Mankind has a rich history in problem solving, including trying to measure lengths and distances. As early as some 2,200 years ago, the Greeks were already using trigonometry to calculate the distance from the earth to the moon. The calculations Hipparchus made on that point turned out to be fairly accurate, given the rudimentary tools and knowledge of the times.
Fast-forward to the 21st century: We no longer have to spend vast amounts of time considering parallaxes or solving complex equations to come up with precise distances. We now have the benefit of laser rangefinders to provide precise measurements—whether it’s for measuring a room, or figuring out how far away a target is from a given position. Bushnell carries a popular line of rangefinders, and they have recently introduced their most advanced model yet—the Elite 1-Mile CONX. This new model hosts a bevy of sophisticated features, which come together in a comprehensive package to provide the most precise, on-the-fly calculations for a shooter in the field.
For our review, Bushnell provided the Elite 1-Mile CONX combo, which includes both the rangefinder and a Kestrel Sportsman ballistics weather meter. These two tools can work in tandem to provide the best real-time ballistic information available—but it’s important to learn the basics first.
The Elite 1-Mile CONX rangefinder in itself is an excellent tool for the hunter trying to gauge distances to targets. The effective range of the device is from five to 1,760 yards—depending on the target. The more reflective the target, the farther the rangefinder can measure the distance. The magnification is 7X, and the diopter adjustment and focus knob are well made and easy to manipulate. For the sake of brevity, the Elite 1 Mile CONX has several selective-targeting modes to calculate distance: the “Scan” mode for general targets; a “Bull’s-eye” mode that hones in on smaller objects—so the user doesn’t confuse distance information from the background; and a “Brush” mode, which will screen out a brush line while focusing on the farther object. The real star of the show is Bushnell’s ARC (Angle Range Compensation) mode.
One of the most vexing problems a hunter (or sniper) has is how to compensate the holdover to account for steep uphill or downhill angles. Shooting at these steep angles will change the hold (as opposed to shooting in a straight line), thanks to the universal force known as gravity. Bushnell offers a couple of solutions that involve an internal inclinometer.
First, the rangefinder can be put into “Rifle HD” mode, which shows on the rangefinder’s display the line of sight distance, degree of elevations and true horizontal distance. This information can be entered into a secondary ballistics table/engine to get an accurate holdover result.
Alternately, there is the “Rifle” mode. This will not only display the distance in the rangefinder, but it will also show the amount of holdover based on that given distance, and the degree of elevation to the target. This elevation is calculated by the rangefinder’s inclinometer. When paired with the distance information, this mode applies the acquired data to the specific ballistic curve of the rifle category selected from the setup menu. The ARC data from the inclinometer is also used in the “AB” Mode, which will be discussed later in the review. Bushnell has already programmed into the Elite 1 CONX eight general ballistic curves than can be used for a wide gamut of rifles. The company also programmed two rimfire curves, as well.
Those curves, for instance, are listed as Rifle A, Rifle B, Rifle C, etc., in the rangefinder. The user simply determines which ballistic curve applies to the load he/she is using during that session, and selects it.
For example, while using the CSASS rifle with the Black Hills 175-grain MatchKing loads, the “D” ballistic curve was selected, based on information provided on the Bushnell website. For users that like to be extremely precise and tinker with their own loads, Bushnell has provided three custom ballistic-curve slots, which allow the user to program their own information into the rangefinder, using a smartphone and the Bushhell CONX app.
BUSHNELL CONX APP
Another great feature of the Elite 1-Mile CONX rangefinder is its ability to connect to other devices, to provide a greater depth of functionality. As mentioned, the rangefinder can connect to smartphones that run Android and Apple operating systems. Because of the rangefinder’s recent entrance into the market, the Bushnell CONX app requires either Android 4.3 or iOS 8.1 or greater. The Bushnell CONX app pairs to the rangefinder easily enough, via Bluetooth wireless. While connected, real-time information is sent to, and displayed on, the smartphone app, including distance, elevation and holdover. It is during this connection that the user can also access and program his custom ballistic curves into the rangefinder, using the Bushnell CONX app.
“Another great feature … is its ability to connect to other devices to provide a greater depth of functionality … ”
The system resulting from the integration of the two devices works pretty well, though there were a couple of hiccups. For example, the rangefinder only stays on for 30 seconds at a time, and the smartphone app only allows access to the ballistic-curve tables while the rangefinder is on and connected to the phone. This means the user has to keep hitting the power button on the rangefinder, every 20 seconds or so, to keep it on and connected to the smartphone while programming the data into the app.
This process is a bit wonky due to the back and forth. After consulting a Bushnell product development representative, they indicated that a new version of the CONX app will soon be released (before this issue hits the stands); the new version will ping the rangefinder every five seconds to keep it powered on while working within the smartphone app. Such a function would be a great improvement, and would also show that Bushnell listens to customer feedback and seeks to improve its products.
THE KESTREL SPORTSMAN
As most long-distance shooters are aware, environmental factors, like temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and wind speed, can have an impact on the path of a bullet as it approaches its target. That’s why many knowledgeable shooters have turned to Kestrel devices—plugging such information into their ballistics engines to get a more accurate hold for the load they are using at a given time. Like pairing with a smartphone, the rangefinder (when set to “AB” mode) also connects to the Kestrel Sportsman via Bluetooth, to provide distance and elevation data. The Sportsman then loads that data against the ballistic curves saved in its own memory, providing even more accurate holdover information that is relayed back to the rangefinder.
To deliver more accurate information, Kestrel uses the environmental data that it logs in real-time, and factors it into the ballistic- curve calculations. The Kestrel Sportsman also offers a place to store the ballistics information for three guns. The ballistics curves stored in the Bushnell rangefinder are separated into general groups, based on generic information for a variety of loads. As mentioned earlier, ballistics group “D” referred to the load I was using in the LWRC C.S.A.S.S. However, that information is only generic, and isn’t precisely matched to each individual weapon.
For instance, one ballistic curve in the CONX rangefinder I used was based on a 175-grain .308 MatchKing round, fired from a 24-inch barrel. However, the16-inch barrel on the C.S.A.S.S. meant the ballistic behavior of that round wouldn’t precisely match the profile of the general group. In contrast, the Kestrel Sportsman lets the user really drill down to the nitty gritty, and enter in the exact information that applies to the user’s rifle and load of choice. Examples include barrel length, rate of twist, bullet length, muzzle velocity, and so forth.
By crunching the numbers between the weather data it collects and the ballistic-table inputs, the Kestrel can feed a real-time result back to the Elite 1-Mile CONX rangefinder’s display that is tailored specifically to that individual’s rifle at that moment in time.
Unfortunately, with the integration of the two devices and the smartphone apps, true justice can’t be done in a short review such as this. As with any other complex technological device, there’s a learning curve involved—whether it’s a GPS unit, a digital camera or the Bushnell Elite 1-Mile CONX rangefinder. Thankfully, in this case, the learning curve isn’t that steep— especially for those folks already familiar with Kestrel weather meters. But, to be extremely proficient at quickly putting the devices to work in the field, the user definitely needs to practice ahead of time. The payoff will be worth it.
The execution of the Elite 1-Mile CONX rangefinder, along with its integration with the Kestrel Sportsman, is extremely well done. By leveraging advanced technologies, Bushnell has produced an excellent range-finding system that not only provides user basic distance and elevation data for the target, but it also incorporates real-time environmental and ballistic data from the Sportsman into holdover calculations that propagate to the display instantaneously. We’ve come a long way in the last couple of thousand years, and it seems that we’ve just begun. But for now, the Bushnell Elite 1-Mile CONX is one of the most advanced range- finding tools to date—especially when used with the excellent Kestrel Sportsman. Take advantage, enjoy and just imagine what they might think of next.
- Magnification: 7x
- Dimensions: 1.7 x 5.1 x 3.7 inches
- Weight: 12.1 ounces
- Battery: CR123
- Targeting Modes: Scan, Bullseye, Brush
- Weather Resistance: Waterproof, Fogproof
- Accuracy: +/– 0.5 yards
MSRP: $1,495 (with Kestrel Sportsman)
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the October print issue of World of Firepower Magazine.