2016 Archery Rangefinder Roundup
Optics manufactures have finally started to dial in on what bowhunters want in an archery rangefinder. Previously there were so few options we would add dual purpose units in for comparison purposes and often times they were the better choice even for hunters that only bowhunted. However, the archery rangefinder category has grown and evolved, and there are now a variety of well designed rangefinders for the bowhunter to choose from.
What to Look For
Target Priority: Archers often hunt in thick cover to try and get within range of the game they are stalking. However, this is not an ideal environment for the rangefinder as these units will often pick up a branch or bush between the hunter and animal. To help compensate for this a few rangefinder manufactures have equipped their rangefinders with some sort of target priority feature; Nikon calls their feature “first priority” and “distant priority”, and Bushnell calls their feature “Brush” mode and “Bullseye” mode. These units can be set to “near” or “far” priority settings, while in the far setting, if there is split reading (i.e. a branch and say a deer) it will report the farther of the two distances, which for the archer hunting from cover will be the game animal.
Angle Compensation: Often times those hunting with bows find themselves high in a tree stand waiting for game to wonder along a trail; this elevated position can create an extreme angle between the shooter and the animal. Extreme angles affect the true (horizontal distance) to the target, so a normal range finder which gives distance in linear (line of sight) distance might read 42 yards to an animal; while an archery rangefinder with an angle compensation feature might read the same object at 37 yards, which is the horizontal distance to the target and the number the archer wants to use when making the shot. Nikon calls their angle compensation I/D for Incline/Decline, and Bushnell calls theirs ARC which stand for Angle Range Compensation, Leupold uses TBR for
Magnification - Archers are often targeting large moving animals such as deer at relatively close distances which favors a lower power magnification that allows for a larger field of view and aids in getting on target faster. Also, a low magnification is generally a better choice for one handed use as the image will be easier to hold steady compared to higher magnification units. While, with a little practice, higher magnifications dual purpose rangefinders with a 6x magnification can be used for bowhunting very effectively; a rangefinder strictly for archery uses would probably be better served with less power with 4x magnification being a great choice.
Archery Range Finder Comparison
New Nikon Arrow ID 3000 - This offering from Nikon nails our criteria for a good bowhunting rangefinder. First it has a target priority feature that allows the user to select how the unit will deal with spilt readings. Next, it includes Nikon's ID angle compensation technology which can give the user a true horizontal distance to the target. Also, the Arrow ID 3000 comes in 4x magnification which as discussed above is a great choice for an archery only rangefinder. Finally, at under $200 dollars this is basically a full featured rangefinder at a budget/entry level price that has been optimized for bowhunters.
Bushnell The Truth Clearshot - Bushnell actually makes two versions of this, one with their Clearshot technology and one without. Clearshot is a unique technology that after the user sets up the rangefinder to his bow it will show the highest point of the arc of the arrows flight path allowing you to tell when ranging if you might hit any obstacles like tree branches. Those not wanting this feature or who want to save a few dollars can go with the standard model. With 4x magnification, angle compensated readings out to 199 yards, and a sub $200 dollar price tag this is a solid option for an archery rangefinder, although it does not have target priority settings.
Simmons Volt Tilt - For those looking for a budget friendly way to get into an archery rangefinder, the Simmons Volt with Tilt technology is probably about the cheapest way to get in the game. For around $130 dollars you get a 4x magnification rangefinder that will give you angle compensated ratings out to 99 yards and not much else. However, that happens to meet most of the main criteria for a good archery rangefinder with only target priority missing.
Nikon Arrow ID 5000 - This rangefinder from Nikon is similar to the Arrow ID 3000 and in many ways is its bigger brother. The Arrow ID 5000 features the same target priority settings, and ID angle compensation technology as its little brother. However, it has a 6x magnification which as mentioned above can be used very effectively at close ranges with a little practice. However, what hinders this model is its price tag, at $250 -$275 it is significantly more expensive than the other options and approaching the price of many of the new dual purpose models which have significantly more ranging power. So while still a good option look for one on sale if you go this route or consider a dual purpose rangefinder.
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