Bushnell Fusion 1600 ARC Binocular/Rangefinder

By Randy Wakeman

Bushnell Fusion 1600 ARC Binocular/Rangefinder
Illustration courtesy of Bushnell Outdoor Products.

There have been all kinds of fusion attempts in the recent past, the notion being the combining of what is usually considered stand-alone equipment. There are GPS / Binoculars, Rangefinder / Riflescopes, Video / Riflescopes and so forth. Many of the prior combo-tool approaches have been lacking in several ways, skimping on the potential features of one appliance or the other. The Swiss Army Knife approach often sounds interesting, but the combination riflescope / GPS / flashlight / knife sharpener / hook disgorger / fish lip gripper has never fully caught on. That's probably a good thing.


This reminds me of an interesting conversation I had prior to purchasing my last cell phone. “What do you want your phone to do?” was the soulful question from the sweet cell phone saleswoman. It took more explaining than I thought should be necessary to get across the idea that I just wanted a phone to both make and receive telephone calls. I'm not sure this is possible anymore. Though acquiring a phone just to be able to make and receive telephone calls was a goal that stunned the crowd at Verizon, it is still a clock, a travel alarm, a still camera, video camera, calendar/daytimer, MP3 music player, mini video game console and an internet messaging device. That is as spartan and minimalist as it usually gets.


The binocular portion of the FUSION 1600 is high-end roof prism 10x42mm:


·         BaK-4 prisms with PC-3® phase corrective coating

·         RainGuard® HD water repellent lens coating

·         100% waterproof

·         31 oz. weight


Though Bushnell states that the Fusion 1600 is “no larger or heavier than a pair of 10x42mm binoculars,” that claim does not pass close scrutiny. Bushnell's own Legend Ultra-HD 10x42mm binoculars weighs close to a third less than the 31 oz. Fusion 1600. I tested the Legend Ultra-HD 8x42mm binoculars (same frame and about the same weight) and found them to be outstandingly good both in performance and value. So good, in fact, that there is scant little difference in image quality between the Legends and the Fusion. If I had to choose, the winner would actually be the Legend Ultra-HD by a tiny margin.


Both binoculars have the latest incarnation of Bushnell RainGuard HD. However, the Legend Ultra-HD does have a wider field of view (340 ft. @ 1000 yds.) than the Fusion's 310 ft. @ 1000 yards. The Legend also has a better close-focus range of 6.5 feet vs. 10.5 ft. for the Fusion, perhaps of value more for the study of butterflies than big-game hunting.


The rangefinder portion of the Fusion 1600 ARC is chock-full of bells and whistles. There is a “rifle mode” and a “bow mode.” In my opinion, the bow mode makes no sense. A ten power binocular is overpowered for bow hunting. Most would find a rangefinder alone to be more than sufficient.


The Fusion has what Bushnell calls “VDT,” Vivid Display Technology. I'm not sure exactly what it is. The rangefinder readout is a red LED, something that has always been easy for me to read as opposed to a black LCD on a dim lens. As best I can guess, Bushnell has a sort of reddish backlit box where the LED numbers and icons appear. While it is claimed to “dramatically improve contrast, clarity, and light transmission” I really don't know what light transmission they could be referring to. Nevertheless, despite the incomprehensible jargon, it is an easy to read display.


As the Fusion has a built-in inclinometer, it gives you “true ballistic range.” This type of thing has been applied to a wide variety of rangefinders from Leupold to Burris to Bushnell. For big game hunting, it is a worthless feature. Any experienced hunter knows that when shooting up or down at a steep angle, the point of impact will be a bit high. Unless it exceeds the basics of “maximum six inch kill point blank range,” it is a needless complication.


So it goes with the Bushnell “Ballistic Group” letter you plug into the rangefinder. There are letters A through H based on drop, plus two bonus muzzleloader letters (I and J) that Bushnell doesn't explain. The “Ballistic Group” is problematic at longer ranges with loopier trajectories. Here's why: Ballistic Group “A” is used for a load that gives you from 114-146 inches of drop at 500 yards. Now, our angle and ballistic compensating rangefinder is going to tell us after ranging an animal at 500 yards where to hold within one inch.


Problem is, “Ballistic Group A” isn't at all accurate, encompassing 32 inches of drop all within that one setting. Your rangefinder tells you to holdover to an inch or so, but you could still be off 20, 25 or 30 inches by following the display precisely. This makes no sense. If you are aware of your load's trajectory, you don't need this nonsense. All you need is the range and you can take it from there. If you aren't familiar with your load's trajectory, you are even in a worse position. Choosing the “correct” ballistic group gets you electronically within 32 inches of where you want to be. If deer grew 32 inch kill zones, it might be valuable. They don't, so it isn't.


If all of this sounds like a bummer, it is. Like the cute cell-phone woman who couldn't understand I wanted a phone to be a phone, I prefer a binocular to be a binocular and a rangefinder to be a rangefinder. Like my old friend Bob Vondersaar used to say, “You have to be smarter than the thing you are operating.” Problem is, most hunters are a lot smarter than the Bushnell ballistic groups, or at least they should be.


Nevertheless, let's give credit where credit is due. The Bushnell Fusion 1600 is a very competent binocular and it is also an extremely good rangefinder that works through rain-streaked glass. Optically, few hand-held, stand alone rangefinders have the image quality to compete with these 10x42mm binoculars.


The Fusion weighs 31 oz. vs. the 22.5 oz. of the Legend Ultra-HD. If we added in the 12.1 oz. of a Bushnell Elite 1500 rangefinder (7x28mm monocular), we have 34.6 oz. for the bino-rangefinder pair. If weight is the issue, you'll not save much over the pair, much less other binoculars. As price goes, the Fusion retails for $899, street-priced at $820 or so. A consideration is Bushnell's own Legend Ultra-HD binocular set that can be had in the $260 street-price range, leaving you with $550 or so to shop for a rangefinder, or use the one you already own.




THE GOOD: If you want a combo RF/Bino, the Bushnell Fusion 1600 ARC is competent at both tasks.


THE BAD: The Fusion 1600 ARC Binocular/Rangefinder does not deliver on the promise of “no more weight,” its “Bow Mode” makes no sense, the Bushnell “Ballistics Group” attempt is horribly inaccurate and in value the Fusion 1600 ARC does not compare favorably to many other products, including Bushnell's own Legend Ultra-HD binoculars.

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Copyright 2011, 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.