Mini Review of the Nikon Prostaff 7i Laser rangefinder.
I shoot .22 calibre airguns. I don't shoot much these days beyond 40yds - this being my own self imposed limit (my limitation, not my guns). Some of my guns have parallax adjustable objective lenses. I've been shooting for over 30 years. Putting all this together means, I'm pretty good at range estimation and have some technical help if needed (the A/O on the scope). So all in all I have always felt that for me, range finders were of little use and I am sure other shooters / hunters would benefit much more from such equipment.
Anyway, a family member, knowing I was into shooting, bought me a Nikon 7i laser rangefinder as a gift. Obviously not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I thought I'd have a play with one and see what's what. These are my thoughts and impressions.
The Prostaff 7i claims to cover a range from 8 to 1300yds and to have 0.5yd accuracy under 600yds, of 1.0yd between 600-1000yds and 1.5yds from 1000 - 1300yds. Impressive. It also provides an estimate of actual distance, taking inclination / declination into account and has a handy set of modes for ranging the nearest or the furthest target in a cluttered array (i.e., woodland). It's at the pricey end, being around £300 (ish) and so should reflect a quality product. So, how good is it?
I first tried it out on my practice range in my garden. Via a tape measure, I've set up some straw bales as backstops set at 28yds from my shooting position on the garden decking. However, my garden declines as you walk down it, and the decking is raised, this will add to the measurements in a small way. Sure enough, when checked in the range finder (for true straight line distance), it said it was around 29.7yds to the bales. Very close to my intended 28yds. I decided to re-set the backstops as per the laser, and moved them 1.7yds closer so it is now exactly 28yds from shooting position to target. I then set up some paper targets on the bales a few yards apart from each other (as measures by tape) and then lasered these. Sure enough, the rangefinder could easily detect these differences, accurately, at these distances (I did this out to 40yds). So its sensitive enough to pick out standard paper targets and compute differences between them, accurately, at these distances and I have no reason to think this accuracy would not be maintained at least to 600yds. I also staggered bales of straw next to each other and lasered these and it did register a difference in distance from what was really nothing more than the width of a straw bale (giving readings of around 0.3 - 0.6yds difference - suggesting better accuracy than the 0.5 claim). So I was very impressed with its accuracy. I then tested this under bright sunlight (midday) and dusk against the paper targets and straw bales. It gave consistent readings both times and I was impressed with how it still functioned well under very low lighting. All in all, it works very well in the field.
On the downside, the readout in the device consists of a black font superimposed on the image and this was very difficult to read in near dusk conditions. This will be tricky to read in the woods and I would have expected, for the price point, for some form of illuminated information. So although it works well in taking measurements in dusk conditions, being able to see that information can be tricky. I also find switching between the modes to be a bit clumsy, and the buttons require a bit of pressure to activate - and this can impact on how 'stable' you can also hold the device when measuring. My final little gripe (for air gunners) is that it would be nice to know the angle of inclination / declination in the output. The device actually knows this in order to calculate its compensation for actual distance calculations but this information is not passed on to the user. This would be useful for shooters in situations of shooting at steep angles when holding under is required. So, not just distance, but also angle to target could be useful in some situations. I think I'm right in saying that other less expensive models (Hawke) do provide this (though I could be wrong).
I found it fun to use in the sense of confirming distances in my mind. So as part of this test I would look at landmarks around me, estimate the distance, and then laser for confirmation. I also found it useful in an unexpected way. On one hunting trip, with a young nephew along for the experience, I was trying to teach him how to estimate distances and of course, it's tricky at first and can be quite abstract for them. Letting them use the rangefinder to get a 'feel' in a numerical sense, for distance, and how to use visual cues to estimate it was very useful and an enjoyable lesson for the young (though I imagine this is the same for all brands / models). Nonetheless, this is a positive for the use of rangefinders - teaching.
For airgunners, this unit is probably over-kill (pardon the pun) and additional features (i.e., knowing the angle) would be really useful (more so than the extended range). I imagine this unit is better suited to FAC users, and bullet-based weapons where the long-range measuring would be more useful. If you can afford it, go for it - its well built and highly accurate.
Good across diverse lighting conditions
Different modes are very useful and well thought out
Actual distance mode = very important
Needs an illuminated display for low-light conditions
Accessing different modes could be more transparent
Could provide the user with information on the angle (inclination / declination) to target
A bit pricey for what it is.
Edited by Dr B, 31 May 2015 - 10:50 pm.