The advent of the laser range finder happened many years ago, and in fact they have been used by the military for a couple of decades now, and there are some units that are accurate up to 10,000 meters. But, the effective, small portable units that would reach to a range usable by snipers have not really came about until the last several years. Bushnell, of all companies, has kind of lead the revolution of compact Laser Range Finders (LRF) and had out some of the first higher power units. Leica was actually probably the pioneer of the compact & portable LRFs, but for a much higher price. There are many players in the personal use LRF field now, but again, most of them are not powerful enough for long range sniping use, but with the current 1500 meter units out there, these compact units are getting to be usable. We have acquired a Bushnell Elite 1500 LRF with ARC for this evaluation and wanted to see just how usable it might be.
The overall construction of this Bushnell unit is fairly nice. It has a rubber armored type of finish and is fairly easy to hold onto in most all conditions. It is not too large and is easily portable and should fit into most ruck or drag bag pockets. It carries okay in your side cargo pocket of BDU type pants as well.
The unit itself is pretty darn simple to operate. Drop in your 9-volt battery and you are ready to go. To just use the basic functionality of the unit, you really just need to point and click the Button on top of the unit and you will get an instant feed back of the range to the target. To do more advanced things you will need to use the menu on the unit, but even then there are not a lot of options to worry about, and I like it that way. In my opinion, an LRF needs to be easy to handle, reliable, and easy to use, and the Elite 1500 seems to fit those requirements.
The unit does have some good features like being able to switch between meters and yards, SCAN mode, brush mode and even Bow (Archery) mode, though that hardly fits for what we want to use it for. The eye piece is adjustable, but honestly, it didn’t work that well and I had to wear my glasses. Luckily it has decent eye relief of about .75″ that allowed me to be able to wear my glasses while using it. Of course, the other important feature is the built in inclinometer and the ability to compensate the range based on your “class” of cartridge. Bushnell has a large list of factory loadings and what class they are.
The Elite 1500 also has a threaded mount for a tripod, which to me is an important feature, especially for our line of work and based on the results of our testing with LRF’s before.
In the field, one of the things we noticed first was that the optics really are not very good. Do NOT think that you can use this unit as any sort of a binocular or other observation device. While the optics are good enough to see what you need to range, they are bad in terms of light gathering, contrast and all the normal optics stuff. But that is not what the unit is suppose to be, just get a dedicated pair of bino’s or a bino/LRF device, which we hope to be reviewing a couple of soon.
The Laser itself was quite impressive for the cost of the unit and what it is. Holding it by hand and ranging a mountain side and/or trees, we were able to get a repeatable range of 765 meters (837 yards). This was on non reflective real world items in the field, not highly reflective items. The thing you pick up fairly quickly on with long range attempts is that you try ranging an item several times, and with these longer tests we would get a reply about half the time. When we mounted the LRF on a tripod we were able to extend that range further and got a max range of 922 meters (1009 yards) on a bare spot on the side of a hill. Again we were picking up a reply on only about half of the attempts. This actually was better than I thought we were going to get with this unit. We had a Leupold LRF RX-IV with us as well, and the laser on the Bushnell proved stronger as the Leupold would only get a range on the same spot maybe one out of 20+ tries and the Bushnell consistently gave better results at the longer ranges.
The inclinometer works on the unit and when you range a target it displays the angle down below the range as well as the hold “under” in inches. Honestly, I don’t like that it displays the hold under inches, I would prefer that it display the corrected range you should use for your cartridge class. Perhaps there is an option to do that because that is the default display when it is in the short range “Archery” mode, but I could not find any where in the menu to change it. The inches of correction does work though, it is just not what I prefer.
Overall, the most important thing about an LRF, the laser strength and reliability, was the strong point of this unit. The optics were not very good, the eye focus crude, and the hold over not what I like, but by golly, it gave very good results and was very simple to use. The performance stacks very favorably against other units in the same price range and performance category, it just lacks in some of the other feature areas.