Hunting optics – Buying guide, Reviews & Comparison
If you want to find the best hunting gear, but you don’t have time to go through the buying tips and reviews prepared by our research team, this short paragraph should tell you everything you need to know about the best hunting optics. After analyzing a lot of feedback coming from both amateur and professional hunters and target shooters, we have concluded that the USCamel UW035 are the best hunting binoculars out there. Since this model features a lightweight frame, it takes the cake when it comes to usability. With its high-quality optics, the USCamel UW035 can allow you to take a peek at your target both efficiently and easily as the images you’ll be looking at will always be crisp and clear. If the USCamel UW035 is unavailable or you’d prefer a monocular instead, you should consider the Bestguarder WG50 as it’s a good alternative in terms of reliability and performance.
Whether your need for hunting optics is for regular or just occasional use, it can be difficult to find the right device on the market to suit your application. There are simply too many choices as well as a lot of specifications to look into when choosing this type of equipment. That being said, it is still essential that you make the perfect choice to ensure a productive hunting adventure every time. The research involved can take so long that it can be quite tempting to simply base your choice on how well the product is described by the manufacturer instead of consulting expert review sites for this type of hunting gear. To help buyers become more informed when making choices on their hunting optics, we showcase below what we consider the top rated choices on the market. We have detailed every category in the next paragraphs to help buyers enjoy a smoother and less stressful purchasing experience.
7 Best Hunting Optics (Reviews) in 2023
The best hunting binoculars are a perfect complement to a top quality hunting rifle or hunting bow. Hunting binoculars are used for surrounding terrain scouting to obtain a better view of potential targets to get details of your prey or perform evaluation from a distance. While compact models come with 22mm or 26mm diameters, most full-size models come with 42mm lens diameters. Midsize models offer a good compromise with 32mm objective lenses that deliver a good low-light performance while facilitating easy portability. A greater magnification is needed for hunting in wide open areas. Eyecups keep stray light from the eyes.
The binoculars have to be able to withstand the elements when used in the wilderness. This means you want them to be fully waterproof to prevent moisture from getting into the optics, aside from resilience against debris and dust as well.
Fogproof models are filled with nitrogen or argon gas that effectively combats internal fogging due to temperature changes. A tough rubber armor protects the unit from the knocks and drops that come with its use in the wilds. You may also like a camouflage finish to keep you hidden, and special lens coatings that enhance the appearance of reds, browns, and other natural wildlife hues by blocking the colors of foliage and haze for effortless spotting of game.
Eye relief is essential for eyeglass wearers, as it is the distance behind the ocular lens where the image is in focus. Eyeglass wearers can’t get their eyes close to the lenses, necessitating longer eye relief of at least 15mm to view the full image, but there may be a tradeoff with the reduced field of view.
1. Uscamel Binoculars Bird Watching Compact for Adults Military HD
Providing high-level outdoor performance, the USCamel UW035 is perfect for hunting and birdwatching.
Built with a magnesium alloy body, this device also boasts a durable yet lightweight frame that ensures a lifetime of use in the hunting field.
The phase and dielectric coatings on the BaK-4 prisms increase the light reflectivity for clear, high-contrast images and as much brightness as can be perceived with the naked eye.
The right eyepiece diopter adjustment knob delivers the best results between the left and right eye vision when used with the left eye clarity adjustment. This fogproof model is geared to prevent debris, dust and moisture from getting into the sensitive optical components. It delivers an ultra-wide field of view of 303 feet at 1,000 yards for easy scanning and scouting.Buy from Amazon.com
Best tripod for binoculars
For various types of optical instruments such as telescopes, binoculars, game and trail cameras, spotting scopes and more, a tripod is an essential accessory. It serves to support large and heavy hunting optics as well as to improve steadiness during the use of high-magnification instruments. Tripods comprise two basic parts: the tripod leg set and the tripod head.
More affordable models have the tripod leg set and head sold as one unit, so you can’t switch or remove heads. On the other hand, more expensive models come with interchangeable heads and legs to allow versatility. You want a heavy tripod head to accommodate high-magnification or large instruments, and this may come at a premium price. Only small loads and small instruments can be supported on a cheap tripod.
Weight and payload capacities are frequently overrated by manufacturers to attract buyers, as they are only useful for product comparison but not for actual functionality. Compact tripods are too large for tabletop use but are great when the user is seated in a chair. A compact tripod offsets portability with height.
Digital point-and-shoot cameras and 70mm scopes or smaller are handled easily by a compact tripod, which is not suitable for 80mm and large spotting scopes as well as telephoto lens-geared SLR cameras. While standing, average-height hunters can use a camera, binoculars or spotting scope on a full-size tripod.
Make sure to match the weight and size of the spotting scope, camera or binoculars with the strength and weight of the tripod. Stability and affordability do not come together in a tripod, which is quite unfortunate, so expect to pay more for a tripod with a larger payload.
2. Celestron 82050 Trailseeker with Fluid Pan Head Tripod
Providing great support for a camera, binoculars, small telescope or spotting scope, the Celestron 82050 TrailSeeker is configured as a sturdy aluminum tripod that is height adjustable from 18.9 to 70.5 inches.
It comes with a two-way smooth-panning head with a quick-release plate. You can set the four-section legs to three different angles. The flip-lever offers quick and easy locking during length adjustment.
To get additional height, simply extend the center column. For added stability, the retractable hook adds extra weight. Lightweight and superbly easy to operate, this model comes with a shoulder strap and tripod case for hassle-free storage and transport.
Easy to operate, this model needs minimal knob twisting and lever flipping for optimal use.Buy from Amazon.com
A good quality monocular offers an efficient means of locating animals in their natural habitat and for scouting terrain. Make sure you get one with good magnification, but an overly large value such as 10x can be hard on the hands.
You might be better off choosing a 6x or 8x monocular, which can still provide ample magnification without being overly powerful as to be challenging to handle due to unsteadiness. Tripods may be available but if you need to carry the monocular into the bushes, a tripod can be inconvenient.
Moreover, think carefully about the quality of the optics in your monocular. The optics should deliver bright, clear and crisp views even at top magnification levels. BaK4 glass prisms with fully multi-coated lenses are the best, as all air-to-glass surfaces come with antireflective coating for maximum light transmission.for brighter images.
A roof prism structure is preferred over porro prism since the latter can easily become blurry with slight bumps during your trek through the hunting terrain. You want the field of view to be at least 315 feet at 1000 yards. The focus ring should provide easy functionality for making adjustments, which is essential when tracking a target on the move. The monocular should be durable with a waterproof and fogproof build.
3. Bestguarder WG50
The Bestguarder monocular is undoubtedly the best hunting monocular on the market thanks to its 6x magnification that offers enough power for distant viewing of the target. The 50mm objective lens works well with the 1-5x digital zoom for bright and clear images.
The video and photo can even be stamped with the date and time for effortless documentation. Get up to 1150 ft/350m viewing distance thanks to the built-in infrared illuminator that you can choose to switch off for nighttime viewing.
The device is easy to hold for portability thanks to the removable strap. This device is versatile enough to be used as a live infrared surveillance camera simply by connecting via a TV cable to your TV or via a USB cable to a computer.
The rugged water-resistant housing ensures long-term use of this tripod-mountable device.Buy from Amazon.com
Making an excellent addition to virtually any rifle, a modern rifle scope lets you see targets more clearly while supporting precise aiming. The basic aspects of such a piece of gear are expressed as a standardized equation, giving you the magnification first and the lens diameter second, separated by an ‘x’.
Frequently, there are two numbers for the magnification separated by a dash, and this expresses the adjustability range of the magnification level from the lower to the higher one. The performance or limit of usefulness of a scope is expressed in its magnification. A 4x scope would be ill-equipped to accommodate the needs of a 1000-yard benchrest shooter; on the other hand, shooting when deer hunting in thick forests would be quite difficult using a 32x scope.
As a rule of thumb, low magnifications such as 4x or 6x support more intuitive and faster shooting along with better target tracking. High magnification levels such as 16x and higher provide fantastic resolution of targets but tend to be heavier and larger as well as more expensive and difficult to use.
4. Bushnell 454164B Elite 4500 DOA 600 Series Riflescopes Box
Delivering 4x to 16x magnification, the Bushnell Elite 4500 is equipped with a 40mm objective lens and uses Dead On Accurate™ (DOA) Reticle Technology that extends the effective range significantly so you can assess the quality of your target quickly.
With fully multi-coated optics, this device comes with all air-to-glass surfaces having multiple layers of anti-reflective coating to deliver exquisitely high-contrast and bright images that reduce eyestrain because of less loss of light before the image gets to your eye.
This model comes with magnum recoil-proof structure in its one-piece 1-inch tube for stability.
This product is mentioned among the best for deer hunting and it offers dependable durability thanks to its waterproof, fogproof and shockproof construction.Buy from Amazon.com
Best crossbow scope
Whether you’re into archery tournaments or live game hunting, you will need the best scope for crossbow hunting to see the target clearly from a distance. This type of device enables effortless shot visualization of the target to improve accuracy and thus ensure clean and quick ethical kills,
Sometimes called sights, scopes help ensure that the target does not suffer because those types of devices are designed to deliver clear visual. Make sure the scope provides a proper fit.
You can choose from laser, reticle and red dot scopes. A red dot sight projects a visible red dot for easy aiming. A reticle scope has crosshairs that can be wired in, etched into the lens or even illuminated, providing a four-quarter lens view breakup for effortless target visualization. The best sight for crossbow comes with laser capability, which is great for moving targets.
5. Plano BOW-MAX Crossbow Case
Equipped with fully multi-coated lenses, the Nikon Bolt XR BDC 60 is a shockproof, waterproof and fogproof device that offers easy viewing of the target.
Outfitted with a large ocular and quick-focus eyepiece, this model comes with a lightweight compact design and is inarguably the best scope for night hunting thanks to its ability to transmit up to 92 percent of ambient light for top notch contrast and brightness when you’re assessing the target.
This crossbow scope offers 3-32x magnification for versatility and comes with a 32mm objective lens for superb performance.
The optical elements are given multiple layers of anti-reflective coating for exceptional edge-to-edge clarity.Buy from Amazon.com
Truly a must-have accessory for the avid target practice shooter or live game hunter, a bow sight provides easy target magnification thanks to its ability to make the target look larger than it is from a distance. This ensures hassle-free visualization of the shot for effortless planning for bow shooting and hunting.
A bow sight contributes to greater shot accuracy, which provides clean and quick shooting and ethical kills. Because of how it helps ensure precise hits, a bow sight ensures that the prey does not go through prolonged suffering. A bow sight is configured as a long black tube at one end of which is an ocular lens fitted on an eyepiece. A model with zoom functions comes with a power ring for adjustment of the zoom for the sight. A windage adjustment and elevation adjustment tool is in the middle of the body of the sight. An objective bell can be found at the end of the bow sight. You can choose from laser, reticular or red dot sights.
Red dot sights project a red dot that you can see, for effortless aiming at the target. Some models project a green dot. Single-style distance settings are what some models have. Advanced multi-dot sights enable you to set a number of shooting distances or scope limits, along with an option to make the illuminated dot brighter or darker depending on your preference. A reticular sight has crosshairs for easy dividing of the lens view into four quarters.
6. Tabiger Archery Essential
Undoubtedly the best bow sight on the market, the Tabiger Archery Essential is a 3-pin bow sight made of durable 6061-T6 aluminum to ensure many hunting seasons of use. Projecting either a red or green dot depending on your preference, this bow sight provides markings for elevation and windage to facilitate problem-free level adjustment using the two vertical bars.
The bow stabilizer ensures an efficient compact design so your view remains sturdy regardless of the recoil or vibration when the projectile is released. This model boasts molded vibration reducing technology so your shots are accurate for clean and ethical quick kills. Hold your arrow securely and safely thanks to the convenient arrow rest.
This model comes with elevation and windage adjustment without damaging the fletching or inhibiting it during release.
Best laser rangefinder
When you’re a rifle hunter, bowhunter or muzzleloader, a hunting laser rangefinder can make a significant difference between a successful hunting trip and cruelty to the target. Wrong 50 yard estimates, for instance, can result from uncontrolled long shots that come from the bullet dropping too fast.
Award winning laser rangefinders are equipped with a revolutionary target priority feature, which some big-name manufacturers call distant priority or first priority feature, or Bullseye or brush mode. Such advanced models allow far or near priority settings, with the device reporting the farther of two distances in the far setting with a split reading, for easy distinction between simple cover and the game animal.
For bow hunters who wait for their target in an elevated hunting stand, angle compensation can be highly useful. The elevated angles when hunting at that position can have an effect on the true horizontal distance to the target.
However, models with an angle compensation feature are able to offset the difference that comes from the elevated position of the hunter so the weapon can be set accordingly to accommodate the difference. A lower magnification provides a larger field of view when tracking a moving target at comparatively close distances.
A low magnification also allows single-handed use of the device since the image will be easier to view steadily compared to units with higher magnification. Dual-purpose rangefinders with higher magnifications are effective for bowhunting, while an archery rangefinder would serve you better with lower power via 4x magnification.
7. Nikon 8397 ACULON AL11 Laser Rangefinder
Offering rapid accuracy and the ultimate in portability, the Nikon 8397 ACULON AL11 is outfitted with the brand’s quality optics using a 20mm objective lens and 6x magnification. Offering long eye relief for eyeglass wearers, this model provides a clear view and exquisitely detailed target sighting with the multi-layer coated optics for minimal loss of light due to reflection for a superbly realistic view.
This model comes with an ultra-compact and 4.4-ounce lightweight design for comfortable around-the-neck wearing or pocketability, which enables problem-free carrying. Offering easy use, this model provides intuitive operation at a simple push of a button for an instant distance reading.
The exclusive Distant Target Priority Mode enables the device to display the range of the most distant target amidst a cluster of targets measured, helping distinguish between target and brush or foliage.Buy from Amazon.com
Do I need any hunting optics accessories?
Your choice of hunting optics pretty much influences the outcome of every hunting trip. Seasoned hunters know that shooting skills, whether with a rifle or bow, are not the only important aspect to a successful hunting endeavor. With top quality hunting optics, the odds are definitely in your favor especially when your hunting skills are already well-developed. Hunting optics improve your accuracy and enhance your long-range shooting skills even more. However, you can ensure optimal use of your collection of hunting optics by supplementing them with premium quality hunting optics accessories.
A binocular harness with Anti-Bounce technology provides a safe means of securing your binoculars to your chest to prevent them from bouncing or swinging during your trek towards the hunting site. You want this accessory to have dependable security straps for fastening your hunting optics with maximum security as well as tension-free protection of the glass optical elements of the device.
A hunting firearm or rifle can be used optimally with a boresighter, which is useful for eliminating point-of-aim errors due to parallax arising from extreme misalignment. Quality boresighters come with natural backlighting of the target, along with LED illumination for easy shooting even in low-light situations. You will want this type of accessory to come with a long battery life because you don’t know how much time you have to spend outdoors.
A scope cover protects your precision optics from moisture, dirt, dust, scratches, scuffs and dings. An optics case provides extra protection for your hunting optics such as your spotting scope. A good quality optics case comes with a lightweight yet strong and watertight resin body and a special valve that prevents moisture by equalizing air pressure inside the case.
A reticle leveling system enables you to ensure a perfectly leveled scope on any firearm. Top rating reticle leveling systems come with CNC machined and factory adjusted calibration set screws, a protective molded case and anodized aluminum construction for years of use. Other useful hunting optics accessories include cantilever mounts, bubble levels, binocular adapters, window mounts and more.
What storage systems should I use for my hunting optics?
Your hunting optics need to be stored properly for easy transport or carrying. There is a large variety of hunting optics storage systems that enable you to accomplish this easily while ensuring convenience.
It pays to invest in top quality hunting optics storage systems to protect the investment you have also made on your hunting optics. In the long run, since storage systems are definitely cheaper than the hunting optics themselves, you’ll save more money on replacements of damaged or ruined gear that happen due to improper or inadequate storage and transport systems.
A binocular case keeps your binoculars protected as you traverse the hunting trail while ensuring that the sighting gear is always within reach. A scope case protects the sensitive components of your hunting optics from being damaged due to the bumps and shock during your trek through the hunting grounds.
A binocular harness holds your hunting optics securely to your chest with reduced bouncing around as you climb or walk while keeping them within easy reach. Make sure that the harness, connector or case has a durable strap.
How to choose the best hunting optics
Your choice of hunting optics can spell the difference between finding the trophy catch for your collection and going home empty handed. There may be a need to read plenty of hunting optics reviews in order to find the product that works for you. These are the elements to look into when selecting hunting optics.
Know the type that works best for your hunting style
A hunting scope lets you assess the size and condition of the target. Multi-power scopes provide the greatest versatility. Hunting scopes come with a tube-like structure as well as a range of magnification powers. The best telescope for hunting falls into this category. Other examples of scopes include the best monocular for hunting, the best laser rangefinders, spotting scopes, the best gun scopes, and binoculars.
Lighter than a deer rifle, binoculars let you view the target with both eyes open, ensuring comfortable use. The best hunting binocular offers dependable performance in terms of clarity and brightness and offers the ability to bring out small details in your target. You get a larger field of view since you can see a larger area with less movement. Binoculars also support easy use when you are hunting in a blind or on a tree stand. They are versatile enough for use during vacations, ball games and other outdoor activities. A 7x to 8x magnification is sufficient for most hunting situations.
Spotting scopes are typically mounted on a tripod to hold them steady. They are designed closer to a telescope than binoculars. The average magnification is between 20x and 60x. Spotting scopes will need frequent adjustments since their field of view can become unbalanced easily even with just an accidental slight bumping of the device. This kind of device is suitable for use in large, open areas for target locating, or at a firing range during distance shooting. A good quality spotting scope enables you to stay put and not to have to walk downrange just to mark where you’ll be hitting. Since the scope is attached to a loaded hunting rifle, it can add weight to your weapon.
Rangefinders work best with close-range weapons including a pistol or bow. They will also be essential for long range shots in terms of trajectory. This type of scope reduces the guesswork out of judging the distance between you and your target. It allows you to compute the difference between the point of impact and the crosshairs so you can do the corresponding adjustments in shot placement.
An HD digital camera offers screen viewing, video recording and high definition clarity in a single device. However, this type of device tends to be sensitive to the elements aside from being fragile. Be sure to take along spare batteries and ample memory storage options for the camera to be able to document the entire hunt, such as taking a selfie with your catch.
Hunting sights also feature a sophisticated optical system to offset such elements as elevation, parallax, windage and low light hunting conditions. The best bow sight for deer hunting employs a system that requires alignment to allow you to obtain a precise point of aim on your target. Typically, sights are not equipped with any kind of magnification power and those that do, have it at low levels such as one power. Some examples of sights include laser, red dot scopes, the best adjustable bow sight, telescopic sights, open and reflex sights, laser sights and others.
Magnification is essential
When choosing hunting optics, one vital element to look at is magnification, regardless whether you’re using a pair of binoculars, a spotting scope or a rifle scope. Why? Because the ability of your hunting optics device to make objects appear larger than they are is the tool’s primary functionality.
This is why some products include the magnification in their names. Hunting optics show you this value through an equation, with two numbers separated by an ‘x’. The first number is the magnification, thus in the equation 10×40, the ‘10’ is the magnification and it signifies that the device magnifies an image 10 times. For spotting scopes, you want something in the 60x range while for rifle scopes and binoculars, you want it closer to 8x or 10x.
Lens diameter is another vital aspect
The second number that you can find in your hunting optics description that includes the magnification is the lens diameter. The second number is the lens diameter in millimeters. Thus, a 3×40 device has a three-power optic and a 40mm lens. As long as you have the budget, get the largest diameter available that you can also handle. The diameter of your lens influences the field of view of the hunting optics.
With a larger outer lens, you’ll be able to see more, and scanning a large area is immensely beneficial when looking for game. The brightness of the image also has something to do with the lens diameter, and the larger this value is, the more light gathering capability the lens has. Even if you have good magnification, the details of your target will not be easily viewable if the lens diameter is too small.
The quality of the optical elements also influences the performance of the device
Clarity and brightness are also dictated by the type of optical elements used in your hunting optics. The best compound bow sight, for instance, comes with top quality lens coatings along with cutting-edge optical technologies that can help you enjoy bright and clear images.
Those elements distinguish premium quality optics from inferior ones. Thus, products on the higher end of the price spectrum enable you to enjoy crisper and brighter images that are less distorted compared to what low-priced inferior products are designed to deliver.
Make sure the hunting optics are suitable for your specific application
For long distance, big game hunting, there is a greater need for the hunting optics to have both scanning and magnification capabilities, as compared to waterfowl hunting for which you would need good magnification as well as a wide field of view. In close range hunting, you’d have to keep both eyes wide open, as well as a broad field of view.
Wildlife observations require optics equipment with a weight that can be supported on a tripod, so as to avoid rendering transportation cumbersome. Variable zooming abilities are a necessary addition, in this case. High-powered magnification and the ability to withstand recoil are needed for long distance target shooting of stationary targets.
Accuracy and aim are needed as much as trigger velocity for speed shooting competitions. Bear in mind that you should obtain hunting optics that will deliver the goods according to the specific application.
What you need to know about hunting optics
In hunting, it’s always a challenge to see your target from far away, and without hunting optics, that would be impossible to do. Fortunately, both bow and rifle hunters now have a wide range of hunting optics to choose from. Whether it’s binoculars, spotting scopes, hunting scopes or rangefinders, as well as a host of other optical tools, you always have something available on the market to help you see well and hunt well. The best hunting optics are engineered to provide good visuals so you can enjoy every hunting trip.
If you are a gun hunter, you will find a rifle scope indispensable when hunting in open terrain. Riflescopes offer a wide range of variations compared to spotting scopes and binoculars. Regular rifle hunters go for a general purpose 3-9x40mm scope because of how this type covers a variety of hunting situations easily.
For hunting in dense timber, you have other options including fixed 4x zoom and 2-7x. You can choose from variable zoom, fixed zoom, a variety of reticle types or crosshairs, a range of bullet drop adjustments over trajectory or distance, as well as the windage or how the wind can affect bullet flight and variable eye relief distances.
The choices vary as well from regular scopes to highly tactical models to red dot scopes and electronic units. The best rifle scope brands come with scope covers that not only allow quick access to the device but are also durable.
One thing to remember is scopes with high top-end magnifications typically feature high low-end magnification as well, which can be impractically high for shooting at close range. However, if you plan to shoot predominantly from a distance, you will need at least a 12x magnification.
Spotting scopes are characterized by large lens diameters and high magnifications. Spotting scopes provide the best optics for hunting next to binoculars and this will be quite useful when you need to find your prey. Typically tripod mounted, a spotting scope is utilized for scanning an area for game.
Durability is a prime element you need in a spotting scope, which you want to have shockproof optics and a rubber body along with a dependable warranty. Spotting scopes are more compact than binoculars but offer a variety of objectives and zooms just like their double-barrel counterparts. Lighter models offer smaller objective and zoom options while large objective, high zoom models are quite hefty, weighing in as much as 5 pounds or even heavier.
A greater amount of light enters a large objective lens, giving you brighter images at any fixed zoom level. Small spotting scopes may lack clarity and eye relief. A good spotting scope should be paired with a good quality tripod.
When in the market for binoculars, you want a good balance of lens diameter and magnification to scan the horizon. Excessively large binoculars can be hard to hang around the neck. A good balance between performance and weight should be available from binoculars in the 10×40 or 10×42 range. A relatively ideal configuration would be 8×42. Whichever you choose, you want the device to be rugged enough for your outdoor adventures, and to offer the right objective and zoom for your hunting needs. You also want to invest in the best hunting tripod for binoculars for optimal use.
You will need to know the exact distance between yourself and the prey in order to make adjustments accurately to your shot placement, whether with a bow or a rifle at a distance of around more than 200 yards.
A rangefinder puts together a sensor and laser with a monocular. A button activates the laser while the shooter looks through the monocular. The laser bounces off the animal and reverts back to the sensor, then the monocular allows you to know how much distance there is between you and your target, either in meters or yards.
Some models offset angular drop as well. You want the monocular to provide optical clarity. The device should offer good ranging distance, along with consistent ranging for the same object at the same distance, with an exact reading every time.