Rangefinder test - part 2
In the sequel that follows the first part I compare binoculars with rangefinder functions and generally evaluate what and why I chose.
The picture shows in addition to rangefinders a normal binocular for comparison. This binocular and two rangefinders have the same parameters 10x42 which is the magnification and diameter of the lenses in a very good ratio between the magnification, the size of the scope and its weight. It simply has sufficient optical capabilities but it is still practical and small. These parameters thus become a relatively common standard. Only Leica was here with 8x56 parameters because it is a device primarily intended for hunters - which has these parameters to get some extra power in poor lighting conditions (dusk).
Optically they are all of a very good standard. I can see some small differences between them but none of them will offend or stun me... Frankly I am lately looking for optical devices whose long-term use makes me comfortable. Just that my eyes don't hurt after an hour. So do the riflescopes - when the optics get tired of my eyes I start making aiming mistakes. Sometimes paradoxically too much light transmission is not an advantage...
I have had the Vortex Viper HD 10x42 binoculars for many years and have proven to be both optically and durable. The rubberized body and the caps I supplied really protect both the entire scope and the lens. It is no problem to throw it in the backpack to other equipment or even in your pocket and do not have to worry about it. It is not the highest optical quality but the image is sufficient for me and it is comfortable to look thru it for a long time. This model costs around 570 € today.
The Vortex Fury HD 5000 10x42 is a scope of the same quality as the Viper HD with an extra rangefinder. The rangefinder has a red backlight that can be adjusted and can measure both optical and ballistic distances (recalculation based on tilt angle). The rubberized body holds well and is durable. The controls are also rubberized and easy to use.
Even at 1000 meters it will easily measure ¾ IPSC. Working with it is easy and fast. The price is around 1450 € and includes a practical carrying case with straps thanks to which it can be worn on the chest and does not interfere.
SIG KILO 3000 BDX 10x42 has a slightly different image. Subjectively a little brighter and sharper. But the difference between them is not dramatic. It also has a sturdy and rubberized body and soft buttons that do not protrude from the body. Holds and controls naturally and easily.
Like other rangefinder binoculars the Sig 3000 also measures ¾ IPSC over a distance of 1000 meters. In addition to the classic features has a few really interesting features. It has a built-in ballistic computer that is simpler than AB and is only up to 800 meters but that's not all. BDX rangefinders are able to connect via Bluetooth with other ballistic equipment that already has Applied Ballistic. Specifically - the weather stations Kestrel Ballistic and GPS Garmin Ballistic. Both are used for some purpose and the price for AB software is paid for in this device. And so the KILO 3000 BDX is relatively cheap the price is around 1650 €.
The magic of the BDX is that connection. I measure the distance and the device sends data to the ballistic device which measures the meteorological conditions itself and calculates the ballistic correction. It then sends the data back to the rangefinder and they appear on the display. Everything is very fast and without delay. And that's not all... At the same time the smartphone can receive data into app where everything is displayed on the screen. And that's still not all - SIG also has a range of BDX riflescopes that can also receive this data and automatically correct it. It is not however that it would move the reticle but within the reticle will illuminate the proper aiming point. This solution is truly designed especially for hunters because it is not fine enough for sport shooting. But it is a great tool for hunters because they don't have to set anything - they just aim the rangefinder and then it will show them where to aim in a rifle scope. It's fast, efficient and functional.
It all sounds great but unfortunately the reality is that SIGs often encounter software problems and need to deal with it sometimes. It's just quite a lot of electronics and various devices that have to communicate with each other which can not be without occasional difficulties. But once you set it - it's great 😉
Leica Geovid HD-R 2700 8x56 for the price of 2910 € is the last binocular with rangefinder. The optical image is slightly better than the previous ones but the functions are basic. Red backlight and optical and ballistic distance measurement. ¾ IPSC at 1000 meters no problem.
However as with the Leica 2700 B which I also had there was the disadvantage that when the button was pressed the reticle disappears and only the number appears. But the raised button needs to be pressed relatively hard and it is quite likely that the scope will move slightly - which is a problem to find out if it did - when the aiming point disappears...
I also had a Leupold Mark 4 12-40x60 FFP spotting scope which cost around 2010 €. It does not have the greatest magnification among spotting scopes and there are also devices with higher image quality. But its huge advantage is the reticle (in this case Mil Dot) which works at any magnification (FFP). It is a great advantage for working in team when calling hits and corrections. Plus it's Mark 4 - so it's stupidly durable. Dropping from a meter and a half on concrete will not hurt him (several times accidentally tested). Try something similar with other spotting scopes... Moreover it is relatively small and light so unlike large scopes I am always willing to cary this in my backpack...
I also used the Vortex Razor HD II 4.5-27x56 FFP for price around 2350 €. In this case with the EBR-7C MRAD reticle which is designed primarily for tactical and fast dynamic shooting. When shooter learns to use this "christmas tree reticle" he can shoot using a hold-over and do not have to click when it comes to fast shooting. Although it may not look like from the picture the reticle actually does not disturb when shooting. Important is the open center of the cross with a fine dot in the middle for fine and accurate aiming.
As for the magnification I came to the conclusion that for tactical shooting, Long Range and fast and dynamic shooting - riflescopes with a magnification of about 5-25x are quite sufficient and adequate. Today riflescopes with a larger magnification are also available but the fact is that it is not used for shooting as for observing. Larger magnification is mainly used to control hits. Surprisingly we do not use a larger magnification at the ELR (Extreme Long Range - over 1500 meters) because it is usually not very practical. Observation conditions are rarely that good that it is easy to see even at a larger magnification (actually I have never experienced it)...
And then I have a small monocular Vortex Solo R/T 8x36 in the price of 138 €. This proved to be optically significantly better than all small rangefinders. But it is no surprise because they have mostly parameters 7x25... The reticle does not disturb but is very practical for eventual guidance shooter and the like.
So what is the result of this long-term use and comparison?
Quite simply - each rangefinder measures virtually the same in terms of accuracy. The differences between them are minimal. But the distance they are able to measure and the size of the target they are able to measure - the differences are great. Of course price plays a significant role in this respect. It is not realistic to find a "cheap and quality" rangefinder that will measure even greater distances. We don't live in fairy tales... And there's also a difference in how user-friendly they are.
When buying I would really avoid cheap solutions whether no-name from China or other extra cheap models. As a basic for standard Czech shooting range up to 500 meters I would choose one of the basic models Vortex, Leica, Sig, or even Leupold in prices around 400 - 600 €. It is necessary to realize that you are buying such a device for several years in advance and of course the development will go forward as well. Therefore I would choose something a little better that it does not restrict me in a few years. At longer distances about 1000 meters or more you really need to choose quality. Binoculars are also easier to work with and making measurement easier. And if you decide to go into modern technology there is a lot to choose from. As I know Leica is preparing a "smart" device like SIG for this year.
I finally decided to use two different combinations of optical devices depending on the application... So I chose a combination of optics, rangefinder, weather station and ballistic equipment as follows:
For some situations we use a smallpocket rangefinder (in our case SIG KILO 2400ABS), weather station Kestrel, smartphone with ballistic application, paper ballistic charts, riflescope and spotting scope. This set is designed for more or less static shooting and medium distance competitions. A small rangefinder here is enough and I am not so afraid that I would lose it somewhere because I do not run anywhere.
The second set is a small pocket monocular, a binocular with a rangefinder (in our case SIG KILO 3000 BDX), Kestrel weather station, Garmin Ballistic GPS, smartphone with a ballistic application, paper ballistic charts, riflescope and an spotting scope (sometimes I can do without it when it comes to multi-day event with long walks. After all I can save some weight and space in the backpack for extra water). We use this kit for the Long Range and also for more tactical competitions with movements, observation and more difficult measurements. I have this small monocular in my pocket which I can see better with than with a small rangefinder and I do not have to worry about damage or even I losing it in difficult situations. The binocular with rangefinder is stored in a backpack for easy access. It is better protected and it is easier to carry its weight. And when I really need it I can measure the distance better and easier than with a small rangefinder. And I can also see with it better...
Perhaps someone will wonder why in both cases I present "paper ballistic charts" when we actually have several ballistic solutions (smartphone applications, rangefinder with ballistic computer, Kestrel, etc.). It is because I don't want to rely solely on electronic devices and most of all - because working with a physical chart is much faster and easier... And I use them as a reference backup solution to register any problem in case of any wrong measurement or error in data transfer or setup to not make any unnecessary error...
For hunting I wear a telescope with a rangefinder on my chest using the harness. I use a binocular rangefinder with a ballistic computer again - to find and identify a target and quickly measure the distance and immediately see the corrections that I can quickly apply and the probability of a good hit increases... The basic ballistic chart is then directly on the optics for reference.
PS: in the end I will ask myself a simple question about the equipment I use the most:
"Would I buy this device again"?
Monocular Solo R/T 8x36
- definitely yes
Pocket rangefinder SIG 2400ABS
- no. I'd opt for a cheaper SIG pocket rangefinder in the BDX range
Binocular rangefinder SIG 3000BDX
- yes. Not only as a rangefinder but also as a binocular
Binocular Vortex Viper HD 10x42
- no. I would choose a binocular with rangefinder and advanced features
Spotting scope Leupold Mark 4
- definitely yes