Leupold RX-5000

By Jeff Johnston, FE Hunting & Shooting Editor

Holy mother of Elon, hunting is getting high tech.

For the last two decades Leupold has produced what I consider to be the best all-around rangefinders for hunters. A few reasons for this opinion are: First, all models in the TBR series are fast, accurate, easy to see, and they compensate for elevation which is critical for archers and mountain hunters. Second, the units have great battery life and are known for their toughness. I’ve never had one break, despite dropping plenty of them off treestands and rock slides over the years. Third, they are regarded for their simplicity. Sure, if a long-range shooter wishes to dive into the weeds, he can learn all its modes and functions, but you can also just pick the thing up and punch the button to get a range. 

Recently, however, other companies such as Revic and Sig upped the RF game with similar-sized units that contain all the sensors and ballistic app linkage for producing precise long-range shooting dope. They are amazing tools, no doubt. I wasn’t sure if Leupold would answer—and if it did, with what? But it did in a big way with the new RX-5000 unit.

Here’s the skinny: Leupold partnered with onX Hunt to map the exact coordinates of the location you range. In other words, if you range a tree or an elk, or whatever three miles away, an icon will instantly appear on your onX map app, so you can see how best to navigate to it. At the very least you can decide if it’s even possible to navigate to it, or if it’s even on the legal side of the property boundary. For flatlanders and small-woods hunters—big whoop—but for Western guys who know how hard it is to glass an animal across two canyons and then actually get to it, this is revolutionary stuff. It’s like the laser guidance shit that was for a long time the exclusive domain of the U.S. military.       

Is this technology fair? Do hunters need it? I know that some hunters, including me, pride themselves on being able to spot an animal then mark it using natural objects and woodsmanship to find their way to it. No doubt this tech, like many that have appeared over the last couple decades, will allow non-experts to buy an advantage. But the moral questions are not for me to judge. What I do know is that I’ve had many, many experiences while hunting Idaho bears, Colorado elk, Montana mule deer and BC goats where I sat looking at an animal from a high vantage but knowing that once I got to the other side of the mountain, fully enveloped by timber, I wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever finding it again. I’ve also seen guys shoot animals at long range and then spend hours trying to find the exact location just to begin the tracking job. Many times I’ve wished I had such a tool. Now it’s here. 

You know who else will be all over this thing? Guides. 

It should be noted here that using the pinpointing feature requires downloading not one, but two apps—Leupold’s Control App and the onX Hunt app with an Elite membership that costs $100 yearly. (Leupold provides three months for free with the purchase of the unit.) I generally roll my eyes when any piece of hunting gear requires the use of even one app, but I was amazed at the ease in which the RX-5000 paired with Leupold’s app and the way it seamlessly, instantly and automatically opened onX to reveal the pin when an object was ranged. In testing, I had to calibrate the unit’s compass a few times before getting exact pinpoint locations. 

So that’s the scoop, and I haven’t even touched on all this baby’s other features, including an unbelievable max range of 5,000 yards, on-screen and app-based ballistic outputs for 25 caliber groups, remote (app-based) firing, basic wind dope, 1 yard minimum range for bowhunters, uphill/downhill range compensation, and the ease-of-use and toughness that make Leupold’s rangefinders great for hunters. 

Somehow though, I bet the elk will still kick my ass on a regular basis. 

Cost: $700

Pros: handiest technology for mountain hunters to come along since the rangefinder itself; durable, easy to use     

Cons: another piece of equipment that plenty of us will buy to up our odds, and will then be urged to use our phones in the field more than we already do

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