Many will remember the original Bluetooth LRF, the 1-Mile Con-X that has been exed by Bushnell.
You could say the Nitro 1800 is out to replace it although many are still fond of the Con-X and won’t appreciate the assumption. But the Nitro has been beefed-up and ranged-up for improved performance.
It was also released by Bushnell at a cheaper price point than the Con-X ever was.
To have today’s latest LRF tech in a rangefinder under $500 is a done deal.
What We Like: Feature-loaded
What We Don’t Like: LCD display & no mounting point
Best Uses: Rifle Hunting, Bow Hunting, Target Shooting, Ballistics, Angle Compensation, Bluetooth, Long-Range
- Yard Range: 5-2000
- Magnification: 6x
- Objective Lens: 24mm
- Display Type: LCD
- Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.47 x 2.75”/5.7 oz
- Waterproof/Fogproof: Yes
- Angle Compensation: Yes
Our Verdict: When comparing only capability and cost, the Bushnell Nitro 1800 comes out ahead. It offers more than any other smart LRF at the same price point.
Who is the Bushnell Nitro 1800 Best Suited to?
The Nitro is made with extremely effective technologies for hunters who want more, for range shooters who want more, and it could be a viable option for matches.
It’s not as long ranging out of the box as the Vortex HD 4000 or the Leupold RX-2800 TBR/W units, but it does have something they don’t - Applied Ballistics via Bluetooth. This gives you an advantage with customizable data, real-time solutions, and improved accuracy.
How Does the Bushnell Nitro 1800 Perform?
The Nitro 1800 is feature-packed with multiple target and ranging modes. It can be upgraded for longer ranging performance, and it’s Bluetooth compatible for connecting to devices, so it’s definitely a smart LRF.
Without the optional upgrade, the Nitro reaches out to over a mile on high-reflective targets, up to 2000 yards to be exact. It ranges out to trees at 1200 yards and deer up to 900 yards.
There is a lot going on underneath the compact and lightweight housing. Between the Bluetooth connectivity, Ultralite ranging engine, Applied Ballistics (AB) software, ARC, and more, the Bushnell LRF has a lot of potential to offer the hunter and long-range shooter.
While tech issues are a given as it is with any advanced gadget, the Nitro isn’t difficult to use once you get past setup. Read the manual and experiment with the AB program well before your drawn hunting season.
For those who already have a Kestrel – yes, the Nitro 1800 will work well with it. For those who don’t have a Kestrel, this may be the rangefinder that motivates you to finally get one.
Features & Benefits
The Nitro is small - 4.2” long and 5.7 oz light. It’s IPX4 rated. It’s accurate to within +/- 1-yard from 5-1000 yards. It has 6x magnification with a 24mm objective aperture. The sad thing is its LCD display – no illumination here.
There are three reticles that you can use in any ranging mode: Circle, Dot, and Circle with Dot. You can also choose the type of holdover format that you prefer in either MIL or MOA. That’s right, the Nitro provides ballistic solutions directly onto your display so that you have not only the distance but also the adjustment.
You can measure in either yards or meters, use it for bow hunting, and sync it with your phone or Kestrel device. It has FMC coatings and the EXO Barrier external lens coating to protect your glass and your seeing quality.
Multiple Ranging & Target Modes
The Nitro 1800 has three ranging modes: Regular, Bow, and what we’ll nickname Rifle Mode since the AB program is a world of its own as explained later.
Regular is straight-up LOS distances – nothing fancy. Bow Mode is nicknamed so because it uses Bushnell’s ARC technology to acquire angle compensated distances via the built-in inclinometer. Whether you’re bow hunting or even rifle shooting within proximity but on angles and simply need the equivalent horizontal distance and incline/decline angle, Bow mode will give it to you.
Bushnell has always been great at offering multiple target modes. Why should that change with the Nitro 1800? It didn’t. Scan mode can be activated in any targeting mode, you don’t need to get back into the menu to activate scan. Just hit the Fire button and keep it depressed – easy.
Standard mode should be sufficient for most ranging needs from 5-2000 yards. For advanced laser operation, move into Bulleye Mode for first target ranging or Brush Mode for last target ranging.
Applied Ballistics with UltraLite
AB is the solver program that is powered by the Ultralite ranging engine. This is what provides ballistic firing solutions out to 875 yards with real-time ballistics data, angles, atmospherics, wind, etc.
With the AB program, you have a Rifle Mode that is split in two: AbU (Applied Ballistics Ultralite) and AbE (Applied Ballistics External). The goal is to input custom data to create a user profile based on your specific rifle, loads, scope, and environmental factors.
There are still rangefinders in this price point that don’t have the ability to input custom data and force you to choose a pre-loaded ballistic group instead. Those rangefinders are perfect for those who can find their exact ballistics setup or at least the most appropriate “group” for calibration.
But there are others who want the ability to customize as much as they can. This capability doesn’t come without some type of WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity. It’s a hand-in-hand kind of thing.
The Bluetooth connectivity serves two purposes: acquiring ballistic data via the smartphone app (AbU mode) and to allow connection to another device that is most likely a Kestrel (AbE mode). This is a major selling point about the affordable Nitro LRF.
With wireless technology, there’s a whole lot more you can do with connecting a Kestrel. The data from the Kestrel will override the rangefinder’s software, so you can have improved accuracy with real-time firing solutions.
However, whenever Bluetooth is involved, there will be some flaws. There is some delay between reestablishing connectivity between the Kestrel and Nitro after the Nitro has automatically powered down after so many seconds of non-use. This is not unique to Bushnell but to most rangefinders that aren’t a Vectronix Terrapin X. No surprise there, right?
Out of the box, the Nitro LRF is ready to go and does an excellent job at providing what it’s made to do. However, when you want to take max advantage of the AB feature, you’re forced to pay for an upgrade.
Some features can’t be fully “unlocked” unless you upgrade, the built-in software can only support one user profile at a time, and you’re limited up to 875 yards (800 meters) of acquiring ballistic solutions.
So, what does upgrading get you? It’s essential to understand that you are not upgrading any of the laser and operating functions but the ranging distance and Applied Ballistics software only. For example, upgrading will allow you to acquire ballistic solutions out past 2000 yards or 5000 yards with the app.
LCD Display & No Mounting Point
Yes, these are going to be the two, primary complaints about the Nitro 1800. While the non-illuminated display hasn’t yet posed issues for buyers, it will be difficult to see on dark targets and in dark conditions.
Given that it’s made for hunting, visibility in lowlight hours really matter, and when you can’t get a distance, you can’t make the shot. It’s fair to assume that even a little bump up in price is something hunters are willing to pay to get the LED display – at least, we would.
On the same end, given that it’s made for hunting, it’s not entirely fair to moan about the lack of a mounting point since it has only 6x magnification. Many hunters aren’t carrying around tripods, reticle spotters, and recording gear unlike precision or long-range target shooters.
In the hunt, that deer isn’t going to pose and then wait around to be served up as dinner. Using it freehand with the Ultralite software is the basic idea.
This is the ability to upgrade the ballistics engine available through the Bushnell Ballistics App. You can upgrade from the standard Ultralite ranging engine to either the Sportsman or Elite.
It’s covered under the Ironclad Warranty but is limited to a period of one year. Proof of purchase, registration, or original owner requirements are not necessary.
The Nitro 1800 LRF requires a CR2 battery to operate. Lithium or rechargeable batteries can be used in the Nitro.
The Nitro 1800 laser rangefinder is compatible with both Apple (12.0 OS or later) and Android (5.0 OS or later) devices.
The Nitro 1800 sounds good on paper, has great capability when paired with a device, and it performs in the field.
Is it perfect? No.
But unless you’re spending $2000 for a Vectronix, there’s little to complain about.
At the end of the day, it’s an affordable rangefinder with more capability than any other at its price point.
It sounds like a done deal to us.
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Chris is a hunting enthusiast who is obsessed with optics & lives in a game-rich area. When most are in bed sleeping, you will find Chris hunched over a laptop researching the latest and greatest optic types, uses and specifications. Despite a love for writing and researching about optics, Chris prefers to keep out of the spotlight.