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March 4th, 2009

High-Magnification Binoculars for Long-Range Varminting

Forum regular Aaron H. (aka “6BR”) has been having great success in the California varmint fields with “Orange Crush”, his super-accurate 6BR rifle. Aaron recently posted his experiences with various laser rangefinder (LRF) types, and field binoculars. While there’s plenty of information available on LRFs, including our own Laser Rangefinder Comparison, it’s harder to find good info on binoculars from the perspective of a varmint hunter. Aaron looked at a variety of premium binoculars, and ended up choosing the 15×45 Zeiss Conquest, after careful consideration.

6BR rifle

Choosing the Right Binoculars for Long-Range Varmint Hunting
Aaron writes: “[It] was a hard undertaking to pick the right pair. I decided I wanted a high magnification pair of binos in the 10x to 15x range. I narrowed my choices down to Zeiss, Swarovski, Leica, or Nikon. I was sure I was going to buy the Swarovskis when I started comparison shopping. However, I was wrong… I ended up getting a pair of the Zeiss 15×45 Conquests.”

Zeiss binocularsZeiss binoculars

Aaron reports: “The clarity of the Zeiss binos is awesome. I am glad I took the time to look through each and every pair before I bought. I was also impressed with the Nikon Monarch ATB; for the price, they are impressive. The Swarovskis were awesome too. However, through my eyes, the Zeiss clarity was better.”

The Zeiss 15×45 Binoculars are fairly expensive. At most places they go for about $1100.00 (see chart below), but you can find some better deals. Aaron tells us: “I had to sell other firearms to be able to afford the Zeiss binos and a Swaro 8×30 LRF. If you decide to shoot varmints, at long range, you’ll find out very quickly how important it is to have quality optics. When you spend a bunch of time looking through binoculars, it can become very hard on the eyes. So the better quality binoculars you have, the more comfortable you’ll be during your varmint hunt. I learned the hard way during the beginning years of long range varminting, and I realized how important it is to have quality optics.”

Zeiss Conquest 15×45 B T — Price Comparison
B&H Photo
Night Vision Planet
Eagle Optics
Optics Planet

Nikon Monarch ATB Offers Great Performance for the Price
Aaron was impressed with the Nikon ATBs, given their low cost. But Aaron cautions: “It’s very important to go look through the binos before you buy a pair. Had the Zeiss 15×45 Conquests not been so remarkably clear, I probably would have bought a pair of the Nikon Monarch ATBs. If you need a pair of binoculars and you can’t afford the higher end binoculars, I would highly recommend the Nikon Monarch ATBs, offered in both 10-power and 12-power. I would have to say, and I am not making this up, they were close to the clarity of the higher-end binos. I also looked through a pair of the Leupold Golden Ring binos. They are nice, however, I felt the clarity of Nikons were much better and the price was much cheaper.” [Editor: The Nikon 10x42mm and 12x42mm Monarch ATBs retail for about $290.00 and $330.00 respectively at discount vendors such as B&H Photo.]

Zeiss binoculars

Aaron added: “One more thing, I am stating my own opinion on what I think works best for me. Another brand of optics might work better for someone else. I don’t want to offend anybody or imply that other brands are bad, I just wanted to give my experience with what I use and have had success with.”

Tips for Holding Binoculars Steady
Nate Haler, another Forum member, offered this advice about high-magnification binoculars: “Unless you are using a tripod or other mechanical support for a binocular, 15x magnification is too much. Image tremble will be much more problematic when trying to hand-hold a binocular of such high magnification. Furthermore, the exit pupil (i.e. the little circle of light transmitted to the ocular lens) will be only 3mm in a 15×45 binocular, which means 15x magnification and a 45mm objective lens. Exit pupil enables you to see the image better or worse in low light. 7mm exit pupil is about as big as a healthy human eye in a young adult can dilate. Smaller than that, and the image is dimmer.”

Editor’s Comment: Nate makes some very good points, but we would add that you can rest your binoculars on a pack or sandbag, or use an inexpensive tripod or bracket to hold the binoculars steady. Zeiss also makes a 12-power version of the binoculars Aaron favored. This editor has used 12x binoculars in the field without difficulty, but you definitely have to learn to “hold steady”. One technological solution is built-in image stabilization. Canon has a series of image-stabilized binoculars (8x, 10x, 12x, 15x, and 18x), and they work very well. The 15×50 is shown below. Regarding the 3mm exit pupil, yes a bigger exit pupil is better in low light, but 3mm should be adequate for daytime hunting. Keep in mind that a shooter using a 25-power riflescope will be looking through an exit pupil that’s 2mm or smaller.

Canon IS biniculars

Geovid All-in-One Option (Rangefinding Binoculars)
The Leica Geovid binoculars are another option for hunters. These combine great glass with a built-in Laser Rangefinder. That way you only need one optic for both game spotting and rangefinding. Aaron considered the Geovid option, but it didn’t offer any money savings compared to purchasing binoculars and LRF separately. Additionally, he felt that his Swaro 8×30 rangefinder out-performed the LRF in the Geovids. “The Leica Geovids are excellent. They are just so darn expensive. I think they start around $2600 for the 8×42 and go up to $3300 for the 15×56 pair. I would still choose the Swaro 8×30 LRF over the Geovids. Why? Because the Swaro out-ranges the Geovids by 300 yards and the Swaro is $1600 cheaper. That leaves a lot of cash left over for good binoculars.”

Permalink Hunting/Varminting, Optics 3 Comments »
September 4th, 2008

Beretta-Owned Burris Acquires Steiner-Optik GmbH

Here’s another outdoor industry business consolidation, another big fish swallowing little fish. Beretta Holdings, through its Burris division, has acquired Germany’s Steiner-Optik GmbH. Steiner, a respected maker of optics, particularly binoculars, is based in Bayreuth, Germany, and now employs 120 workers. Steiner will be integrated into the Beretta Group through its optics subsidiary, Burris, based in Colorado. So now the Germans will be making binoculars for a US-based company owned by Italians.

Steiner BinocularsWhy did this acquisition take place? Steiner has not been very successful in the North American market. Steiner’s President and CEO, Carl Steiner, needed the help of an international group with strong distribution and plenty of marketing clout. Beretta Holdings doubtless believes that the addition of Steiner, a “prestige” optics name for over 50 years, will help Burris compete against high-end brands such as Leica and Swarovski. This is a good thing for Burris. Steiner has a record of innovation: Steiner produced the first pocket-sized binoculars, the first commercial binoculars with rubber armor, and the first binoculars with an anti-UV protective lens coating.

Burris General Manager, Steve Bennetts, said both Burris and Steiner have strong brand identification, and he suggested that the two companies will soon coordinate their product development efforts. We suspect this means the high-end optics will carry the Steiner name while mid- and low-cost optics will be sold as Burris products.

Beretta’s companies offer a vast range of products, with optic devices representing an increasingly important component. Current companies owned by Beretta Holdings include: Beretta, Benelli, Burris, Franchi, Meccanica Del Sarca, Sako, Stoeger, Tikka, Uberti Replicas.

Permalink News, Optics 1 Comment »
March 13th, 2008

Great Deal on Steiner 8×30 Binoculars

Currently, Natchez Shooters Supply has the highly regarded Steiner 8×32 Predator binoculars on sale for $199.00, marked down from $249.00. The versatile, rubber-armored Predator 8×30 is small enough to carry easily and fit into a coat pocket, while offering both power and brightness. The Steiner 8x30s provide 20mm of eye relief and a 390-foot-wide field of vision at 1,000 yards. Weight is 18 ounces. The waterproof Predator 8x30s come with Auto-Focus System, wrap-around eye cups that fold down, objective lens covers, binocular case and strap. Steiner offers a 10-year warranty on this model.

Steiner Predator Binoculars

This is a very good deal. We did a quick price search on the web. Cabela’ has the same 8×30 Steiners for $260.94, while is charging $249.00.

CLICK HERE to read Steiner Binocular reviews from Cabela’s Customers.

Permalink Hot Deals, Optics No Comments »
November 27th, 2007

Bargain Days at Sierra Trading Post

I know most of this site’s readers on this site would spend their last dime on bullets and powder. But sometimes, you do have to purchase other essentials such as winter clothing and outdoor gear. Plus it’s the holiday season again, and that means gifts for the family.

Sierra Trading Post

Today we’re featuring Sierra Trading Post. This is a solid company that provides a wide variety of products for the outdoorsman, at sometimes spectacular prices. This editor has personally shopped with Sierra Trading Post for years, and just today I purchased two items, a Windstopper® Base Layer Shirt (item 12991) for winter motorcycling, and a set of Kenyon Polarskins polypro long johns (item 13854) for snow sports. At $16.95, the Polarskins are half the price I’d pay for a similar product from most outlets.

Sierra Trading Post is now running a huge promotion, with every item at least 50% off retail. Here are some products of interest to shooters and hunters:

Black Diamond Head lamp

I’ve got one of these LED lamps. It is much lighter than most other “headband lamps” and the battery lasts a long time. I use it for camping, reading, and even in the reloading room in the evening for extra illumination.

Winchester Upland Jacket

For $39.95, this Blaze Orange/Khaki Winchester Upland hunting jacket is a great bargain, though it’s not waterproof. What I really like is that it comes with TWO fleece inner liners–a vest and a full-sleeved inner jacket, both of which can be worn separately. It even has cartridge holders in the front and a game pouch on the back. Here’s what one purchaser has to say: “Have worn this in thick bushland, stands up to abuse, and with blaze orange built in, no need for extra items of [hunting] clothing. Very adaptable with warm vest that can be removed if too warm”.

Steiner 7x50 Binoculars

If you want a pair of armored binoculars that will last a lifetime, these 7×50 Waterproof Steiners are a great deal at $274.50. Even at “ultra-discount” warehouse stores, 7×50 Marine Steiners sell for $300-320.00. These binoculars are based on the rugged Steiner mil-spec 7×50 unit used by the U.S. Army. Steiner’s fully-coated lenses are legendary for their clarity and resolution.

Sierra Trading Post isn’t all just camping and outdoor gear. There is a wide selection of other suitable gift items for the wife, kids, and relatives — wool sweaters, silk underwear, travel accessories, ski goggles… you name it.

Permalink Hot Deals, Optics 2 Comments »