Bushnell Elite 1500 Rangefinder

By Randy Wakeman

Elite 1500 Rangefinder
Illustration courtesy of Bushnell

Laser rangefinders are, in my opinion, the most valuable single hunting instrument to be introduced over the last several years. They have come a very long way; there is just no excuse for today's hunter to not know the distance of his quarry. The loopier your trajectory, as in muzzleloaders, the more valuable a quality rangefinder can be to you in insuring exact shot placement and field effectiveness.

Two basic styles of ranging are common: in stand hunting, it is a quick matter to range objects and determine your "sphere of influence." For stalking, you may prefer to range your trophy rather than objects, before taking your shot.

As in most things electronic, it is fast-moving arena. The very best laser rangefinders of just a few years ago fall flat in comparison to today's better units. A while back, I performed a somewhat comprehensive comparison of most rangefinders on the market in an article entitled "Rangefinder Roundup," found elsewhere on this site. At that time, the Bushnell Scout, Bushnell Legend and the Leica LRF 900 scan units were rated on top.

New for 2005 is the Bushnell Elite 1500 laser rangefinder. When I first started experimenting with it, a few things were readily apparent: the display is lightning fast compared to any other unit I'd tested. It ranges your target instantly. The 7x26mm monocular is far brighter than previous Bushnell units, a big improvement, as it makes the liquid crystal display much more vivid in lower light conditions. The monocular is a fully multi-coated optic, and features the excellent Bushnell RainGuard on top of that. Like its smaller brother, the Legend, the Elite 1500 is both waterproof (not just "resistant") and it floats.

It goes a big step further, however. This unit is diopter focusable, a feature passed up in the Legend for the sake of its waterproof integrity. The ability to focus the monocular is a huge plus versus the prior perma-focus approach.

The Elite 1500 is not a compact rangefinder; it measures 1.7 x 5.1 x 3.7 inches and weighs 11.8 oz. It uses a single 9 volt radio battery, a plus compared to the lithium camera batteries used before. It ranges as close as 5 yards and outranges every rangefinder I have ever tested. The Elite 1500 will quickly give you a reliable range at ranges and conditions where no other rangefinder can, simple as that. It gave me reliable ranges on reflective objects, such as a light colored truck, to well past 1300 yards.

A new feature is the backlit display that turns on a green light every time you use the unit. This is the sole feature that I have mixed emotions about--I wish there was a way to disable it. As the monocular is so very clear and bright, this unit needs backlighting less than any other LCD rangefinder I've used. It does work somewhat, but I found it more annoying than helpful.

Not a true "backlight," I found it more of a "sidelight" that floods the lens with a green mist from the side. Some may find it helpful, but I'm not one of those folks. By adding a "disable backlight" function, Bushnell could please everyone. That is my sole nit to pick with this unit.

By moving from what is termed analog technology to digital algorithms in the unit's chipset, most of the old rain, zip, and brush modes are built in. There is a "brush" mode that compels the unit to give you the range of the farthest object, and a "bullseye" mode that gives you the reading of the closest object. Though not unwelcome, I found that the unit did such an outstanding job in its default mode that the optional modes were never needed.

The Elite 1500 quickly, accurately gives you a reliable range when most other units fail to read, including through glass. It is also refreshingly silent in operation. The Elite 1500 has a generously sized rectangular activation button on top that you really can't miss, even with gloved or semi-frozen hands. There is nothing to search for, or look for.

The 7 power monocular is a good choice, giving you enough precision for long-range work without excessively dimming the monocular. Eye relief is 19mm. The 3.71mm exit pupil combined with the fully multi-coated glass yields a pleasing image without too much bulk.

Even the semi-soft case is a standout; obviously extra attention was paid to the case. It protects the unit well and can be belt mounted or carried on a neck strap with equal ease.

Congratulations to Bushnell for their Elite 1500!

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Copyright 2005, 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.