Rich Saunders homes in on the range as he tests rangefinders to see if they can go the distance.
Laser rangefinders for shooting are the answer to judging distance when airgunning. These pocket-sized accessories are quick and simple to use, and give an instant and accurate measurement so you can apply the right amount of holdover or number of clicks on a scope’s elevation turret. So we’ve pulled together a selection of the best rangefinders for shooting for you to consider.
Why rangefinders for shooting are key kit
Let’s face it, of all the things you can hunt with legally in the UK, 12ft-lb air rifles are pretty feeble. Only catapults are weaker, and I’m not totally sure about that. But that’s the point isn’t it? We’re not all blessed with thousands of acres to roam, and air rifles make even the smallest permission an absorbing challenge. I limit myself to 30 metres when hunting with a .22 and 40 metres with a .177. Trajectory – the extent to which a pellet will drop over different distances – is, of course, the variable we have to master to succeed as legal-limit airgunners. Some shooters use ballistic apps to understand how much holdover they need, while others prefer to set out targets at different distances and spend time on the range. However, even the most intimate understanding of how much holdover your rifle needs won’t help if a rabbit pops out of the hedgerow and you don’t know whether it is 20 metres away or 30.
Rich Saunders’ best rangefinders for shooting
Best for battery life
- Measures 95x70x33mm
- Weighs 175g
- 25mm objective lens
- 6x magnification
- Range of 600m
+ Small and light + Affordable + Solar panel that charges battery
– People with glasses may struggle to see properly through dial
PAO designed the product at the behest of The Shooting Party’s boss, Mike Hurney, after he discovered the battery on his regular rangefinder had gone flat when grouse shooting in Scotland. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the Solar 600 long enough to test the claim that ”you’ll never buy a battery again”, but with a range of five to 600 metres at 6x magnification through the 25mm objective lens, the picture is superbly clear with a field of view that equates to 122m at 1,000m.
The waterproof camouflage patterned plastic shell is high quality and doesn’t creak no matter how hard you grip it. The dioptre adjustment dial is ridged to aid grip and moves easily with just enough resistance to avoid accidental adjustment, although I found I had to remove my glasses to see through it properly.
There are two buttons on the top. A brief press of the power button will give you a reading to a specific target, and holding it down provides a constant readout as you scan an area.
The second button scrolls through options that include modes to optimise performance in the fog, and measure horizontal and vertical distance and angle. You can also swap between metres and yards, and in the field I found the setting that provides both angle and distance to a specific target most useful.
The Airgun Shooter verdict: “The PAO Solar 600 is well made and packs plenty of features into its diminutive size. The solar recharging feature is a great idea too, making running flat in the field less likely.”
Best for shooters who wear glasses
- IPX4 waterproofing
- Measures 100x75x33mm
- Weighs 157g
- 6x magnification
+ Easy-to-use design
+ Useful free-to-download app
– Expensive – Lower end of company’s range
– Minimum SIERRA3BDX parallax adjustment is 50 yards
Made from high-quality polymers with rubberised textured panels that combine to offer IPX4 waterproofing, the KILO measures 100x75x33mm and weighs just 157g. A dioptre ring offers plenty of adjustment to ensure a sharp image with enough eye relief to make using this device with glasses easy.
Thanks to high-quality lenses that have Sig Sauer’s SpectraCoat anti-reflection coatings, the image through the 20mm objective lens is extremely clear at the fixed 6x magnification, enabling the KILO to detect out to a claimed range of 1,400 metres. A CR2 battery is installed by undoing a coin slot cap just below the lens and will give, according to Sig Sauer, around 4,000 ranges.
Pushing a square button on the top reveals a default LCD screen with a small circular reticle as well as a remaining battery indicator, elevation, incline angle and Bluetooth connectivity status. Another brief press gives a reading in metres or yards to one decimal point as well as angle from the horizontal plane. Holding the button down activates a scan mode for distance and angle at a rate of four updates a second.
Pressing the mode button on the left side accesses a range of options including the ability to connect to Sig Sauer’s SIERRA3BDX scopes via a free-to-download app which, with ballistic information entered, will automatically adjust your aim point to compensate for trajectory drop and windage. Impressive though that is, the minimum parallax adjustment on the SIERRA3BDX range is 50 yards, making these scopes unlikely to be used by airgunners.
The Airgun Shooter verdict : “Although it’s towards the lower end of the Sig Sauer range, this is a premium-level, high-performance rangefinder. Some of the features will be superfluous for many airgunners, but if you also shoot rimfire or centrefire and you’re looking for a top quality product, the KILO 1400 BDX is well worth considering – especially if used in conjunction with a Sig Sauer scope.”
Bushnell PRIME 1700
Spec (Nitro 1800):
- Measures 87x77x35mm
- Weighs 160g
- Powered by CR2 battery
+ Fits into pocket + Good for spotting
Spec (Prime 1700):
- Fixed 6x magnification
- 1,600 metre range
- Measures 108x37x70mm
- Weighs 169g
+ Image is very crisp + Bullseye mode
– Fewer features than Nitro 1800
In the world of optics, few brands demand respect like Bushnell. Its scopes have been a firm favourite with airgunners for decades. It also offers three different lines of monocular rangefinders – for our review we’ve got the Prime 1700 and the Nitro 1800 models.
At £415, the Nitro 1800 is Bushnell’s top-of-the-range product. At 87x77x35mm and weighing 160g, it fits into a pocket if you don’t want to carry it in the provided belt pouch.
Powered by a CR2 battery, the Nitro 1800 has a range of 730 metres straight out of the box, but can be upgraded. The 6×24 configuration makes the Nitro 1800 excellent for spotting, and with a press of the button will give you a reading in metres or yards. The mode button will optimise the Nitro 1800 for different terrains, and there are settings for rifle and bow use.
Downloading a free app will allow you to upgrade the rangefinder scanning capabilities to more than 1,800 metres and enables you to sync with your smartphone or Kestrel device to provide ballistic data and calculate holdover and windage.
Priced at £240, the Prime 1700 may not have the features of the Nitro, but it covers the functions most important to airgunners. The 1,600 metre range is ample and thanks to a large objective lens that has coatings designed to optimise light transmission and colour, the image is very crisp at the fixed 6x magnification.
The Airgun Shooter Verdict: “Both the Endurance and Vantage ranges offer excellent and affordable performance that will satisfy all airgunning needs. If you shoot centrefire and rimfire rifles, the longer range of the Endurance products is more likely to suit.”
Best for airgun use
- Measures 105x72x38mm
- Weighs 178g
- 6x magnification
- 25mm objective lens configuration
+ Designed with airgun use in mind
+ Light and compact
+ Free-to-download app and provided earpiece
The Rapier Ballistic Rangefinder from MTC Optics has been around for some time. But, like many of the company’s other products, it was developed with airgun use in mind.
Weighing 178g and measuring 105x72x38mm, it is as light and compact as any of the other products on test. The image through the 6x magnification and 25mm objective lens configuration is nice and clear from five metres out to 1,200 with a claimed accuracy of +/- one metre.
The rubberised dioptre adjustment turns easily with enough resistance to make accidental movement unlikely, and the eye relief of around 19mm will be appreciated by people who wear glasses. A CR2 battery provides around 5,000 ranges and there’s a 10 second auto shut-off feature.
A square red button turns the unit on and activates the laser, signified by a lightning flash icon, to provide a distance reading in yards or metres. Other information including incline angle from horizontal, battery life and Bluetooth status are shown on a bold display that is easy to see and gives you three different reticle options.
By downloading a free app and pairing the Rapier Ballistic to your phone via the Bluetooth feature, the rangefinder will display point of aim changes in clicks, mils or MOA. Alternatively, by using the provided earpiece, the rangefinder will whisper the information in your ear.
The Airgun Shooter verdict: “The Rapier Ballistic Rangefinder combines good optics with a clear and informative display, long-range performance and neat communications features. The Bluetooth-enabled features will be as useful for airgunners as they are for centrefire and rimfire shooters.”