The Terrapin X Laser Range Finder (LRF) from Safran Vectronix of Switzerland has been on the market for a while, and they keep adding functions and supporting companies to their ecosystem. The Terrapin X is more than just a standard LRF – with a combination of sensors and connections it becomes a navigational, target spotting and presentation tool. As you range a target, the device measures not only the distance but also the elevation and compass direction. If you connect it to your Smartphone (iOS or Android) via Bluetooth, you can pinpoint the exact position of your targets with the help of the phone’s GPS module. The targets are named Target 1, 2 and so on, but you can rename them if you like, as they appear on the map.
Below: Terrapin X has a one-button approach. It’s perhaps not my favourite, but you will get used to it. Future products will most likely leave this approach. As you can see there are no lens or ocular covers. Some may be skeptical about this, but I have decided not to worry. Yes, I have already dropped mine a few times, lens down, and it survived.
The industrial design is a bit “Alien”, but I like it. There is an electronic compass and an inclinometer for uphill and downhill compensation inside. The green plastic is made from a radio wave friendly material to help with connectivity – I had no problems with the Bluetooth other than some minor things that I think were software and app related rather than anything else (iOS upgrade).
When I first got my Terrapin X I was surprised by how small and light it was. The year 2020 had its golden moments, and getting this LRF was one of them. Even the sun managed to show itself after what felt like months of overcast, rain and grey.
For the record, I bought this Vectronix Terrapin X myself, for my own money. I bought it from Finnaccuracy in Finland for about €2 000, with the intention to use it for hunting and competition (IPSC and PRS Shooting mainly). I had been looking at it for a while, but when the app started supporting Google Maps I knew I had to buy it and review it.
You could always argue that spending this kind of money on a laser rangefinder is crazy, but the new Vortex Fury HD 5000 AB Laser Rangefinding Binocular and some similar devices are in the same price region, or more. These new devices are multitools more than simple LRFs, you just need to find what suits you and bear in mind that the software applications that are supported (and updated) may actually be more important than the hardware.
Below: Fully rubber armored, with a 1/4 camera thread as a standard feature. I put an RRS Arca rail on here, as a tripod helps for long range measurements. The device is designed in Switzerland and Made in Portugal.
The laser is Class 1 eye-safe, 905 Nm with a tight beam divergence. It’s powered by a CR123 3V lithium battery which is said to deliver more than 4000 measurements. My delivery battery was a bit weak, so I had to change it fairly quickly.
Most people don’t buy a Laser Range Finder for the optics, but you can actually use this one for detailed observations. I have Leica Geovid 8×42 HD LRF binoculars which have astonishing image quality, it’s just breathtaking. But the Leica is large and too heavy and its maximum reach is ”just” beyond 1200 meters. When I look at everything else I have to carry, the Leica usually stays at home, what a shame. Enter Terrapin X, which combines a really good image quality with its 28mm lens, 8 power magnification and clever optics. It’s small and light but still delivers a clear and detailed image. Due to its lightness and comfortable neckstrap I’ve had it on 3-4 hours walks without even thinking about it. The best knife is the one you carry when you need it, it’s the same with binoculars and LRFs.
Taking pictures through an LRF isn’t easy, but I did a try. I had lots of reflections coming in from behind and the side. The image quality appears much better than this in reality. You can compare it with the pictures from the Kahles K18i Riflescope taken from the same spot. If I don’t get a reading, I usually push the button and get continious range finding.
Laser Range Finder
According to the specifications, you can measure up to 3280 yards or 3000 meters for large objects. I tried to “punish” the Terrapin X with fog, rain, darkness and other variations, but it only seemed to like it. I’ve tried it in heavy snowfall, and when I can hardly see the target perhaps it isn’t surprising that the laser couldn’t either. Pushing the limits, it’s clear that the Terrapin X can measure further than the datasheet promises. Not on all occasions, but I definitely had longer distances than 3000 meters measured and it seems in-line with other owners’ experiences. Using a tripod to make the aiming steadier helps of course. This test took place during winter, with little sunshine – the picture below speaks for itself. I think the LRF results would improve even further if the test was redone during summer. Some have pushed it into around 4000 meter readings, something I hope to do as well.
You don’t always get a reading, and it’s a little annoying that the Terrapin X then continues to present the bearing and inclination on the following pushes on the buttons. If I don’t get a range I’m not so interested in the rest, so I would have preferred that it just measured the range again. I hope a future multi-button product or possibly a firmware upgrade could fix this?
If you use the Terrapin X app (I use the iPhone here) you can transfer your measurements and get them presented like below. You can also rename the targets and if needed you can move the location of the text. Directly below you can see two simple measurements taken at a shooting range. You can activate the laser via the app instead of the button on the Terrapin X, but it obviously needs to be pointing at your target then for an accurate measurement (use a mount).
Here it gets a little bit more advanced, and hopefully, you can understand what made me buy the Terrapin X. I just love this feature! Still, there’s a lot of room for new developments. On this occasion, I had not calibrated the compass and the GPS is probably a little off. You should find the magnetic declination at your location (www.magnetic-declination.com) and calibrate your Terrapin X for the best results. Read the manual!
The measurements are on the other side of the water. I also ranged some moving boats, no problems.
I hope that Vectronix continue to develop their app and especially this functionality. I would like it to be possible to save images and store them in some selected order, for instance, Stage 1, Stage 2, etc. Now I just take a screen print, and it would be nice with a higher resolution or an option to export the data so you can work on a computer.
There is a “Survey” mode in the app, where you can make two-point measurements. By pinpointing the base and the top of a building (or whatever) you can calculate its height or the height and the width. Here’s a chimney I did.
Here is a video about the mapping.
At the moment the Terrapin X is Safran’s only civilian product (to my knowledge). The Danish military is actually using it as well, and I heard some others are looking at it. I think the simplicity and the “soldier-proof” one-button approach in combination with fairly advanced functionality are attractive.
It’s a challenge to explain all the devices and apps that the Terrapin X can connect to, but I’ll give it a try. It uses a Bluetooth 4.1 module with a radius of about 10 yards. You can connect to Terrapin X’s own mobile app or third-party ballistic apps. There are several available like the Hornady 4 DOF, Trasol by Desert Tech or Strelok Pro. I use Strelok Pro and once connected you can let the Terrapin do the lasering, and Strelok will tell you the ballistics. It can even tell you (with a voice) the distance or the MOA or MRAD holdovers. I laughed when I first tried it, it’s pretty sweet.
You can also connect your Kestrel 5700 weather meter with LiNK protocol. Unfortunately, mine is the 5500 model so it didn’t work (Warning! potential new purchasers). You can also connect to the Garmin Tactix Delta Solar watch or the Garmin Foretrex 701 together with the Applied Ballistics software. I actually bought the Tactix Delta Solar watch, which is almost as much as the LRF, but I’d much rather use the iPhone.
I found the instructions on the Terrapin X website well-made and easy to understand. There are pdfs to be downloaded.
There are no lens or ocular covers, and who needs them anyway? All you do is lose them. The lenses have a coating, which doesn’t have a fancy name, but they are hydrophobic.
The Terrapin X is water and shockproof: 1 meter of water for 30 minutes and 100G / 6ms shock proof.
Also check the videos Terrapin X – Laser Range Finder Performance test, by Finnaccuracy and Frank Galli of Sniper’s Hide in Plan Terrapin X from Outer Space.
Below: A JP Rifles in 6.5 Creedmoor with a Schmidt & Bender 3-27×56 PMII riflescope. There is also a Pulsar Krypton FXG50 Thermal front attachment which TFB has under review. The Terrapin X lies underneath.
Problems during testing
I had some issues with the GPS and compass readings being off, but I got some really good help from the Product Manager at Safran. I have to admit that it comes down to me not reading the manual and following the simple instructions. For instance, you should do the Compass Compensation as described in the manual on pages 21-22 and set the declination for your area in the Terrapin X app (under configuration).
Upgrading the firmware was really easy and done through Bluetooth, super simple!
Below: This is how we test gear at The Firearm Blog. Four hours into wet snow. I wish my Arc’teryx had the same nanocoating as the Terrapin X.
When the Terrapin X arrived I was pleasantly surprised about the size and weight, it looks much larger in photos (even mine). I had a lot of fun trying to see how far I could range and looking at Google Maps, and still do. The optics is the best I have seen in a dedicated LRF, you can use it for much more than just ranging if you want. When I changed the battery, I didn’t do the compass compensation as stated in the instructions and got some readings where it placed me and the targets some hundred meters off. The love affair was almost over! The good thing about this was that I got to try the product support, which turned out to be a great experience. They did not know I was doing a review, so I hope everyone in need gets the same treatment. It’s a great package.
Pros & Cons
+ Powerful LRF and great optics packaged in an unusual, but ergonomic design.
+ The Google Maps function and “Survey mode” is very cool and useful, but there are lots more that Vectronix could add if they wanted. Perhaps they need inspiration from users?
+ Market-leading connectivity with other applications and devices.
+ At 390 grams (13.75 oz) it’s small, light and easy to bring everywhere.
+ Great product support.
– Bullet drop ballistics need an external app (I don’t mind, but some may).
– One button operation is debatable.
– Swiss Made with quality components, it’s going to cost you.
I can’t stop thinking about all the potential this device has, things we haven’t thought of yet. For instance, it would be a great tool for a (PRS) Match Director to measure safety angles, target distances and other planning.
I can’t wait to see what the company Safran Vectronic have in the pipeline in terms of new functionality for existing products as well as future ones.
If you liked this review please share and let us know what you think. What should the LRF of your dream and its applications be able to do? Let us know in the comments below.
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