Let’s talk about glass. No, I’m not talking about traditional scopes, red dots, or other gun-mounted accessories. I’m talking about a different kind of glass - namely, spotting scopes, range finders, and binoculars.
Regardless of your chosen application for firearms - hunting, plinking, long range shooting, etc - these are three pieces of glass gear that can be very handy to have, aside from the glass that you’ve got mounted to the gun of your choice.
While it’s true that you don’t need any of them, they’ve each got their benefits regardless of your intended usage.
Trying to sight in that new hunting rifle? Or maybe you’re calling shots for a friend who likes to shoot at stuff that’s waaaaaaay out there (or even just 50 yards down range). Either way, a spotting scope is a great thing to have when you’re shooting, and more rugged models are staples in many hunters' backpacks along with a light tripod.
I’ve had LASIK eye surgery and currently have 20/15 vision, but it’s still difficult for me to be sure of exact shot placement on certain targets when they’re downrange. Even if they’re at a distance that’s close enough to (safely) walk up and check your target or run it back to you on the carrier, it still takes time.
Using a spotting scope enables you to see exactly where your shots are falling without having to move, and if you have someone spotting for you, they can give you exact corrections while you stay on the rifle. Plus, once you’ve got the tripod locked in place and the spotting scope trained on your target, it only takes a quick glance to see where you’re at, and they reach out way farther than any binoculars can.
Whatever your needs, here are 10 solid options for every budget:
At less than $90, it's hard to go wrong with this spotting scope. Magnification goes up to 36x and it even includes a soft carrying case and a tripod. One stop shopping is the best!
Simmons 15-45x60mm Venture
Everyone has a different comfort preference, so spotting scopes are often available with a straight or angled eyepiece, but this one comes with both and the ability to magnify up to 45x with a large, light-gathering 60mm lens on the end.
Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima
The Celestron Ultima is available in a wide variety of configurations and bundle packages: straight or angled eyepiece, lenses ranging from 65mm to 100mm, and even a phone/camera adapter. The zoom eyepiece has a focus function to ensure that whatever you're looking at is in super crisp focus regardless of the distance.
The 80mm lens on this spotting scope provides excelling light gathering capabilities, and it's covered with a rubber "armor" to withstand whatever abuse you put it through in the field. Redfield is a well-known name in this community and at just under $300, it's a quality product that's priced right.
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60x80mm
Outfitted with stacked, dual focus controls, this spotting scope helps you to quickly get your target in focus and then fine tune the focus for an optimally crisp picture, even when you've got it cranked up to 60x magnification.
Visionking Spotting Scope 30-90x100SS
With a maximum magnification of 90x and a 100mm lens, this spotting scope will really let you see stuff that's waaaaaay out there - even in low light. Both the body and its lenses have been nitrogen-purged and sealed with an O-ring, so it's waterproof and fogproof.
Vortex describes this spotting scope as, "A high-end spotter, without the high-end price tag." While it's true that $649 isn't chump change, it's certainly less than others later on down this list. One of the neat features is the tripod mounting collar, which allows you to rotate the spotting scope body for greater viewing flexibility without having to reposition everything.
Vortex Viper HD 20-60x85
Yes, I realize this is the same model as the one above but with more magnification, but sometimes, you just need more magnification. Vortex makes quality stuff and if you're able to spend an additional $150 for the extra magnification, this might be the spotting scope for you.
Leupold Kenai 2 HD Spotting Scope 25-60x80mm
If your budget is lucky enough to go up to $1,000 for a spotting scope, then this one is right on the money for you.
Leupold has been a mainstay in the industry for generations for a reason, and this spotting scope is no exception. Some spotting scopes can be heavy, so this one is made of lightweight magnesium to help offset some of that burden.
Swarovski ATS 20-60x80mm
For those who have no budget caps, this Swarovski spotting scope is right up your alley. The 80mm objective lens diameter provides higher detail recognition, while a wider exit pupil ensures brighter images and comfortable viewing even in poor lighting conditions. At this price point, you most certainly get what you pay for.
Are you shooting at targets that have been placed at a wide variety of distances? Or maybe you’ve got a massive deer in your sights at an unknown distance. Don’t take a chance on missing the shot and blowing your score or letting the buck of a lifetime get away because you misjudged the yardage. Instead, use a range finder.
With a quick look and some electronic calculations, you can be sure of how far that target or animal is from you. Take that information into account, adjust your shot accordingly, and you’ve got a darn good chance of putting that round right where you need it.
Plus, shooting at variable distance targets will get you more familiar and in tune with your optics and rifle and help you become a better shooter when it comes to hunting scenarios. Today, a good laser range finder is a staple piece of shooting gear.
Again, here are 10 solid options for every budget:
Simmons Venture 600
If you're on a budget, this Simmons range finder is definitely one to consider. It offers 4x magnification out to 600 yards and has a simple, one-button operation. It doesn't get any simpler—or more affordable—than that!
REDFIELD Raider 650
The Raider 650 is lightweight, compact, and offers 6x magnification out to 650 yards. For the forgetful among us, it even has an automatic shut-off in case you forget to do it. That certainly comes in handy so that you don't have to worry about getting ready to use it, only to find the batteries are critically low or dead.
Nikon ACULON AL11
At less than $200, this range finder is perfect if you're trying to balance cost and distance. For distances out to 550 yards, it's hard to beat the quality of this Nikon range finder. It's also very light weight, coming in around 5 oz.
Vortex Impact 850
As the name implies, the Vortex Impact 850 range finder is accurate out to 850 yards, but can be used at distances as close as 10 yards. Regardless of the distance, Vortex makes a solid product that’s sure to help you in a tree, on the plains, or at the range when you’re trying to figure out exactly how far that animal or static target is from you.
Bushnell G-Force DX ARC 6x21mm
Accuracy is the name of the game with range finders, and Bushnell delivers with 1/2-yard accuracy and 1/10-yard display precision. This G-Force model has an effective range of 5 to 1,300 yards and offers 6x magnification.
Leupold RX-1600i TBR
This Leupold range finder has a maximum range of 1,600 yards and can be used to reliably spot a deer out to 1,000 yards. The RX-1600i TBR will be right at home with your other Leupold optics products, and it's available in black and two Mossy Oak camo patterns.
SIG Sauer Kilo2200BDX
Weighing just four ounces, this range finder is powerful. You can use the Sig BDX app to pair it with certain Sig Sauer scopes, giving you the ultimate package in ranging and shooting compatibility out to 2,600 yards.
SIG Sauer Kilo2400BDX
Sure, it's a sizeable price jump from the other Sig Sauer range finder on this list, but it provides you with an extra 200 yards of ranging capabilities. If you're a long range shooter, that can really make the difference.
Leica Rangemaster CRF 2700-B
Leica’s 2700-B is lightning fast, calculating parameters and spitting out accurate distance in just 0.3 seconds. I’m not sure you really need computation that is this fast, but if you want it, this is the range finder for you.
Leica Rangemaster CRF 2800
The Leica Rangemaster CRF 2800 is capable of measurements up to 2,800 yards and can be linked via Bluetooth with the Leica Hunting App. This means Leica ABC Ballistics can be customized directly through a smartphone as well as a Kestrel Elite weather meter.
Sometimes you just want an easy way to see stuff that’s far away. You don’t need to know that the exact distances of your targets, or that the giant elk you’re looking at is exactly 542 yards across the field. You just want to know where your shots are hitting or if there actually are any elk in your vicinity. I get it.
In those cases, you don’t need a spotting scope or a range finder; you just need some binoculars.
Whatever your needs, here are ten solid options for every budget:
Bushnell Falcon 10x50mm
Sometimes you just need a designated pair of vehicle binoculars. You know, something you won't spend a fortune on, don't mind if the body gets banged up, and yet you have no fear of them not working when you need them. If that describes your situation, then this sub-$40 pair of Bushnell binoculars are just what you need.
Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15x70mm
Inexpensive doesn’t have to mean cheap. These SkyMaster binoculars are well built and quite durable. They’re also quite versatile: you can buy them as a package deal with a smartphone adapter or a tripod mount adapter.
As you might have guessed from the name, the Bushnell H20 binoculars are 100% waterproof, thanks to having been nitrogen-purged and then sealed with O-rings. They’ve got a durable but not uncomfortable textured grip, and just in case you do drop them, Bushnell offers a lifetime warranty.
Vanguard Spirit XF 10x42mm
For a pair of binoculars priced at less than $150, the Vanguard Spirit XF line doesn’t skimp on quality. They provide 10x magnification with a wide, 332-foot at 1,000 yards field of view, and a near focus of less than seven feet.
Vortex Optics Diamondback 8x42mm
With 8x magnification, you get an impressive 393-foot field of view at 1,000 yards, so these Vortex binoculars are no slouch. Their rubber coating and thumb indents ensure a sturdy grip, but they're rugged enough to withstand being dropped just in case something happens. All eight size variations of these binoculars are argon-purged for the best waterproof and fogproof protection available.
Celestron Nature DX 12x56mm
Binoculars are great for stuff that’s super far away, but sometimes you just need a better look at something closer. Not all binoculars can provide a close-up view if you also want nice magnification, but the Celestron Nature DX binos can do both quite well. They have a close focus level of less than 10 feet.
Upland Optics Perception HD 10x42mm
Weighing less than 1.5 pounds, the Upland Optics Perception HD 10x42mm binoculars are a good choice if you need quality binoculars that won't weigh you down while trekking all day long. Included with the binoculars are a carrying case, lens cloth, neck strap, and lens caps.
Celestron SkyMaster 25x100mm ASTRO
With a 100mm objective lens, the SkyMaster binoculars pick up a ton of light, making them perfect for low light situations. If you'd prefer to mount them on a tripod, these binos have a convenient, built-in mount just for that purpose. They're also fairly easy on the wallet given their level of performance.
Swarovski CL Pocket 8x25mm
These pocket binoculars from Swarovski really live up to their name. When folded into their most compact state, they're almost equal in size to your hand. Simply put, if you can fit your hands in your pockets, you can fit these binoculars there, too.
Zeiss 8x42mm Victory SF
If you've got the money, these binoculars from Zeiss are top-notch. When viewing out to 1,000 yards, you still get a sight picture that's 130 yards across, making for an impressive view at any range! They're also water resistant, so fear not if your environment is exceptionally wet.