Leupold 2011 RX-1000i TBR Laser Rangefinder: The Best?

Two years ago, I had the chance to evaluate the then-new Leupold RX-1000 rangefinder. It instantly became my favorite laser rangefinder and has been on every hunt with since then. Back then, I mentioned that it takes a lot of combinatorial features to make a good rangefinder, even more to make a truly outstanding one. Leupold had really hit a home run there. It is the best rangefinder I’d ever evaluated in terms of practical, real-world field use. The RX-1000 soared to the top based on size, ease of use, an outstanding LED display, and outstandingly good image quality. It was a privilege to test an item that good.

This year, Leupold promised an even better version of the unit: this RX-1000i TBR digital rangefinder. The basic platform and specifications are unchanged from two years ago:

Actual Magnification 6x
Max Range (Reflective) 1000 yd / 914.4 m
Max Range (Trees) 700 yd / 640.1 m
Max Range (Deer) 600 yd / 548.6 m
Min Range 10.0 yd / 9.1 m
Linear Field of View (ft/1000 yd) 320
Linear Field of View (m/1000 m) 107
Angular Field of View (degrees) 6.0
Weight 7.8 oz / 221 g
Length 3.8 in /  96.5 mm
Width 1.3 in /  33 mm
Height 2.8 in /  71.1 mm
Obj. Aperture (mm) 22
Exit Pupil (mm) 3.6
Eye Relief (mm) 14

So, what's new? It is about the same size, the same weight, with a more heavily textured gripping surface on top, but still a very light, compact unit as before. The primary change is the updated electronics, dubbed the “DNA” engine. The updated electronics offer better accuracy (within one-half yard) and a faster display with a read-out to one tenth of one yard.

The Leupold already had better image quality, better battery life (10,000 cycles), and a better reticle than most anything out there. The LED reticle is adjustable to three intensity settings with your choice of three reticles that you can quickly change at any time. For my purposes, it is always on “high,” using the “Plus Point” reticle. That was easily my favorite reticle on the last generation Leupold and that hasn't changed in this one. For me, it is just set it and forget it.

The original tested unit was the basic Line of Sight version, while this version is the TBR, or True Ballistic Range unit that offers a built-in inclinometer. This can be characterized as being in the more bells and whistles department. You get your choice of several modes, the LOS which is the basic rangefinder, the TBR read-out which takes into consideration the shooting angle, and the TBR / MOA which gives you both true ballistic range and where you need to crank your scope up to, to compensate based on the “ballistics group” of your load.

The “True Ballistic Range” readouts are your choice of the MOA mode, a holdover mode, a Mil-Dot mode, and a BAS mode which is the true shooting range using the inclinometer. If all of this sounds a bit confusing, it is only because it is. I'll try to re-explain this a bit, as you will likely only be using one of these many modes during any specific hunt or shoot.

There are three tiers to what you select in this Leupold. The LOS, or line of sight mode gives you the actual range. That's the only way I have ever needed to use a rangefinder. It gives you the range, quickly, and you take it from there.
The next tier is the “shoot as if” range. If you are shooting steeply upward or downward, your point of impact will be high. So, the “True Ballistic Range” might mean that, although your target is at 400 yards, for example, you would shoot as if the target was only at 335 yards if the amount of incline of the shot gave you less apparent drop.

The third tier of the system is hooking the true ballistic range, which accounts for incline or shooting angle, to the ballistic group of your firearm. Leupold gives you several ballistic groups: you select the one appropriate to your cartridge. Your firearm is zeroed at 200 or 300 yards. Now, the rangefinder tells you how to compensate in inches, minute of angle, or milliradians for the shot at extended ranges.

There are huge problems with these approaches, though the problem is not with Leupold. Leupold has put a lot of effort into this onboard software. They seem to think that their algorithms and their inclinometer is the most accurate in the industry and they are probably right. But.

The “but” is no rangefinder knows your scope height, your ambient conditions (temperature, humidity, elevation), or the effect of the wind on your projectile between you and your target. All of these factors affect point of impact. Manufacturer's published muzzle velocities and ballistic coefficients are invariably wrong. Further, a Mil-Dot or other range-compensating reticle only works at one power setting. Let's say you are big game hunting with a 4-12 Mil-Dot scope. All of this stuff is typically worthless unless your scope is cranked up to 12X.

Let me inject an example with one of my favorite moderate recoil centerfire cartridges, the 7mm-08. Using Hornady Superformance ammo and a six inch kill zone, I have a maximum point blank range of about 292 yards sighting my rifle in three inches high at 150 yards. From muzzle to 300 yards, I don't at all care about the power setting of the scope, I don't care about hold-over or hold-under. It is simply center of the body hold, hit the switch and go pick him up. If the shot is upward or downward, I know the bullet will hit a bit high, so I can hit the switch at 330 yards with no hesitation or compensation and go pick him up. I need to be far more aware of animal movement and wind. Just a 10 mph crosswind will move the bullet just over 7 inches at 330 yards.

Leupold offers this rangefinder both ways, in a standard LOS model and this specific, deluxe model with all the extra features. The difference in street price is only about fifty dollars. The MOA / Holdover / Milliradian features, though clever, are not particularly valuable to me. To you, they may be . . . that's why they call them choices.

I don't want any of this discussion, no matter how relevant, to detract from what this Leupold RX-1000i unit is. That is, this a superb palm-sized rangefinder, ruggedly built, excellent battery life, excellent optics, blazingly fast range acquisition, weatherproof, lightweight, with essentially silent operation.
The personal laser rangefinder is the single most valuable hunting tool to appear during my lifetime. We've come a very long way from steps, paces, long one and short one type of thinking. Most of the earlier units were characterized by dim optics, dark and slow liquid crystal displays, whirling and clicking sound effects, poor battery life, and excess bulkiness. This Leupold exhibits none of these unfortunate propensities.

The RX-1000i is outstandingly good product. There's nothing remotely close to it in its price range, something like $350 street for the basic model and $400 for the TBR model. If you're in the market for your first rangefinder or an upgrade to the old dark, clicky, slow, whirling, battery-sucking gizmo-finders of a few years back, the Leupold RX1000i is easily the best in its class.

Copyright 2011 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.

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