A couple of years ago, while hunting deer on public land, I noticed movement on the next ridge and focused my binocular on the spot, about a half mile away.It was another hunter, lying prone, his blaze-orange vest obscured by his pack. I was alarmed to see him looking back at me not through a binocular, but through the scope on his rifle. I inched out of rifle sight, my cold shiver replaced by an angry flash. For better or worse, I resolved to confront the dude who was aiming at me as if I was an enemy combatant. Or a deer.
Making sure my own orange vest was highly visible, I walked directly toward the hunter. I was surprised at how young he was, and it was hard to stay mad as I sat down beside him. As I explained that I didn’t appreciate being in his crosshairs, it became clear to me that not only did he not have a binocular, but he had never thought about an alternative to glassing through his riflescope.
I recalled my own early years as a hunter. I didn’t own a binocular, either, so if I wanted to see something better, whether a deer or a bird, I dialed up my scope’s power and aimed at it.
In time I realized it’s not only dangerous to point your gun at something you don’t intend to shoot, but it’s also ineffective. With a few exceptions, riflescopes aren’t scouting optics; they’re aiming tools.
I mention this because you can check out nearly every new riflescope of 2015 in this issue. Normally, we include binoculars and spotting scopes in our optics test, but this year we had so many riflescope submissions that we devoted the entire piece to them. Our review of new binoculars will appear in the September issue.
Starting on p. 44, you can read our evaluations of scopes of nearly every size, price, and purpose. (Gun reviews begin on p. 32.)But for all their variety, the job of a riflescope is singular: to place a projectile precisely where you want it downrange.
The purpose of a binocular is equally singular but, I’d argue, more foundational: It helps you see and define distant objects. You can’t shoot what you can’t see. A binocular will make you a better hunter, whether you’re a beginner or a veteran. It will also make you a safer hunter.
Before I left that kid who’d aimed at me, I gave him my binocular. It wasn’t a top-of-the-line optic, but it was sure better than nothing, and it made me feel just a little bit safer to share the field with him.