by J. Scott Olmsted - Friday, June 27, 2014
Once upon a time a laser rangefinder was standard equipment in my hunting kit. A rangefinder is indispensable when bowhunting, after all. And of course one in hand may mean the difference between a hit and a miss at extreme distance when a rifle is in the other hand. Nowadays, however, usually I can stalk within easy range for any bullet; when I can’t I rely on knowledge of the size of my quarry and of ballistics to make more than an educated guess about hold. So, somewhere along the way, I stopped carrying a rangefinder when rifle hunting.
The Nikon Aculon rangefinder may change that. Its diminutive size and light weight make it a no-brainer in a shirt pocket. And Nikon digital technology makes it wicked fast. It’s what folks could call a “portable performer.”
The Aculon is the lightest, most compact rangefinder Nikon offers. Heck, it’ll fit in just about any pocket because it measures only 3.6 inches long by 2.9 inches wide, and it’s only 1.5 inches thick. It weighs just 4.4 ounces. All that makes it small enough to rival most cell phones. Tuck it in the breast pocket of your shirt and forget about it until you need it. Behind your coat (or inside an interior coat pocket), it’ll stay warm and dry, which is best for optimal operation—though the Aculon will function in extreme cold and it’s rainproof, so you really needn’t worry about the weather.
It’s also about the cheapest unit you’ll find on the market, which makes it a great entry-level rangefinder for anyone building his or her hunting kit. Nikon’s suggested retail price is $169.95, but I’ve seen the unit for as much as $30 less at some outlets. Don’t let the low price fool you: This is all you need to get a reading, anytime.
The Aculon uses a digital processor so its readings are very fast, almost instantaneous regardless of distance, a Nikon rep told me. Some rangefinders in this price range are very slow. Its high-eyepoint design and eye relief of 16.7mm provides sufficient space between your brow and the eyepiece, and a clear field of view even when wearing eyeglasses. A diopter adjustment benefits users who don’t wear glasses. Nikon uses “multi-layer” coatings on the Aculon; selected lenses have multiple layers of coating that allow a higher level of light transmission and thus brighter images, as compared to single-layer coatings that transmit less light.
Single-button operation benefits everyone who gets confused when the bull of a lifetime stands broadside at 330 yards. A second button changes mode, so users may opt to see measurements in yards or meters.
A clutter-free display means you get only what you need from lightning-fast readings—a distance. When measuring overlapping objects, the distance of the farthest subject is displayed, which is useful in wooded areas, or just about anywhere bowhunters operate. Nikon calls it the Distant Target Priority mode since the distance of the farthest target among a group of objects is measured, which is useful when the subject is partially obscured by brush. I checked it by scanning a variety of targets through woods—trees, stumps, limbs, broad leaves, lamp posts, a fire hydrant, a parked car, a squirrel. Each time I moved the unit the measurement was recalculated instantly and the proper distance to the target was displayed, as verified by walking off the yards. Keeping the button depressed enables continuous measurement for up to 20 seconds, so hunters may continuously measure the approach or retreat of game.
The Aculon runs off one CR2 lithium battery (included). It shuts off after eight seconds of inactivity to conserve battery life. Available colors include green and Realtree Xtra Green camo. Nikon rangefinders have never let me down. I don’t expect this one will, either.
Type: laser rangefinder
Objective Lens Diameter: 20mm
Eye Relief: 16.7mm
Exit Pupil: 3.3mm
Measurement: 6-550 yds./1-yd. increments; single or continuous measurement and Distant Target Priority mode
Dimensions: length 3.6", width 1.5", height 2.9"; weight 4.4 ozs.
Power Source: 1 CR2 lithium battery (included); auto shutoff after 8 secs.
Accessories: carry case, neck strap
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