Reviews

Know the Distance to Go the Distance — Bushnell Elite 1 Mile ARC Rangefinder Review

A guest post by Jonathan Owen, CEO of SHWAT.com

“I was robbed!”

Famous words uttered by more than one hunter blaming circumstance for a miss. Or a missed opportunity, for that matter. I’m not the only one guilty of having uttered that phrase when I should have said, “I blew it” or “I wasn’t prepared for that.” All kinds of scenarios come to mind here — the animal moved, the wind changed, a stick broke underfoot that caused the prey to bolt unexpectedly. Maybe you’ve confidently squeezed the trigger, over- or under-shooting your target because you didn’t correctly determine the range. In my case, not knowing the range was cause for a severe beating of my head against the red Dodge truck’s door.

Bushnell 1 Mile Elite ARC Rangefinder and Pouch
The Bushnell Elite 1 Mile ARC rangefinder is pocketable, as long as you have a jacket pocket available or generous cargo-pants pockets. Photo courtesy SHWAT.com.

To date, it was the biggest hog I’ve ever personally seen. Before SHWAT was even a thought, my hunting partner and I were probably 30 miles from the world famous Spike Box Ranch. We’d seen the beast on a couple of occasions over a few different hunting trips. The first time we saw it, we thought it was cow. The light was low and distance unknown.

This time, this hunt, this evening, the beast appeared alone, as always, feeding on the tall, still green wheat. With the low light fading and no night vision, we spotted its giant gray mass somewhat downhill from the road.

I had my .223/5.56 Accurate Armory AR-15 with a Trijicon ACOG ECOS mounted. My buddy had his grandfather’s .30-06 with a nondescript scope on it. I’d already killed plenty of hogs with my set up. Same for my buddy. Truthfully, I wasn’t about to shoot the giant pig with my gun at that distance.

What distance? I couldn’t say.

So we stood there, guns in hand, guessing at the distance, debating whether I’d try his Grandfather’s Remington 700 or if we should try closing the distance a bit. A college athlete, he was a lot better at estimating yardage than I, but with the light fading and a lack of experience we concluded we’d opt for closing in on foot.

After a long walk of what we now know to be more than 400 yards, we discovered the giant wild hog had vanished. Seriously bummed, we walked back to the truck.

Some of you are seasoned hunters who can judge wind and distance with nothing short of Jedi Knight intuition and accuracy. I’m better than I once was, but I’m not that good. If only I’d had decent range finder that night…

Bushnell Elite 1 Mile ARC

I do now: The Bushnell Elite 1 Mile ARC. Okay, I’m probably never going to shoot at a hog a mile off, but historically the best specifications seem to work under only the rarest of perfect circumstances. For example, I once had a Bluetooth headset that wouldn’t work more than 10 feet from my cell phone. Should have been 30. Last year at Tac Pro Shooting Center, I shot 1000 yards, breaking clay pigeons under Bill Davison’s coaching in my precision rifle class. So I figure if I’m interested in shooting 1500 yards, I should get rangefinder claiming even more. The one mile claimed by Bushnell equates to 1760 yards.

Bushnell 1 Mile Elite ARC Rangefinder
The “ARC” part of the Bushnell Elite 1 Mile ARC rangefinder’s name translates to Angle Range Compensation. The rangefinder simultaneously measures the angle of your shot while measuring the range to target. Photo courtesy SHWAT.com.

The first thing I noticed about the Elite 1 Mile ARC was the long name. The second thing was the size. It’s still pocketable, as long as you have a jacket pocket available or generous cargo pants pockets. But big size delivers big features. Features like a large 26mm objective that’s super easy to look through with a very nice field of view. The 7x magnification through multicoated optics is pretty sweet, too.

There are only two buttons on the Elite 1 Mile Arc: Mode and Power. The latter is the large button on top that both powers up the unit and initiates the laser range finding. Tap the button to turn on, then place the illuminated circle over your intended point of measurement and hold the button. The information you get back will include range in your preference of yards or meters and the angle in degrees up or down. Here’s where it gets exciting.

The “ARC” part of the name translates to Angle Range Compensation. Shooting at significant up or down angles alters range-to-target calculations. The Bushnell Elite 1 Mile ARC rangefinder simultaneously measures the angle of your shot while measuring the range to target. Different ARC modes will give you different information in the display:

  • Rifle HD Mode — Display shows the measured line of sight, the angle, and the true horizontal distance. The steeper the angle, more significant the difference will be, and your actual horizontal difference is the shorter one in any case. The true horizontal distance is the one that matters. Use it to line up your shot.
  • Rifle Mode — This mode incorporates data from your load’s caliber and ammunition and works from 100-800 yards. Pretty crazy. Instead of using a ballistic calculator like iStrelock or others, your Bushnell ARC rangefinder does the math instantly while range finding. It tells you bullet drop in your preference MOA, MIL, centimeters or inches. It knows your load data based on a table.

The table groups something like 2000 loads into eight sets and bases its calculations on the group. It should be pretty close, but would you believe it lacks my currently-on-hand Remington 300 Win Mag 180-grain load? I can envision a future product that allows you to input data from a manufacturer or your own tested results for a given load via a Bluetooth app on your phone or USB computer interface.

Bushnell 1 Mile Elite ARC Rangefinder
The Bushnell Elite 1 Mile ARC rangefinder has four display modes: Regular Mode (displays line of sight distance only) and three Selective Targeting Modes, Standard, Bullseye, and Brush. Photo courtesy SHWAT.com.
  • Regular Mode — Displays line of sight distance only.
  • In the real world, animals are often found in more complex terrain that can fool some laser range finders. The Elite 1 Mile ARC has three Selective Targeting Modes to optimize its results:
  • Standard Mode — It scans targets just like you’d expect. See a deer standing alone in the middle of a clear field reading American Hunter while sunning itself on a cool fall day? This is your mode.
  • BullsEye Mode — If your target is coyote with a hillside some unknown distance behind it, this is your mode. It’s designed to isolate and read the nearest object when a further object could have a stronger reflective property.
  • Brush Mode — Let’s say you’re targeting a giant wild hog that has some brush or a tree limb in close proximity between it and you. This is your mode. It is designed to measure the farthest object. Range Mr. Pig confidently, then give him the dirt nap.

Performance

The truth is that it’s real hard to measure performance across the board. Different targets reflect the range finding beam differently. The slighter the angle of the hillside you’re targeting, the harder it will be to get a reading back. Atmospheric conditions can play a role.

Here’s what I’ve found: In light rain at the Spike Box Ranch, I could get readings out to 1550 yards when ranging brush-covered hillsides. In freezing rain and snow, I measured and then confirmed by driving a highway sign’s distance of 1624 yards. Measured against another rangefinder I have on hand, both were within a yard of each other at distances between 100 and 320 yards.

All this functionality doesn’t come super cheap. I found this online for between four and five hundred dollars. The limited lifetime warranty gives me some confidence in the long-term value of that kind of investment.

Not knowing your target’s distance can cost you. Not just in a miss, but in a memory, bragging rights and more. I’ve come to really appreciate the challenge of long-range shooting and hog eradication. To the uninitiated, shooting feral hogs at 500 yards or more might seem unscrupulous, or even unethical. In reality, it’s completely reasonable with the right gear, the right skills and sufficient practice. No matter how good your rifle, optic and loads, you have to know the range. I’ve not found a more versatile, more robust unit than the Bushnell Elite 1 Mile ARC. It now goes wherever I hunt.

Do you use a rangefinder? Tell us about your experiences in the comment section.

Jonathan Owen, the CEO of Special Hog Weapons and Tactics, started pulling triggers in the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Soon he was teaching air-rifle marksmanship and gun safety. His introduction to hunting after college was frozen season of absentee deer, leading him to conclude he was a shooter, not a hunter. That lead to a civilian fascination with all things tactical. Later, when introduced to the dynamic world of tactical hog hunting, all that changed and Special Hog Weapons and Tactics was born. Today, Owen is a highly regarded industry professional who loves both the shooting and hunting aspects of the firearms community. A writer, photographer, videographer, storyteller and consultant, he loves bringing new experiences and gear to anyone who’ll pay attention. This material is adapted from Special Hog Weapons And Tactics. Copyright ©2014 SHWAT.com.

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Comments (7)

  1. Mostly I don’t comment on electronics but Bushnell nailed with the Elite 1 mile ARC. Its a complete package, it’s the all in one ranging system that those of us who shoot Long Distance have wanted without breaking the bank to have or having to have several pieces of equipment to deal with.
    I haven’t had an oppertunity to stretch its legs out completely yet but have been very satisfied with the preformance to date in conjunction with shooting my .338 Lapua at 1300 meters. It has proved to be quickly responsive and provides the information needed to make accurate fast long distance shots all in one source and at a decent price.
    I’m looking forward to using it in conjunction with the .416 Barret with its BORS computer system. It will be an excellent way to verify what seems to date to be accurate information from this Bushnell product.
    I also suspect that for the type of hunting that I particapate in, that which involves LD, Hi an Low angle shots, that this instrument will lighten the load, empty a pocket or two while providing the information to make these shots.
    I’ve always been kinda leary of suggesting electronics to others but this Bushnell sets the bar in three very important areas of distance shooting. Amount/type of information provided and its presentation to the shooter, its effective envelope, and it’s very good cost point.
    After I get the .416 and a hunt or two under my belt with it I’ll revisit this blog and give an end users view. Looking forward to seeing how it operates in bad weather and winter.
    Great write up Jonathan! I’m pretty sure a lot of the shooters you know are excited about this all in one system.

  2. Secundius ….

    Read the article again. The paragraph that begins with “There are only two buttons …” says the device transmits a laser beam to range the target. And the context of the piece, how did that not tip you off to the technology of the device ? How do YOU range YOUR targets, yell at them and time the echo coming back ?

    1. @ Leon.

      All I see is two buttons, one marked “mode” and the other unknown, If you can see “laser” marked on it. Then you have great eyesight. My first thought was, it’s “ratio-metric” range finding.

    2. @Leon
      Hey Leon,
      I still have and use an excellent Lica split image rangefinder that I got years ago its a bit big and bulky compared with rangefinders found today and dosn’t have all the bells and whistles but it dosen’t use any batteries either. This Lica accurate to 1/3 of a meter at 850 meters.
      The Mk.1 Eyeball that we were all issued in combination with the bio-computer we were also provided with if given some time, expierance and training makes for a remarkable ranging system. It may not give you a 1/2 meter of aaccucery at the longer distances bug there isn’t any reason that with a little practice that one can’t estimate ranges in the 400 to 600 meter envelope with a 25 to 35 meter accucery. Just saying. Its a good skill to be able to range and angle a target by eye, determin wind and make the shot calculations in ones head without assistance from electronics. I don’t think that one can truly appreciate what these devices really do for us if we don’t have some an understanding of the process from an unassisted view point. If your an Archery shooter this will make a lot of sense. The same skill, just extended, seve well too.

  3. Nice article. But I’m wondering why I had to go through Goggle, to find out it’s a Laser Rangefinder. I mean you had no room in the article to mention that fact. And the cheapest price I found was $444.55 USD.

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