Long-range success

Byron Pace takes the Leupold RX-1000 to the range, testing its rangefinding capabilities and its built-in ballistic calculator at longer and longer distances

Deer necessity: A rangefinder is an increasingly crucial part of every stalker’s kit

In the UK most deer will be shot at less than 200 yards, requiring a relatively straightforward ‘point and shoot’ affair. Uncompensated 200-yard killzone strikes are easily achievable with off-the-shelf rifles and premium ammo. This assumes, however, that the shooter is able to judge a target as ‘within’ or ‘beyond’ their maximum point blank range. If you’re zeroed at 200 yards, a shot taken at 250 yards can lead to almost three inches of drop (using Federal load data). So for practical hunting applications, a rangefinder can be an invaluable piece of kit for making sure shots are within range, removing any human error in range estimation.

Early rangefinders offered just that – a straightforward LCD screen, printing a range reading at the press of a button. Simple to operate, but even the top-end rangefinders were bulky. At the cheaper end of the market, the quality of lasers and optics led to unreliable and intermittent readouts. We have come a long way since then, with some excellent rangefinders offering quality that would have cost twice as much a few years before. Here I will look at one of the most popular on the market: the Leupold RX-1000.

The quality of the RX-1000 was immediately obvious, with the machined aluminium billet chassis providing a satisfying ‘in hand’ weight. Combined with the rubberised outer shell, this made for a very robust unit. It was also incredibly compact – the smallest rangefinder Leupold had ever made. So far so good, but I did recall that previous offerings from Leupold suffered from very cluttered viewing glass. Thankfully, this had been addressed, with only essential data displayed while ranging, and the ability to turn off functions that are not required.

The set-up for testing the Leupold at increasingly long ranges

In terms of basic stats, the RX-1000 provides everything one could require for hunting. It can range out to 500 yards on live targets, and this distance is doubled to a reflective object, extending its use for longer-range steel target shooting. In my field tests, I was able to range dense tree lines out to almost 700 yards, with reflective objects consistently producing readings at 1,000 yards and often fractionally more. The quality of glass is also superb, offering a back-up monocular with 6x magnification and 22mm objective lens. Owing to the small objective, the resulting exit pupil is just 3.6mm, so it cannot compete with sole-purpose binoculars, but still provides adequate light gathering for ranging purposes.

The RX-1000 also has a secret weapon. The TBR version (True Ballistics Range – or horizontal distance covered during a bullet’s flight path) includes a built-in ballistics calculator. The system is based on bracketing bullet paths into different groups – see the table opposite for details. These are determined by bullet path as opposed to drop, which gives some flexibility without being required to pull data such as MV and ballistic coefficient. The internal computer then calculates any required compensation depending on bullet drop, distance, and angle above or below the horizontal, which it does with the built-in inclinometer. With this system, Leupold claims to achieve just 0.5MOA of error in aiming out to 500 yards.

Taking my 7×57 Mauser shooting 120-grain Sierras, I knew that with a 200-yard zero my load would nestle in the ABC group. With the rifle zeroed just over an inch and a half high at 100 yards, I set out to the range with Edan as second rifleman. Starting at 200 yards, we set up a steel plate measuring six inches long and four inches wide, ensuring we had a sandy backstop to provide a marker if any misses occurred. Unsurprisingly, I made two clean shots at the 200-yard mark with the rangefinder reading back an adjustment of zero.

With the RX-1000 set to give us MOA adjustments – it can also give adjustments in inches holdover or equivalent horizontal distance – I dialled in the 1MOA adjustment required for the 250-yard lay-up point. We took a shot each, and the solid clang of metal on metal rang out both times. The 3MOA adjustment for the 300-yard mark resulted in a similar affair.

The back of the steel plate, showing the impact of bullets at up to 400 yards

It was only at 350 yards that the first miss occurred – but it wasn’t because of any fault in the 4MOA demanded by the RX-1000’s impressive output. A misjudgement of the wind had resulted in perfect vertical placement, but about four inches right of the target. Once we had corrected this, we both recorded hits. A week later I returned to the range and achieved similar results at 400 yards. I will give an update in future articles as to how it fares with other calibres and greater distances.

To say I was impressed was an understatement. With a factory rifle, a fixed 6×42 scope and a blanket for a rest, we were able to hit whatever we liked at over 400 yards. With the rangefinder doing all the work, the only thing to consider was the wind. I had a lot of fun with it at the range, and in the field it would certainly give me a good idea of whether a shot should or shouldn’t be taken. I must stress, however, that although I found the readouts to be pretty spot-on, you should test it at the shooting range before you rely on it for live quarry.

An updated DNA model (Digitally eNhanced Accuracy) has just been launched, claiming to give faster and more accurate readings. We will see in future reviews if the new model betters this unit’s already impressive record.

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Posted in Optics, Reviews

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