Archery Range Finder 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
Compact Size: These optics are usually of the vertically held design as these units are generally more compact and lightweight than there horizontal counterparts. Bow hunters often carry their rangefinders in a holster on a belt, or use a tether system for quick access, so the small size of these units is important.
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 usually 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 True Ballistic Range, and Simmons opted to name their version Tilt.
Archery Range Finder Comparison
|Model|| Nikon Archer's|
| Nikon Archer's|
|Display Type||LCD w/LED||LCD||LCD w/LED||LCD||LCD|
|Display Color||Gray - Orange||Black||Gray - Orange||Black||Black|
|L x W x H||4.4" x 1.6" x 2.8"||4.2" x 1.6" x 3"||4.6" x 1.6" x 2.9"||3.8" x 1.4" x 2.9"||4.2" x 1.9" x 3.6"|
|Max Range||600 yds||800 yds||200 yds||850 yds||600 yds|
|Angle Compensated||Yes||Yes to 175 yds||Yes||Yes to 199 yds||Yes to 99yds|
|Last Target Priority||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|First Target Priority||Yes||No||Yes||No||No|
Editor's Choice - Nikon Archer's Choice
ID Angle Comensation
Nikon's ID (Incline Decline) version of angle compensation is preferable to many of the others because it only displays the angle compensated yardage number in that mode. On the other hand, some of the models in this class, like the Bushnell Truth, display the line of sight yardage, angle of the shot, and horizontal compensated distance, which at best results in a cluttered screen and at worst might cause you to grab the wrong number during the most critical part of the hunt.
First & Distant Target Priority
The Nikon Archer's Choice features both First and Distant target priority modes. Last (or Distant as Nikon calls it) target priority is the more important of the modes when it comes to bowhunting hunting. Only the two Nikon's have both priority modes; while the Leupold features just Last target priority, and the Bushnell and Simmons models feature neither. For me Last target is high on the priorty list of features for an archery rangefinder because ranging from behind thick cover is a frequent occurence. I really wouldn't knock the Leupold Full Draw for having only the Last target mode and not the First mode also, because for stricly big game archery it almost certaintly would not be used.
While all the other rangefinders in this class use the older black LCD reticles, both the Nikon's utilize a gray LCD reticle with an backlit orange LED. The main difference between the Nikon's is that the Archer's Choice Max automatically backlights the display with the LED according to the available light, while backlighting the display on the Archer's Choice requires the push of a button. While the automatic version sounds better at first, the reality is that everyone's eyes and brightness preferences differ to some degree, so the manual option allows you to have more contol over when or if you want the orange backlighting. One other thing to keep in mind is that despite how the names sound, the Nikon Archer's Choice is a newer model than the Archer's Choice Max, therefore the Archer's Choice has the newer redesigned housing and lastest features.
This was kind of a process of elimination for picking the winner of the archery category. First, having a Last target priority feature is a pretty high on my list when selecting an archery rangefinder, so I ruled out the Bushnell and Simmons models. Next, while backlighting the display could be considered a nice bonus but not necessarily a must have; I do favor having manual control of any brightness/backlighting settings. So the two Nikon's the Archer's Choice Max with its auto backlighting combined with its higher price, and older design got ruled out as not measuring up to the newer Archer's Choice. So ulitmately, the Leupold Full Draw and the Nikon Archer's Choice remained; while either would probably make a fine archery rangefinder, I would go with the Archer's Choice more for a variety of small factors, rather than any real fault with the Leupold Full Draw. The Archer's Choice usually sells at least $20 dollars less than the Full Draw, next it has the manually controlled backlighting option, includes a First target priority mode, and has a clean uncluttered display screen. None of these factors alone would rule out the Leupold Full Draw but added together I feel it gives the edge to the Nikon Archer's Choice.
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