The Value of Binoculars

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  • This topic has 17 replies, 15 voices, and was last updated 1 year ago by Andrew. This post has been viewed 154 times
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    • #106683

        Before we get into the specifics, first, “why binoculars?”

        After evacuating a casualty under fire, the second hardest thing you will do is locate the enemy. Higher levels of observation, especially as terrain opens up, can hopefully allow you to locate the enemy before they locate you. This is a skill in itself. Binoculars can be a critical piece of equipment in successfully locating enemy. Remember, the enemy generally doesn’t want to be seen. You might only see an ear, an eye, a boot, or a piece of equipment. Sometimes, things that are that small, depending on conditions, may not be visible with the naked eye. These things may allow you to change your route, avoid an ambush, or set up a hasty ambush of your own, depending on the mission. In short, your powers of observation could mean the difference between literal life and death.

        “BuT i hAvE a RiFlE oPtiC!” Yes, you may, but it will generally take far too long to use for effective scanning. More importantly, you might instigate a reaction from a neutral third party, who could easily mistake your scanning for taking up a firing position, and thinking you are just about to fire- perhaps on them or someone/something they care about. A rifle optic, as it only uses one eye, also reduces your depth perception and can be more easily blocked by vegetation.

        For all those reasons, binoculars are a great piece of gear to use for “second level” scanning (after using your eyes), especially during SLLS halts, in OPs, reconnaissance, etc.

        A few factors to consider when choosing binos:

        1) Magnification:

        For general purpose, I think around 5-8x to strike a balance between useful magnification and image stability. I hear there are some binos out now with active image stabilization, I can’t speak to them.

        2) Weight/size:

        With respect to the fight lite concept, if they are too big or heavy, the might outweigh their usefulness, quite literally.

        3) Clarity:

        The better the image quality, the more you will be able to pick up on. I’ve seen the same person pick up two sets of binos, and be able to see something with the higher quality one that they could not with the lower quality. Image quality might mean the difference between locating something/someone or missing them completely. Buy what you feel comfortable spending, but there is a threshold where the image quality is so low, they are nearly useless.

        4) Robustness:

        Although I’ve never broken a pair, in a tactical environment, they are likely to be banged around, get dirty, wet, etc. Some binoculars are built more robustly than others (hard to tell in many cases). But one easy feature to identify is rubber armor. Some binos are covered by rubber to reduce impacts. They can also help with glare.

        5) Nice to Haves:

        A mil reticle on the binos are great for more detailed reconnaissance, allow you to mil objects to set up a more accurate range card/sector sketch/etc.

        Some binos have laser protection coating, kind of trivial, but nice to have.

        Cat eyes- these are usually DIY, but turn an easily recognizable circle into something more natural looking. They generally don’t affect the usability until in gets pretty low light, and also reduce the chances of glint off the front lens giving you away.

      • #106684

          Steiner’s. Buy nice or buy twice.

        • #106685
          Joe (G.W.N.S.)

            I recommend finding a retail location that has a wide variety to compare.

            Many have no idea how much difference the clarity of good glass makes.

            A quality lower magnification compact binos will help you detect and identify what a larger poor quality set with greater magnification will not.

            I personally think Nikon has the best quality for the price. There are certainly better ones available if cost is not a factor, but most do not want to pay for Leica quality. Leica is probably the best available at this time, but start at around $500 for a compact model.

            Nikon depending on what you choose will be a third to half of that price.

            For general use a compact model is of more use for our purposes, but a larger model for dedicated surveillance has value.

            Again you have to actually do a side by side comparison to appreciate the difference.

            Learn how to actually adjust them to your eyes is a bigger deal than most realize.

          • #106686

              Nikon ProStaff 7S Compact Binocular is reasonably priced.

            • #106687

                This is a good topic to bring up, nice to learn which brands are worth the investment since some of us idiots have no experience with optics. :good:

              • #106688

                  For what it’s worth, I’ve been using the Steiner Military/Marine 8×30 binos ($250-300). They have good clarity, rubber armor and individual eye diopter adjustment. They are technically midsize, but on the smaller size of midsize. For me, they are still just small enough to carry around without worrying about size weight, but still good field of view. I also feel like 8x is the max before image stabilization gets tough, at least for my uses.

                  Having compared them side-by-side with other binoculars (various vortex’s and a few entry leopolds) I like my Steiners more.

                  Steiner also makes a very similar version, but with a mil reticle, the 830r, but it costs ~$800.

                  Observation is a skill, just like any other. Luckily, it’s not to hard to practice, especially if you can get a partner involved.

                • #106689

                    Just a heads up for the Steiner binocs- we (JRH) can order them for you and save you some bucks off retail. I don’t have them on the site, but I’m happy to special order some for MVT members.

                    I have a pair of Commanders and the smaller ones like JM talked about, both are excellent. You can also find good used sets cheap from time to time.

                  • #106690

                      Many moons ago I sold survey and optical tooling instruments. Nikon had really good optical quality on those things for the price. Leica and Zeiss were the best but you really paid for it.

                    • #106691

                        I have a set of 20 year old Nikons, got water inside them on a WY elk hunt or death march ymmv and while I thought they were toast they dried out and have used them reliably since.

                        And has anyone actually used them on the two way range in that last wars? I would think they would be handy but also make you a target.

                      • #106692

                          I have a set of Steiner 8×24. Work well.

                        • #106693

                            For what it’s worth, I’ve been using the Steiner Military/Marine 8×30 binos ($250-300). They have good clarity, rubber armor and individual eye diopter adjustment.

                            Another vote for the Steiner 8×30. The porro prism design lets in more light than you’d expect given the exit pupil. Best feature is the “set it and forget it” focusing: depth of field is large enough that you can view 40 yards to infinity sharply without needing to refocus. Makes for really fast scanning. The glass clarity is nice too, reminds me of an ACOG but with stereoscopic vision. All around sweet spot for me.

                            I learned in CLC last year the importance of magnification for PID and will never go without some kind of magnified optic again outdoors, whether bino, mono, magnifier, or scope. It’s just as bad to shoot a friendly as it is to mistake an animal or inanimate object for an enemy and lose time/plans getting distracted by that.

                          • #106694

                              @ johnnymac Which specific model do you have? I’m interested in checking out a pair. Thanks in advance.

                            • #106695

                                Steiner mil marine 8X30
                                Been using mine for 14 years. Mainly for hunting. Love them.

                                HEAT 1(CTT) X 3
                                HEAT 2 (CP) X1
                                FOF X3
                                OPFOR X2
                                CLC X2

                              • #106696
                                First Sergeant


                                  Used the Army issue ones and have two sets of my own.

                                  Predator 12×40
                                  Safari 8×22

                                  Signal Out, Can You Identify
                                  Je ne regrette rien
                                  In Orbe Terrum Non Visi

                                • #106697

                                    I use both the Steiner 8×30 and the pocket size 8×24. Love the glass on both. The 8×24 are not as good but if space is an issue they are the best of that size I have found.
                                    Guys, take advantage of Roberts offer at JRH, he’s a great guy and you won’t beat the MVT alumni discount. Thanks Robert.

                                  • #106698
                                    Ronald Beal

                                      I have 2 pairs of steiners. One for the boat and one for “shooting”
                                      Have not found binos that I like better.

                                    • #106699

                                        So a couple Alumni got me ordering some Steiner binocs, so if you want a specific model, email me right away and we will get it in with this order. It will save you some cash versus retail. I’m going to put the order in early next week to allow a little time to hear back from a couple others.


                                        Ideally if you have the exact Steiner item # like for example 2033, that will help me get you prices quick and make sure we are talking about the same item.

                                      • #106700

                                          When I was guiding deer hunters I had a set of Nikon binos. They normally rode on the dashboard of the truck. After about 8 years the dust and bouncing got to them. They were great during the day, but twilight times left much to be desired.

                                          I got a set of Swarovski 10×50 binos. They were $1300.00 at the time. The light gathering at twilight times was outstanding! The draw back was the weight with just a neck strap.

                                          There are chest harness set ups available that will distribute the weight and most of all keep them from bouncing on your chest.

                                          Not sure how well they would work with a chest rig (haven’t tried it) but for just plain scouting or recon of an objective they would be hard to beat.

                                          I also have a set of BuShips 7 X 50 binos that were made before I was born and had been sitting in a warehouse some place with the original packing slip. Got set also, but even heavier than the Swarovski binos.

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