2017 Budget Rangefinder Comparison
Some hunters aren’t looking for anything fancy, they just want a good reliable cheap rangefinder that tells the distance to the target. While budget rangefinders might not have all the bells and whistles of higher end models they still perform the main purpose of a rangefinder which is to give the distance to a target, which is an essential piece of information to have when making a clean shot at several hundred yards.
What to look for:
Price: Those looking for a budget range finder are obviously looking for something economical. Fortunately, many manufactures have a simple entry level model in their product line. Recently there have been several new entrants into this budget category most of which fall in the $100 to $200 price range. While there are numerous cheap and knockoff rangefinders out there, it is generally a good idea to stick with the recognizable names like we have included in this comparison as there is also some real junk out there.
Magnification: Generally speaking the farther out you want to range the more magnification is preferred for precise targeting. Many of the most popular budget rangefinders come with a 6x magnification which seems to be good middle ground as it provides enough precision for targets out to the effective range of these units, yet provides enough field of view for easy target acquisition at closer ranges.
Small Size: Rangefinders often find themselves competing for space in pockets, on a belt, or around the neck; so in general smaller is better. Combine this with the fact many hunters operate their rangefinder one handed while holding their weapon of choice with the other hand; and it makes sense that the models we choose to compare are of the vertical design which are smaller, lighter and easier to operate one handed than their horizontal (flat) style counterparts.
Budget Rangefinder Comparison Chart
|Full Review >>|| Redfield|
$179 - $229
|$169 Black||$175 Black|
$115 - $135
|L x W x H||3.6 x 1.5 x 2.9||3.8 x 1.5 x 2.9||3.6 x 1.4 x 2.9||3.8 x 1.4 x 2.9||4.2 x 1.9 x 3.6|
|Max Range||550yds||650 yds||650 yds||850 yds||600 yds|
The Nikon Aculon remains our pick for 2016 despite increased competition from the new Redfield 650A and Leupold RX-650 which was introduced last year but now widely available. Price is of course one of the primary factors when shopping for a budget rangefinder and the Nikon Aculon is one of the more affordable options in the bunch with only the Simmons models consistently selling for less money.
One of the best things about the Nikon Aculon is it has a last target priority setting which allows it to display the further of two objects ranged; this is a good feature to have when trying to range an animal through cover such as tall grass, brush, or tree branches. For example, if this rangefinder picks up both a tree branch at 15 yards and a deer at 200 yards on a single reading (press of the button) it will report the 200 yards to the deer (the farthest of the two objects). Models not equipped with a target priority feature can handle these split readings in a variety of manners, none of which are good. The Nikon Aculon is currently the only rangefinder in this category that is equipped with this feature and differentiates it from the pack.
The one thing the Nikon Aculon doesn't have that can be had on either the Redfield Raider 650A model or Simmons Volt 600 Tilt model is an angle compensation feature. Models equipped with an angle compensation feature can give the true horizontal distance to the target, the actual yardage you would want to hold for when shooting. However, the standard line of sight yardage and true horizontal yardage rarely differ by a significant practical amount unless the angle of the shot is extreme; archers hunting from high tree stands find this feature the most useful because the angle of the shot is often steep and small differences in yardage can matter, whereas a couple of yards with a rifle makes no real difference. Also, consider the other feature that treestand archers utilize is the previously mentioned target priority feature found on the Nikon Aculon, as they are often having to range through branches, so even for them it's not a clear choice which is feature is better; but ultimately if you hunt from a treestand with a bow you should consider getting an archery rangefinder that is equipped with both angle compensation and a last target priority setting.
Magnification & Range
The Nikon Aculon, Redfield Raider 650, and Leupold RX-650 all have a 6x magnification which as mention earlier seems to be a good overall rangefinder magnification for most applications. Here both the Redfield and Leupold have a listed max range of 650 yards while the Nikon is rated at 550 yards. However, keep in mind these are max ranges on highly reflective targets in ideal conditions, so those of you looking to shoot out at 400 to 500+ yards on a consistent basis you should probably consider a longer ranging rifle hunting rangefinder.
In our opinion the Nikon Aculon is still the top pick for a budget rangefinder; however, the competition is getting stiffer and a strong case could be made for several of the other models depending on what your intended use is and what features you value the most. Ultimately, as mentioned at the start this article, the main thing is simply to have a reliable rangefinder so you actually know the range to your target and are not trying to guess the distance.
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