Laser rangefinders are a popular tool among hunters, photographers, archers and golfers. In the most basic terms, these devices use laser technology to accurately determine the distance of a far-off object.
It’s important to research which models perform the best in the field, where accuracy, range and performance truly count. We’ve combed through reviews by expert and amateur users alike to determine which models perform best in the field—regardless of whether you are taking shots with a club, rifle, or camera.
There are many qualities that make a good rangefinder. Our favorite models are a combination of value, optic technology, magnification, picture quality, size, weight, and design.
Though there are models that are designed specifically for hunting or for golf, we tried to find the models that could perform well for both purposes (as well as any other situation that might call for one).
Check out our top three favorites:
Best Affordable Laser Rangefinder Comparison Reviews
1. Nikon 8397 ACULON Laser Rangefinder
Our top pick among the laser rangefinders we looked at is also one of the best selling models on Amazon. The Nikon 8397 ACULON snags a high number of positive reviews from both hunters and golfers.
The ACULON is currently the most compact model offered by Nikon, small enough to carry in your pocket or the palm of your hand. It’s also lightweight, at 4.4 ounces without batteries.
It has a range up to 550 yards, with 6x magnification and a 20mm objective lens. The ACULON also uses Nikon’s multilayer coated optics to provide a clear and high-quality view. The readable, minimal display can provide readings accurate up to one yard (or one meter, if you set it to metric).
Positive reviewers (which are in the vast majority) claim that this is one of the most accurate rangefinders they have ever used. The Amazon comments on this product represented a diverse group of people, from golfers to hunters to archers—many of whom purchased this for its versatility. They all found the optics pretty much flawless, and complimented the long battery life as well.
Reviewers were also big fans of the sharp and clear optics, as well as the 6x zoom option. Most asserted it worked well even in low light conditions.
The compact but sturdy build is also very popular, particularly among hunters. In addition to fitting in your pocket, it can also be worn around the neck with a lanyard.
The ACULON is better suited for hunting than golf (though many golfers wrote glowing reviews of this product). Unlike most golf rangefinders, the ACULON is calibrated to display the furthest object among a group of objects.
That means it will require a steady hand to accurately pinpoint the flag for a long-distance shot. Some reviewers advised it was better suited for golf courses with prism flag sticks. They also said you’ll need to have a steady hand to get a smooth target acquisition. Overall, it’s a bit less convenient than more expensive models, which lock on easier and with less effort and time required from you. However, since most courses these days are moving to prisms, you should have fairly good results.
This one is also somewhat stripped down compared to pricier models. It lacks the ability to calibrate distance or slope. For these features, you may need to enter the next price bracket.
Though the design seems to favor hunting more than golfing, most users found that the Nikon 8397 ACULON worked perfectly well for both.
For the price, you will be hard-pressed to find a better model than the ACULON. It’s compact and lightweight, but suffers little in terms of performance and accuracy. This is a good option for those who are looking for an inexpensive, multipurpose option with a straightforward interface.
2. Nikon Forestry Pro
The best multi-use options come with an option to toggle between the nearest target priority software (better for golf) and distant priority target software (better for hunting).
It’s rare to find low- or mid-priced options that allow users to switch between both options, but the Nikon Forestry Pro is a happy exception.
It’s one of the few models that advertises as being “multi-purpose,” suggesting that Nikon has unique confidence in the versatility of this unit. Users switch through two measurement modes with the Target Priority Switch: First Target Priority Mode and Distant Target Priority Mode.
The interface is another unique feature of the Forestry Pro. In addition to a traditional LCD internal display, there’s also an external screen on the side. You can select the results you want to display on the internal screen—actual distance, horizontal distance, height, angle, or vertical separation—while the exterior display shows all the results.
The Forestry Pro is built around 6x multi coated monocular, with a high eyepoint design that can be used comfortably with glasses.
The Forestry Pro, like our first pick, comes in a compact, lightweight and sturdy design. It’s waterproof up to 1 meter for 10 minutes, with a water-resistant battery chamber.
As a testimony to the quality and versatility of the Nikon Forestry Pro, reviewers from all walks of life heaped praise on this model. This one won favor among golfers, environmental scientists, hunters, civil engineers, electricians and foresters—to name a few. Reviewers said it’s a great all-around tool for any number of tasks–including golf estimates.
Most described the optics as very clear, and measurements were accurate within about a foot. According to Nikon, the Forestry Pro can accurately read distances up to 999 ft. There were few reviewers who required that amount of range, but the ones who found the device did indeed live up to expectations. Many buyers said that they were skeptical about how accurate this model would be, given the price. However, upon testing it in the field, they were soon satisfied, and said they were more than impressed. All the readings were accurate to within a foot, even out at the maximum end of the range!
For the price, owners were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the Forestry Pro. It’s one of the best values among rangefinders today, no matter what field you intend to use it for.
One of the key downsides of the Nikon Forestry is the device cannot register distances under 33 feet. Many of those who rated the one highly acknowledged this was the most frustrating feature of the Forestry Pro.
Some of the reviewers who wore glasses also found the eye relief lacking, particularly on very bright days.
Despite a few setbacks, the Nikon Forestry Pro is likely the most versatile rangefinder in its price bracket. It earns high praise from the majority of users, who use it for a number of applications in the field. The powerful range, Target Priority Switch, clear optics and dual LCD screens make the Forestry Pro one of the best value for the money among rangefinders today.
3. Best Value: Halo XRT6
Despite being the least expensive model on this list, the Halo XRT6 is one of the most highly recommended models you can find. Like our other two picks, golfers and hunters have reviewed this model, and both groups assert it serves them well.
The design is stripped down and straightforward. Even though it lacks the bells and whistles of more expensive rangefinders, most reviewers found this model suited their needs perfectly with the features that it does offer.
Like our other rangefinders, the Halo XRT6 also features 6x zoom. It has an accuracy within one yard for a maximum range of 600 yards to a reflective target.
One of the more useful features of this rangefinder is its “scan mode.” When the user holds down the button, the XRT6 will continue to range different targets within its field of vision.
The casing is an ergonomic design, and the unit is water resistant (but not waterproof)
The Halo XRT6 is a steal at its current price. Though it’s not quite as accurate as our other models, most reviewers were pleasantly surprised at how well this rangefinder performed in both hunting and golfing settings. Many even claimed it beat out models at twice the price or more. Buyers said that they were pleased to find that their numbers matched those of their friends’ more expensive tools, even though the Halo was significantly cheaper.
Most owners also found the scan feature very useful for ranging a number of different objects in one sitting. This feature seems more geared towards hunters than golfers, but the ability to cycle through targets will no doubt be useful in both fields. Reviewers also found the view clear and crisp. They were also impressed by the powerful 6X magnification, which rivals even the nicest models. Plus, this model has a dedicated focus feature. It’s easy to use, and produces very clear, clean images.
The low cost and easy interface make this a great tool for beginners, or for a backup for your primary rangefinder. A few reviewers who did purchase this model as a backup found themselves using it quite a bit more than they anticipated.
Compared to more expensive rangefinders, the Halo XRT6 is lacking in additional features. Though this stripped-down interface may be appealing to beginners, those who have experience using rangefinders may want to purchase a model with more bells and whistles.
The Halo XRT6 is the best option for anyone purchasing their first rangefinder. It’s also a good choice for those who are willing to exchange a few extra features for a lot of extra savings.
The low cost shouldn’t lead you to believe this model doesn’t hold up against some of the more expensive models, however. With solid optics, accurate reading, and target scanning ability, the XRT6 is worth quite a bit more than Halo is charging.
Which Laser Rangefinder is Right for You?
Multipurpose rangefinders are a bit hard to come by—most are advertised specifically to golfers or hunters. But a few models can perform well in both fields, sparing those who enjoy a wider variety of outdoor activities from buying two or more different units.
The rangefinders we listed here are all excellent for a number of applications. The right model for you depends on your budget and the features that seem most attractive to you.
Our favorite model we reviewed is the Nikon 8397 ACULON Laser Rangefinder. Its compact size and pinpoint accuracy make it a high-performance rangefinder for a great price. Though it’s a better option for hunters than golfers, a number of reviews say it performs quite well out on the links.
If you don’t mind spending a bit more money on a great model, consider the Nikon Forestry Pro. This rangefinder is the best option for shoppers looking for a versatile and multipurpose model, due to its highly useful Target Priority Switch.
For those who are looking for an inexpensive rangefinder that doesn’t sacrifice performance where it counts, we recommend the Halo XRT6. This budget rangefinder still offers an impressive degree of accuracy and clarity, and the “scan” feature is a useful feature rarely found in this price bracket.
Can’t find what you’re looking for here? Visit the Amazon Best-Seller page for other popular models from the brands we mentioned here.
For more specialized rangefinder ratings, you can check out our Best Golf Rangefinders page.