Lighten Your Gear Load: The Case for Rangefinding Binoculars

News & Tips: Lighten Your Gear Load: The Case for Rangefinding Binoculars...

No hunter should ever be afield without a good set of binoculars. If you are in the market for new ones, this Buyer's Guide to Binoculars will help you make a good choice.

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Rangefinding binoculars offer a solution to the bulkiness of carrying a rangefinder and binoculars during a hunt.

Another must-have for hunters? Laser rangefinders. Up until fairly recently, a hunter had to carry these two items separately in the field. I can't speak for everyone, but there have been many occasions when I ended up with just one of them around my neck because I'd either forgotten the other one back in my truck, or I'd purposely left it behind because I didn't think I'd need it or I didn't want to carry the extra weight. Well, those days are over. Hunters now have the luxury of opting for an all-in-one rangefinding binoculars, which combines the features of these two indispensable items.

The concept first became available a number of years back. As binoculars, early models lacked the optical brightness and clarity of top-quality glasses; as rangefinders, they often lacked the range of rangefinder-only units. And as a combination, they were heavy, bulky and expensive. But you knew that the concept was sound and that eventually technology would make it a winner. That day is now.

Leica, Swarovski and Zeiss have long been known for producing the finest quality European optics, including binoculars, riflescopes, spotting scopes and rangefinders. These same manufacturers, along with homegrown Bushnell, which has been making high-performance sports optics for over 60 years, now offer rangefinder binoculars that offer the best of both worlds, with quality on par with their finest binoculars.

The Leica Geovid HD-B, the Swarovski EL and the Zeiss Victory RFT (some of which are offered in both 8 or 10 power) combine the finest lenses and coatings, together with the most advanced laser rangefinding technology, to achieve the highest level of combined clarity, brightness and precision that money can buy. Quality always comes at a price, and these optics all run around $3,000, which is a bit more than each company's top-of-the-line binocular offerings. If your budget is a bit more modest, the Bushnell Fusion 1 Mile ARC (pictured) runs just over $1,000. Although these are not inexpensive, when you combine the price of a top-quality binocular plus a top-quality long-range laser rangefinder, you are actually paying about the same for the combined unit.

Besides ensuring that you will never be without one or the other, the final big advantage of these combination optics is speed of use. I must confess that I have missed shot opportunities in the field because by the time I spotted an animal with my binoculars, got a range on it using my rangefinder, and then got my rifle up, it was too late for a shot. With these units, you can spot, assess and range the animal all at the same time, leaving precious more seconds to take the shot. At the end of the day, that's what really matters.

Not surprisingly, these combo units do weigh slightly more than plain binoculars, but carrying rangefinding binoculars is not only lighter than carrying two separate optics, it's also a whole lot less bulky. I don't know about you, but even with a good bino harness (highly recommended, by the way), I still don't like two things hanging around my neck.

These new all-in-one rangefinder binoculars are worth a serious look.

Good hunting.


Much better than another option -- conventional binoculuars combined with a range-finding scope. Yes, the laser-scope is very convenient and automates things. But the temptation to "glass" the field with the rifle scope is all-too often overwhelming. Then one gets embarrassed (or worse) when that movement one is checking is another hunter or worse, a law-enforcement officer looking back at you through, you hope, his binoculars or spotting scope. Has anyone shown price comparisons, e. g., comparing the price of a mid-level range-finding binocular with that of a conventional binocular and range-finder purchased separately?

Good point, Joseph. Thanks for the comment. With regard to pricing, at this point there really isn't such a thing as a "mid-level" rangefinding binocular. Right now, the only options are the high-end European models (Zeiss, Swarovski, Leica), which run around $3,000, and the Bushnell, which is just over $1,000. Perhaps this will change down the road as these products become more mainstream. On the other hand, laser rangefinders have come down in price so much in recent years that most models are now under $300 (although you can get some for much more than that). As a result, it isn't really a fair price comparison. Although these prices may seem high, the general rule of thumb when buying optics is to spend as much as you can afford. Even for the expensive European brands, I don't know anyone who has regretted their purchase. By the way, I am currently testing a set of the Zeiss rangefinding binos, and I hope to test the Swarovski and Leica as well. Watch for reports on these in the future.