on all orders over $1000
on all orders over $1000
Each year, optics manufacturers showcase their latest and greatest innovations in rifle scope, laser rangefinding, and optics technologies alongside their newest product line. Sometimes the breakthroughs are obvious and customers happily wait their turn to purchase this coveted technology. On the contrary, there are times when the “innovation” seems lackluster at best and amounts to some combination of aesthetic changes and marketing buzzwords. All of this can make buying an optic extremely frustrating and confusing.
As optics companies (and really, every company) are vying for your business, our goal is simply to provide our customers and newcomers a list of the best available binoculars in 2021. Needless to say, this is highly subjective and it is always in your best interest to look through binoculars before purchasing if your situation permits.
Before diving into the list, we need to clarify a few things. First, the term “best” is always open to interpretation and many people have varying ideas of what it means to them. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t see your favorite binoculars on this list – it’s just our opinion!
Second, all of the binoculars on this list have been used extensively by everyone in our staff. Looking through binoculars is the best way to understand the product, whether you’re buying them or selling them. To provide the best service, our team has made a point of spending time with all the binos we can get our hands on.
Last, our interpretation of “best” includes ownership, so if $3k binoculars are out of your budget, then they’re not the best for you. Everyone has a different budget and our goal is to get you the best binoculars for your hard-earned money. If this small list doesn’t quite cover what you’re looking for, give us a call at 800-291-8065l Monday through Saturday 9 am to 5 pm MST.
We’ve talked about it before, but 12 power binoculars just seem to be the sweet spot for hunting the Western United States. For years, Swarovski’s EL binocular has been the gold standard, but the NL Pure changed that. With a much larger field of view, smaller and lighter form factor, better ergonomics, a forehead rest, and somehow even better glass than the EL, the NL Pure 12x42 is a tremendous upgrade.
Leica has led the way in laser rangefinding technology for a number of years and their latest Geovid binocular is no exception. Get real-time ballistic solutions in a variety of readouts with Bluetooth functionality. You’ll be able to connect to a mobile device, Kestrel weather meter, or Apple Watch for simple ballistic solutions.
The world-class Leica glass is paired beautifully with a 3R class laser rangefinder that’s situated in the bridge, as opposed to the barrel, to allow for a completely unobstructed beam and all of Leica’s premier optical coatings.
If you’re looking to upgrade your Vortex Diamondbacks but aren’t quite ready to dive into a pair of NL Pure’s, then look no further. The Zeiss Conquest HD binocular is an incredible value. German engineering and impressive optical clarity at under $1K is extremely hard to come by, but Zeiss made it happen.
In fact, the entire Zeiss Conquest line is a great value. The Gavia 85 spotting scope and V4 rifle scopes offer exceptional glass at a very reasonable price. These are far from budget binoculars, but they’re a great pair of hunting binoculars and a great option in the versatile 10x magnification.
For most of the hunting season, we’re putting our binos on a tripod, so size and ergonomics are less important. For stalking and still hunting however, having the right binocular makes all the difference. The small and ergonomically friendly 8x32 NL Pure in conjunction with the FRP head rest provides up to 3 points of contact for extremely steady handheld use in the field. With best in class field of view, you’ll see more and use your binos more.
Binoculars in the 15 to 20 power magnification range have gained popularity among some hunters and are seeing more use as a stand-in for spotting scopes. Many spotting scopes offer a 25 power magnification on the low end, so for some this seems like a reasonable compromise. In any case, the Swarovski SLC 15x56 has set the bar for all binoculars in this category. The first of its kind and still the reigning champ, the SLC 15 is tried and true.
That said, we’d be remiss to not mention the Zeiss Conquest HD 15x56 here. Like it’s lower magnification cousins, the Conquest 15 is a huge value for anyone set on buying some high magnification binos without breaking the bank.
There are a ton of data points provided by optics manufacturers that tend to cause nothing but confusion for consumers. Things like exit pupil and light transmission, or apparent vs. angular field of view are all important, but really shouldn’t hold too much weight in making a purchase decision. Here are some considerations that may help your decision:
Application: are these going to be general use binoculars or purchased for a specific type of hunting or purpose?
Environment: what kind of environment will these be in? High altitude, wet climates are extremely hard on optics. Binoculars that work for Coues deer hunts in Mexico may not work on a Dall’s sheep hunt in Alaska. Some climates see a wide range of weather conditions and light conditions, so it’s important to know your binoculars will perform in all of these situations.
Mounting: will these be hand-held or tripod mounted? For hand-held use, it’s especially important to see binoculars in person before buying them. This will give you an idea of how steadily you’ll be able to hold them.
On the contrary, if they’re going to be mounted on a tripod, it’s important to know what mounting options are available. We make a stud for most binoculars on the market, but there are still some exceptions. Optics like the Leica Geovids require a strap style mounting solution like the Outdoorsmans Bino Hand. For glassing long distances, a tripod is essential, so understanding your mounting options is important.
Harnesses: do you have a binocular harness that you plan to use with your new binoculars? If so, be sure to verify fitment or be prepared to buy another bino harness. Relative to the cost of binoculars, a harness is not a huge investment. That said, it’s still worth considering fitment, especially if you’re planning to bring multiple binoculars along on a hunt. Generally, the size of your objective lenses will give you an idea of whether or not your new binoculars will fit in an existing harness.
Warranties: every optics manufacturer we carry has a very reasonable warranty. This seems to be an area that a lot of people get hung up on, so we’ll do our best to shed some light on the topic. First and foremost, we often remind customers that there is no warranty that will help when an optic breaks in the field.
The reason we mention this is because cases and preventative maintenance are still important to success. Just because you have a great warranty does not mean you should throw your optics around in your truck or pack.
At the time of this writing, Leica is the only high-end European optics manufacturer that offers a 10-year “no questions asked” style warranty. That said, Zeiss and Swarovski both offer extremely comprehensive warranties and have always taken care of their customers with repairs and other warranty needs. For high-end optics and extensive collections, it’s always a good idea to update home insurance or rental insurance policies to include these valuable assets.
Hopefully, this list provided some direction for you and gave you some things to consider for your next purchase. It’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of everyone’s opinions. Your closest friends and internet forums will all have recommendations, but the important thing is understanding for yourself what makes the most sense for your purposes.
Again, the best way to do that is to get your hands on any binoculars you’re considering for purchase. Take them outside and avoid looking through windows. Spend as much time with them as you can.
It’s worth spending the time to plan a trip to your local optics retailer to make this happen. We can read about these things all day, but ultimately everyone’s eyes are different and everyone’s opinions are different.When you have made your mind up on a pair of binoculars, you can always consider purchasing used to keep costs down.