When using flat-shooting magnum calibres, out to long range, a good rangefinder is essential.  The following as a review that was published in the SSAA’s 68th edition of the Hunter magazine, in April 2019.

Leupold has brought out a newer, improved version of their popular TBR rangefinder series.  This latest offering is the RX-1600i TBR/W, and it has a number of significant improvements over the earlier RX-1200i model.  Leupold products are distributed in Australia by Nioa, who supplied the RX-1600i TBR/W rangefinder for review.

So, just what is the Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W and how does it work?  It is a small, palm-sized optical device that contains an invisible infra-red (IR) laser.  Optically, it is 6x powered monocular.  As with other optical devices, the rangefinder eyepiece can be focused to the user’s preference by twisting the eyepiece.  The eyepiece has a rubber buffer to protect the user’s from any unexpected bumps.  At the press of the button on top of the unit, the laser fires a burst of brief pulses, in a narrow beam, directed to where the cross-hairs in the viewfinder is placed.  The bounce-back of reflected laser light is measured by the device, and that data is subject to complex mathematical calculations by the powerful on-board computer processor.  The unit then displays the range to the target in a variety of optional formats.

The unit can determine range on hard, highly reflective targets, like rocks and buildings, from 5 to 1600 yards (hence the “1600” in the model name).  For soft targets, like deer-sized animals, the unit can generally detect range to about 900 yards.  The Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W rangefinder is compact and nicely designed for optimum ergonomics.  The grippy, rubberised coating on the armoured aluminium housing fits comfortably, and securely, in the hand.  I reckon it is the perfect size, for me anyway.  The textured top of the unit provides a secure hold when your hands are sweaty, or you are hunting in the drizzle.  The unit comes nicely to the eye and the power button that activates a reading sits precisely under the tip of the index finger.  Similarly, the only other button on the unit, the mode button, sits under the thumb.

I stood on my back porch and took readings off cattle in the paddock, sheds, trees and the like on a drizzly sort of day.  The unit had no problem measuring these different targets out to the most distant visible object, a shed, at just over 1450 metres, which is the nominal 1600 yards.  I know from using other rangefinders, and Google Earth, that the reported distances for these objects were accurate. The capability of the Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W rangefinder’s maximum range is determined by target type and atmospheric conditions.

The unit is powered by a small CR2 Lithium battery which is said to be good for more than 3000 readings.  I do not doubt that is true, based on my experience with the Leupold RX-1200i unit.  I have had that unit for about three years, and it has seen a lot of use.  Recently I checked the battery’s voltage, and it was still at maximum.  A note of warning – the device should not be pointed at eyes or children allowed to play with it.  There is a risk of eye damage from the laser from looking into the objective laser aperture; i.e. the business end of the device.

Rangefinders are another of those devices that you think you do not need – until you try one.  Then they become an indispensable part of your hunting kit.  The last few years I have been putting in considerable time and effort hunting wild dogs.  Some of these cunning old predators will not be drawn in close with the usual tricks, and so long shots are often the only option.  Moving up to a flat-shooting magnum helped a bit but, on those long shots, a rangefinder rapidly proved its worth.  That was especially so when taking advantage of good optics and ballistic turrets.

I have three small pouches on my hunting belt.  They are dedicated to spare ammo, a compact camera and my Leupold rangefinder.  All are ready for immediate and regular use.  The rangefinder gets the most use on any trip.  In a dog hunting situation, I do not always attempt to range every dog I see.  That is because they are a small target, often partly obscured by terrain and vegetation and moving at speed.  In most wild dog hunting situations, the time between sighting the dog and firing a shot is often only seconds, and there is no time for trying to range a fast-moving dog.

However, as I sit and wait in ambush, I am constantly scanning all around me with my rangefinder.  I use the rangefinder to range landmarks around me in my zone of fire.  I pick out hard targets such as boulders, fence strainer posts, dead trees, fallen logs and the like that are about 250 metres distant from me.  That is the dead-flat range of my 257 Weatherby Magnum, and I know that any dog within 250 metres requires no sighting allowance.

That is a very useful application of the rangefinder, but perhaps not essential.  Where the rangefinder pays big dividends, however, is for those wary old dogs hanging way back at 300, 400 or more metres, who will not be called-in.  An accurate rangefinder is essential for attempting such a shot.  Larger animals are quite easy to detect in the rangefinder, and there is generally more time to play with.

The Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W features Leupold’s DNA (Digitally eNhanced Accuracy) data processing.  This ensures the most accurate assessment of the raw laser distance measurement.  Accuracy is 0.5-yard out to 125 yards and 2-yard accuracy beyond 125 yards.  Displayed range precision is 0.1 yard out to 125 yards, then whole yards beyond that.

Leupold’s TBR (True Ballistic Range) is likewise a much more precise method of determining the sighting distance to the target.  That is not simply the line-of-sight distance.  TBR is particularly important for bowhunters shooting up or down at extreme angles.  It is also vital for rifle hunters shooting up or down at long range in mountainous terrain.

Leupold’s TBR uses advanced ballistic mathematics and computer processing for this and allowance for wind drift (the “/W” designation in the model’s name).  To achieve these readings, the unit must make use of the laser ranging, the inclinometer and powerful mathematical algorithms.  The software used in the Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W was developed by the same engineers who produced Sierra’s Infinity Exterior Ballistics Software as well military missile guidance systems.

This valuable ballistic data can be displayed in a variety of ways in the Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W.  Data is displayed in the optical viewfinder, projected onto the visual image when the power button is pressed.  The brightness can be varied to suit dusk or midday application.  The Mode button allows a short and simple menu to be accessed and the user’s options set for the device.  The first selection to be made is either TBR for true ballistic range, BOW for bow or LOS for the actual line-of-sight distance to the target.

If selecting TBR for rifles, there are five functions to choose from – BAS, HOLD, MOA, MIL and TRIG.  These settings are good to 800 yards.  By nominating the rifle’s ballistic group, the TBR data can be displayed as hold-over (HOLD) in inches or centimetres, the minute of angle (MOA) correction, or the milliradians hold-over (MIL).  The TRIG function is useful for determining the height and distance of objects.  The best example of that is measuring a tree to determine where it will reach to should it fall over.  The angle of inclination, line of sight and TRIG data can be useful in planning fence lines and civil works.

Because I employ a ballistic turret on my rifle, I opt for TBR with BAS.  If I need to allow for extreme range, then I dial in the TBR BAS measurement on my scope’s ballistic turret.  The Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W functionality is further enhanced by an in-built list of 25 rifle ballistic groups.  I was pleased to find my pet load there – the 257 Weatherby Magnum 110 grain Nosler Accubond at 3460 fps – so I have absolutely no excuse for any misses on long-range shots at predators.

There is no reset button, simply pressing the power button once more initiates a new reading and over-writes the previous measurement.  The unit does have a Last Target feature which gives the distance to the furthest target ranged.  This is useful when a number of targets may have been ranged in taking the reading, where the unit will display the average distance.  To measure distance continuously with a moving target it simply requires the power button to be kept pressed and the target tracked in the viewfinder.  There are three styles of reticle that can be chosen for the display as well.

The Leupold RX-1600i TBR/W Rangefinder is available from most gun stores.  Typical retail pricing is from about $580 and upwards.  The unit comes with a Cordura pouch that can be worn on a belt, or slung over the shoulder on the strap that is also included.  The CR2 battery is also provided.  Leupold has a two-year warranty on this device.

Magnification

6x

Field of View (FoV) ft at 1000 yards / m at 1000 metres

315  /  105

Field of View angle

6o

Objective aperture

22 mm

Exit pupil

3.6 mm

Eye relief

17 mm

Laser rangefinder

FDA Class 1 / IEC Class 3R

Laser wavelength

895 – 915 nm

Beam divergence

1.31 mrad

Pulse duration

20 – 60 ns

Power

< 5.14 mW

Battery

CR2 (or equivalent)

Battery life

Greater than 3000 activations

Measurement time

Less

Range measuring display duration

7 seconds

Menu set-up duration

20 seconds after last action

Waterproof & Fogproof

Yes

Lens coatings

Multi coated lenses

Construction

Armoured aluminium

Exterior surface

Textured rubberized skin

Dimensions (L x H x W) inches

3.8 x 2.8 x 1.3

Dimensions (L x H x W) mm

97 x 71 x 33

Weight oz / grams

7.8  /  221

Warrantee

2 years

Typical Australian retail pricing

From about $580