The Bushnell Elite 1600 ARC is quite the package of wonder. In a product area dominated by names like Leica, Vectronix, and Swarovski, a company not known for its range finding performance is making people take notice. When Bushnell released the Elite 1600 ARC and the Fusion ARC range finders the range finding industry was taken a little off guard. Bigger names that had been the dominant force in the market were finding themselves over-performed and under-priced.
These aren’t statements to be taken lightly, and I would hesitate to write what I have had I not seen it with my own eyes. While other options may provide ranging capabilities to more extreme distance, they do so at much higher price points, what Bushnell has really done with the Elite 1600 ARC is created an entry level range finder at extremely competitive pricing that will perform as well or better than the competition until you hit price points two, three, and four times as high as what Bushnell offers. For a simple device made of glass, plastic, and a rubber coating, this little device will go toe to toe with some much more costly options that reside higher up in the rangefinder food chain.
My first range finder was a Nikon Monarch Gold 1200 model. It was a gift and it served me fine for what I used it for, which was fairly short range distance verification in good weather under ideal conditions at a square range. As I found myself getting ready to jump into competitive precision shooting I found that the Nikon was having trouble even at around the 500 yard mark, despite its rating of 1200 yards. This was a range finder that was produced in an era where the max range on a range finder was a cherry picked performance under perfect conditions with large, reflective, targets. That was an era Bushnell helped stomp out of existence. Having trouble even tagging reflective buildings at 500-600 yards I decided it was time to upgrade my range finder before I found myself trying to range much smaller targets in a field match environment.
Enter the Bushnell Elite 1600 ARC. There were good things to be said about the unit wherever I looked. The other weapon of choice from Bushnell’s offerings were the Fusion ARC binoculars with the same range finding capabilities as the Elite 1600 ARC Monocular. This is the primary difference between those models, monocular versus binocular vision and greater magnification power in the binocular models. Like many people, I was trying to keep costs reasonable as I prepared for a match with other associated costs already mounting. The Elite 1600 ARC offers extremely competitive pricing at around $450-500 Dollars USD. If you can find a used model being sold by somebody that made a jump to a higher performing unit at a higher price point, they can be had for even less as a used item. Mine was in perfect condition after only a few weeks of use by the original owner and I only wound up paying around $325 for it as a used item.
The unit out performed every expectation I could have had. I went to the same spot and ranged buildings, trees, vehicles, and anything else I could see with such ease it was amazing the difference in performance over the Nikon. I’m able to hit full size IPSC steel targets, standing unsupported, at over 1000 yards with my Bushnell Elite 1600 ARC. It is a fantastic range finder for the money. I didn’t realize quite how fantastic until I attended a large scale precision rifle match. Several stages I witnessed guys breaking out their expensive Leicas, that they paid around $800 bucks for, struggling to range the small targets scattered across the natural terrain of the field match. The Bushnell Elite 1600 ARC never let me down. The best performance of the week was ranging a hill with a target at 1410 yards, much to the dismay of the Leica crowd. Leica has since released improved versions of their range finders, however the price difference remains.
The Bushnell Elite 1600 ARC has several useful features the precision rifle crowd, but also the hunters among us. There are two main modes worth noting, bullseye and brush mode. They each do polar opposites of the same function. Bullseye mode helps you narrow down the range on small targets at distance by ignoring targets at greater distance with better signal strength. This would be good for the precision rifle crowd. The brush mode is going to be popular among the hunters, it does the opposite. It ignores closer targets with better signal strength and displays range of smaller targets at distance. If you are ranging through vegetation this is a handy feature to avoid false ranges off of brush, branches, and trees when trying to range your primary target.
There is also an Angle Range Compensation function, the ARC, from the name, which when paired with the loaded ballistic profiles, will give you corrected slope ranges for your target. However, the feature is somewhat hamstrung by only being able to use the profiles on the unit, if your weapon or ballistics don’t match, you won’t get good dope for your shot. If Bushnell allows you to load your own custom profiles in the future, that would be a real game changer product. The angle finder is still useful as it will tell you along with the range, whether or not slope is a factor in the shot, and what the angle is so you can add it to your ballistic solution. This can be used both for rifle and bow modes depending on your weapon of choice.
I have not encountered any durability issues with the Bushnell Elite 1600 ARC. I’ve used it for some time now and it has seen use on hot days in the triple digits with windy terrain blowing around dust and dirt. It has also performed well on colder days courtesy of the temperature swings here in the Midwest and it has done so without a single hiccup. It’s taken an unguided trip to the ground once or twice and continues to function flawlessly. The rubber armor on the surface of the Bushnell Elite 1600 ARC helps alleviate the bumps and bruises that come with trekking around in the wilderness be it for hunting, shooting, or whatever you happen to be doing when it bounces off a tree or slips from your cold fingers on a frigid morning.
All in all this is an excellent range finder for the money. While some features are more suited to the hunting crowd with weapons and ballistics that match those loaded on the unit, the angle finder and range calculations that the Bushnell Elite 1600 ARC provides can not be matched for the price. There are more powerful alternatives available, and we are trying to get a hold of them for review, but they come in at much higher price points.