A few months ago I was singing the praises of my recently bought Leica Rangemaster CRF 1000 to Colin Perkovic of Leica Australia's Sports Optics division when he asked if I'd considered the Leica CRF 1600-B model with extra sensors and ballistics functions? And if not, would I like to review one? My answer was of course a foregone conclusion and a couple of weeks later Colin had sent me the Leica Rangemaster CRF 1600-B in a well padded package containing the unit, as well as a lanyard, Cordura carry case and a 3V Lithium CR2 battery.  The 1600-B is an impressive looking unit, barely larger than a pack of smokes, with a build quality you feel as well as see and weighing a mere 185 grams thanks to it's carbon fibre reinforced body and aluminium chassis. The unit is equipped with a 7x24 monocular and a laser rated to 1600 yds with an accuracy of + or - 1m at 500m and is also claimed to be waterproof to a depth of 1m.

       What impressed me straight away was the quality of that 7x24 lens, having used a few compact rangefinders in the past, the Leica is in another class altogether and surprisingly good even in low light conditions. Whilst I would not like to glass a hillside all afternoon using the CRF 1600-B, at a pinch that little 7x24 optic does a fair job if you're caught without your binos and provides a 115m field of view at 1000m. The eyepiece is equipped with a diopter adjustment and a couple of turns had it razor sharp for my eyes and there is also a rubber hood which can be folded back to suit those wearing glasses. Moving onto the body of the unit it instantly becomes obvious why they built that shallow saddle into the top of the body, it fits the hand perfectly and places the main actuation button in exactly the right spot for the trigger finger. And it is a very nicely weighted button too which avoids the dog shitting razorblades syndrome that every other lightweight rangefinder suffers from with an overly heavy actuation button. The Leica can be held on distant targets and fired with precision without undue shaking in trying to overcome a heavy button.

       First press of the main button (closest to eye piece) turns the unit on and illuminates an aiming mark in the viewfinder for around 6 seconds, another press of the button while the aiming mark is lit will fire the laser and return a distance measurement in the viewfinder. Once the distance/aiming mark disappears the unit shuts down automatically, it's a good system that avoids the possibility of a flat battery. The unit can also be switched to scan mode where distance is measured continuously on a moving target for example. I found the laser performance exceptional, it is not often that a bit of kit exceeds advertised performance but the Leica certainly does in spades with an exceptionally high reliability rate in taking readings on occasions right out to 1800m+......hand held! Targets were not always easy high reflective models either and I found the unit at it's absolute best in terms of really long range performance on dull overcast days and in early morning/late afternoon conditions. Ranging on fur (cattle) to 1200m was common place and the pleasing thing with the Leica is the minimal beam divergence of the laser, meaning it stays fairly narrow a long way out and allows you to range accurately without false triggers from nearby foliage or other obstructions. I regularly ranged through tree limbs with ease and in my experience the Leica is the clear leader in it's class in this regard.

       The Leica 1600-B is also equipped with on board ballistics computer and a bunch of sensors that measure incline, atmospheric pressure, and temperature.This information is fed into the ballistic solution the unit calculates. Pressing the secondary recessed button will display these atmospheric conditions at any time if required. The ballistic functions can be turned on or off in the simple to navigate menu which is driven by the two buttons you see on top of the unit. The setup menu allows setting the unit to operate in either EU (metric) or US (imperial) units as well as setting the zero range of your rifle at either 100/200m or max PBR in the metric system or 100/200/300yds in the imperial system. There are 12 ballistic curves in each table and you select the one that best matches the trajectory of your particular load.

       As with all ballistic software, the more accurate you are with matching your rifle's trajectory to the software, the more accurate results are generated. To this end Leica recommend if you are shooting beyond 300m that you actually shoot your rifle at those ranges to determine real world trajectory of your load and then set the appropriate ballistic curve from the tables. This is exactly what I did as I tend to use high BC and VLD type bullets in my .270 WSM's. Once this is set in the menu, all that is left is to do is select the type of output you want from the Leica ballistic computer and there are two different solutions provided. You can choose to have the unit display range, followed by the amount of holdover required in either cm's or inches or if you prefer to dial,  you can choose to have the number of clicks required on the elevation turret of your scope displayed. If you choose this latter method, a range of scope turret click values can be selected in either MOA or mm increments to perfectly match the Leica to your particular scope. You can also choose to display the equivalent horizontal range on readings taken at an incline if required.The unit will calculate a ballistic solution out to 800m, but of course will range to 1600m.....and often well beyond that.

       I found both output methods very useful, with a scope that is not equipped with external or fast adjust turrets, the simple holdover method is fast & practical as when using my .17 HMR out to 250m or so where size of the rabbits is well known and the holdover is easily judged. The second method where the clicks required are displayed really comes into it's own at the longer ranges and was a piece of cake to use on my heavy .270 WSM and the Zeiss Victory fast adjust ASV turrets. I found the Leica generated accurate holdover data and I made first round hits at extended range on many occasion with only the wind spoiling a couple shots. I was impressed by the reliability of the Leica, in wet and very cold conditions it never missed a beat.

      The usefulness of a high quality rangefinder such as this Leica CRF 1600-B in conjunction with heavy long range style rifles is obvious but I think it would be a mistake to pigeonhole it in this role only and overlook what it can offer to a wider range of hunting rifles and situations. I'd always thought of my Model 7 .308 with it's ultralight 3-9 VX2 as at best a 250m or so rifle. It's certainly very accurate and at 250m the .308 cartridge packs a punch but accurately judging bullet drop beyond that becomes iffy under field conditions. After I set up the Leica to the .308 ballistics, I went hunting with the Model 7 and it was a real eye opener as to what the little rifle really can do with accurate data to work with. I tipped over a fox at over 300m and knocked off a few rabbits at  270m for a real confidence building exercise. I've always loved carrying the lightweight Model 7 in heavy stalking country but I'm now also confident of taking that long cross gully shot if it presents. On larger game like pigs, deer, or goat I reckon it's pretty much down to the shooter as to how far you can make a killing shot.
       In summing up I found the Leica CRF 1600-B a superb unit in almost all aspects. Light and compact with excellent build quality and great ergonomics make it an easy companion to live with and have around the neck or in your pocket. The performance of the laser often exceeds the advertised specs and is exceptionally reliable. Having the ballistics computer on board is icing on the cake and for the shooting I do means I can do without my drop charts taped to the stock. The auto adjusting display intensity works like a charm and was easy to read in any lighting conditions. There really is little not to like about the Leica, one little quirk which did annoy me at times was the delay/lag between taking a reading and when the aiming mark would again illuminate and be ready for another. Sometimes this is around 2 seconds and happens if you range something beyond the capability of the unit or fail to get a reading off a non reflective target. It's no big deal though and I had no hesitation in opening my wallet and buying a CRF 1600-B myself.

Australian Hunting Net 2013