Monday, November 19, 2012

Vortex Ranger 1000 Rangefinder Review

When it comes to hunting or sport shooting, unless you are just beginning the adventure, you are probably well aware of the need to accurately judge or measure distance.  Most of us no doubt began shooting by guessing the yardage of our shot, most likely in comparison to a 100 yard range.  Many a shot has gone awry, many a buck or bull has bounded away due to inaccurate judging of distance.  To compound the difficulty of self judging the distance comes the added complication of rise and fall of elevation.  Being able to closely judge distance is, by all means, a very important and needed skill when it comes to hunting and shooting, especially in quick shot scenarios.  How fortunate we are to live in an age where we have the right tools to aid us in the game.

I've said it many times before, spending money for the best of everything when it comes to outdoor equipment will not make you the best in the business, as a great deal of success hinges on refining skills and the experience that time in the field brings about.  There is no substitution for experience.  However, I do believe that there are those products out there that greatly enhance our abilities to harness those skills and abilities to our advantage.  Back in August the boys at Vortex Optics sent me one such product to test and review, the "Ranger 1000" laser rangefinder.  While I have to admit I have never owned a rangefinder prior to receiving the Ranger 1000, I have been able to look through several rangefinders of various brands while on hunts and shooting with others.  One reason I have not purchased my own is that I have yet to look through that one rangefinder that really grabbed my attention.  Before I let you know what I think of the product, lets talk about some of the specs of the Ranger 1000.

Out of the box.  To start off, I have to say that the first impression upon taking the rangefinder out of the package was the size!  At 3" wide by 3.9" long, this is one of the most compact rangefinders that I have handled.  Initially, looking at the size and simplicity I was skeptical that this rangefinder would best other brands that I had used.  I was impressed with the carrying case that was simple and slides onto a belt easily.  Opening the case, I was quick to notice the rubber armored coating that covers the rangefinder, which is very characteristic of most optics products that Vortex has to offer.  I've always been a fan of the coating, which not only protects the product, but also provides for a better grip and feel to the surface.  
The rangefinder itself is also equipped with a belt clip that is interchangeable from the right to left side of the body for right or left handed users.  The battery compartment sits below the eyepiece, and two buttons, one for the menu, the other for the yardage control are found on the top of the unit, at your fingertips.  There is also attachments for a lanyard (included) and the bottom of the body is equipped with threads allowing the unit to be attached to a tripod or window mount.

 Operation.  This rangefinder is set to a default mode of HCD (Horizontal Component Distance).  This setting is what most of us would use for hunting especially, but also has a use for shooting in general.  HCD automatically compensates angles (slopes, etc.) to give the user a true distance reading.  If you prefer to make the measurements yourself, the easy to use menu allows the user to toggle over to the LOS (Line of Site) mode.  Vortex has also thrown in a field reference card to aid you in determining MOA if you prefer to use the LOS setting.  In the menu setting the user will also easily find the setting to adjust the brightness (3 settings) and can also change the units from yards to meters.
To measure distance, the operation is very simple.  Click the "measure" button once to bring the unit to power, click again to display the crosshairs, place the crosshairs on your target and click the measure button again to get your reading.

Specs.  Here's what you get with this rangefinder.  With a reflective range of 1,000 yards, and a game range of 500 yards, you will find the Ranger 1000 accurate within + or - 3 yards.  The 22mm objective lens gives the user 6X magnification, with a 17mm eye relief.  As always, this product's O-ring seals provide amazing protection from moisture and debris, and is backed by Vortex's limited lifetime warranty, one of the best warranty programs you will find in the optics world.

From the Field.  I picked up the Ranger 1000 and hit the road to the mountains back in August for the first of my 3 deer hunts, the archery hunt.  Three hunts this fall, and I had to be picky as I could only harvest 1 muley within that time.  I was fortunate to have plenty of opportunity to use the rangefinder during that hunt, but the use was only at ranges of less than 100 yards, and the rangefinder performed like a champ.  The true test was going to be the elk hunt, when we hit more wide open spaces.
The elk hunt surely brought the challenge I was looking for to put this rangefinder to the test.  During 2 elk hunts and a time frame spanning 3 weeks, the Ranger 1000 went with me through heat, dirt, cold weather, and the abuse I put it through in some very rough country.  Most of the elk we were ranging near the beginning of the hunt were again at relatively close distances, within 300 yards.  I had little trouble with the finder doing it's job.  However, later in the hunt as the elk began to provide us more of a challenge, it was time to start giving the Ranger 1000 a test at greater distances.  While it was nearly impossible to range an elk at over 500 yards, picking up bright objects such as tree trunks and rocks that were lighter colors would do the job.  At distances of 500-700 yards this was no trouble, however 700 to 1000 would take finding the right object and a few clicks to get a reading.  When it came to getting my elk, the bull only provided me a neck shot.  Using the Ranger 1000, and my Vortex Diamondback 4-12X40 riflescope I was able to dial right in on a 360 yard shot and drop him right in his tracks.  This was a hunt that I was no doubt very reassured to have a tool with me that took away the guesswork!
As the deer hunts continued, I had many more opportunities at ranging deer and elk.  I have to say, the Ranger 1000 never let me down.  I ended up taking my buck on a quick shot under 70 yards, but it was a reassuring feeling having the rangefinder with me for over 6 weeks of hunting and ranging a lot of game.

  • Lightweight, but very solid construction.  Armor provides a secure grip.
  • Easy to use (target acquisition and menu)
  • Crystal clear optics and display
  • Versatile carrying options
  • Great battery life
  • Waterproof/fogproof
  • Solid warranty program
  • Smaller field of view compared to other models
  • A bit of difficulty ranging over 500 yards
Overall I have to say that I would have no problem recommending the Ranger 1000 to others, especially hunters.  I didn't give the unit a lot of testing at the range, but when it came to the range I did find that the rangefinder did have more ease in picking up reflective surfaces over 500 yards, such as targets.  In fact, I did pull a 1,045 yard reading on a target.  The key to a good reading at distances over 500 yards is steadying yourself.  It is very difficult to do so off hand.  If you are hunting and looking for a good rangefinder for game at distances of 500-600 yards then this is the rangefinder for you.  After some time of using it, I am getting fairly good at picking up non-game targets at greater distances that will still help me range game.
When I compare the Ranger 1000 to other rangefinders I have used, I have to give this model high marks on clarity, ease of use, and compactness.  I have used several rangefinders that I have worried about how the unit would hold up to the abuse that gear takes in rugged country and harsh environmental conditions.  I am also not known for being one that is easy on his hunting equipment!  When you look at the simplicity and armor coating, I think most extreme hunters will really like the Ranger 1000 when compared to other rangefinders.

So, where does this rangefinder rate in comparison to others I have used?  Well, I will say that I have found a keeper for sure.  Keep in mind that this is Vortex Optic's first rangefinder that they have developed.  As impressed as I am with the Ranger 1000, I have to think that this is the first in a line of rangefinders that we will see from the optics maker.  I look forward to see the improvements that will most likely come along, but until then I would like to extend my appreciation and admiration of another fine product from Vortex Optics.  Turkey hunting is 4-5 months away, and I can't wait to put the Ranger 1000 to work for me again at that time!

You will find the Ranger 1000 at nearly all of your major sporting goods stores, including Sportsman's Warehouse and Cabela's.  Locally to Southern Utah (and online) you will find the item at Muley Crazy (Kanab, Utah), and Hurst Ace Hardware in Cedar City, Utah.  Also, be sure to check out Vortex Optics where you will find other great optics products, as well as information on locating a dealer near you.  MSRP is $499.00, however, a quick browsing online and I found the product for an average price of $379.00.