In the world of observation optics, two kinds reign supreme. These are binoculars and spotting scopes. Both are magnified optics, and both give you long-range vision. But which one is right for you? This seems to be the eternal question.
Hopefully, we can answer it today. I’ll tell you right now there is no one-answer-fits-all, and you can’t outright declare one beats the other. Let’s explore both, and maybe then you can answer the question of what’s right for you.
Binoculars are a perfect compromise in the magnified optics world. They can provide a long distance view and make the world come alive in vivid detail. Binoculars are also lightweight, and their magnification is often limited so it’s easy to use them in an offhand manner.
Offhand means without the use of a bipod or tripod. Binoculars are smaller and lighter, making them easy to carry. They are perfect for casual viewing and scanning on the move. In addition, they often feature a fixed magnification. However, variable models are also quite common.
Binoculars also range greatly in price, quality and magnification. Rest assured you can find binoculars at most budgets designed for most tasks.
Spotting Scopes Overview
Spotting scopes are absolute beasts. If something’s really far and you need to see it, then a spotting scope is the best way to go. These products are immensely powerful tools with massive amounts of magnification. They also tend to be heavier and bigger than binoculars.
Since they are such powerful tools, they require the use of tripods and stable platforms. Sporting variable magnifications 60-power and beyond mean a slight tick or movement looks a lot bigger!
Spotting scopes come in a variety of sizes and magnification levels. These are made by a wide variety of optics manufacturers. They tend to be the more expensive option, but that’s understandable when power is factored in.
Which optic is better? That’s a hard call to make, but each has a different purpose. Let’s look at some everyday tasks and talk about the advantages and disadvantages.
When it comes to hunting, both tools can be invaluable. Spotting scopes are great for scouting ridges, observing environments, and even zooming in on an animal. These devices are better suited for hunters in hills and prairies.
Spotting scopes allow you to spot and then stalk an animal until you get at the right range to take a shot. They require time to set up and take down. This means the spotting scope can only be used at a decent distance.
Binoculars are better suited for brush and short field hunting. The hunting binoculars rule the Southeastern United States where their low power and wide field of view comes in handy. In these situations, the lower power allows you to scan what’s in front of you. Due to the terrain, you don’t need a wide-open and long-range type view.
Binoculars in the brush, swamp, and logging trails make it easy to spot animals that are naturally camouflaged. In these situations, the high power of a spotting scope isn’t needed. In fact, it is often too powerful to use.
A spotting scope is undoubtedly the better choice when it comes to long-range shooting. The increased magnification and wider objective lens make it easier to zoom in. You can even see hits in a target. Typically bullet holes are quite small. So, to see them you need a high-powered optic. Even at ranges of only 100 yards.
Additionally, a spotting scope is used to scout an area at extremely long ranges. At 500 yards, most spotting scopes aren’t capable of showing you bullet holes in targets. However, they will help you differentiate your target from your neighbor’s target. Trust us when we say it can get confusing at long ranges with identical targets in a line.
In addition, you can look through the scope and make wind calls with accuracy. Furthermore, you can make better range estimations at unknown ranges.
Binoculars can be used for archery or short range shooting. They are simply too underpowered and not stable enough for long-range use.
There is no clear winner for the tactical use category. It really depends on contextual, specific situations. Snipers are much better suited to spotting scopes than binoculars. They can observe their targets and differentiate between friend, foe, and civilian. At the same time, you’ll never see a sniper without a set of binoculars.
Spotting scopes are also better to use when surveying an area. Police officers on a stakeout are best served with a tripod mounted spotting scope.
Binoculars are easy to scan with, easier to use on the move, and generally better suited for close range observation. They are the most likely to be in the hands of your average grunt on patrol. Binoculars are lighter in weight, and often a good bit more compact. These are essential traits to the average grunt.
Both devices have tactical applications and it’s impossible to say which one is better overall. It really depends on each individual scenario and range.
The bird watching community seems to be divided when it comes to binoculars and spotting scopes. Those that like spotting scopes like to focus on the inherent beauty of the bird. Team binoculars seem to appreciate the beauty of how a bird moves and flies.
Spotting scopes are great for bird watchers interested in color and small, intricate details. Both of which are easier to see with the higher magnification of a spotting scope. If you use a tripod, you can simply sit back and observe the beauty of nature.
Binoculars make it easier to track a bird’s actions. The lighter nature and offhand appeal make it easy to follow a bird through their movements. You can truly see how they interact with the world.
Overall, neither team is right or wrong. When it comes to watching birds, it’s really just about what you want to focus on.
Binoculars Versus Spotting Scopes
Binoculars and spotting scopes are invaluable tools, and one is not inherently better than the other. If you stay in certain hobbies long enough, you’ll likely develop a favorite. We can almost guarantee you’ll own at least both at one point or another. The trick is to identify your needs and figure out which tool fulfills them best.