By Tony Martins
In today’s technologically driven, overly complicated world, it’s nice to find a product that is simple to use, affordable and performs as advertised. The SIG Sauer Kilo1200 Laser Rangefinder is one of those products. Along with its big brother the SIG Kilo1250, these are uncomplicated and easy to use, super-light weight yet durable, lightening fast, and extremely accurate. Hand over 2 Benjamins for a Kilo1200 at checkout, and the change is enough to buy a couple of boxes of ammo. In a word: Value! Let’s take a closer look at details of this remarkable optic, from the company that is making a run to the top of the shooting (and hunting) industry.
Features that work in the field
The first thing you will notice about the SIG Kilo1200-? It’s weightless… well, almost! Weighing just 5 ounces with battery, it could be the lightest piece of equipment you pack into the field. The compact unit measures only 2.9 x 3.9 x 1.4 inches (height x length x width) with an ergonomic design that facilitates one-handed operation well past 500 yards. Three finger recesses are molded into the top of the polymer housing – including where the “range” button is located – for a solid hold and precise targeting. Unlike other rangefinders, the range button requires only light finger pressure. This is an excellent feature that when coupled with the finger recesses in the housing, greatly aids a steady hold on target while the button is depressed for a reading. Bowhunters will especially love these features.
The next thing you will notice is how fast readings are obtained, regardless of the distance. Revolutionary “Lightwave DSP” (Digital Signal Processing – a SIG Sauer trademark technology) is the engine that makes this possible, running algorithms to minimize false positives even with weak or distant targets. Accuracy is excellent. HyperScan power management produces a lightning fast refresh rate that gives 4 readings per second in scan mode. Simply hold the range button atop the unit down for continuous scanning. This is particularly useful for moving targets as well as those that are small and/or distant. Another feature called RangeLock displays the last distance measured during scanning when the range button is released.
It was noted above that the SIG Kilo1200 is uncomplicated and easy to use – but this does not mean that it lacks user selectable performance features! For example, the side-mounted “mode” button can be used to toggle between yards (Y) and meters (M) shown in the display for measured distances. I used this feature (with a different rangefinder) successfully last year in Central Asia, while hunting with a rental rifle and scope in which elevation was calibrated in meters. Another user selectable feature is BEST or LAST target mode. The BEST setting displays distance readings from the strongest signal. This is the default, and works best in most hunting situations. LAST target mode is useful in situations where the target is partially obscured by foliage or tall grass.
The ability of a rangefinder to compensate for uphill and downhill angled shooting is a feature that is demanded by most hunters today. SIG has taken a unique approach to this feature, undoubtedly fostered by their extensive involvement in the tactical world. This is the most complicated feature of this otherwise simple rangefinder, but it works seamlessly in the background. Two user selectable modes are provided: LOS (Line-of-Sight) and AMR (Angle Modified Range). When ranging in LOS mode, both the straight-line distance to the target and the angle of inclination are displayed. After the range button is released, the unit will alternatively display the last LOS range distance acquired and the corresponding angle of incline or decline for that last acquired distance, every two seconds for up to ten seconds. This mode is preferred by long range shooters and hunters wanting to use the LOS distance and angle of inclination to calculate a precise holdover using a ballistics calculator. AMR mode, also known as the “rifleman’s rule,” uses the line-of-sight distance and angle of inclination to automatically calculate the horizontal distance the projectile will travel from shooter to target. The AMR setting is very accurate, with ½-yard tolerance (+ / –) out to 500 yards, and 1-yard tolerance (+ / –) from 500 to 1000 yards. This is the default setting, and it should be used in most hunting situations by both gun and bow hunters.
SIG uses a “High Transmittance” LCD display for superior low-light operation in the Kilo1200. Another feature that distinguishes this unit from other rangefinders is the uncluttered field of view during use. Some rangefinder manufacturers seemingly forget that rangefinders are also optics, and in many situations may be the only optic carried by the hunter for target observation. When the range button is initially depressed, the unit awakens and the target reticle (called “center aiming circle”), battery condition, and all 3 mode settings selected by the user are displayed, as shown below:
When the range button is pressed a second time, distance to the target is measured and displayed along with the unit of measurement: Y for yards, and M for meters. Unlike other rangefinders, this is the only information shown after a measurement is obtained, resulting in a very clean and uncluttered display:
Performance in the field
According to SIG Sauer, the Kilo1200 will range reflective targets out to 1600 yards, trees out to 700 yards and deer out to 600 yards. The table below shows some of the readings I obtained under a variety of weather conditions. Although I did not have an opportunity to range deer, numerous elk were ranged beyond 600 yards. Furthermore, foliage was ranged beyond 1000 yards, and tree trunks and canopy beyond 1200 yards! In this day and age of fake news and false advertising, it’s truly refreshing to find a company that actually understates performance claims. Note: I made no attempt to verify the “reflective” target (I.E. flat hard surface like metal) distance, as this marginally useful at best for hunters.
|Elk – broadside bull||657 yards||low||overcast||first attempt|
|Elk – broadside cow||661 yards||low||overcast||first attempt|
|Elk – broadside bull||649 yards||low||clear, warm & windy|
|Elk – broadside bull||743 yards*||low||clear, warm & windy||*no reading 10+ tries|
|Pronghorn – broadside||687 yards||moderate||clear & sunny|
|Pronghorn – head only||503 yards||moderate||clear & sunny||readings on every try|
|Beef Cow – black||798 yards||very low||partly cloudy & damp|
|Beef Cow – black*||802 yards||very low||partly cloudy & damp||*facing head-on|
|Beef Cow – black||926 yards*||very low||partly cloudy & damp||*no reading 10+ tries|
|Beef Cow – brown||739 yards||moderate||partly cloudy & damp||first attempt|
|Beef Cow – white||800 yards||moderate||partly cloudy & damp||first attempt|
|Beef Cow – red-brown||519 yards||moderate||light rain & windy|
|Coyote – trotting||411 yards||moderate||clear, warm & dry||reading before sunrise|
|Pine tree trunk – large||1294 yards||moderate||clear & dry|
|Pine tree canopy||1253 yards||moderate||clear & dry|
|Juniper – bushy foliage||1080 yards||moderate||partly cloudy & dry|
|Elk standing by Juniper||1080 yards*||low||partly cloudy & dry||*no reading 10+ tries|
Most notable in the table above is the SIG Kilo1200 does not have a problem with black furry targets like most rangefinders. Black tends to absorb rather than reflect the laser pulse, but readings on black beef cows were obtained out to 800 yards – well past the distance advertised for deer! Furthermore, readings on red-brown beef cows more than 500 yards distant were obtained during light rain. This is remarkable performance from an “entry level” rangefinder costing less than $200.
Image of bedded pronghorn noted above taken through a spotting scope at about 6-times the magnification of the 4-power rangefinder.
The 4-power, 20mm monocular is treated with SIG’s SpectraCoat anti-reflection coatings for “superior light transmission and optical clarity.” Although I prefer the 6-power magnification of the SIG Kilo1250 for measuring longer distances, I concur that the Kilo1200 has good light transmission and outstanding clarity. An oversized knob for diopter adjustment facilitates focusing. Thus despite only 4x magnification, clarity and the small, fine-lined “center aiming circle” allowed me to range the heads of bedded pronghorn out to 500 yards, with readings on every try while holding the unit with both hands. This is true precision.
So, what do I not like about the SIG Kilo1200-? Frankly, complaints are few in number and scope. Although clear and precise with good lighting, the black LCD display and fine-lined small circle target reticle can be somewhat difficult to see in poor lighting and with dark, cluttered background. A brightness adjustment option would help. And, it should be noted that the owners manual – specific for the Kilo1200 – mentions adjustment of “OLED Display Brightness” in several places. This is an error, as the Kilo1200 has LCD display with no brightness adjustment.
How we get images of the display in a hand-held rangefinder – attach the unit to a tripod or window mount with a zip tie for stability then position a camera to shoot through the optic.
Another minor complaint is the neck lanyard. The cord is too short. If you like to carry the nylon case on your belt as I do, the cord is not long enough to fit around the neck and still secure the rangefinder in the case to prevent swinging while moving. And, the cord is much heavier than necessary for such a lightweight optic. Although a thoughtful tiny plastic tag is attached to assist in threading the lanyard to the fitting on the rangefinder, I would nevertheless prefer a longer, lighter lanyard cord.
It’s been just a few years since SIG Sauer made the corporate decision to apply their technical expertise and innovation through expansion into all facets of the firearms and related industries, including rangefinders and even airguns. Their top-rated Kilo2400 ABS leads the market as well as their full line of laser rangefinders. With a selling price under $200.00, the workmanlike SIG Sauer Kilo1200 offers great value and outstanding performance.