Choosing Binoculars

Picking the Right Pair

Hunting brings out the stealth in those who are heading to the wilderness to find game.  Along with the right firearm and scope, binoculars are a necessary piece of equipment and as much care goes into choosing the right pair of binoculars as it does in choosing a scope.


Generally, 7x to 10x is enough magnification for any type of hunting.  However, many hunters are prone to overdoing it in this area.  The rule of thumb here is to remember that as magnification goes up, image steadiness goes down.  If you're standing by a tree and can use it to prop up your 10x binoculars, that's great.  But, after heading up a hill, trying to steady a pair of 10x binoculars is quite another thing.  There are times when larger observation binoculars are used for hunting, but they require a tripod and are used more like spotting scopes than binoculars.  If you find you need more magnification than 7x or 8x, it may be a consideration to move to a spotting scope, especially if you are at a distances in excess of 100 yards from your prey.

The need for greater magnification may be satisfied in zoom binoculars, but these have some major drawbacks for hunting: primarily, there are no waterproof zoom binoculars being produced, which is a serious problem for hunters.  Also, zoom binoculars are inferior in optical quality to a fixed power binocular no matter what magnification is being used. They don't seem to be able to handle the hard use consistent in hunting and they have a return and repair rate nearly ten times that of a fixed power binocular.  Add to that the fact that if you want a magnification beyond 10x or 12x, you'll need a tripod for support.

Objective Size

A good binocular with an objective of 40 to 42mm is very capable of handling any hunting situation you'd come upon during legal hunting hours.  If you're scouting or hunting at night, a larger lens, 50mm to 56mm,  will allow for more detail but will also be much heavier, bigger and much more expensive than the same model with a smaller lens.  An excellent compromise between performance and mobility would be a 30 or 32mm objective.  If it is necessary to go smaller in order to conserve weight or space, remember that the smaller lens will not give the performance in low light situations nor great viewing comfort if you're having to use them for extended periods of time.  The primary factor to keep in mind if you're having to go very light is not to sacrifice quality for cost.