Can You Use a Rangefinder Instead of Binoculars?

It’s always important to pack as light as possible when going into the field for hunting, shooting or other activities, but does this mean you can use a rangefinder instead of binoculars? The answer depends on what type of activity you’re doing and your own preference in many cases. 

Rangefinders and binoculars might seem very similar at first glance, but both are made for specific purposes. Binoculars are made with high magnification to allow users to view distant objects with greater detail. Rangefinders do offer some magnification, but are designed to allow viewers to determine precise distances from their vantage point. 

While rangefinders and binoculars are made for different applications, you can use rangefinders instead of binoculars in certain situations. 

How Binoculars and Rangefinders Differ

Rangefinders and binoculars share some similar features, but these two gear items are engineered for very different purposes. 

Binoculars are typically built with a heavier chassis and thicker lenses compared to the construction of most rangefinders. This is because the lenses inside binoculars are larger and heavier than what’s found inside a rangefinder. These lenses are expensive and most binoculars are built with a thick encasing that’s meant to protect each lens and prevent cracking, as well as a nitrogen-sealed design to prevent fogging. 

Binoculars are used to magnify distant objects and give the user much better visual quality than they would have with the naked eye. The level and quality of magnification depends on the thickness and composition of the lenses inside the binoculars. 

Rangefinders are often more lightweight than binoculars. The interior components of most rangefinders consist of electronic items and the lens thickness is minimal compared to binoculars. A rangefinder uses a narrow laser beam pulse to measure distant objects of varying degrees. Premium quality rangefinders operate using an inclinometer, which determines the slope of the terrain between the user and the target. 

Binoculars are built with much greater magnification power as this is their primary function. The magnification level is always indicated by the first number in the specifications. For example, when using a pair of 8x42 binoculars, the object in view will appear eight times closer than it would with the naked eye. 

The second number in binocular specs represents the diameter measurement in millimeters of its objective lens. The greater the objective lens is, the more light it will allow to enter, which results in a brighter and clearer image. Rangefinders typically have very low magnification power and smaller objective lens size as their primary function is distance measurement. 

Situations Where a Rangefinder Can Replace Binoculars

There are a few instances where you could replace your binoculars with a rangefinder in the outdoors. While it’s best to have both of these gear items in your pack, a rangefinder can sometimes prove useful when it comes to some of the applications where binoculars are typically employed. 

Hunters and target shooters will sometimes use a rangefinder to get a sense of the distance of certain objects in their field of view. For instance, a mule deer hunter knows that they will sometimes have only seconds to make an assessment on an animal and take an ethical shot. In preparation for this, they might use their rangefinder to measure distant objects at intervals so they can have a solid understanding of the terrain and how to adjust their aim if and when a shot opportunity presents itself. 

A rangefinder may also be used to scan for game across vast, open areas. Binoculars are very efficient when it comes to focusing specifically on a distant target, but rangefinders are typically built with a low magnification level that allows for better scanning than you might have with the naked eye. Hunters will often climb to a high vantage point and use a rangefinder to scan the area in search of their target animal. 

The choice to opt for a rangefinder instead of binoculars in these cases would, of course, depend on the magnification level. A rangefinder with low magnification would not provide the many advantages in terms of scanning for game. However, rangefinders that feature 4x to 8x magnification or greater are considered ideal and can be used in place of binoculars in many instances. 

Benefits of Using a Rangefinder Instead

There are some obvious benefits you’ll get from using a rangefinder with decent magnification level instead of binoculars. Trekking deep into the wilderness with a heavy pack is always a treacherous venture and it often makes sense to decrease the weight and volume of your load in any way possible. 

Rangefinders are often more lightweight than binoculars since they don’t include the heavy lenses and thick metal chassis. Considering this fact, it makes sense to opt for a rangefinder instead of binoculars if you’re carrying a small day-pack. Hiking over steep, rocky terrain or stalking game animals is best done with a light pack and it’s understandable to bring your rangefinder along while leaving your binoculars behind. 

Another advantage of using a rangefinder instead of binoculars is the fact that you’ll be able to measure the exact distance of any target. Binoculars provide users with a clear, magnified view of objects they would often have trouble viewing with the naked eye, but it’s still a guessing game when it comes to the distance of your target. A rangefinder gives you an accurate measurement, giving you confidence in making an accurate shot. 

Premium rangefinder brands and models usually deliver some overlap in functionality between these products and binoculars. Some high quality rangefinders feature high levels of magnification and even allow users to zoom or focus on their distant target to gain a clear picture and exact distance measurement at the same time. 

Downsides and Limitations

It can be appealing to use a rangefinder instead of binoculars, but you should always consider the limitations of doing so before making a decision. Most rangefinders have very low levels of magnification and a small objective lens diameter. This translates to lower image quality due to less light transmission. 

In addition to these downsides, rangefinders offer a limited field of view compared to binoculars. These are key areas of importance for instances when a user needs to have optimal visual clarity. There are also other things that should be noted, such as the inability to adjust individual eye cups on a rangefinder. Most rangefinders that feature magnification levels above 4x will have issues with color distortion at longer distances. 

Conclusion and Recommendations

With all of these facts considered, the question of whether you can use a rangefinder instead of binoculars truly depends on your own unique circumstances. There are times when any hunter would understand the need to have both items, but there are also scenarios when it makes sense to use a rangefinder instead of binoculars. 

If you’re deer hunting in a dense forested area where visibility is limited due to foliage, it makes sense to use your rangefinder in place of binoculars. However, if you’re elk hunting vast, mountainous terrain, you will need to rely on both a rangefinder and binoculars to successfully harvest an animal. These are just a few scenarios that prove there are times when you can use a rangefinder in place of binoculars, and times when you’ll need both. 

If you’re a beginner when it comes to using rangefinders or binoculars, it’s likely best to have both of these items in your pack for any hunt. Once you gain more experience, you’ll then be able to make a sound decision on whether or not to use your rangefinder instead of binoculars. If you’re faced with a tight budget, consider purchasing a more affordable model rangefinder and binoculars instead of spending the same amount on just a rangefinder alone. 

Call-to-Action for Optics Force Products

Optics Force carries an extensive selection of both rangefinders and binoculars, which makes it easy to choose exactly what you need. Our vast inventory includes all of the top brands in the outdoor optics industry and a wide range of different rangefinder and binocular models. 

We have rangefinders and binoculars that will be ideal for your specific scenario and budget, ensuring that you’ll elevate your performance in the field. 

Now that we’ve covered the information you need, let us help you find the right gear for your next adventure. Our experts are committed to making sure you’re outfitted with everything you need for success in the outdoors. Click here to get started. 


What is the difference between binoculars and rangefinders?

Binoculars magnify objects, giving users a more detailed and wider field of view than they would have with the naked eye. Rangefinders utilize laser technology to measure distances between the viewer and the target. 

Can I use a rangefinder for birdwatching instead of binoculars?

Rangefinders are not ideal for birdwatching as they often lack the magnification needed to view birds with great detail. Binoculars are much better suited for birdwatching as their magnification provides a significantly more detailed view. 

Which Optics Force rangefinder models can also effectively replace binoculars? 

Some of the rangefinders that can be used instead of binoculars are the Athlon Optics Midas 1 Mile G2, Sig Sauer KILO4K LRF, and the Vortex Optics 7x24 Diamondback HD 2000. 

What magnification power do I need in a rangefinder to also use it instead of binoculars?

Most rangefinders feature very low magnification levels, but it’s best to seek one that offers a magnification level of at least 6x if you plan to use it in place of binoculars. Standard rangefinders only offer magnification levels up to 7x or 8x in some instances. If you’re looking for a more powerful rangefinder magnification than this, a pair of rangefinder binoculars are likely more optimal. 

Does Optics Force have package deals on binoculars and rangefinders together?

Optics Force does not currently offer package deals on rangefinders and binoculars as separate items. However, we offer a number of rangefinder binoculars that feature outstanding magnification levels and precision rangefinding capability. Some of these products are the Vortex HD Fury 5000, Sig Sauer BDX Kilo 8x32 and the Leupold Binocular BX-4 Range HD. 


Have questions about our service or product?

See FAQs now

Not Sure Which Rifle Scope is Right for You?

Get expert advice and find the rifle scope that will increase your shooting accuracy and improve your hunts!

Our business hours are Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm.