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Thread: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

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    How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    I always shoot with a buddy who has a high-end Kowa spotting scope. Recently he told me he's moving across the country. Meanwhile, I'm putting all my available money into my new rig and new scope over the next year, so when I see spotting scopes running upwards of $1,000 I get worried. I personally would rather keep the Nightforce and the top-quality components for my custom .308, and try to get a cheap-but-effective scope, rather than cut down the quality of the rifle as it gets built... I saw Bushnell had some around $300; are scopes in that price range acceptable for 600 yards (with the rare 1,000) if I'm using Shoot-N-C targets and weight/size of spotting scope is not an issue? Or am I going to have to save up some more and just bite the bullet? I will be shooting by myself going forward and need just enough scope to see where my shot was on target.

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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    Scott at Liberty Optics can help you out. I got a Kowa TSN821, 27X LER eyepiece and Kowa stay on cover to my door in the mid $700 price range IIRC. Excellent optic if you are not trying to go compact.

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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    The Konus gets good reviews for about half that, though. I avent used my Kowa past 300 yards, but am easily able to discern 308 bullet holes in regular targets as well as shoot-n-see. I recommend you get a Kowa, as optics is not the area to save money. JMO.

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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    I have an S & B on the rifle and a Konus on the tripod.

    I shoot mostly 300 yards as that is what is available locally. To that distance the Konus is just fine--and I paid $170 from B & H photo in NYC.

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...ing_Scope.html

    Its now up to $220

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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    The free ones shouldn't hurt you or explode or anything, but you may want to be careful. watch the really really big ones. If they fall on you, it can kill ya.

    Really. You get what you pay for. The last bit of upper class stuff the price jumps considerably. I have a $200 spotting that works rather well even at 1000yards. Not as rugged, but had no problems yet. It is fairly large. I have used better one and can tell the diffrence at distance. When by my self my scopes work as my spotter. I spot my own hits and with 18x I can see the hits on steel fairly well even at extended distance. To tell the truth. I even use my scope at matches when spotting for others anymore. Unless you want it on a tripod right behind the shooter or rules don't allow you on the gun while another person shoots I would use the scope.
    If I were to buy another, get one with a reticle in it to measure misses for calling. Communication is key when spotting. Being able to do it accuratly is important. Another reason for using my scopes.

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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    i have both a burris landmark compact, and a leupold MK4 spotter, and i love the MK4, but it is indeed pricy, its real advantage is the reticle, but the glass is clearer too.

    the burris honestly has never not done anything i needed it too, works great, glass is good. does the job.

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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    I have a Burris Landmark 15-45. It's a nice spotter for the money and glass is decent. I was able to see .30 cal holes in florescent green paper at 470 yds. Not bad for about $200 with case and tripod.

    I also have a Konus (can't remember power) and I am still impressed with this thing. It is very bright and clear and just seems to have better definition than the Burris. No, it's not a Kowa, but for the price, it's hard to beat.

    Another thing that you may want to consider is what kind of durability you want. Rubber armor, water proof, etc. You will have to pay more for those features.

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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    I had a Nikon spotter and a Swarovski rangefinder, I was happy with the setup, but felt I wanted to get a better spotting scopes, so I ended up trading up, and ended up with a Swarovski Spotter and a Nikon rangefinder. Both setups are nice, and they work well. However, that said, if I had my original setup back I think I would have stuck with it. I don't see a 4x value increase in the spotting scope going from the Nikon to the Swaro. If I recommend a lower dollar spotter to anyone in the future it will always be the Nikon. I couldn't believe the glass and the price was excellent.

    Mine was a Nikon ProStaff 20-60x82, and it was incredible. The price new is $599, but I think if you look hard enough you can find a nice used one for less.

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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    Here is one on eBay for $399, so a really good buy if you ask me..

    Spotter

    That auction has nothing to do with me, just passing on a deal on a nice scope.

    Dave
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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    Your Nightforce scope is going to be better than most lower end spotters.
    "Gecko45..............he's on crack and a tool but, he does have boots that let him climb walls and is a Master of three Martial Arts Disciplines."

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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    Another vote for the Burris. I have a 15-45 and it never fails me. It is definitely not the top of the class. Focus and power adjustment are rough but can spot holes just about as well as anything I have seen. In Alabama mirage gets you before the bad glass does.
    rad

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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    just stay away from aim.. lol i have one and at 100 yrd my ss 20x42 does better.. lol

    Mike
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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    I bought one of Champion's Choice's "house brand" fixed 30x spotters & a tripod a few weeks back. So far been pretty impressed with it out to 300yds (spotting bullet holes). Scope & tripod together were a shade over $320 IIRC.
    Here's the spotter...

    http://www.champchoice.com/detail.php?item=CC8045F

    And the tripod...(showing out of stock at the moment)

    http://www.champchoice.com/detail.php?item=CC900Z

    They also have a new line of ED glass spotters out now as well, around the $500-600 range which might be worth a look too.

    http://www.champchoice.com/shop.php?code=CCSCOP

    No, I don't work for them LOL, just passing along what I feel is a pretty good deal!

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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    Originally Posted By: Mark21
    I always shoot with a buddy who has a high-end Kowa spotting scope. Recently he told me he's moving across the country. Meanwhile, I'm putting all my available money into my new rig and new scope over the next year, so when I see spotting scopes running upwards of $1,000 I get worried. I personally would rather keep the Nightforce and the top-quality components for my custom .308, and try to get a cheap-but-effective scope, rather than cut down the quality of the rifle as it gets built... I saw Bushnell had some around $300; are scopes in that price range acceptable for 600 yards (with the rare 1,000) if I'm using Shoot-N-C targets and weight/size of spotting scope is not an issue? Or am I going to have to save up some more and just bite the bullet? I will be shooting by myself going forward and need just enough scope to see where my shot was on target.


    I am using a $50 Bushnell 36x 50obj from 1977 and it works just fine out to 300 seeing 308 on white paper. Since switching to Shoot-N-C, I see no problem even further. Shooting milk jugs out to 425, no real issue seeing bullet strikes in the tundra. Since using a 30 year old spotter, until proven wrong, I see no reason spending over $200 for a range spotter, low light hunting or life depended is different.

    I did just buy an Alpen 742, 20-60x60 for $159 and will get to use it today. I got it mostly due to the eye relief at 18mm, my old Bushnell I cannot get full FOV even with eye ball stuck on the glass, black moons all over the sight picture, its that short.

    Good luck

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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    I have a nikon spotter scope and it's crap. Image is really fuzzy when zoomed in.

    Should have bought a Zeiss, USO, Swaro, or IOR

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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    I had a Burris 15-45 and was quite happy with it, but, my wife bought me a Swarovski for my birthday a couple of years ago so I sold the Burris to a friend of mine.

    Yes, the Swarovski is a little better than the Burris, but, I don't think it is worth $1,200 more than the Burris.

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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    Don't forget second hand

    I use a once loved opticron that cost me £150 and I can usually see the 22 holes at 100 yds that some shooters on the line struggle with in the shit british weather.

    The only minus with this scope is that it is straight but to replace it with something angled and opticaly as good is goin to cost me at least 1000 bucks.

    Bottom line try before you buy. I spent a good half an hour annoying the pants off the salesman trying different scopes out the window before I made my choice.

    Spotting glass is like a rifle scope - buy the best you can afford - If need be wait and save more.

    I'm sure I've never bought a shit rifle - but I know that in the past I've wasted money on shit optics.

    Good Luck.
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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes?

    What is it EXACTLY you want the spotter to do for you? If you are trying to see 1moa targets at distance then your Night force scope will work fine. If you want to see bullet holes at 600yds + then that's a different story. Also, consider the light conditions. If you shoot at dawn or dusk you will notice a large difference between cheap and expensive scopes.

    IMO, I wouldn't worry about the spotter. Just get your rifle done the way you want, then save up and get the spotter you want. Your scope will work fine for spotting most of your targets. Look thru a few first before you buy.

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    Re: How cheap can you safely go on spotting scopes

    My suggestion on spotting scopes in general is to only get high quality spotting scopes unless you want one that is disposable.

    Reasons for this view:
    I have purchased several inexpensive/cheap spotting scopes over the years and I have used spotting scopes a lot. Cheap spotters are not worth it. For ten+ years, every time I got on a plane or drove over an hour, I had a spotting scope with me. Then I got a nice pair of binoculars (Leica) and I could see so much better with them than any spotter I had used despite having much less magnification.

    Some time later, I got some sponsorship from Leica and feel in love with high quality spotting scopes. A spotting scope is a multi-purpose tool and too often overlooked in importance, so by all means buy the best you can.....I am not a wealthy man. I would gladly put money in optics that I would use often than a gun I might take out every few months.

    Very high quality optics retain resale value very well. El cheapos are a money sink.

    Definitely try before you buy and try under conditions that are not favorable such as rain, heavy cloud cover, dusk when contrast and light gathering are most critical.

    A low cost alternative is used fixed power Leupold. They are not too much if you find one and do OK.
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    Well I got a spotting scope for 128.00 $ From dicks sporting goods. You can see clearly at a thousand yds and has variable zoom. FOV 23' at a thousand yards

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    The two best values out there for budget full size spotters, IMO are
    Celestron Ultima 20-60x80 for around $150
    Konus 20-60x80 for around $210
    There are very few spotters under $500 that can compete with these two, again IMO.

    For a budget compact spotter, the Minox MD50 15-30x50 is excellent and can be found for around $220 since they are being discontinued.
    Last edited by Crosshair; 10-10-2013 at 09:40 PM.
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    I am glad to have stumbled on to this. I also want a spotting scope but more for glassing deer from 800+ yards away and being able to count points and score them. Any suggestions? What power would be ideal for this?

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    Vortex Viper? Cabelas has them on sell for $499 and the reviews sound pretty good. Thoughts?

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    I have a Vortex Nomad. Inexpensive, works OK at the known distance range for spotting hits, at least out to 300 yards. SUCKS at the BangSteel range out at longer ranges.

    Dan has a Viper HD and his assistant has a Razor HD with reticle. Both are MUCH nicer than the Nomad. I didn't see a huge difference between the Viper HD and the Razor, but I did not spend much time with them. Both were much easier to see the hits and more importantly the misses.

    I wish Vortex would come out with a reticle eyepiece for the Viper HD line.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crosshair View Post
    The two best values out there for budget full size spotters, IMO are
    Celestron Ultima 20-60x80 for around $150
    Konus 20-60x80 for around $210
    There are very few spotters under $500 that can compete with these two, again IMO.

    For a budget compact spotter, the Minox MD50 15-30x50 is excellent and can be found for around $220 since they are being discontinued.
    Do believe that the Konus or Celestron mentioned are used by at least 4 of my range buddies. Have viewed thru them numerous times, nice optics. I know my buddies would recommend either of them.

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    I have a Kowa and thought it was great. Than I bought a Schmidt and Bender for my rifle.

    My 5-25 Bender resolves better than the 20-60X (also have the 25 LER eyepiece) 82 SV Kowa. Looking through the Bender I see true colors. Looking through the Kowa I get a purple ring where target buff meets target black. The purple ring sometimes hides shots on the 9/8 line and unfortunately my skills often have me on that line (iron sights). 30 caliber holes in the black at 200 yards can be difficult to pick up at times. My pre ownership impression that a spotting scope is a magical observation device has been a fail.

    Not shooting the scoped rifle the 82 Kowa works better than my binoculars but the S&B showed me what good glass is. Perhaps the higher end Kowas with the Flourite glass or whatever it is have better performance.

    My learning experience is that you get what you pay for and just because something is considered the standard it still may have issues. Try as many scopes as you can before you buy.
    Last edited by pmclaine; 10-13-2013 at 01:09 PM.

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    The Konus 20-60x80 is by far the best bang for the buck on the market,
    A True Believer is training to kill you. He is training with minimal food or water. The only thing clean on him is his weapon . He doesn't worry about what workout to do - his ruck weighs what it weighs. This True Believer is not concerned about 'how hard it is' he knows either he wins or dies.


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    Quote Originally Posted by dmg308 View Post
    The Konus 20-60x80 is by far the best bang for the buck on the market,
    Konus is what i use,cost$175 shipped from optics planet and works good for the cost.

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    Just something to consider...

    Most of my shooting is at paper tarets or steel plate. Steel plate Im not as concerned about scoring - a ring is a hit - and on a fresh painted plate shots are easy enough to see with most any glass.

    What has appealed to me lately is the camera system that transmits a video of the target back to the bench. Each shot is highlighted as it happens and it catches the ones that go through another shot hole. Good viewing whether benched, prone, sitting or kneeling.

    With my static style of KD range shooting this is very appealing. My range is quiet enough to allow for setup and there is no fear someone will shoot the gear.

    Up side is knowing exactly where each shot goes by viewing a computer screen. Price about $500 for 500 yards of range, you provide the monitoring device - I pad, Laptop, etc. Thats cheaper than a Kowa and a good high power rifle stand such as a Creedmoor Polecat. Cheaper by half in fact and at 500 yards Im not seeing the shot hole unless someone is marking it with a scoring disc. Mirage does not degrade your view like it does even with million dollar glass.

    Down side a big box and more crap to lug to the range, You also lose some flexibility on where you can use it as well its useless if your intent is hunting. You wont be reading mirage or following trace if you have those skills.

    Unknown if the engineering lives up to the sales pitch.
    Last edited by pmclaine; 10-13-2013 at 03:56 PM.

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    I have went from big spotters to smaller ones. I don't shoot shoot much at paper at LR I use paper for most anything under 200 yds and 300 for bigger rounds.

    I now use the Lupy Golden ring 15-30 Compact spotter and really like it. When I shoot at the range it works just fine, when out in the field it is much lighter and smaller. It is half the weight and size of most spotters.

    Price was only like 400ish I think, I've looked through the big Leica, Ziess, and Sworski spotters and they are very nice, Just doesn't help me much for what I need em for.

    Good luck with your search sir, my advise is to not even think about the spotter, don't let it effect your build or choice of optics, I can absolutely gar aun tee that you will regret it if you do. There are many great shooters I know with great rigs but no spotter. IF you feel you really have to have one then start saving when your other gear is all in order. Quality optics are not just a purchase, they are investments, they are well worth the wait of saving for a good one. If not you will waste your money "buying up" the ladder than just starting at the top and being happy. A lot of people like the Vortex spotter for the money, and I have been using the Bushnell reticle spotter for a while and you qould probably love it for the price but they are discontinued right now, check used gear as well. Good things come to those who wait.
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    Quote Originally Posted by crowsniper1 View Post
    Konus is what i use,cost$175 shipped from optics planet and works good for the cost.
    +1 on that I rock a POS 125 power Barska cause at the time I was hurting for money and it was only 125 bucks on sportsmans guide. I was thinking it would work till I scrapped up some cash for a quality spotter. It works just fine out to 250 or 300. But my friend bought a Konus and its a lot better glass than mine. Not to mention my tripod is absolute crap and his is pretty good quality. In hind sight I should have picked the Konus up.

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    A big factor is how the spotter is used.

    1) The shooter spots their hits on paper or steel.

    2) A spotter giving real time corrections for misses.

    Different uses, different needs in the spotter.

    My cheap Vortex Nomad works for use #1, but is NOT good for use #2.

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    Konus are the best I have found, but my March FX 5-40X rifle scope is good or better with the reticle for calling misses. Ordered a TargetCam in July and should arrive on Tuesday. Those can work out to >1500 yards. Seems like the best option from 500 to ELR. We'll see.....

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    I can easy see .224 bullet holes @ 300yards & .308 bullet holes @ 400yards with my konus 60x with 80obj... even with some mirage mixed in... trick is to use white paper for your target and not black.... cost me $220 shipped from midwayusa.
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    I use the Zen-Ray ZEN ED2 spotting scope for $999. Looks like an identical twin to vortex razor HD spotting scope

    Zen-Ray ZEN ED2 20-60x82 Angled Spotting Scope

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    I'm researching this right now as well, have my eye on a used Konus 20-60x100mm (yeah 100mm lens!)but I know how great of a reputation Nikon has.... seeing shoot-n-C targets at 300 yards will keep me busy for a LONG time before I worry about past that. The Konus doesn't come with a tripod, is there some kind of universal connection like 1913 rails for rifle scopes? I'm totally ignorant in this department... I've heard you can pick up a decent tripod for $50 (stationary bench rest shooting only)
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    Buy good glass for your rifle first which will let you spot fairly easy, you already have a mil or moa reticle to call adjustments off of and if needed later try some spotting scopes out. Personally I really like the razr HD but when I look though a 5k dollar hensoldt spotter there is absolutely no comparison which then makes me want that 5k dollar spotting scope which I can't buy at this time so then that influences my impressions on the lower end stuff (still higher end stuff though) which in my mind says it is "not as good" by comparison; so I'm trying to find that middle ground for my next spotting scope setup. Moral to the story is do not look though good glass unless you have some dang good will power or a fat wallet because you will want it! I had a S&B on the way 2 days after looking through one about 7 years ago and have been sold on good glass ever since. I will save for a while to get good glass. More so than I will for the rifle in some cases.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Irokcrawl View Post
    Buy good glass for your rifle first which will let you spot fairly easy, you already have a mil or moa reticle to call adjustments off of and if needed later try some spotting scopes out. Personally I really like the razr HD but when I look though a 5k dollar hensoldt spotter there is absolutely no comparison which then makes me want that 5k dollar spotting scope which I can't buy at this time so then that influences my impressions on the lower end stuff (still higher end stuff though) which in my mind says it is "not as good" by comparison; so I'm trying to find that middle ground for my next spotting scope setup. Moral to the story is do not look though good glass unless you have some dang good will power or a fat wallet because you will want it! I had a S&B on the way 2 days after looking through one about 7 years ago and have been sold on good glass ever since. I will save for a while to get good glass. More so than I will for the rifle in some cases.

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    Your way is cheaper in the long run.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pmclaine View Post
    Your way is cheaper in the long run.
    Yep, Im a sells engineer so I'm a firm believer of not worrying about day one cost but more so about the value it brings me over years of use. If I have to save more up front and pay more up front then so be it. Buy once and cry once has been my motto for about the last 15 years. People may think "he has to have the best" "he thinks he is better than me" or whatever but my stuff will last a lot longer, they will spend more money in the long run and I will still have something that should be working perfectly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Irokcrawl View Post
    Yep, Im a sells engineer so I'm a firm believer of not worrying about day one cost but more so about the value it brings me over years of use. If I have to save more up front and pay more up front then so be it. Buy once and cry once has been my motto for about the last 15 years. People may think "he has to have the best" "he thinks he is better than me" or whatever but my stuff will last a lot longer, they will spend more money in the long run and I will still have something that should be working perfectly.
    I like to buy nice stuff. It's not like I have a bank account that I don't get concerned about the cost but I think the use over time value and enjoyment are worth it. Nothing I hate more than spending some good cash than having the thought "I should have....".

    At the range I kind of get that self conscious feeling like I'm showing off or something but I get over it pretty quick. The saddest part is that despite the expense of the gear I can't buy the X ring. The end results are all me and often times the guy with the Tasco gets the satisfaction of the win.

    Now I don't automatically think big money spent means the best but more often than not there is correlation. I usually spend a year or two saving for big purchases and the entire time I research. What I learn from places like the Hide has way more weight than marketing literature.

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    Wife gave me a Leupy spotter (Green Ring) a few years back for my birthday. Couldn't tell you the mag, objective, etc...Anyway, she had not yet been fully educated on the "buy once, cry once" theme. I think we used it 2-3 times and now it sits in the ammo room in it's case. Resolution is quite poor. The only time I get it out is when a buddy/newbie is contemplating a lower end optics purchase. Let him look through it and then one of the NF's, USO, etc...and you don't have to say a word. Her heart was in the right spot, so I've never said anything about, and she doesn't seem to notice it's lack of use.
    Universal means it don't fit nothin'.

    Sometimes free ain't cheap enough.

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    You know, I would love to spend big bucks on a spotter but just can't do it. I just bought a Simmons 20x60x60 for $90 at Gander,and it seems like a nice scope. I'm sure the glad isn't on the same level as Leupold or Zeiss, but it will work for the range.

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    I currently use the bushnell spacemaster (camo one with rubber armor) and really pleased with it. Bought it used off Craigslist and see them out there.

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    After spotting a full day between a leupold mark 4 and a vortex razr HD I was very pleased with both on optical quality. The mark 4 had a mil retical in it which was nice but I was only calling hits so corrections were not needed. The size of the leupolds are nice and I think I'll try to find a nice used model and go that route. As much as I really like the spotter 60 from hensoldt I can't justify that cost even if I had the extra cash. The vortex RAZR HD was nice but bulky for my needs as well. I know neither of those qualify for a budget spotter but they are a good mix of decent glad and cost effectiveness. Dang I need some eye insurance that would pick up the tab on optics. Buying quality optics for multiple guns for me and my wife and daughter is proven to be very expensive.

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    I currently have a RedHead spotting scope. Its "OK", but I am eye balling a Vortex Recon Monocular
    Buy once and cry until your wife understands!

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    If you just need a scope to see hits on paper, head over to the shopping section and pick up one of these, better than a scope for seeing a target up close: Target Cam®– The “High Tech” Spotting Scope. They are 785.00 with a standard range of 1200 yards (ELR kit goes out 2000 ). Now if you want to use a scope for other things besides just seeing holes in paper, that's a different story.....

    You do need a HAM lic. to operate it but they are real easy to get.
    Last edited by Hairball; 11-21-2013 at 04:53 PM.

    1986-2010

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    I bought a Bushnell Excursion FLP 15-45x60 Spotting Scope with Tactical FFP Mil-Dot Reticle for $370. It took several month to find someone selling it, but if you are patient I think it's a helluva lot of glass for $370. The Leupold is better clarity, but I've used this one out to 800 without issue and I can spot trace when shooting at 200-250ish.

    Amazon.com: Bushnell Excursion FLP 15-45x60 Spotting Scope with Tactical FFP Mil-Dot Reticle and Soft Case/Sleeve plus Tripod 781569ED: Camera & Photo

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    Quote Originally Posted by EchoDeltaSierra View Post
    I bought a Bushnell Excursion FLP 15-45x60 Spotting Scope with Tactical FFP Mil-Dot Reticle for $370. It took several month to find someone selling it, but if you are patient I think it's a helluva lot of glass for $370. The Leupold is better clarity, but I've used this one out to 800 without issue and I can spot trace when shooting at 200-250ish.

    Amazon.com: Bushnell Excursion FLP 15-45x60 Spotting Scope with Tactical FFP Mil-Dot Reticle and Soft Case/Sleeve plus Tripod 781569ED: Camera & Photo
    +1 I used the leupy gold ring FFP spotters in the military. This bushnell was basically a clone, its a third the price, and glass quality looks damn near the same (which is really good for a bushnell). Im not sure they make them anymore but I would def snag one if I could.
    Check out Griffin Armament manufacturer of sound suppressors.
    www.griffinarmament.com


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