First Look: The New Leupold RX-5000 Laser Rangefinder

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Leupold’s new RX-5000 laser rangefinder, which was released today, looks and operates like most other Leupold rangefinders. It contains Leupold’s excellent TBR-with-wind lazing engine, 25 ballistic families that guide projectiles, and multiple ranging modes.

But the unit does much more than registering yardage to distant targets and displaying caliber-specific holds for hunters and shooters. Its main value proposition — and the feature that puts the RX-5000 in a new category of electro-optics — is as a remote locating device. When paired with the new Leupold Control app, the RX-5000 uses GPS technology to remotely drop location pins on digital maps like onX Hunt, Google Maps, Apple Maps, and other mapping apps.

In testing over the past month, the practical application of that feature is so obvious that I wondered why it’s not in wider use. The navigation feature enables users to laze a target as far as 3 miles away. Not only is the distance and other ballistic information displayed, but users have the choice of hitting a “Pin Next” command on the app, and the next range will be displayed as a dropped pin on onX, or whatever mapping app users prefer. The pin is identified with Leupold’s distinctive letter L inside a rifle scope’s crosshair.

It’s a simple and intuitive way to mark the location of a downed animal, or to determine land ownership (depending on capability of the mapping app) at the location of the target.

Eric Overstreet, Leupold’s technology product line manager, says the RX-5000 has its origins in eastern Oregon, where he confronted problems familiar to many hunters.

“It’s an area with a lot of checkerboarded private property,” says Overstreet. “Fences [are] everywhere from old homesteads, and not all the fences represent property boundaries. I was hunting a property and wanted to know if that herd of elk a mile away was on land I could hunt — public land, or the neighbor’s land. I was looking at onX, trying to match up landmarks and other features, and I just couldn’t tell. I thought it would be useful to be able to send a waypoint over there to figure out if those elk were huntable or not.”

That’s precisely what the RX-5000 can do, essentially throw a digital stone across the landscape and then map where it lands.

The device achieves this with a very sophisticated digital compass that’s tied to the Global Positioning System. The compass knows exactly where you are, thanks to a specific calibration process. Once you have established a waypoint on the mapping app, you can use other features, such as trail-locating, tracking, and sharing.

See It

  • Weight: 9.7 ounces
  • Max Range on Deer: 2,000 yards
  • Max Range on Trees: 3,100 yards
  • Max Range on Reflective Objects: 5,000 yards
  • Minimum Range: 6 yards
  • Accurate within 2 yards to 1,000 yards
  • Field of View at 1,000 yards: 289 feet
  • Battery: CR123
  • Battery Life: 3,000 actuations
  • Red display
  • 8-power magnification
  • True Ballistic Range
  • Remote Waypoint Pinning on onX, Google Maps, Apple Maps, and more
  • Control App Compatible

The RX-5000 Digital Interface

A look at a pin dropped using the RX-5000.

Andrew McKean

Mapping information is conveyed to users through two separate mobile app platforms. First is the new Leupold Control app. This mobile application, available for Apple devices, allows users to input ballistics, to fire the laser rangefinder remotely, and to tell the device to drop a virtual pin on the landscape.

That waypoint is then displayed on a mapping app. The unit is compatible with onX, Google Maps, and Apple Maps, and sources say that other mapping apps are likely to be available in the Leupold ecosystem in the future. Users can use the Leupold-branded waypoint just as they’d use traditional waypoints, sharing them with hunting buddies, saving them as annotated landmarks, and using their location to learn ownership, latitude/longitude, and elevation details.

It’s worth noting that, especially for new users like myself, every time you play around with the pinning feature, you are laying down additional digital waypoints. I found myself spending many tedious minutes manually removing all the waypoints I established as I was simply lazing the landscape.

Navigating the Leupold Control app is simple and intuitive. It displays all the ballistic and ranging information that is delivered through the device, but it’s a better user experience because the app displays information in easy-to-read text. The device displays information in red OLED segments. You’ve probably experienced that confusing feedback. Is that a 9 or a G, represented by cryptic red segments? So having an alternative – via the mobile app – to the ranging information is useful.

The app also allows users to receive software updates and bug fixes instantaneously.

Read Next: Best Rangefinders for Hunting

Rangefinding Capability

The RX-5000 comes with a tripod saddle.

Andrew McKean

The guts of the new RX-5000 will be familiar to hunters and shooters who have deployed Leupold’s extensive line of laser rangefinders. Any unit with the TBR/W ballistic engine — this includes the RX-2800, RX-1400i, and BX-4 Range HD binocular in addition to the new RX-5000 — has ballistic features that consider angle to target, projectile characteristics, and the influence of wind on the projectile.

That wind-compensation capability – that’s the W in the TBR/W nomenclature — advises users on holds that are influenced by a 10 mph full wind, which is 90 degrees from the shooter from the right or the left. Fractional holds are derived by halving those full wind values, and if the wind is twice the standard value, users simply double their hold.

The RX-5000, which uses Leupold’s excellent 905-nanometer ranging engine, has longer reach than its peers.

“In regular mode, which is TBR LOS [line-of-sight], the unit will easily range trees out to 3,500 yards and even farther,” says Overstreet. “But if you put it in Long Range mode, things get interesting. You should be able to range 5,000-yard targets easily, and we’ve gotten ranges out to 6,000 yards.”

The ability to consistently and precisely range distances beyond three miles in Long Range mode is as much science as art. The science devolves to discussions of reducing device noise and amplifying sensitivity. The art requires using accessories and an understanding of which targets have the best reflectivity (hint: it’s green trees, because chlorophyll in the leaves is especially reflective to lasers).

“We ship the rangefinder with a tripod saddle, and it’s highly recommended for long-range ranging,” says Overstreet. The Leupold Control app enables users to remote trigger the device, which eliminates hand shake and enables dead-on ranging at longer distances.

Read Next: Leupold RX-FullDraw 5 Review

Pros and Cons of the RX-5000

The RX-5000 TBR/W is a ground-breaker. Its navigational talents, expressed through the mobile apps, are simple, intuitive, and extremely useful for hunters, especially Western hunters who confront shifting land ownership and wide-open vistas in the course of an outing.

But users should pay close attention to the calibration process required to set the digital compass to users’ specific location. The user manual shows users how to tumble the device so it fixes its precise physical point in the universe. But even this simple process is fraught, says Overstreet.

“We do a very advanced calibration of each unit at the factory with a specialized routine that we spent a couple years developing,” says Overstreet. “But users are required to do a calibration when they get their device. The idea is that they’re calibrating their unit to their area and their specific magnetic field.”

Overstreet says the enemies of this digital compass include the powerful magnets in many binocular and rangefinder harnesses along with ferrous metals of pickups, watchbands, and even cellphones, all of which will negatively influence the calibration process.

“In my opinion, compass accuracy is going to be the biggest customer challenge because there’s not a lot of awareness around compasses and what can influence compasses,” says Overstreet. “People need to recalibrate every time they go to a new area or in a new weather system, and they need to be sure they don’t have ferrous metals around them.”

Precise calibration results in precise waypoint location. If users are careless about calibrating their units, then they could receive imprecise waypoints.

I also found that Leupold’s established TBR/W engine, with its 25 selectable load groups, is a little dated. My test rifle and load was a 6.5 Creedmoor and Hornady’s 143-grain ELD-X bullet. But that particular bullet, which I measured with Garmin’s amazing Xero C1 Pro at 2,690 fps, isn’t included in Leupold’s ballistic groups. So I had to pick the closest-best load to my favorite bullet, which is one of the most popular hunting bullets in the pantheon of 6.5 Creedmoor bullets.

Final Thoughts on the RX-5000

The value proposition of the new RX-5000 — its ability to remotely place waypoints — is so disruptive that it deserves hunters’ attention far beyond its pedestrian ballistics contributions. This is a new animal, and it tackles the intersection of precise place and applied ballistics both elegantly and intuitively.

Priced at $700, Leupold’s RX-5000 is an investment, but it’s also the first iteration of a new family of laser rangefinders that will also help you find your way home. It’s hard to put a dollar value on that capability.

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