In looking over the 2004 optics offerings you'll notice some trends: Roof-prism binoculars have all but made porro-prism glasses obsolete, and variable scopes with ever-higher power ranges have supplanted 3X, 4X and 6X fixed-power sights. There's recognition, though, that high-quality optics are too expensive for lots of people, and companies with prestigious reputations are making more affordable products. That's good news! Here's more.
Alpen Apex binoculars feature BaK4 glass, phase correction and twist-out eyecups. "AquaShield outside lens coating beads water so you can see more clearly when the glass is wet," says Bob Knopf, who represents Alpen. The new 8x42 and 10x42 weigh 24 ounces, the 10x50 and 12x50 about 28 ounces. All are fully multicoated and waterproof. SRP: $400 to $450. For the budget-conscious, there's a new Shasta line, with 8x42 and 10x42 options. Booth #5853. (877-987-8379; www.alpenoutdoor.com)
Burris has a new Signature scope series. Signature Select models include a 3-10x40, plus 3-12X, 4-16X, 5-24X and 8-32X versions with 44mm objectives. The power ring is integral with the eyepiece, and deeply grooved for better grip. You'll find the Ballistic Plex reticle on Select scopes to 4-16X, the Ballistic Mil Dot on more powerful models. Resettable, finger-adjustable windage and elevation dials are standard. SRP: $665 to $1,005. Booth #4563. (970-356-1670; www.burrisoptics.com)
Bushnell has a pistol scope with the Firefly reticle introduced last year: a 2-6x32. For riflemen there's a new Firefly 5-15x40.
Economy is the focus in Banner riflescopes. The 6-24x40 Banner costs only $150. Another buy is a 3-9x40 with six inches of eye relief. It's kin to the 1.75-4X introduced last season. Booth #3933. (800-423-3537; www.bushnell.com)
Hunter riflescopes and spotting scopes no longer supplement Burris products. Now Jim Holtzclaw and son James offer both Hunter and Remington optics. There's a 3-9x40 and 3-9x50, a 1.5-4.5x32, a 2.5-10x42, a 3-12x42 and a 6-24x50 (with 1/8-minute clicks). All are affordable at $200 to $350. Booth #5112. (800-676-4868; www.huntercompany.com)
**Legacy Sports International **
Nikko-Sterling at Legacy Sports International now has with its riflescope line 30mm and 40mm 1X red-dot sights. Legacy's Glen Rue says "the red-dot sights comprise part of the mid-priced Gold Crown series, which also features 4-12x50 and 3-9x42 hunting scopes." Booth #469. (703-548-4837; www.legacysports.com)
Leica Camera, Inc.
Leica has a successor to its Trinovid binocular. The new Ultravid boasts a lighter frame. A new prism coating the company calls High Lux improves contrast and enhances brightness. Pick from these standard "BR" Ultravids: 7x42, 8x42 or 10x42. You can also get an 8X, 10X or 12X with 50mm objectives. Booth #5349. (800-222-0118; www.leica-camera.com)
Leupold & Stevens, Inc.
Leupold has replaced its Vari-X II series with the VX-I and VX-II scopes. Since then, the Rifleman trio has been added: 2-7x33, 3-9x40 and 4-12x40. The goal, says Mike Slack, "is to make Leupold scopes available to more shooters." With prices starting at less than $200, the Rifleman line is accessible. For 2004, the VX-I will be offered in matte finish; the VX-II has already been upgraded. Big news is dissolution of the Vari-X III line, to be replaced by VX-III scopes. Booth #4233. (503-646-9171; www.leupold.com)
Nikon is fielding a new 16-48x60 spotting scope for hunters, the XL2. You'll find better lens coatings on this 30-ounce waterproof scope. Other Nikon news includes a Laser 800 range finder with a mode that gives you a read on objects too small to hold against the reticle. Booth #5433. (631-547-4200; www.nikonusa.com)
Pentax U.S.A., Inc.
Pentax has redesigned its Light-seeker scopes. "We've added a fast-focus European eyepiece and moved the turret toward the center of the tube," says Tony Tekansic. "We've also replaced the flat turret spring with the coil-spring standard on Lightseeker 30 scopes." The new UCFWP is a fine reverse-porro mini-binocular, a waterproof version of the UCFX. Booth #5137. (800-877- 0155; www.pentax lightseeker.com)
Springfield Armory is overhauling its riflescope line this year, says advertising manager Bill Dermody. "Now you can pick from thirteen Tactical models, including two new variables: a 3-9x42 and a 3.5-10x50 with a 30mm tube." The internal bubble level at the bottom of the scope field still comes as standard equipment, as does the gear-driven, power-change mechanism. Booth #343. (800-680-6866; www.spring fieldarmory.com)
Steiner, long a supplier of military binoculars with individual focus, is pursuing the hunting market. The Predator line of binoculars will soon include 8.5x26 and 10.5x28 models, priced under $300. Linda DeVito says, "They'll feature the green-tinted, high-contrast lenses that help you see woodland game more easily." There's also a 10x32 Merlin roof-prism binocular for around $450, plus 10x50 and 12x50 roof-prism glasses. Booth #5667. (800-257-7742; www.steiner-binoculars.com)
Carl Zeiss Optical, Inc.
Carl Zeiss is following up its Conquest line of riflescopes with a new Conquest binocular series. The 8x30, 10x30, 12x45 and 15x45 roof-prism glasses feature phase correction, lockable eyecups and a center-focus wheel with diopter adjustment. Waterproof and rubber-armored, Zeiss Conquests weigh only 16 to 20 ounces. Retail prices for Conquest binoculars range from $550 to $750. Booths #1324 & #4737. (800-441-3005; www.zeiss.com)