Range finders were once a luxury item. But as technology has evolved they are now considered essential for the modern hunter.
Here we get hands-on with 2 leading brands in the optics world. Let’s see what comes out on top in this Nikon Aculon vs Vortex Impact 1000 range finder review.
Why Use A Range Finder At All?
A range finder will help you quickly calculate the distance between you and your target.
The quicker and more accurately you can do this, the better chance you have of hitting your target, which is the aim of the game!
Range finders have long been a favorite among bowhunters. Especially those shooting multiple pin sights.
They are now very common amongst long-distance shooters too.
They’re invaluable to me when in the field, and they offer every hunter a great deal.
Pocket-sized optics have advanced at an impressive rate. From Bluetooth capabilities that link with wind readers and rifle scopes to reading distances of more than 1000 yards. these are impressive pieces of kit.
As with most optic-related equipment, you get what you pay for. If you’re after a high-tech range finder that links with your scope and tells you how many turrets clicks to make, then be prepared to pay the big bucks.
Yet if you’re willing to forgo some of the bells and whistles, your average hunter can find a quality range finder without smashing the budget.
Remember, you can always upgrade your kit!
Nikon Aculon vs Vortex Impact 1000 Head To Head
So with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the Nikon and the Vortex
Nikon Aculon 6×20 6.0”
At release, Nikon announced the Aculon to be their lightest and most compact laser Rangefinder.
Nikon certainly took the term “pocket-sized” literally when they made the Aculon. It’s lightweight at 4.4 ounces (125g) and very compact 3.5”x2.8”x1.4” (91x73x37mm).
- Measurement range: 5-500m/6-550 yds
- Distant Target Priority: When measuring overlapping objects, the distance of the farthest object is displayed
- The distance display step is 1m/yd
- High quality 6x monocular with multilayer coating for bright, clear images
- Effective objective diameter: 20mm
- Actual field of view: 6 degrees
- Diopter adjustment function
- Single or continuous measurement (up to 20 seconds)
- Automatic power shut-off
- Wide temperature tolerance: -10’C to +50’C
- Light and compact
- Value for money
- Good battery life
- Limited range
- Lacks advanced features
- Has a smooth finish with very little grip
- Dark reticle and LED tough to see in low light
- Struggles with flat objects such as trees and bushes
Vortex Impact 1000
Vortex had a similar idea to Nikon when they developed the Impact 1000. The company describes it as a ‘combination of excellent and reliable performance, at a super economical price and as a lightweight, no-frills rangefinder.’
True to their word, the Vortex Impact 1000 is exactly as described. The rangefinder comes in at a featherweight of 5.5 ounces, with some tight dimensions of 3.8” length and 1.4” width.
- Measurement range: 1,000 yards (tree 800 yards and deer 500 yards)
- 6x Magnification
- O-ring seals prevent moisture, dust, and debris from penetrating
- Uses Horizontal Component Distance (HCD)
- Line of Sight (LOS) mode displays actual line of sight range
- Scan feature to display continual distance readings while panning
- Ranging Format: Yards or meters
- Angular field of view: 6.5 degrees
- Compact with good grip on dials
- Good lens clarity
- Vortex Warranty
- Lacks zoom
- Struggles in low light
- No threads to attach to mount or tripods
- Deep grooves in the front of the lens collect dust
How They Stack Up: A Head-to-Head Comparison
There really isn’t much between these two rangefinders as they seem to follow the same blueprint.
Both are simplistic, no-frills, aim, click and get the reading rangefinders.
The lack of “advanced features,” makes it difficult to draw big differences between the two hunting rangefinders. And in that sense, it comes down to budget and preference, although there are a few things to consider that may swing you one way or the other.
Do They Do What They Claim To Do?
Build quality for both rangefinders is extremely high quality. They’re put together very well and offer water and dustproof protection which is vital when outdoors.
Magnification is the same on both models with a 6x increase.
The Vortex Impact 1000 claims to have a measurement reading of 1,000-yards. This may be true, but in practice, it only achieves this under optimal conditions, and with the rangefinder held perfectly still.
The Nikon stays true to its manufacturer’s description and picks up ranges out to 550-yards.
Who’s The Target Market?
The Vortex seems to be designed with the hunting community in mind. Whereas the Nikon is more multi-use, for general outdoors or sports, as well as hunting.
The reason we say this is due to the Vortex’s HCD mode (Horizontal Component Distance).
The HCD yardage number is corrected for shot angle and needs no extra user input. The shooter simply uses the appropriate level ground bullet drop and wind adjustment for the range displayed.
How Do They Manage In The Field?
Optics always work great when from a shooting bench, inside a vehicle, or positioned on a table inside your home. Pretty much anywhere they’re not needed.
To get a better understanding of what optics are truly capable of they need to be exposed to real hunting conditions.
I put both rangefinders through their paces on four separate hunting trips. On one of those trips, the weather conditions were super bad, with heavy mist and constant drizzle.
At close distances (less than 60-yards) both rangefinders picked up the intended object with ease, whether it was a bush, tree, rock, or animal.
The Nikon was always a yard higher than the Vortex and when tested on an object exactly 40-yards away, it was the Nikon that gave me that value every time.
The real difference came when trying to pick up objects over 200-yards away.
The Nikon picked up the object with a single click up to 280-yards. Anything beyond that I needed to be steady and had to click a couple more times to get a reading. I couldn’t get anything over 369-yards, not even a large tree, rock face, or opposite valley.
The Vortex needed a few extra clicks to pick up the target object. But, was consistent all the way up to 485-yards and that reading came from a hillside with a heavy pine cover.
Under the misty wet conditions, both rangefinders struggled to pick up objects over 100-yards. I wouldn’t put it down to poor performance but rather the adverse conditions.
How They Feel In The Hand
One key advantage I found with the Vortex came from its rubber finishing. This gave a distinct advantage over the Nikon and provided a lot more grip.
The smoothness of the Nikon combined with damp hands and clothing made it a little more slippery. It felt a bit unsteady and cost me time, something you don’t always have.
Lens And Focal Adjuster
The lenses of the Vortex seem to sit further back in the molding of the body. Whether this is to improve the catching of the beam or reduce glare, I have no idea, but I do know it tends to catch more dust and foreign material than the Nikon.
That dust sitting in front of the lenses must surely affect the performance. I found myself having to wipe the front of the lenses more often than I would have liked.
The focal adjuster on the Vortex was easier to find and adjust than the Nikon. The Vortex’s rubber made adjusting the focus with one finger simple, without having to remove my eye from the target.
The adjuster on the Nikon was thinner and smoother, which meant I had to use my left-hand thumb and forefinger each time.
This may come across as nitpicking to some. But considering most hunting happens during Winter with the hunter wearing gloves, this can become a real issue. It’s another reason why the Vortex seems to have been designed with hunting in mind.
Both the Vortex Impact 1000 and the Nikon Aculon are fantastic entry-level rangefinders. They provide the hunter with the quality and service you pay for, at this price range.
The average hunter would be happy with either in most circumstances. Both gauge general distance well and remove the need to flip between modes and assume various calculations.
The Vortex and Nikon claim to read distances to over 500-yards (and under optimal conditions they can).
Yet their performance and capabilities under field conditions don’t give me the confidence to take a shot that far out.
If I had to choose between the two for my needs as a distance hunter it would be the Vortex Impact 1000.
Here’s Why We Choose The Vortex:
- Grip: it has a better finishing than the Nikon with a feel that provides a little more stick to your hand
- The HCD: this was the real defining point. The fact that the Vortex considers the angle of the shot, makes it appealing to those hunters who prefer to get stuck into the hills of the backcountry
- Price and after-sales service: saving $30-50 on different bits of hunting equipment adds up. This remains true for an expensive product that doesn’t off the protection of a lifetime warranty.