Disclosure: Man Makes Fire is reader-supported. When you buy gear using retail links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission that helps pay for our work. Learn more.
The Nikon ACULON Laser Rangefinder is ultra-compact, super light, and ranges your target quickly out to around 200 yards with ease. Because of its insanely small size and weight — with surprisingly clear 6x optics — it might be the best laser rangefinder available at entry-level prices.
If you’re a bowhunter, this simple and fast-acting rangefinder is hard to beat. If you’re a rifle hunter, the ACULON will range out to 550 yards in excellent conditions, but if you need to know greater distances, especially in low light with small targets and difficult angles, you’ll want to step up to a longer-range, more expensive model.
The Nikon ACULON, though, will easily meet the needs of most hunters, especially hunters who have been on the rangefinder decision fence.
Nikon ACULON Feature Review
The ACULON’s one-button operation powers up the unit, and a follow-up press will measure the distance and show it on your screen. In dark shadows or twilight, the interior screen isn’t illuminated, so the crosshairs and yardage (or meters) is harder to see, but in normal daylight, it’s easy to see. If you continuously hold this button down, you can scan an area while the ACULON returns continuous measurements. It’s a cool feature.
Laser rangefinders work by shooting out an invisible laser beam and then measures the time it takes for the reflection of that beam to travel to the target and back. Because different materials reflect lasers differently — and differently in different weather conditions — some targets may be harder to measure than others. And more distant targets will be harder still.
You can’t range targets through your windshield, for example, and snow, rain, or fog may diffuse the beam, making your rangefinder have a tougher time finding an accurate measurement, especially at long distances.
For ranging targets up to around 200 yards, the Nikon ACULON is wicked fast. Beyond 200 yards, the quality of your target becomes more important, as does your ability to keep the unit still for a second or two. When I had trouble ranging deer-sized targets beyond 400 yards, I could usually find a bank, rock, or tree to range instead, which would give me a close approximation of the range. I expect elk to range a bit better than deer, of course.
(I’ll use and abuse this rangefinder during this year’s hunting season, and if I learn anything new from the experience, I’ll update this review.)
Optics and Focus
The Nikon ACULON has 6x magnification, which brings you a little closer to your target than other rangefinders with 4x magnification, which doesn’t seem like much until you’re trying to push the limits of the device and range farther into the distance. If the image is blurry, you can adjust focus by rotating the diopter. Because of the long eye relief, I could range objects even while wearing sunglasses.
One feature that I like — especially since I tend to hunt in areas with a lot of brush, trees, and cover — is that the ACULON is programmed to display the range of the furthest target among a group of targets measured. This works great if you’re trying to keep some cover between you and your target or if there are some small branches in the way.
All-in-all, the Nikon ACULON Laser Rangefinder (model AL11) is one of the smallest and lightest rangefinders on the market. The build quality is typical Nikon — excellent — and the price makes it a no-brainer buy for an entry-level rangefinder.