can either loop onto a belt or be attached via a carabiner.

Nikon claims a range of 915m in 0.1m increments, with 6x magnification and
7.5 degrees field of view. Those who wear glasses will appreciate the 18mm of eye relief. With the option of displaying yards or metres, the graphics are thick and clear, and you can switch between horizontal and actual distance measured.

The Distant Target Priority feature is especially useful in woods as it will lock onto the object that’s furthest away. The Vibration Reduction function helps negate the effect of shaky hands to provide accurate readings on either a single object or when you’re scanning the landscape.

Price: £444.99

The Airgun Shooter verdict: 

“Though one of the more expensive products on test, the Nikon Monarch 7i VR is crammed full of features.
If ultra-precision is important to you, this is well worth considering.”


Leica Rangemaster CRF 2400-R

Just like Nikon, the Leica brand is synonymous with quality optics, so it’s no surprise the Rangemaster CRF 2400-R is a stunning performer.

The 7x magnification is wonderfully crisp and can be tweaked using an adjustable dioptre. A rubber eyecup meant I could use
it easily while wearing glasses.

Although a carry pouch is provided, the carbon fibre-reinforced plastic body will stand up to the rigours of hunting. Pressing a raised button switches on a red LED circle. Simply point it at your target, press the button again and the distance in metres or yards up to a range of 2,200m is displayed.

The Rangemaster takes a single Lithium CR2 type battery, which is supplied, and will last a claimed 3,000 measurements. It’s a tough little thing as well, capable of working in vast extremes of temperature.

It’s also waterproof to a depth of 1m, though like every device certified as such, that means it will survive the odd dip, not that it can be used underwater!

Price: £470

The Airgun Shooter verdict: 

“Invest in a Leica Rangemaster CRF 2400-R and you’ll be safe in the knowledge that it will handle just about every airgun scenario. High quality optics, easy operation and excellent ergonomics make it a pleasure to use. ”


MTC Optics Rapier Ballistic

MTC Optics produces some of the best scopes on the market, but among its line-up is this little gem of a rangefinder.

At 105 x 72 x 38mm, its tough plastic body is compact and light at just 185g. Stippling on the top and bottom makes it easy to grip as well. A rubberised dioptre adjusts the focus on the 6x lens so you can range objects out to a claimed 1,200m.

The black display is powered by a CR2 battery that gives 5,000 measurements. It’s very clear and offers a choice of three different reticles as well as measurements in yards or metres. A lightning flash symbol shows when the laser is operating, and I like the fact that the unit can be set to buzz gently when it gives a reading.

By downloading a free app and entering information about your set-up and the ballistic properties of your pellets, the rangefinder will communicate aiming instructions to your smartphone or to an earpiece. The amount of information will satisfy even the most obsessed marksman, though you can edit it down to the basics to suit your needs.

Price: £259.99

The Airgun Shooter verdict: 

“The MTC Optics Rapier Ballistics is a real box of tricks. It can be used as a basic distance calculator or as a comprehensive and highly advanced accuracy aid.”


ATN LaserBallistics 1500

The ATN LaserBallistics 1500 is clever enough to keep you company in the field. Unlike the MTC product, it won’t talk to you, but will quite happily chat with your second gen or above ATN Smart HD scope.

Once you’ve fed the free app with ballistics data about your set-up, the LaserBallistics 1500 will, through the magic of Bluetooth, connect to your ATN scope – as long as you have the ballistic calculator function turned on – and will adjust your aim point for you.
If you don’t have an ATN scope, it will connect to a smartphone so you can make the adjustments yourself.

Even without the electronic trickery, this is a fine product. The 6x magnification means you can search for targets before locking on to them at ranges up to a claimed 1,500m.

A brief press of the ‘On’ button will give you a reading in metres or yards for a target. Holding the button down scans your environment to assess the distance of multiple objects.

At 106 x 35 x 73mm and 152g, it fits easily into your pocket, which is good because the carry pouch has a noisy Velcro fastening. Unlike some of the other products here, it doesn’t offer eye relief, so if you wear glasses you may need to take them off in order to see clearly.

Price: £265

The Airgun Shooter Verdict

“If you’re an ATN scope user, the smart connectivity features on the LaserBallistics 1500 will help you get the most from your gear. Don’t discount it even if you’re not though, as this rangefinder has many other great attributes.”


Sightmark M8

Being at the lowest end of our fiscal range, the Sightmark M8 can’t be expected to be as feature-rich as its more expensive competitors, but if you need a tool that performs the basics it’s well worth a look.

At 105 x 70 x 39mm and 221g, the black plastic shell belies its budget pricing, and comes with a carry pouch that shuts with a popper. The CR2 battery it runs on is not included, which is more of an annoyance than anything else – they’re very cheap.

A rubberised focus ring reveals a sharp image, which can be viewed even when you’re wearing glasses, and the 6x magnification works to a claimed detection range of 800m.

A brief press on the power button provides a reading in metres or yards to a single object. Holding the button down gives a continuous reading. There’s also a feature that enables you to measure the speed an object is travelling. I can’t think why you’d need that when shooting, but it adds to the Sightmark’s versatility for other pursuits.

Price: £109.95

The Airgun Shooter verdict:

“Most of us want a rangefinder that simply tells us how far away something is. For many, everything else is unnecessary expense. If that sounds like you, then the Sightmark M8 may be what you are looking for.”


Leupold RX-2800 TBR/W

The top-of-the-range Leupold RX-2800 TBR/W is a staggering piece of equipment, providing way more than even the most ambitious airgun shooter will ever need. But if you shoot centrefire and rimfire as well, you really should take a look.

Made from rubber-coated aluminium, the RX-2800 is light enough when you consider all the gizmos it must have inside to do what it does. Accurate out to a claimed 2,560m, the red LED display shows up well on the
7x-magnification, crystal clear optics.

The RX-2800 does everything you’d expect a product at this price to do, such
as single point and constant scanning measurement, and features to help improve stability. The eye relief meant I could use it with my glasses, the detection rate is instantaneous, and it is 100 per cent waterproof (though a maximum depth of water is not quoted).

Its real party trick is that you can select the specific characteristics of the ammunition you’re using to receive aim adjustment instructions. Unfortunately for us airgunners, we’re talking 180 grain .308 Winchester rounds, not 16 grain JSBs.

Price: £615

The Airgun Shooter verdict:

“There’s no denying the incredible quality and performance of the Leupold RX-2800 TBR/W. If you only shoot airguns, it’s frankly far too much for what you need. But if you shoot long distances with big calibres, it’s just the ticket.”


Hawke LRF Hunter 600

Hunters, plinkers and target shooters will already be familiar with Hawke’s scopes, but if you haven’t come across the company’s range of laser rangefinders you’ll want to check them out.

I suspect the origins of the Hawke LRF 600 have more to do with golfing, but there’s no denying the product is ideal for airgunners as well. Measuring just 92 x 70 x 35mm, it’s a dinky little thing and only weighs 141g including the CR2 battery, which is included.

Despite its diminutive proportions, it doesn’t skimp on features or performance such as 6x magnification, a claimed 600m range and the ability to measure angles. It’s also waterproof (IPX4 rated, which indicates ‘splashing water from any direction’) and comes with a snap-shut carry pouch.

To help deal with a range of conditions, there’s a setting for use in the rain, while the ‘Hunt’ feature ignores the influence of long grass and other light brush to lock on to the target you want to gauge.

The focus ring is quite hard and as a glasses wearer, I could really have done with more eye relief.

Price: £169

The Airgun Shooter verdict:

“Despite being one of the cheaper products on test, the Hawke LRF Hunter 600 is not short on features and performance, and will more than meet the needs of most airgun users.”


Yukon Extend LRS-1000

Yukon is another brand many airgunners are familiar with and who will therefore purchase the Extend LRS-1000 with confidence.

They’d be right to do so. This is a no-frills rangefinder that covers all the bases when it comes to most users’ needs. The soft-touch black plastic bodyshell will protect against knocks and bumps.

Its ergonomic design makes it comfortable in the hand, and the two buttons are ideally placed and operate with clear, but muted clicks. The power button also triggers the laser beam for a single measurement or continuous scan. The mode button switches between yards and metres and selects a ‘speed camera’ function if you need it.

The claimed detection range of 1,000m is more than ample, as is the 6x magnification. Powered by a CR2 battery – which, incidentally, isn’t included – the Extend LRS-1000 is water-resistant (to IPX5) and has good eye relief. The carry pouch is good quality and loops onto a belt, though the zip fastening is a little noisy.

Price: £279.95

The Airgun Shooter verdict:

“The Yukon Extend LRS-1000 is built to last and even with the hurly-burly of hunting, it should give many years of service. It may only cover the basics, but does so extremely well.”


Discovery Optics Lions W600

The internet is not short of cheap, Chinese-made laser rangefinders, and with many of them, the adage that “You get what you pay for” most definitely applies.

But the Lions W600 from Discovery Optics doesn’t fall into that category, despite being the second cheapest product on test. Sure, a few of the seams on the green soft-touch casing are a little feathery, but only a champion pedant could mark it down for that.

It feels great in the hand, thanks in part to the raised bars that help with grip. The glass is nice and clear, as is the display, though
I struggled to get perfect focus on all the numbers. The buttons are positive, helping you to scroll through features and functions that include a speed mode, the ability to measure elevation, and switch between yards and metres.

The Lions W600 comes with a CR2 battery, which can be changed easily and quickly without having to fiddle with a coin or risk dropping the cap. The carry pouch, which uses a magnet to open and shut silently, attaches via a loop or carabiner.

The Airgun Shooter verdict:

“The Lions W600 does many of the things the more expensive products on test do. It may not be as ergonomically pleasing or as tactile, but for the price you have to ask yourself how important such considerations are.”


Leupold Marksman 1000

The Marksman 1000 is Leupold’s entry-level rangefinder. Despite this, and the fact it focuses on the basics – in other words, everything most airgunners need – it’s a high-quality and well-made product.

The black polymer shell is stippled across the top and the soft rubber focus ring gives plenty of adjustment as well as excellent, glasses-friendly, eye-relief. As you’d expect from an optics company of Leupold’s pedigree, the 6x-magnification, multi-coated lens optimises brightness, contrast and clarity of the image.

A single red button switches on the Marksman 1000 and activates the laser, the results of which are displayed with easy-to-read graphics and provide line-of-sight distances as well as uphill and downhill readings. The Marksman 1000 is so-named as its maximum range is 1,000 yards, though of course there are options to measure in either yards or metres.

Leupold provides a CR2 battery along with a hoop and eye carry case, which attaches via a loop or plastic clip, and a reassurance that the product is waterproof.

Price: £247

The Airgun Shooter verdict:

“Leupold has an enviable reputation when it comes to optics and despite the Marksman 1000 being entry-level, the company has not skimped on quality. The product feels great in the hand, is wonderfully clear to look through and delivers the information airgunners need.”


 

 

Summary

Given the loopy trajectory that all airguns have, even those with FAC power, you could argue that a laser rangefinder ranks only behind rifles and scopes in terms of vital equipment.

Certainly, if you’re a hunter you owe it to your quarry to be as accurate as you can every time you squeeze the trigger; there’s very little point knowing how much holdover you need at 40m if you can’t accurately judge that distance in the field.

We’ve taken a look at a spectrum of rangefinders varying by almost £500. At the end of the day, they all do the basic job of telling you how far away something is, and do so extremely well. So make sure you select a product that is quick and easy to use, with ergonomics and functionality that really work for you – as well as offering the eye relief you need.

 

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