Hunters and sportsmen for generations have carried and relied on binoculars to spot distant targets and scan terrain for the best hunting locations. Most modern hunters recognize the benefits of a set of binoculars but leave them behind. There are other gear choices that have replaced the trusted but somewhat antiquated binocular.
The primary culprit is the laser rangefinder. It is true that this tool is indispensable at getting a very accurate reading on distance and even has some of the spotting ability of binoculars. What it won’t do is give you the same field of vision and detail that a set of binoculars can. Depending on how you hunt, this may be a fair trade-off.
Just as the binocular fell to the wayside, it may be time to set aside your old rangefinder and move on to the most versatile tool for the job, the modern raging binocular. While rangefinder binoculars have existed for years relying on a measured reticle, the new rendition of this technology incorporates a laser rangefinder. This gives you the ability to scan and pick out targets with both eyes and with a simple push of a button, you get a pinpoint readout of the current range.
Based in Long Island, this American owned company has dedicated themselves to producing the most accurate and highest quality long range optics possible. While they may still fall a little short of some of the premier brands, with the overall quality and cost they are doing an exceptional job. Their highest concern is ensuring that their products function in any environment under any conditions. So far, they are a success.
In the optical department, The Snypex Knight is among the best rangefinder binoculars on the market. They use an exceptional HD glass for their lenses which are 100% fully multicoated for the absolute best optical quality. They use a BAK-4 Roof Prism for exceptional light transfer and combine that with a sizable 42mm objective lens. The end result is a bright, high contrast, and ultra-sharp image at 8x magnification that can see clearly over a thousand yards away.
This is a good thing considering the Knight can be set to rage as short as 5 yards away or up to 1800 yards. That is nearly a mile and a half! They can also compensate for angles as much as 90 degrees though that is a little extreme. When it comes to accuracy, for the range it is +/- 1 meter and for the angle, it is less than 1 degrees.
For modes, you get a ton! It has modes for use in the rain, modes for tracking moving targets, a special mode for longer ranges, and even a mode that is designed to be accurate through reflective conditions like fog. This is truly a device that can operate in almost any conditions or environments without fail. Your range will be shorter in some of these conditions but that is a limit of the technology, not the specific brand.
Part of their dedication to making a tough product comes down the durability features. You won’t find the Knight lacking there with its full Mag/Aluminum chassis. This is armored in a grippy rubber to give you a firm grasp while offering shock resistance. The lenses are fully O-ring sealed to prevent any debris or moisture getting into the sensing mechanism. They are even shipped with lens caps to keep their amazing glass in perfect shape.
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Leica is a company that has its hands in a bunch of different optics markets and is well respected in all of them. Their Geovid rangefinder binoculars come from the camera side of the company which has nailed down what it takes to produce the absolute best optical products. They have borrowed greatly from their knowledge of survey and medical optics to produce these binoculars.
On the surface, the Geovid binoculars don’t look much different from any other pair of high quality 10x binoculars but that is far from the truth. With their absolutely superior quality lenses and industry-leading multi-coat technology, these are about as optically pure as you can get. When combined with their own patented Porro Prism, the light loss through these binoculars is exceptionally low leading to an astoundingly sharp, bright image.
Not to neglect the laser side of the equation, Leica has included a rangefinder that is just as amazing as their optical quality. Though you are unlikely to get a solid reading unless conditions are perfect, you can range out to well over a mile and a half. Out to a 1000 yards, it will be accurate down to a couple of yards. This is of exceptional accuracy and power.
The Geovid doesn’t offer a lot of modes but it does offer one thing that most others do not. These binoculars are built on top of a ballistic computer. With preloaded data for most common loads, it can account for range, temperature, angle, barometric pressure, and your ammunition to give you a precise aiming point. As long as you can get your windage down, this will tell you exactly where to aim. It is almost like cheating.
While probably not the most durable rangefinder binoculars, they are no pushover. There is a thin, scratch resistant rubber armor over the entire body. Everything is sealed up tight so nothing gets in. You can actually submerge these binoculars up to 15 feet deep and they will still work fine. No amount of rain, dust, snow, or fog will ever get in the way of your long-range shooting.
Vortex isn’t exactly an old company but they produce optics as if they were. They seem to have experience beyond their years as a company that leads them to produce optics far beyond the quality of most of their competitors. What is more amazing is that they do it for a cost far lower than anyone else. Before we go any farther, for the money these are probably the best rangefinder binoculars on the planet.
It all starts with power and these are in the upper tier at 10x. When combined with a 42mm objective and HD glass, you already get a great view but they don’t stop there. They use a proprietary multi-coat on all of their lenses that increase sharpness and contrast to a level high enough to use these in low light. Combine this with a phase corrected roof prism and you have some of the best optical quality you can get and for half the cost of competitors.
The ranging capabilities are equally impressive. For a soft target like a deer, you can get accurate distances out to about 1600 yards if conditions are right. That is astounding but not nearly as astounding as the almost 3-mile range on reflective targets. That is 5000+ yards! There is no more powerful rangefinder available!
The primary mode of these binoculars uses horizontal corrected distance to get the most accurate range for distance shooting. If you want more control, you can switch over to a more basic line of sight mode that will allow you to do your own calculations without the Fury doing it for you. For a final mode, it does offer a scan mode which will constantly update distance on a first target priority. This makes the Fury a very versatile unit.
Vortex never skimps on the durability either. The body of the Fury is coated in a thick, rubberized armor which is sure to keep it protected. All of the lenses are sealed and the internals is dry-nitrogen purged. Nothing will get inside, not fog, water, dust or anything else. This means you have a 100% weatherproof binocular that can function pretty much anywhere in any environment. If that isn’t enough, The Vortex VIP warranty is good for life!
Nikon has been around forever and their sports optic division for decades. They have but more optics in the hands of hunters and shooters than most other brands and remain one of the most popular companies around when it comes to scopes, binoculars, and rangefinders. The foray into the world of the rangefinder binocular was pretty much inevitable.
Though recent, they have given exceptional effort into producing a product that will compete with the best rangefinder binocular brands. These 10×42 binoculars use Nikon’s own extra-low dispersion glass which keeps light focused directly to the prism. All of the lenses, as well as the prism, are coated to further improve light transmission and provide only the clearest and cleanest view possible. There may be options with better glass out there but not many.
For the rangefinder, you can easily get an accurate reading on a deer out to 1000 yards. For a tree or other hard target, that goes up to 1400 yards. For match targets and other reflective surfaces, it exceeds a mile at 1900 yards. This is done in 1-yard increments with an amazing accuracy of +/- 1 yard. The minimum distance is only 10 yards for a solid reading and it can do anything in between.
The Laserforce is a little low on modes. The standard uses Nikon’s own ID technology which stands for incline/decline and will give you a compensated distance to your target for an accurate shot. It does have the option for the line of sight and can be used in a scan mode. Being designed for the hunter, a lot of focus is the ID mode and will be the predominant use for most people who purchase this binocular.
These are lightly rubberized over a die-cast aluminum chassis which is quite durable if not as durable as some of the more hardcore models. The internals is purged and the lenses are O-ring sealed. The final effect is binoculars that are fully waterproof and resistant to fog, dust and just about anything else. With such fine optical quality, you have to keep the internals clean. To help with this, Nikon does offer a no-fault lifetime repair/replacement warranty to make sure you are always ready to go.
What better brand to follow up Nikon than Bushnell? Possibly the only sports optics company to have more products in the hands of hunters and shooters than Nikon. They have accomplished this through a precise valuation of cost and quality. Amazingly, both the value and the quality have gone up in recent years as Bushnell seeks to maintain its hold as king of a market that is ever growing. For the time being, they show no sign of quitting and their Fusion rangefinder binoculars are a perfect example.
These are on the low end of the power spectrum of most of the best rangefinder binocular models but still a solid 8x. They are also a little more streamlined with their Porro prism design and the smaller 32mm objective lens. This would normally be worrying but they have still managed to get an astonishing 80% light transmission through clever use of high-quality low dispersion glass and a phenomenal multicoat technology. This is all backed up by a true BaK-4 prism that is phase coated to keep the light spectrum pure and clear.
Bushnell calls the Fusion the 1-Mile ARC rangefinder and that is a great description. With the ability to get solid distance readings between 10 and 1760 yards, it exceeds a mile but just a few yards when your target is reflective. For deer, you will get about half that maximum and for hard targets, it should read right at a thousand yards. This is all +/- 1 yard accurate no matter the distance.
You will get a scan mode on the Fusion but it is really geared around two modes. For rifle mode, it provides you with a line of sight, angle, and holdover. Then, for bow mode, you get the same angle and line of sight distance but it also shows you true horizontal distance. Also, for bow mode, this is limited to 100 yards but you likely will never shoot a bow more than that. If you do, you are probably good enough to hit your target without Bushnell’s software helping you.
Bushnell goes about weather resistance and durability a little differently. Sure, the outside is armored with a very dense rubber to protect against shock but it’s the water resistance that gets interesting. Bushnell seals everything on their optic with a patented process that will keep the internals 100% protected from rain, sleet, snow, or anything else that mother nature throws at you. This is all backed up by a 10-year warranty on the optics and 3 years on the electronics just in case.
When people think of Swarovski it probably isn’t for binoculars but for the small crystal figurines. The truth is Swarovski is first and foremost an optics company with their hands in just about every major industry that uses any type of high-grade lenses. And that is where Swarovski shines. Their lenses are truly second to none and while their optical devices are very high tech, that is the aftereffect of optical perfection.
At the basic level, these are just another pair of 10×42 binoculars until you actually get around to looking through them. The glass is unbelievably clear, so much so that you will finally see how dull colors are through just about any other brand. They do use a multi-coat treatment and it likely makes a difference but with the level of perfection in the glass, it is hard to tell. This combines with a Swarovski made roof prism for a slim, straight and very ergonomic design.
The laser is honestly fairly standard to a pair of rangefinder binoculars. It is somewhat less powerful than those used by other brands. The maximum range is around 1500 yards which is just a little shy of a mile. The minimum is 33 yards which are actually quite high. Most of the time that won’t matter unless you are a bow hunter.
There are no modes to speak of on the EL Range series. It combines distance and angle measurements but leaves the calculations up to you. All measurements happen in a scan mode with first target priority. Rather than making complexity their focus, instead, Swarovski kept things simple and focused on ergonomics. There is no doubt that these are the best ranging binoculars available when it comes to comfort and usability.
For durability, Swarovski has opted for total coverage of dense rubberized armor. This adds just enough tactile grip and shock protection while being tough and hard wearing. The internals is sealed and purged for a true waterproof optic. They may not be quite as tough as some of the brands that focus more on tactical operations but they are great for everyday range use.
In the world of binoculars, Steiner is a legend. When all factors are considered, it is often thought that there are no better binoculars on the planet than those made by Steiner. They are immensely popular in the civilian world and have been a long time military favorite. Part of this is their optical quality but one of the greatest features is their beyond indestructible toughness. When combines with the awesome features of the Nighthunter LRF, Steiner could be the king of rangefinder binoculars.
Let’s talk about optical quality. While there are some companies that do it better such as Zeiss and Swarovski, Steiner still beats out most of the big names in the optics world. For most people, they would never see any inferiority between these 8×30 binoculars and any of the best glass available. They are fully multi-coated with a proprietary mix that improves light transmission to an almost unbelievable degree. Combined with a phase corrected Porro prism these are super bright and clear.
The image quality is a big part of what makes these binoculars so great. Without extreme clarity, there is no way you could pick out a target at a mile distant which is the capable range of the rangefinder portion of the Nighthunter LRF. At the short end, you can get ranges as low as 20 yards when needed. They don’t excel at soft targets but anything reflective or hard will give a strong and accurate reading.
Steiner is predominantly focused on military and marine optics so there are really no modes to speak of on the Nighthunter LRF despite its name. It operates permanently in first target priority scan mode. This plays well into the way Steiner designs their optical systems to show a near 3D view. You can easily single out a target from a group and get an accurate range for it.
Durability is where Steiner really begins to show their stuff. Rather than the aluminum or magnesium used by most companies, they use a very durable poly material called Makrolon. This is rubber coated can withstand up to 11gs of impact. The internal is over pressurized with nitrogen and sealed. The end result is an optic that can be submerged up to 15 feet underwater and take a direct fall on to concrete without damage. In case something does happen, Steiner offers its Heritage Warranty which will fix it forever.
To round out the big names in optical quality, we have to cover those made by Zeiss. Where the Swarovski is optically perfect and the Steiner is tough as nails, Zeiss aims to bridge the gap with a rangefinder binocular that is both tough, optical superior, and fully featured. For the hunter, it is far more likely that these will be the best rangefinder binocular for you.
To get the basics out of the way, the Zeiss Victory is a near perfect set of 10×42 binoculars. They are fully multi-coated and use a very low dispersion glass combine with the best Abbe-Köenig prism technology around for a streamlined and near optically perfect combination. They may fall just slightly behind Swarovski but for the layperson, the difference will be unnoticeable.
The laser is super powerful and can range out to a distance of 2300 meters or nearly a mile and a half. On the short end, they can measure down to 11 yards accurately. This is hard target distance but the Victory is easily capable of breaking a thousand yards accurately on soft targets such as deer. This may not be groundbreaking on its own but when combined with the optical quality, this is a mix of superiority not seen in any other brand.
The Victory binoculars have both scan and target modes. The target mode has an advanced ballistic calculator built in that can utilize and common loads for most calibers or you can enter your own for a perfect match. All of this can be set up, modified, and tracked by syncing the binoculars to your smartphone via Bluetooth. These are the only rangefinder binoculars to offer this feature.
Durability may be the low point of Zeiss optics. They are not the tanks that some of the most popular hunting brands but they are still tough enough to handle most conditions. They are purged and sealed for waterproofing. The lenses are actively hydrophobic to shed condensation and fog. The shortcoming is in the Zeiss housing which is made of magnesium for low weight and only covered with a thin protective rubber armor. That said, Zeiss does offer a full warranty on the optical components and a 5-year warranty on the electronics.
While we have done due diligence to provide some of the very best products out there, the best isn’t cheap. You can opt for getting a sound product that functions well and does the job for significantly less. That is where brands like USCAMEL come in. Often using factory second components from the major brands, they can undercut the price of the big brands and still deliver respectable quality.
The rangefinder binoculars offered by USCAMEL are a 10×50 and use lenses they were likely designed and manufactured for a different brand. The quality is overall good but they are missing a lens coating. Having the oversized 50mm objective lens and a BAK 4 prism ensures that you still get the optical quality that is worthy of the range these binoculars are made for.
The laser in these binoculars is a little subpar as is the receiver. Still, you can get accurate ranging on targets at 1000 yards and likely on soft targets out to at least 500. This is part of the price of a budget optic. At some point, something has to give and, in this case, it was the overall range. That said, they will still outstrip most high dollar rangefinders and are far more versatile.
There are no modes on these binoculars. They operate in a permanent scan mode with first target priority. This is not uncommon even in higher priced brands. There are no real extras, just a simple set of rangefinder binoculars and that can save you some serious cash. These overall costs less than 20% of even some of the most affordable name brands.
When it comes to durability, these are not that bad. The frame and chassis are made of the same materials as many high-end binoculars. The lenses are O-ring sealed and nitrogen purged making them both waterproof and fog proof. In fact, they are IPX 7 waterproof which means they can be fully submerged and still function perfectly. This leaves them on a high note if you are in the market for something affordable.
On the far end of the spectrum from the Carl Zeiss and Steiners, you can find something very affordable. The prices of the best rangefinder binoculars are very steep and having a workable product that is within the reach of most any budget should be a priority. While there are products that are not worth the money, there are a few that are quite worthy of considerations though there are sacrifices that will be made with this price point.
BNISE offers a 10×50 set of rangefinder binoculars that fit that bill. Optically they are sound with a large enough objective lens to provide good lite transmission. The lenses are coated, though the coatings are somewhat less quality than those used on the more expensive optics. Surprisingly they use a very high-quality BAK-4 Porro prism which provides good image transfer for a rather clear and clean set of optics.
The laser is virtually identical to the one used in the USCAMEL brand. The ranges are similar at somewhere north of 1000 yards for reflective targets and probably around 500 for soft targets. The reflector appears to slightly better with more accurate pickup despite the lower price. This could provide better pickup at longer ranges than listed above in clear conditions without obstruction.
Modes are nonexistent on the BNISE as it operates in a permanent scan mode. It has no angle measurements or compensation, simply line of sight with first target priority. While this is a limitation for hunters in some cases, the calculations are done by the binoculars are capable of being done by hand if needed or by a smartphone app if available. This allows you to save a lot of money and still end up with the same capabilities even if it does take a bit longer to do.
The most impressive aspect of these binoculars is actually the warranty. BNISE offers a lifetime warranty, no questions asked, with a full refund. This is a very good warranty though hopefully one that is not needed. These are actually fairly sturdy with a magnesium chassis that is rubberized for shock resistance. They are waterproof, nitrogen purged and fog-free. Honestly, not that bad considering the very budget-friendly price.
While there is nothing too outlandish about the technology in a set of rangefinding binoculars if you are familiar with both the regular rangefinder and normal binoculars, it is best to make sure you understand both. This is especially true of the rangefinder portion so a little refresher may be in order. This short video offers a concise primer on the technology.
Breaking down the Numbers
The first thing you will notice about a set of rangefinder binoculars is that they are far more powerful than a standard rangefinder. How much more powerful will depend on the brand and specific model but here is how to tell.
Most binoculars will have their power written similar to 12×50. Right now we are only worried about that first number which tells us the level of magnification. In this example, a target will appear 12 times closer than it would with the naked eye. Compare this to even the most powerful rangefinders at 7x and you will see there is a huge difference.
While a 7x rangefinder may get decent visibility out to 400 yards or so, 12x can get you out to a thousand. Part of this is simply the more powerful optics but a second factor is that you have both eyes working to make distant targets clear and visible.
So what about that second number? That is the size of the objective lens in millimeters. While this doesn’t directly impact power, it does greatly improve the visibility of targets through your binoculars.
As you increase magnification you will need more light or the whole image will appear dark. The primary way to get more light to your eye and keep images bright is to increase the objective size. There are limits to this. An objective that is too large will increase both the size and weight of your binoculars.
With all that said, what should you look for? A minimum of 8x is highly recommended with a 10-12x being a much better choice. This can get you out to that 1000 yard mark.
Objective size is less of a concern. Most optics companies have pretty well got this down to a science. Just be aware if the objective is much larger or smaller than competing brands. Smaller will be less effective while larger may indicate an optical issue they are trying to compensate for.
Some rangefinder binoculars will have their power listed as 4-12×50. These are zoom binoculars and are capable of using a variety of different magnifications between 4 and 12 times. This is becoming a more common feature and is usually regarded as a valuable feature to have.
At lower magnification, you can see a much wider area which will improve your scanning speed when you are looking for a specific target. For the hunter this is inviable, easily allowing them to follow moving targets until they stop or get to a location where you are willing to make a shot.
When zoomed in, the tighter field of view and greater power allow you to get a better point of aim on your target. There will be less chance of error or slightly drifting off target and accidentally ranging something in front of or behind it.
Zoom binoculars are a more complex mechanism which increases the chance of them failing. If you buy any reputable brand, this chance is quite small. If you purchase a pair of budget ranging binoculars with this feature, you could have issues.
Lenses and Lens Coatings
The overall quality of the image your optic produces should be a paramount concern. No matter how powerful a set of binoculars are, if the image is cloudy or distorted they are not worth the money and will not be effective. Manufacturing a binocular with great optical quality can be tricky and expensive. It all starts with the glass.
The primary factor that will determine how good your view is will be the lenses. Nothing in the world can make up for a poor lens through many budget companies will try to pull off a miracle just to save a few bucks. This never goes over well and ends up with a lot of dissatisfied customers.
The best lenses right now are coming out of Germany and Japan. These are used in all high-end optics with many of the leading brands using the exact same glass for their lenses.
How can you tell if your optic uses this better glass? In truth, you can’t. No company advertises that they use inferior components. You will have to let the reviews, brand, and price be your guide.
The overall quality of the glass isn’t the only factor to consider. Almost every high-end optic company uses coatings on their lenses. These coatings can affect a variety of things but their primary purpose is to filter light and reduce glare to improve the overall scope image.
There are several different ranges of coatings from a single coating on a single lens to multiple coatings on all lenses. Price and quality increase with each coating and lens but the difference is noticeable. If you want the best, always look for binoculars that are fully-multicoated. This is the best you can get.
Other than optical coatings some brands offer a variety of chemicals that protect your optics. The most usual treatment prevents fogging on the lenses and is quite common. Some of the best brands use a hard coating that will resist scratching. If you invest in a great set of rangefinder binoculars, this is worth its weight in gold!
There are two different prism types often found in binoculars. The older Porro prism models have been a staple since the 1960s before the new technology of roof prisms became the new standard. They were lighter, slimmer, and easier to use than Porro prism binoculars making them very popular.
The new roof prism binoculars feature a straight design that may look quite simple but they are actually much more complicated. They require a lot more precision to make corrections and will cost more because of the added complexity in manufacturing.
Porro prism binoculars are much more cost-efficient and easier to produce so don’t rule them out yet. They offer better performance and much higher contrast than roof prism binoculars. Many of the best optics companies around still use this design because they get much higher quality.
Roof prism binoculars are easily the lion’s share of optics but don’t rule out the Porro prism. Many rangefinder binoculars use Porro prism binoculars to get the maximum out of their product. If you are looking for binoculars on a budget, you are probably better off with a Porro prism to get the most for your money.
Rather than saying the prism type outright, they may use the term BAK-4 which is the type of glass the prism is made of. This is the highest quality glass you can get in a prism and worth the investment. BAK-7 are of lower quality and not worth the investment. Most BAK-4 prisms are Porro but a few are showing up on the market in the roof prism category.
If you are confused about the difference between prism types, here is a very helpful article that will also explain many of the other binocular related features discussed here. Taking the time to understand these concepts will improve your chances of getting a product you are happy with.
If you are a seasoned rifle scope shooter you are familiar with eye relief and may be shocked at the difference between a scope and a set of binoculars. Scopes often have eye relief measured in inches where binoculars are measured in millimeters.
So what is eye relief? It is the distance you can hold your eye away from the eyepiece and still get a good view through your optic. There are benefits to having more eye relief as long as everything else about your chosen ranging binoculars is up to par. This should never be the deciding factor in itself.
Longer eye relief is more forgiving and often faster. You can get the binoculars in place quickly and see better without worrying about getting your eyes aligned perfectly. You will still want them in a perfect position before you range but the quicker you can get a view of your target, the quicker you can get a solid range.
Field of View
The last thing we want to cover on the binocular side of the equation is the field of view. Simply put, this is the size of the area you can see at a specific range. For example, a set of ranging binoculars may have a FOV of 400 feet at 100 yards. This means at 1000 yards, the distance from the far left of your view to the far right of your view will be close to 400 feet.
Binoculars with a larger FOV will work much better at scanning an area and locating a specific target. This can be an exceptionally good thing for the hunter who needs to cover a lot of areas to spot his target. With a larger FOV, it will be more difficult to get your binoculars center perfectly on a target without practice.
Smaller FOV binoculars will show less area and can be a poor choice for scanning an area. Conversely, they are much easier to pinpoint a target at a distance and get a good point of aim for ranging. These tend to work better for target shooters who are only interested in a single, unmoving target.
If nothing else has convinced you to go with a set of rangefinder binoculars this is where your mind changes. There is no doubt that rangefinder binoculars will greatly outpace a standard rangefinder in range. Not just by a little bit but by a huge margin.
You will often see a standard rangefinder that boasts 1000 yard range but when you get down to the details you will find that against anything you want to shoot it is only 300 or so. This is because the laser has different reflective properties against soft targets like a deer than it does against a hard target like a rock.
Despite this limitation, there are a number of rangefinder binoculars that can range upwards of a mile on a hard target and get better than three-quarters of a mile on a soft target like a deer. That would be close to a thousand yards more than a standard rangefinder. Keep in mind that this is not even the best rangefinder binoculars but closer to the higher side of average.
This will be affected by the same issues that affect any rangefinder. Fog, rain, and other environmental factors will still cause issues with the laser going out and returning. That is a fact of life with a rangefinder and nothing will change it. That said, these more powerful lasers are far more likely to get results than the smaller lasers on a traditional rangefinder.
Rangefinder Priority and Modes
As shot distances get farther and technology works to keep up, a variety of modes have been developed to assist the shooter in getting the right calculations. Rangefinder binoculars often have less available modes than a traditional rangefinder but some brands are working to add these modes to their products. This is the one factor you want to pay the closest attention to when deciding what the best rangefinder binoculars are for you.
The first thing you will want to know is target priority. This can be either first or second target priority and deals with how any rangefinder deals with hitting different distances. A rangefinder isn’t a continuous beam but a shorter pulse. When you aim it, it will hopefully hit your target but may hit around your target or even be intercepted between you and the target.
First priority mode will take the shortest distance and is most useful for shorter shots on target ranges. Second priority will take the farthest distance so anything that gets in the way will be ignored. Which is right for you will depend on what you use your rangefinder binoculars for but second priority is often preferred.
This is just the beginning with the complexity. There are a number of different specialized modes and each company may call them something different. It would be hard to cover all of them here but you can find a list of them as well as other rangefinder terminology here. But we will cover some of the more common and important options briefly.
Scan mode is probably the most common mode and it turns that pulse into more of a solid beam. Or it will at least make it feel like a solid beam. It provides constant updates to the range and is best used when scanning a shooting area or following a moving target. This may also be called continuous ranging.
Angle Compensation or HCD modes are used to determine the distance to targets on an incline or decline. This is very useful for any shooter on any terrain but excels when the shots are less than 500 yards and the slope is less than 15 degrees.
Line of Sight Mode is pretty much the opposite of Angle Compensation. It gives you the true reading of distance to the target. This is best used on targets greater than 500 yards and at angles of greater than 15 degrees. This mode is intended for use with additional charts or programs to calculate holdover.
There are a variety of other modes specific to brands but those will need to be pointed out individually. There are too many to list here.
Reticles and Aiming Points
A feature common to all standard rangefinders is a reticle or aiming dot that will pinpoint the target you are attempting to range. Without this small addition, there would be no way to get an accurate range on anything. Make sure when looking at rangefinder binoculars that they have a similar feature. Unless you are shopping at the bottom of the bargain models, this shouldn’t be an issue.
So what is the difference between the dot and reticle? For most people, there will be very little but there can be an important distinction if you are looking at rangefinder binoculars that can reach extreme distances.
Often an aiming dot will be at least 3 MOA. This means for every 100 yards, it will cover 3 inches of the target. At a mile, this would be better than 4 feet. If you are aiming at a deer, most of it will be completely obscured by the dot and your margin of error will be much higher. This is not an ideal situation.
A reticle may be somewhat harder to see considering the thinner lines but this has been a problem with reticles on any optic since they were invented. If you can get used to following the lines and picking out the crosshair, you should do ok as long as light levels are good. The thinner cross, often less than 1 MOA, will get you a much more accurate point to aim from. There is no doubt this is the most accurate option for a reticle.
Occasionally, you may see rangefinder binoculars that have illuminated reticles. These are the best of both worlds feature. The illumination will help you pick out your exact aiming spot easier and line it up better than a standard reticle. The cost will increase but you may find that trade to be well worth it if it improves your overall accuracy.
Durability and Weather Resistance
Due to the sometimes high cost of a pair of rangefinder binoculars, you want them to be as tuff, rugged, and durable as possible. Most outdoorsmen who need this technology will not be the type to use them lightly. They are likely to see use in adverse weather, dusty environments, and may even get dropped or banged around from time to time. If there are features that will allow them to better survive this type of treatment, you can bet they are worth having.
Often the first line of defense is a rubberized coating or armor. This is a common feature but not universal. At best this will protect your binoculars from water and the occasional impact. At worst it may only provide some impact resistance and scratch protection. Either option is better than having nothing at all.
While the armor may protect it from some moisture, the only feature that will make it truly waterproof is to seal it. This would be seals on the battery compartment as well as sealed lenses. While a battery compartment can be sealed easily, the binocular internals is a little more complicated. Usually, this involves a pressure set O-ring but can simply be a glue seal. The O-ring is the better option for a variety of reasons, mostly because the binoculars can be more easily serviced.
If you have sealed internals, the next upgrade is for them to be purged and filled with an inert gas. This will usually be either dry-nitrogen or argon. Both accomplish the same goal of applying outward pressure on the lenses to keep moisture and debris from entering the sensitive mechanism inside the scope. Because they are inert, they will also hold less moisture and be more temperature stable. This is the only sure fire way to prevent fog and condensation inside your optic.
As mentioned above, some companies use lens treatments to improve the durability and weather resistance of their optics. There are a few companies that use a scratch resistant coating on their lenses. This will not make the lenses completely scratch proof but they will prevent scratching of lenses from daily use and storage.
You may also get a fog resistant coating. While being sealed is a much better option, it does nothing to prevent fog or condensation from forming on the outside of the lens. This is where the coating comes into play. Having a combination of sealed and fog resistant lenses will almost ensure you get a clear view in any weather.
Size and Weight
As technology progresses, everything gets smaller. This has been the case with regular binoculars where even some of the most powerful models are small enough to carry in your pocket. With rangefinder binoculars, this has not been the case. The technology these use will likely become smaller over time but for now, we have to live with the limitations of the electronic components.
Most rangefinder binoculars are about the size of what standard binoculars were 20 years ago. They can be as much as 8 inches long, 6 inches wide, and 3 inches high. This does not make for a convenient size to fit in your pocket.
Most models do come with a neck strap to keep them accessible but the weight can annoy some people. Even a good set can weigh upwards of 3 pounds which is a lot to carry around your neck. Ranging binoculars were never intended to be the type of optic that is always ready. Instead, they are intended to use when you are in place and looking for your target.
A rangefinder is much smaller and lighter if you need an easily portable option but you lose the power of the rangefinder binoculars. This is probably the most noticeable tradeoff. For those shooting 300 yards or less, a rangefinder is a solid option. If you are planning on shooting over that, the rangefinder binoculars are probably the only solid bet.
Batteries and Battery Life
Here is another balancing act in your decision-making process. There are three common ways to power your rangefinder binoculars or at least three ways to look at how they are powered. Some will take standard batteries like AA or AAA. Others may take more rare lithium batteries. And finally, some will be rechargeable without removing the batteries.
If you opt for standard batteries, you will always be able to pick up a spare at any local store for cheap. They may not last as long but their affordability makes carrying backups easy and affordable. Binoculars powered by standard batteries are not that common.
Lithium powered binoculars are the most common and will usually run far longer than the other options. On the downside, batteries can be harder to find will cost significantly more. You likely will have to order them special since most stores will not carry them.
Rechargeable binoculars are a newer offering and have a few ups and downs. Some will run longer than standard battery models but most have a similar run time. You will never have to replace batteries saving some money and hassle. The major failing is that if your unit dies in the field, you will have to find a way to recharge it instead of simply switching out batteries.
While you should consider these options, most rangefinder binoculars have exceptional run time. Those with illumination may have slightly less but will still be good for hundreds if not thousands of ranging shots per charge.
The main deciding factor on which will work better for you depends on how fastidious you are at keeping your batteries fresh and charged. If you are going to be spending a long period of time away from civilization, consider that when making your purchase.
It would be foolish to leave price off as a consideration. Everyone has a budget and rangefinder binoculars are far from what would be considered cheap. Prices can start at a few hundred dollars and go as high as a few thousand.
Is the difference in price warranted? Are the thousand dollar options really better than those costing a couple hundred? The answer is yes but they may not be better in every way. There are three criteria that will affect the price.
Optical quality is the most likely to raise the cost. Companies like Zeiss produce optically perfect binoculars but they are expensive. If you want the best overall quality with the best image, you will have to spend the money.
Range is a consideration and will affect the final cost of your binoculars. The more range they can hit and get a solid reading, the more they will cost. If you have a good idea of the maximum range you will need ahead of time, you can factor in the cost.
Durability is the final factor that will affect cost. The more durable, the more expensive just like with most products. You can consider this as an investment as the more durable your binoculars are, the longer they will last. That is if you are willing to make the upfront investment.
Even affordable ranging binoculars will usually have one of these traits that is quite high. You can also get a set of binoculars in which all of these are very high but you will pay quite a bit for them. There are drastic differences as cost goes up. The best recommendation is to get the best overall product that you can afford. In the end, it will likely be worth it.
Unless you plan on being constantly moving such as in golf or some hunting situations, ranging binoculars are almost always a better bet than a standard rangefinder. They are far more versatile and powerful. Often their craftsmanship is better than most rangefinders making them a more solid investment.
If you never shoot more than a couple of hundred yards, they are probably worth the additional cost. For dedicated archers, the best rangefinder binoculars are probably a little too powerful unless they have an option for low magnification.
For anyone else, your money will be best spent on the product that will get the widest range of uses. The best rangefinder binoculars fit that bill. You will find them to be more accurate over shorter distances and able to hit the farthest distances you will ever need.