It seems every year, as lens technologies improve and materials become easier to obtain, optics manufacturers are producing better, high-quality scopes and binoculars than they did the year before. This year is no different, and during this year’s SHOT Show in Las Vegas, I was able to handle and peer through some amazingly clear options for around your neck and on your rifle, that won’t offset your hunting budget for the rest of 2019. With that in mind, here are some of the best optics options you’ll see landing on retailer’s shelves over the next few month that offer a lot of bang for the buck.
This very tough, very bright binocular might get the entirely subjective prize as top optics bargain at SHOT Show. The Optika HD, a product of the Czech Republic, features a magnesium alloy chassis, HD glass, aluminum eyecups, and best-in-class coatings. Available in either 8×42 or 10×42 configurations, the binoculars retail for just under $300. www.meoptasportsoptics.com
Yes, we may have called them “Tasco Fiascos” at some point in the past, but this budget optics brand is carving out a new identity—and market share—with a durable and capable line of air rifle scopes. The fixed 4-power with 32mm objective ($60) is perfect for most plinking pursuits, though small-game hunters may opt for the 2-7x32mm ($70) or even the 3-9x40mm ($90). All the scopes in the line are durability tested for pneumatic, CO2, and spring-piston actions, all have bold duplex reticles, and all ship with dovetail rings with a stop-pin for quick on- and off-mounting. www.tasco.com
Vanguard has a new line of entry-level optics called the Vesta that are designed to offer good performance and outrageous value. In the spotting scope lineup, you’ll find sized-down 350 and 460 models that are small enough to slip in the side pocket of a backpack and would be right at home on a shooting bench. The Vesta 560A is more of a standard-sized spotter. New Vesta binoculars include 25mm and 42mm models in 8- or 10-power options. You can get them in Realtree’s EDGE pattern or in traditional black. And on the compact bino side, the Compact 21 is available in black pearl, white pearl, champagne, and Rosaline. Vanguard didn’t have pricing or images available at deadline. www.vanguardworld.com
Nikon has redesigned its flagship hunting scope, the Monarch 5, to appeal to customers who want a number of attributes of the brand’s first-plane Black 1000 scopes but with more field-worthy chops like covered turrets and MOA reticle options. Other characteristics of the new Monarch 5 line are low-profile ¼ MOA turrets, side-focus parallax, 4X zoom ratio, and a wonderfully liberal mounting geometry. We also like the MK1 reticle, which includes a good number of windage references without being overly busy. www.nikonsportoptics.com
The latest optic from the direct-to-consumer brand Maven wasn’t displayed at SHOT, but we got a sneak peek at the product in the hallways. It’s a big, beautiful, super-sized binocular in the B-series. Called the B.5, it will be available in either 15×56 or 18×56 when it’s released in May. It’s built on the classic Abbe-Koenig prism, a more expensive type of roof prism that tends to produce better low-light performance because there’s little stray light bouncing around inside the optic. The new B.5 will retail for $1,500, which is a bargain for a full-sized binocular built around the A-K prism. www.mavenbuilt.com
Another direct-to-consumer brand, Tract is also coming out with a large-frame binocular later this year. The Toric 12x50mm will be available around the middle of March and features SCHOTT high-transmission glass, ED glass on the objective lens, a locking diopter, and the brand’s distinctive graphite-gray body. The balance and the tapered, multi-step eyecups make long glassing sessions through this powerful binocular a joy. MSRP: $794; www.tractoptics.com
If you’re surprised to see Austrian optics powerhouse Swarovski in a roundup of budget gear, then you haven’t seen the company’s new Z5 scope. Priced between $1,200 and $1,350, it’s designed to appeal to American deer hunters looking for a modestly appointed 1-inch scope with a variety of simple reticles in the second focal plane. Other attributes include the Z5’s fast and precise ballistic turret (optional), ¼ MOA turret adjustments, 5x zoom range, light weight (1 pound), and very wide field of view. The new Z5 gives hunters a choice of four reticles, from the standard BT plex to the innovative BRH holdover reticle. Expect to see the Z5 closer to $1,000 on sale. www.swarovskioptik.com