Rufous Sabrewing occurs on the Pacific slope of the highlands of southern Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador (Dickey and van Rossem 1938, Friedmann et al. 1950, Land 1970, Thurber et al. 1987, Howell and Webb 1995). The northwesternmost records are from the Sierra Madre de Chiapas in eastern Oaxaca (Binford 1989); the southernmost records are from Volcán de San Salvador, El Salvador (Dickey and van Rossem 1938, Thurber et al. 1987).
The elevational range of Rufous Sabrewing is 900-2000 m (Howell and Webb 1995), although it is reported to as low as 50 m in El Salvador (Dickey and van Rossem 1938). Presumably Rufous Sabrewing generally is resident, although the extent to which populations have elevational movements, or disperse while tracking nectar sources, remains unresolved.