Rangefinders Vs. Rangefinder Binoculars: Everything You Need To Know

Rangefinders or rangefinder binoculars? Choosing the right one can be a challenge. Rangefinders and binoculars play a part in helping us get a better view of things far away.

Maybe you’re watching an eagle soar overhead or trying to find the deer coming into your garden every afternoon. There’s no right or wrong answer when choosing between these two options, but I hope to help make your decision a little easier with my extensive research into both.

If you’re interested in getting a rangefinder or binoculars for your next hunting trip, you’ve come to the right place! The following article highlights some of the most important things about optical rangefinders and binoculars, along with the pros and cons that should help you decide which tool will be the one for you. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered.

No doubt, rangefinders are excellent hunting gear and can make the difference between a successful hunting trip and a failed one. Rangefinders are not only used for ranging targets and animals but for planning stalks as well. Knowing that an animal is at 500 yards and the tock in its front is at 460 is a piece of valuable information for the stalk and spot bowhunter.

Until recently, it was unheard of to combine rangefinders and rangefinder binoculars. Right now, technology has transformed everything around us, and we have rangefinding binoculars. As a little boy, I wondered how it would feel to own my rangefinder. Right now, I have a lot of hunting gear, and I don’t know what to do without my rangefinder.

Modern hunting rangefinders are of two main types of rangefinders: the traditional handheld rangefinder and the rangefinder binoculars. Handheld binoculars have been around for some time and provide various features, including increased ranging capability and ballistic data. On the other hand, rangefinder binoculars have come a long way, but surprisingly, their popularity has increased dramatically in recent times.

One of the two could serve your needs depending on crucial factors such as your hunting situation, style of hunting, and budget. Both tools are great, but each has its advantages and disadvantages.

That brings up the question on our lips: Which is the best? Which one is best for bowhunting? The answer may not be as easy as you think. There’s no right or wrong answer when choosing between these two options, but I hope to help make your decision a little easier with my extensive research into both.

Handheld Rangefinders (CRF)

Let’s begin this conversation with the little handheld rangefinders we are familiar with. These compact rangefinders (CRFs) are the tools most hunters pack in their backpacks before going into the woods. They are affordable, compact, lightweight, and very easy to use.

In terms of the archery range of an animal, they perform excellently as they allow the hunter to make sleek movements while having to grab and range. Most of these devices are 6X power optic, which is a large number because it gives you close range and a wide field of view. This feature is paramount when it comes to target acquisition. Imagine closing in on your target, but you cannot find them in your rangefinder to get a precise reading.

Since these little handheld rangefinders are affordable, most people can get quality ones for around $200 to $399.

However, handheld rangefinders have their fair share of criticisms. They can go missing in the field due to their small size. I’ve heard stories of hunters who lost their rangefinders in the woods. I advise getting a tether and pairing it around your bino harness to stop this from happening.

Another disadvantage comparing these to the Rangefinding binos (RF binos) is that you must carry a separate unit for ranging. I feel this is something that a weight-conscious hunter should think about. Talking about cheaper models, some handheld rangefinders under $200 are of low quality, and some provide poor image quality and inaccurate readings.

Rangefinding Binoculars

I used to fantasize about how it feels to own the Rangefinding binos (RF binos). What seems difficult to get is now readily available to me right now. These smart tools come with several features and dial ranges like they are moving out of style.

As a bowhunter, I had the chance to test out some of these tools, and trust me; I could pull out a ton of data and information, such as atmospheric pressure, humidity, barometric pressure, and many more.  These things consider all your ballistics to measure the range you should aim for. How cool is this?

Now, many hunters, especially the weight-conscious ones, prefer having an all-in-one tool to do the work instead of carrying a separate rangefinder.  These devices simplify the process when in bow range. They are incredibly fast when calculating ranges, irrespective of the distance of the range, even if it’s a thousand yards away. The extra power zoom (usually 10x) allows you to accurately identify where they are shooting the laser for a more precise reading.

The downfall of these rangefinding binoculars is that they are more suited for rifle hunters than bowhunters. Well, that doesn’t mean it can’t be used for archery. Due to their big size, carrying this device around may not be as easy as the little CRF models. Even though the extra zoom allows you to pinpoint a target to the range, this can also be an obstacle in the archery range.

You will not get a wide field of view from the handheld compact rangefinders (CRFs). This can be a hindrance, especially with target acquisition in close. These rangefinding binoculars don’t come for cheap; you can get a quality and durable one anywhere from $1,000 to $3,500.

Things To Consider When Choosing a Rangefinder or a Rangefinding Binocular

The following variables below are to be considered when choosing a handheld rangefinder or a rangefinding binocular.

Optic

This is as important as the device itself. The ballistic data, GPS/Bluetooth technology, mobile app feature, range capability, angle compensation, and any other feature will not matter if you cannot see your target.

Typically, you can spot a target in low-light conditions. Therefore, ensure the optics are clear and have an excellent light-gathering capability. If possible, you can carry several models outside and range multiple targets at various distances. 

Distance

The advertised distance for a rangefinding device is usually for reflective surfaces. So, during hunting conditions, such as when you are ranging game, you’ll get half of that distance. Whether you hunt with a bow, muzzleloader, or rifle, angle compensation is indispensable for getting a precise range to make the right shot.

Thankfully, modern rangefinders are equipped with the angle compensation feature. Whether you are buying a rangefinder binocular or a handheld rangefinder, make sure it comes with angle compensation.

Magnification

I’m an avid fan of rangefinding binoculars. It is relatively easy to range your target because of the increased magnification of the binoculars, which could be 8x, 10x, or 15x power. However, it is easy to accidentally range a bush or tree in front of your target using a handheld unit because a device with lower magnification (usually 6x or 7x) uses one eye instead of both eyes.

Additionally, the final moments of legal shooting light are difficult to see with a handheld unit due to the smaller objective size and the use of one of your eyes instead of two.

Portability and Mobility

With rangefinding binoculars, there is no need to carry another tool to the field, and there are zero chances of losing the rangefinder. Rangefinding binoculars make it easy to identify games, especially in antler-restricted areas. Also, the CRT models are small, making them tougher to hold steady.

You can give your colleague a range with rangefinder binoculars, unlike the handheld models where you have to go back and forth. Decreased mobility is one of the benefits of a rangefinding binocular. For example, when calling in a bull elk, you can be able to see its size and range, and it comes in without having to switch back and forth.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that if you want to be far away and still see what’s going on, then take a rangefinder with you. Go with binoculars if you want to look around and see what’s near and far. Rangefinders are primarily used for long-distance viewing in outdoor settings, while binoculars are best for closer distances. In other words, if you know what you need and have specific goals in mind for using these items, then the answer is clear.

Rangefinders are an essential part of hunting, whether a deer hunting in Texas or a white-tail deer in Colorado you’re after. As a matter of fact, hunters can use them year-round to find all types of games, be they on the trail or in the field.

A rangefinder is perfect for most all-around use cases, as it’s lightweight, easy to use, and small enough to go on your nightstand or boat. It is best for hunting varmints and big game or for stalking in close cover. They also offer a high degree of accuracy that anyone can easily pick up and operate.

When trying to decide what type of binocular is best for you, it’s important to keep in mind that your needs, as well as your budget, will dictate what you choose. Maybe you’re looking for durable optics that you can use outside. Or maybe you need to travel light and don’t want two big lenses in your backpack. No matter what kind of outdoor enthusiast you are, there’s sure to be a pair of optics that suit your needs.

When it comes down to it, many people want the most bang for their buck. It doesn’t matter whether it’s golf clubs, a new car, or binoculars—people want the most for their money. But when you get into the world of optics and buying a rangefinder, it gets tricky, especially when you factor in that you can save hundreds of dollars buying a rangefinder binocular instead of a rangefinder only.

During the research phase of your decision, I hope you’ve been able to find answers to all those questions about your potential purchase. We’ve put together all this information in one place outside of any advertisements or conflicts of interest. No one is trying to sell you anything here. The goal is to provide accurate information about rangefinders and binoculars to make an informed buying decision.

Having said that, the most important thing is to figure out your needs and use that information as a guide in selecting a rangefinder or binocular. You undoubtedly have your own opinions and ideas, so we highly encourage you to share them in the comments below. Let us know what you think!

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