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Hunting Optics Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

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Man using hunting optics to spot a kill

Savvy hunters know that being proficient at their sport involves mastery of more than just a rifle. Hunting optics can make the difference between finding that trophy buck and finding nothing at all, and then it determines whether you hit that trophy buck in the right spot or send your bullet whizzing over his back. This hunting optics buying guide will show you how to buy hunting optics that are right for you.

Buying Hunting Optics:

  1. Magnification: Magnification power is an important factor to consider when you're choosing any hunting optics, be it a new rifle scope, spotting scope or pair of binoculars. After all, the whole point of using hunting optics is to make an object appear closer than it really is. In fact, most hunting optics list magnification power in the item's name. Most optics list two numbers separated by an "x," and the magnification is the first number. For example, a rifle scope named "Spitfire 8x40" magnifies an image eight times. When you're looking at scopes or binoculars, keep in mind that you want the right magnification for the job. For a spotting scope, this may be somewhere around 60x. For binoculars and rifle scopes, it's probably closer to 8x or 10x.

  2. Lens diameter: The second number in a specification like "8x10" is the diameter of the outer lens in millimeters. This number affects two things. First, it affects the field of view of your hunting optics. The larger the outer lens, the more you will see when you look through your scope or binoculars. This is especially important for binoculars and spotting scopes, which you use to scan large areas looking for game. Second, lens diameter affects the brightness of the image you see by letting more (or less) light enter into an optic device, which makes a big difference in the quality of an image. A proper amount of magnification can be worthless if the image isn't bright enough for you to make out the details of the game you're looking at.

  3. Optic quality: The final element to consider that is common to all hunting optics is optic quality. This factor is to do with clarity and brightness, which makes it more difficult to gauge than magnification or lens diameter. Hunting-optics manufacturers go to great lengths to develop lens coatings and other cutting-edge technologies that help make the image that you see in your scope as clear and bright as possible, and it's this quality that separates mediocre optics from high-end optics. Optics priced in the thousands have the same magnification and field of view of lower end optics, but they produce brighter, crisper and less distorted images than their counterparts.

  4. Rifle scopes: Finding the right scope for your hunting rifle begins with deciding which sort of hunting you plan to do. If you're hunting for white-tailed deer and take most of your shots from a tree stand at 20 meters, then you do not need a rifle scope with a high magnification. In fact, rifle scopes that have high top-end magnifications usually have high low-end magnification, too -- sometimes too high for close-range shots. On the other hand, if you do most of your shooting from a distance, then make sure you get a scope with at least a 12x magnification. As you shop for rifle scopes, don't forget to find the right rifle mount to go with the scope.

  5. Spotting scopes: Spotting scopes are large scopes with high magnifications and lens diameters. When you're hunting, rifle scopes help you do your job once you've located your prey, but spotting scopes help you find your prey in the first place. Because they're big, they mount on tripods and are usually used to scan an area for signs of game. If you are shopping for a hunting spotting scope, one of your main concerns should be durability. You may end up carrying your scope long distances, so you'll want to make sure that it has a durable rubber body, shockproof optics and a good warranty.

  6. Binoculars: Finding the right set of hunting binoculars is about balance. You want binoculars that have a decent magnification and a large enough lens diameter that you can scan a horizon or a mountainside easily, but you don't want them to be so big that you'll get tired have having them hanging around your neck. Hunting binoculars around the 10x40 range offer a good balance of weight and performance. As with spotting scopes, make sure that your binoculars are rugged enough to withstand the beating they may receive during a hunt.

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