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Hawke’s Frontier LRF 8×42 binoculars: this offering from Hawke comes up trumps

Mat Manning puts Hawke’s new Frontier LRF 8x42 binoculars through their paces during a challenging evening of pest control

Hawke Frontier LRF 8x42 binoculars

Binoculars equipped with a laser rangefinder can be a real asset to rifle shooters who need to know exactly how far away their target is. Although such optics are more of a luxury item for shooters like me, who tend to focus on the control of grey squirrels and rabbits over closer distances, I know foxers and deerstalkers who rely on them as everyday essentials. (Read more controlling grey squirrels here.)

Frontier LRF 8×42 binoculars

Hawke has recently added two sets of Frontier LRF (laser rangefinder) binoculars to its range of optics. The 10×42 version has a recommended retail price of £1,099, while the Frontier LRF 8×42 binoculars featured here come in at a very competitive £999. Yes, that’s still a lot of money, but it buys you a quality piece of kit that should give years of reliable service and is covered by Hawke’s no-fault lifetime warranty.

Although the significance of knowing the distance to your target is obvious when shooting over longer ranges, it is still very important at closer quarters. A lot of the pest control I carry out is done with air rifles or a .22LR and subsonic ammo. These set-ups both have a distinctly curved trajectory, which requires precise holdover to keep longer shots on target. One ruse I often employ, especially after spotting rabbits at distance, is to use a pocket rangefinder to gauge the distance to them and then to a closer prominent marker (maybe a tree or fence post) that will put me, say, 40m away from the rabbits (assuming they don’t move too far) once I have crept in closer. This tactic saves me from having to fumble around with ranging when I’m closer to my quarry and more likely to be spotted.

I was planning to use the Frontier LRF 8×42 binoculars for the above purpose while out targeting rabbits during a recent evening foray. Unfortunately, the bunnies were reluctant to venture above ground in the freezing conditions, but I still managed to put the binoculars through their paces.

The first thing to impress me about them was the supplied carrying harness. It straps across your shoulders and the optics slip into the pouch at the front, which keeps them close to hand. The binoculars are attached to the harness via quick-release clips, so you can let go of them without fear of them ending up on the deck if you need to free your hands swiftly for a shot. A standard neck strap is also supplied, along with lens covers and a 3V CR2 battery.

using binoculars for hunting

Simple, intuitive controls on the binoculars make for quick and accurate rangefinding

Optical quality was also excellent. These binoculars are equipped with Hawke’s multi-coated H7 optics, which ensure a bright, sharp image. Focusing is by means of a large, smooth-turning central wheel and there is also dioptre adjustment for each eye.

The Frontier LRF’s real party piece, though, is the ability to gauge distance out to 1,800m. Hawke states their accuracy as being within +/-1m, so I thought I’d test them against my little Vantage rangefinder. In the absence of any rabbits, I lined up on a cattle trough, which the Frontier binoculars ranged at 154.4m. The Vantage rangefinder pinged the same target at 154.6m, which demonstrates remarkable consistency.

Of course, the Frontier LRF 8×42 binoculars are bigger and heavier than a dedicated rangefinder, but they deliver so much more in terms of viewing. They weigh in at 999g and measure a pretty compact 165mm from front to back and 114mm across when folded. Housed in a magnesium alloy chassis with a hard rubberised coating, these binoculars feel very robust. They are fog-proof and waterproof, and the lenses are treated with a waterproof coating to disperse droplets.

I don’t like overcomplicated tech, and I’m glad to report that the rangefinder on the Frontier LRF is very easy to use. All you have to do is press the power button, place the reticle that appears on the orange OLED display over your target and then give it another press to get a range reading. You can select whether you want distance displayed in metres or yards, and there is a choice of distance, rain, hunt, near, horizontal distance and angle modes. There is also an automatic shutdown, which prevents forgetful people like me from accidentally draining the battery.

Hawke Frontier LRF 8x42 binoculars

In the absence of rabbits, Mat pitted the Frontier LRFs against his Vantage rangefinder, and the result was very impressive.

Into the woods

Back to my outing, and I tucked the binoculars back into their case and trudged from the open fields into the woods, where I hoped the grey squirrels would be more obliging than the rabbits. I soon spotted and ranged a couple through the binoculars but, being up in the treetops, they didn’t offer safe shots for the rifle.

Just as I was losing hope of putting anything in the bag, I happened across a squirrel that was foraging among the leaf litter on a ride. The destructive little rodent was presumably seeking out the remnants of last autumn’s acorn crop, and failed to notice me drifting through the trees. A quick ping with the Frontier LRF gauged it at 38m from my position — easy pickings for the .22 and, thanks to a bank rising up behind, a safe shot. The snap of the rifle’s report was followed by a thud, which poleaxed the oblivious squirrel, putting an abrupt end to its bark-stripping days.

Bagging that squirrel was a pleasing conclusion to my outing with the Hawke Frontier LRF 8×42 binoculars which, until then, looked set to end in a blank. As I said at the outset, optics like this are somewhat superfluous to the type of shooting I generally do, but I can see them being extremely useful to shooters who want a good set of binoculars for observation coupled with the ability to calculate range accurately.

When it comes to striking a balance between affordability and reliable performance, this offering from Hawke comes up trumps.

Also consider

Bushnell Fusion X Rangefinder binoculars

Price £838 Bushnell’s high-definition Fusion X binoculars provide optimum viewing clarity even in the lowest of light conditions. You won’t have to worry about the rangefinder falling short either, because this unit delivers detailed readings for distances up to a full mile. (Read Al Gabriel’s full review here.)

Konus Range 2-10×42 Bino Laser RF

Price £495 This affordable offering from Konus measures speed, angle and height as well as range from 5m to 1,200m. They are waterproof, equipped with anti-glare optics and come supplied with strap, case and battery.

(Read best budget binoculars – what came top in our field test?)

Zeiss Victory RF 10×42

Price £2,850 The laser rangefinder on these binoculars is integrated with a real-time ballistics computer and can be paired with the Zeiss Hunting App for precise calculation of shot placement. High-quality glass and lens coatings ensure sharp, bright viewing.

Need to know

  • Manufacturer Hawke
  • Model Frontier LRF 8×42
  • Price £999
  • Contact Hawke Optics 
  • Weight 999g
  • Magnification 8x
  • Objective lens 42mm
  • Field of view 393ft at 1,000 yards
  • Waterproof rating IPX7
  • Features True colour H7 optics, rangefinder with OLED display, auto cut-off, harness carry pack