Nikon Prostaff 7i Laser Rangefinder Review
The rangefinder is a tool that every hunter should have, in my opinion. While I’ve hunted for many years without one, the inclusion of this tool in my hunting kit has increased my effectiveness as a hunter many fold. With a wide variety of options available, it’s hard to settle on one. Especially when you consider pricing ranges from as little as $100, on up to over $1000.
In May of 2015, Nikon announced their new Prostaff 7i laser rangefinder, which offers some appealing specifications for a model in its price range ($299 or less). Nikon notes in their press release that the 7i “expanded its line of accuracy-driven laser rangefinders”, thanks to the use of a quality laser and their ID (incline/decline) technology. Nikon’s ID technology helps the 7i deliver accurate results up to 1300 yards, whether you’re shooting on flat ground, or in the mountains. They even note that the 7i’s range readings are accurate within +/- 1/2 yard out to 600 yards, +/- 1 yard out to 1000 yards, and +/- 1 and 1/2 yards out to 1300 yards. Those are some pretty impressive claims for a sub $300 rangefinder.
As soon as the 7i was announced, we contacted Nikon and requested a sample. While I’ve used various affordable rangefinders in the past, I’ve always found that they didn’t work well while hunting varmints and other small game, especially at 300+ yards. This is because the prey we are trying to range can be very small, particularly when hunting varmints, like ground hogs or prairie dogs at distance. It is very frustrating trying to use objects around your target to try and get an accurate reading, which in the end can be off by more than 30 yards (from my experience), due to objects appearing closer than they really are. I experienced this very issue while out in Arizona hunting prairie dogs last fall. Needless to say, after reading Nikon’s claims, I was interested to see how well this new 7i worked on small game.
See our video review below:
Measurement Range: 8 – 1300 yds (approx. 7 – 1200 meters)
Increment Reading: .1 yds
Accuracy: .5 yards out to 600, 1 yard out to 1000, and 1.5 yards out to 1300
Angular Field of View (Real): 7.5°
Viewfinder Display options: meters or yards
Eye Relief: 18.3mm
Diopter Adjustment: +/-4°
Power Source: 1 CR2 Lithium Battery
Size: 4.4 (L) x 1.5 (W) x 2.8 (H) inches
Weight: 6.2 oz without battery
Objective Lens Diameter: 21mm
Angle Compensation: Yes
Tru Target Technology: Yes
Auto power down: Yes, after 8 seconds of no use
Applications: Gun Hunting, Bow Hunting, Target Shooting
Close up look
About a week or so after contacting Nikon, our 7i laser rangefinder arrived. Below are some close-ups of the unit and the package’s contents.
The contents of the box include the 7i rangefinder, a handy neck strap, the case, and the manual. Nikon also includes one CR2 battery.
Here you can see a size comparison with the Nikon 7i rangefinder next to a 20 round AR magazine.
The controls for the 7i are simple and well placed on the body of the unit. They are located along the top, spaced far enough apart to ensure you don’t press the wrong button. The forward most button (left in this photo) changes the display mode (meters or yards), while the rear button is used to power up the unit and to take a measurement.
The ocular lens offers an eye-relief of 18.3mm, or just under 3/4 of an inch. There is also a diopter adjustment to match your eyesight. The magnification is set at 6x, with Nikon noting a field of view of 7.5 degrees. You can also see the neck strap attachment point.
Here you can see an image of what the display looks like when you are using the 7i (photo courtesy of Nikon). You get a cross-type reticle, then when you press the measure/power button, the “X” will appear. The distance will then be displayed above the reticle. At the bottom right is the battery level display.
The objective lens measures 21mm, and transmits a good deal of light; even in the late afternoon around dusk. Here you can also see the laser measuring unit (bottom). Both have a “multilayer coating for bright, clear images”.
On the bottom, towards the rear of the rangefinder, you’ll find the battery compartment. It features a locking type door, which is sealed from dust and moisture thanks to a rubber o-ring. The 7i uses a single CR2 lithium battery. Nikon does not note an expected battery life. However, the 7i does auto shut down after 8 seconds of not being used. I have been using the 7i we have in for testing for about a month now, hunting several days a week, and mine is still showing that the battery is full.
Look and Feel
Right off the bat I was liking what I was seeing with the new 7i. The unit has a nice grippy rubber exterior, and the main control buttons are spaced far enough apart to ensure you don’t accidentally hit the wrong button. The body is also compact, fitting into the pocket of a coat or hunting jacket easily. They also include a nice carrying case that can be attached to your belt, and an adjustable neck strap.
Nikon notes that the 7i is waterproof and fogproof, and that the battery chamber is water resistant; thanks to a rubber gasket seal. While you probably don’t want to submerge the 7i, being caught out in the rain or snow while hunting shouldn’t be a problem. Even if you were to take a spill into a creek or something, I think the 7i would survive (so long as you don’t submerge it for too long). While they don’t note this, I believe the 7i is also dust resistant, since the same seals that help repel water will also help ensure that dust does not make its way inside the unit.
The reticle of the 7i worked well during my use. The view is not too busy, and it’s nice to see the battery level indicator. The cross hairs are thin enough that they don’t cover too much of your target, even when shooting at small critters at distance. The center of the cross-type reticle is open, and that is what you put onto your intended target.
The ocular lens on the 7i notes an eye relief of 18.3mm (not quite 3/4 of an inch). At first, I had a hard time getting a clear picture with this unit. It wasn’t until I had used it for a while that I found a comfortable and repeatable method to ensure proper eye relief. I basically have to press the eye cup up against the bone structure of my eye brow/nose, which allows me to quickly and easily get a good sight picture. Once I learned this method, I never really had an issue with getting proper eye relief.
One thing that I did not like about the 7i when I first started using it, which still causes some frustration at times today, is the Power On / Range button. While it’s in a comfortable position, I found often that if you don’t press it just right, you’ll get no response from the unit; no matter how hard you press inward. This caused some frustration while out hunting ground hogs. However, with practice I learned the “sweet spot”, and now I don’t run into this issue too often. But, it’s still frustrating when it does happen. I think Nikon could have done a better job with the operation of these buttons.
As you can see pictured above, Nikon includes a handy carrying case with the 7i. This case can securely snap to your belt or pack thanks to a dual locking velcro strap, which helps ensure it won’t come off while you are busting brush. I used it on my belt more often than not when out in the field, which put the unit in a comfortable and easily accessible position on my person. I never had any issues with it coming off either. While I like the velcro design of the belt strap, I worry that over time if will wear or get filled with debris. I would rather have a sewn strap, personally.
Out in the field
Like I mentioned previously, I’ve already used the Nikon 7i out in the field for some varmint hunting. Besides the small frustrations I mentioned above, I am really happy with the 7i’s performance. So far it has shown to be very accurate on small game out past 500 yards. I was blown away at how small of an object I can effectively get a range reading off of. As long as I hold the unit steady enough, it has no problem ranging a small ground hog at 575 or more yards.
While hunting a few holes at about 100 – 150 yards, I noticed that there were some other hogs off in the distance. I brought the finder up quick and within seconds I could see that the two ground hogs were between 550 and 576 yards from me; one being about 26 yards further than the other. Due to my previous experiences with rangefinders and small game, I was very impressed with how easy it was to range such small targets. But, is it accurate? Yes, it is.
First, before I actually got out the tape measure, I was hunting a local farm that the farmer has been complaining about ground hogs eating his beans. You see, whistle pigs love to eat on sprouting and young bean plants, and they can actually eat more than you would think. I’ve heard from sources that one adult ground hog can eat up to 1/3 of an acre of beans! Anyway, there was one smart pig that I’d been trying to get for a couple days. It seemed that as soon as I’d exit the adjacent wheat field, he’d take off for his hole. Mind you, the edge of this wheat field was over 350 yards from his position. So, I decided to move a bit west of his position, and stayed into the wheat a good bit. Sure enough, he stayed out this time, and I ranged him at 401 yards! I double checked my dope cheat sheet, and it noted that at 400 yards I needed to add 1.4 mils in elevation. I did so, and took a shot. I had just missed the hog, pulling the shot just left of him. I pulled a bit right and took another shot. Hit! This time I nailed the hog. I attribute the first miss due to my shooting position; kneeling in the tall wheat. Needless to say, at that moment I was confident that the 7i was spot on.
Next I actually pulled out the tape measure. The longest tape I have on hand is 100 feet. I asked my son to assist me, and we walked out 100 feet away from each other. Now, Nikon notes that this rangefinder is accurate within 1/2 a yard out to 600 yards. In my 100 foot (33.3 yard) test, I found it to be accurate within 2/10 – 3/10 of a yard. The first time I hit the range button, it read 33.2 yards. Next it was 33.3, then 33.4, etc. I was very surprised that it was that accurate.
I also found the 6x magnification to be quite pleasing, not only for ranging, but also for glassing a field. The magnification is enough that you don’t really need a set of binoculars to scan fields to see if anything is out. This allows the compact 7i to take the place of another tool you typically find on a hunter, a set of binoculars, further lighting his or her load. The 21mm objective lens seemed to resolve plenty of light for hunting into the dusk hours, too.
The new Nikon Prostaff 7i Laser Rangefinder is a solid unit, which performs very well. It’s extremely accurate, beating their claimed accuracy (+/- .5 yards out to 600 yards) during my tests. With a suggested retail price of $299, it’s not the most affordable rangefinder on the market. However, it’s not the most expensive either. Compared to models with similar features, the 7i offers a great value, and it’s well worth the cost in my opinion. I only had a couple of complaints while using the 7i out in the field, both of which are minor enough that they would not distract me from owning one. In fact, I plan to purchase the unit I tested. Whether you choose the 7i, or one of many other great rangerfinders that are on the market, I highly recommend you include one in your hunting kit.
Click here to get your Nikon Prostaff 7i Laser Rangerfinder from the folks at Brownell’s. Remember, by using these links, you are helping support AR15 Hunter. The more support we have, the more products we can evaluate, and the more hunts we can go on.
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