It's no secret that, in the last few years, electronics have come down in price and improved in quality. These days, consumers expect and generally get much better performance with far less sticker shock.
Hunters have benefited too. Microelectronics have opened up a whole new world in GPS navigation, outdoors communications, photography, and range estimation. And each of these things has enhanced the outdoors experience.
The Brunton Laser Echo Rangerfinder CAMO is one example of a high-tech hunting tool that is now easily attainable by budget-conscious hunters. I had the good fortune of field-testing one in a variety of conditions including snow and rain. Here's what I found.
The Brunton Laser Echo Rangefinder
Basic, easy operation
First, it should be noted that this rangefinder is a reasonably priced (MSRP $278.25) unit meant to fulfill the needs of bow and rifle hunters within practical hunting ranges. As such, the company claims that it is accurate within plus or minus 1 yard at ranges from 15 to 440 yards. I tested it at several known distances and found this statement to be true; the unit is very accurate.
Aside from this, its appeal lies in its simplicity.
To begin with, the sight picture is relatively uncluttered. Moreover, the 6X magnification is well suited to the ranges that the Echo handles. It provides just enough magnification to permit you to easily acquire boulders, stumps, and tree trunks in the circular reticle at 200 yards or better. And the field of view (12.2 yards at 100 yards) allows you to find the target in relation to its surroundings at a glance , which makes range acquisition quick - a real benefit in hunting situations.
The units of measurement can be set to meters or yards too; switching is simply a matter of pressing the mode button for 3 seconds.
The Echo offers four simple to use and easily understood modes. The "Standard" mode is the default. It is meant for ranging targets closer than 150 yards. The "<150 yard" mode, as the name implies, allows more accurate ranging for targets past 150 yards. The "Rain" mode permits accurate ranging during rain and snow. Lastly, the "Reflective" mode is meant for highly reflective surfaces like snow. In this mode the unit will also pick up reflective tape and surfaces such as those that might be found on the tee of a golf flag.
Switching between modes is simple - push the mode button and scroll through the menu until the desired setting is found. Again, it's quick and easy - two things that take on critical importance in the field.
Once you are in the mode you desire, all you need do is press the on/adjust button (the only other one) once to activate the laser, and then hold down for 3 seconds to get a range estimation of the target within the reticle. Once you've done it a few times, this becomes second nature.
A little style
As rangefinders go, the Echo is an attractive combination of style and function. The unit, which weighs 6.3 ounces, feels sturdy. It is fairly compact and comes with a neck strap and durable cordura belt case.
Ergonomically speaking, it is easy to palm and conducive to one-hand use. Having said that, I found it far better to sight-in smaller targets with two hands - as this makes the sight picture steadier.
In a move designed to please the hunter's aesthetic, the CAMO version is partially camouflaged in Mossy Oak - the remainder is matt black. It can also be ordered in matt black. This model is known simply as the Brunton Echo Rangefinder (MSRP $260.75).
The unit is powered with one CR2, 3-volt battery, which allows approximately 2500 firings per battery. These batteries are commonly available and relatively inexpensive. This gives the laser a peak output of 33 Watts. It is a class 1 (eye safe) laser.
As for the optics, the unit has a 25mm objective lens, so it essentially operates as a 6 X 25 monocle with laser ranging abilities. Eye relief is 12 millimeters and the unit has a 4-millimeter exit pupil.
The Echo is also water resistant, with multi-coated optics that can take inclement weather - the kind you encounter during hunting season - fairly well. It cannot, however, withstand submersion.
Lastly, Brunton backs each Echo to be free or defects of workmanship and materials for the lifetime of the original owner - something I found comforting as well.
My only real criticism of the Echo is that, on the unit I tested, the buttons were, at first, noticeably stiff. Without fail, anyone who gave it a try, mentioned this almost immediately. The manufacturer has assured me that, with time, they will loosen up. Even so, it's a minor issue that you soon get used to - certainly not a deal breaker if you are considering purchasing one. There's certainly no chance of accidentally firing it off while in its case.
Another limitation that you should be aware of is that the reticle, being black, is lost in low light, so any range finding you do with this unit should be done in reasonable daylight.
Aside from that, some bowhunters might think twice about the unit because it does not have an inclinometer, a feature that will give true horizontal range rather than direct range to target. This, to me, remains a minor flaw that is compensated for by the solid performance, ease of use, and reasonable price. The solution is simple. If you are going to spend time in a tree stand, measure certain landmarks from the ground first.
When all is said and done, Brunton's Echo Laser rangefinder CAMO is an impressive tool. It is simple to use, accurate, and ultimately portable. And though it does not range as far as other units, it covers realistic hunting ranges - let's be honest, few of us need to determine the range of an animal less than 15 yards away, and even fewer need to consider shots beyond 440 yards.
So, if you're interested in a basic, reasonably priced rangefinder that will cover most practical hunting situations, Brunton's Echo Laser Rangefinders, in camo or basic black, are options you should seriously consider.
Steve Galea is a full-time outdoors writer who lives in central Ontario, Canada. He divides his time afield between hunting big game, chasing ducks, geese, and upland game, and fly fishing the lakes and rivers around his home. An award-winning columnist, his work is featured in several community newsapers as well as leading outdoors magazines.