Vortex Ranger 1500
Vortex is a family-owned US company based in Wisconsin; established in 1986, it has grown and evolved to become a leading optics manufacturer. The business now has more than 200 staff and a proud reputation for looking after their customers.
The Vortex Ranger 1500 rangefinder is an upgraded version of the Ranger 1000. The two are quite similar in appearance and features, though the 1500 is the more powerful unit of the two. The stats on the box are interesting, although they take a moment to work out as they’re all in imperial measurements, except for eye relief (17mm). The field of view is six degrees, and the magnification is six times. Maximum angle reading is +/- 60 degrees. Minimum range is 10 yards and there are two different maximum ranges: 750 yards for non-reflective material and 1500 yards for reflective materials. This is important out in the field as an animal is a non-reflective object, so theoretically a deer will only be possible to get a reading on if it’s closer than 750 yards, whereas the shiny rock near a tahr should be measurable at up to 1500 yards.
My first impression of the unit was very positive, which is a good start: if I don’t like something when I pick it up, I usually don’t give it the chance to win me back over. It’s very light, small and comfortable to hold and use; it weighs 220 grams and is 10cm long and 8cm high. A durable rubberised body armour gives it a sturdy feel, not at all ‘plasticky’. A metal belt clip on the side can be removed, or swapped to the other side of the unit. It’s waterproof, and also nitrogen-filled so it shouldn’t fog up internally. It comes in a nice wee pouch which also includes a slope drop card, and it has a tripod socket for when it needs to be held steady. And I like the fact that it is 6x magnification, which makes ranging an animal at 500 yards a whole lot easier than one with a low magnification.
Being impressed from the outset, I moved to the next level, which was to put a battery in and power it up.
What I like about my old Leica that I’ve used for 10 years is the fact that I can point it at something, push the button twice and get a reading. In other words, it’s a very simple unit. And simple is what I like, especially out in the real world of hunting; I just cannot be bothered with complicated gadgets.
Well, this is also a very simple item to use. There are two buttons on top of the Ranger 1500, clearly marked ‘Menu’ and ‘Measure’. Push the Measure button and it turns on and a big crosshair pops up in the middle of the display; push it again and it gives you the distance.
There are a few other messages on the display: at the top the letters LOS or HCD are shown. LOS stands for Line Of Sight, and HCD stands for Horizontal Component Distance. Line of sight mode takes the actual distance between the range finder and the object it’s ranging; also on display in this mode is the angle that the rangefinder is at when ranging.
This is a very handy measurement for accurately working out your shooting distance, but not as handy as the HCD mode! The HCD mode gives the angle compensated range; in other words it compensates for angle, which means that no maths is required by the hunter. This simplifies working out a longer-range shot, so in my books gets a huge thumbs-up! One less thing to get wrong in the heat of the moment.
Also on the display is a symbol for yards or metres (Y or M) as well as a symbol for how much battery is left. Everything I’ve read about the Ranger 1500 tells me that it has a long battery life, which I haven’t had a chance to actually test, but according to the book it should make a minimum of 2000 readings.
A bit of a play with the settings was a good experience: simple! How it works is nearly self-explanatory. You hold the menu button down for 4 seconds. The “measure” button cycles through the choices of options and the “menu” button ranges through the different settings.
There are only 3 options to change. One is yards or metres, another is LOS or HCD and the last is the brightness of the display (which has three settings). To get out of the menu setting, simply hold down the menu button for another four seconds or leave it to turn itself off; next time you go to use it, it’ll be back on ranging mode.
Sitting in my back yard, taking the Ranger 1500 out of its box and having a wee play impressed me – but what does that mean until it’s proven in the field? I am a sceptic of all gear until I’m confident that I can trust it, so I took the Ranger 1500 to my rifle range for a first wee play at known ranges. I have a target set up at exactly 100 yards from my permanent bench, and the Ranger 1500 gave me that exact reading. On gongs set up at 440 yards and 560 yards, the Ranger 1500 gave me very similar readings to my Leica (within 2 yards of each other). It says in the manufacturer’s booklet that the Ranger has a +/- 3 yard margin of error; but the one I’ve been using is even better than that, I reckon!
My favourite function though is the scan mode. To turn it on you push the measure button down, then hold it down. In the display an “S” shows up on the left hand side; this tells you that it’s scanning. ‘Scanning’ means that the rangefinder is continuously ranging the target cross on the display, and projecting the measurement. This is very handy for when something is either difficult to get a fix on or is changing range quickly (like a running animal that stops and looks back over its shoulder).
I then took the Ranger 1500 to South Westland, where I was hunting spring deer and chamois. I found deer, but they were all at close range, so my reaction wasn’t to fish the rangefinder out; instead, it was to organise my rifle to be pointing in the right direction ... even so, two of the three escaped!
Not content to write an article without ranging an animal that I had shot, I tootled around the farm a few mornings and evenings looking for a pig. I managed to range and shoot three; none big enough to want to take a photo of though. But when I found the feral black cat that’s always spotted at inopportune moments, I reckoned I’d found the perfect candidate. It was walking down a fence line on the edge of a forestry block; I ranged it at 193 yards and boomed it over with my .308. Success, I thought; the famous Canterbury Black Panther! It was by far the biggest cat I’ve ever seen!
Feral cats are a big problem on our farm, even though we’re two-and-a-half kilometres from the nearest neighbour; they’re part of our pest eradication programme.
Satisfied that it worked in the field, I then went about testing the Ranger 1500 at its limits. I started ranging sheep all over the farm on a dreary day, and to my surprise repeatedly got readings of nearly 800 yards which was positive, but when I ranged my black cattle at 500 yards they wouldn’t show up. This surprised me, but when I started doing a bit more research I soon discovered that black dull things (such as an Angus steer) are about the least reflective of objects out there and therefore the hardest to get a range off.
I repeatedly got ranges of over 1100 yards on grassy hills but when the sun was shining bright I couldn’t get readings off grass further than 800 yards away. I could easily range sheds out to 1400 yards, though. One thing I did notice was that in LOS mode I got longer ranges, which makes sense (as up or down angles in HCD mode will read lesser values than the actual distance).
Something else I’ll add: it won’t range anything less than 10 yards, which for me is no problem. At that range I’m slamming my bolt closed and the deer is either dead or has run away.
Vortex offers a fantastic warranty system. They call it their VIP warranty, standing for “very important promise”. This is a quote taken straight from their website: “We will repair or replace your Vortex product in the event it becomes damaged or defective—at no charge to you. If we cannot repair your product, we will replace it with a product in perfect working order of equal or better physical condition.
You see, it doesn't matter how it happened, whose fault it was, or where you purchased it. You can count on the VIP Warranty for all Vortex Optics riflescopes, prism scopes, red dots, rangefinders, binoculars, spotting scopes, tripods, and monoculars.”
Their website states the warranty is fully transferable, and no warranty card or receipt is required.
So my conclusion is a very positive one. The Vortex Ranger 1500 is a simple-to-use, fast, lightweight rangefinder. I really like the HCD setting. Personally I would like to be able to range animals a bit further out, but in reality I’m not going to shoot beyond 600 yards, so it’s not a real problem. I like the rugged, durable build, the warranty and I’m stoked to have been the one to finally catch up with the Canterbury Black Panther!
Distributed by Extravision Australia