Binoculars or Spotting Scope?

Nov 6, 2017
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#1
I thought there was a forum on this topic already but was unable to find it searching. So, do you lug around a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope? Or neither?
 

J!m

Private. VERY Private.
Aug 25, 2017
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Connecticut
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#3
I'm leaning toward binoculars. I would like a range finding reticle, and have been eyeing the ex-military ones on Ebay et al. I would prefer more than 10X magnification however...

But I think Binoculars are more useful in general as they serve well outside the shooting range too. Always streamlining.
 

Rob01

Super Mod/Team Blaster
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Jul 9, 2001
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#4
Having a reticle for me only helps in visualizing my wind hold and looking at target size for an idea of width and hold. You can't be on glass at a match when someone is shooting anyways so not going to be able to spot with a reticle.

10x is a good middle ground. I have a Vortex Recon R/T monocular I got years back and carry it as it is 10x and has a reticle but is small enough to easily fit in my pack. They make a 15x if you wanted more than 10x. http://www.vortexoptics.com/product/vortex-recon-rt-15x50-tactical-scope
 
Nov 6, 2017
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#6
Having a reticle for me only helps in visualizing my wind hold and looking at target size for an idea of width and hold. You can't be on glass at a match when someone is shooting anyways so not going to be able to spot with a reticle.

10x is a good middle ground. I have a Vortex Recon R/T monocular I got years back and carry it as it is 10x and has a reticle but is small enough to easily fit in my pack. They make a 15x if you wanted more than 10x. http://www.vortexoptics.com/product/vortex-recon-rt-15x50-tactical-scope
I've got a laser range finder thats a 7x, but I was thinking about the 15x bino's from Vortex for that extra magnification to help pick out some targets at longer ranges. Not to mention, I can double them for hunting. Rob, do you have the 15x? I was kind of wanting to hear from someone and see if they preferred them over the 10x or 12x, why or why not. Since I dont have a quality pair of bino's I thought it would make since to just buy a good pair once and not do it again.
 

pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
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#9
Are you planning on locking the binos down on a tripod or stand of some sort?

If no, I found its pretty difficult to use binos and get a good understanding of what is going on on your target down range.

Im referencing shooting from a bench at a paper target and looking for a .30 caliber or smaller hole in a black background.

Shots on the white zone of the target will show up but to resolve shot holes in the black area, where you want to be, I need a steady spotter and bigger magnification, especially if there is mirage or other atmospheric conditions.

Shooting steel and you have someone spotting on binos to watch for splash, sure that works, or even looking for hits on freshly painted steel, yes you will probably see that with binos, but black shot on a black back ground any sort of hand shake wouldn't let my eyes pick up the impact.

What you are shooting and how it contrasts with a shot hole will determine what will work for you.

Eventually you will want both. 10X and up binos can tend to get bulky. 8X or so are a good compact size but their useful distance is limited. Spotters can get heavy and though the big X number seems like it would be perfect when you get out in the wild you learn that mirage and atmosphere really limit how many of those Xs you can use.

I have an expensive Kowa that is a beautiful spotter, has a solid XTC style tripod, maximum X is 65 and it has great eye relief, but its heavy, bulky and on nice days I may get to use 35-45X before I magnify mirage and cant see my target. I only use it now for watching lunar eclipses with the kids or if I know Im packing the kitchen sink and not setting up far from the tailgate of my truck and I only intend to set up/take down once.

I have 8X Steiner mils binos. They work okay at 100, cant resolve .30 cal shot holes in black at 200 and at 300 handshake requires I steady against something and the 8X isn't finding .30 cal holes very well. Great compact size. Mostly use them while sitting at the beach watching for large marine sealife swimming near my kids. These are my work binos. Tough, love them. Keep in mind the more X you use the more you magnify shake.

I bought a mil surplus M48 spotting scope. Lightweight and compact. 20X. Serviceable but not great glass. I love it. Easy to set up/take down. Sturdy tube to store the scope, canvas bag to store the tripod. Will take a beating.

My first choice for observation is to have my scope do it.

Second choice is the M48 when my scope wont cut it or I need that steady base.

The binos pretty much stay packed unless Im observing another shooter and only looking for splash or to see a reaction on steel.

Sorry saying you need both sucks because this sport is not cheap but that's reality.

You can save some money by saving up your money now and buying the best tool the first time so that you don't find it wont suit your needs and than you have to buy for a second time.

That's just my experience. You have some good info from some way more experienced shooters. Hope you are able to sort through the info and get whats best for you.

If you are shooting/moving that is a different style than what I generally do. Your activity will determine the best tool.
 
Last edited:

308pirate

Gunny Sergeant
Apr 25, 2017
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#10
I've never shot in a PRS match, but have shot several other types of steel plate matches such as the Intimidator and Headhunter at Thunder Valley. I leave my Kowa spotter at home and take a pair of 8X binoculars. The binos get used to scan the stage during prep/walkthrough to quickly find the targets and make a mental picture of where they are so that I'm not lost or wasting time looking for them through a rifle scope. Sometimes I'll take them with me to the firing point just in case I need a fast look-see with something that has a wider FOV.

I think that's the context in which the OP was asking the question.
 

pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
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#11
I've never shot in a PRS match, but have shot several other types of steel plate matches such as the Intimidator and Headhunter at Thunder Valley. I leave my Kowa spotter at home and take a pair of 8X binoculars. The binos get used to scan the stage during prep/walkthrough to quickly find the targets and make a mental picture of where they are so that I'm not lost or wasting time looking for them through a rifle scope. Sometimes I'll take them with me to the firing point just in case I need a fast look-see with something that has a wider FOV.

I think that's the context in which the OP was asking the question.
And in that context a bino or monocular device are what is needed.

Id probably opt for the highest quality monocular I could afford to buy.

Under those conditions carrying, packing, unpacking, repacking takes away time from other important things you need to use that time for.
 

Sheldon N

Blind Squirrel Finds a Nut
Sep 24, 2014
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#13
Binos are a must have, IMO. I carry around a set of Swaro 15x56's and use them off a tripod for spotting and also handheld for scouting out a stage. Best piece of glass I own.
 

arm017

Sergeant
Jun 5, 2017
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#14
Binos are a must have, IMO. I carry around a set of Swaro 15x56's and use them off a tripod for spotting and also handheld for scouting out a stage. Best piece of glass I own.
Sheldon, do you find the 15 x 56 the best bino choice for spotting for PRS type matches? Does a 10 or 12x work or is there a handicap when calling shots?
 
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Sheldon N

Blind Squirrel Finds a Nut
Sep 24, 2014
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#15
A good set of 10x42 binos will do fine for spotting at most PRS distances. Will get a bit tougher out past maybe 7-800 yards depending on conditions and what's behind the target to give impact signature. Any binos become WORLDS better when you put them on a tripod. Easily three times the resolving power compared to handheld. It's a must for spotting IMO.

The Swaro 15x56 though is on another level. The glass is superb, better than anything else out there. Plus the extra magnification of 15x over 10x really helps see the target detail downrange.You also get a huge field of view and a very deep field of focus. You can pick up bullet trace very early and follow it all the way to the target, plus you can usually have multiple targets in view at once if the stage needs it.

Only time I would wish for a spotter would be if I was an RO on a stage where the target distance was 1000 yards plus and I needed to be sure I spotted impacts from small 6mm rifles. As a shooter though I wouldn't want to pack around a spotter, so the binos are the perfect tool. Many of the regional club matches I shoot are self-RO'd within the squad and my binos end up being the squad spotting scope. Everyone who uses them loves them. I know big outfits like Core Shooting run Swaro 15x56's for their RO's and I can understand why.
 
Likes: shakin_bakin
Nov 6, 2017
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#16
This didn't post my response on Tuesday. Ultimately, I was really wondering this. I would be willing to purchase a nice pair of Binos if I wouldn't have to carry a spotter. I'm personally a little bit of a Vortex fan. I like Bushnell for the price to performance. I own the 5700 Kestrel with Link to my Bushnell range finder that's a 7x. I was thinking the 7x, and a pair of 15x bino's might do the trick... but now that we have this discussion, I'm wondering if a compact spotter would be worth the $$$. Less weight, but don't know if it would outperform a $1000 pair of bino's.
 
Aug 21, 2011
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#17
Don't mess with a spotter. Get some binos. If you can afford it, get some great binos or bino lrf. Swaro Bino or Leica Geovid.

If you can't afford them, hopefully someone in your squad could. Thanks boyz ;)
 
Jan 16, 2014
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#18
If you want to step up your game at a prs match. IMO you absolutely need a spotter or 15x binos. You want to be able to study what is going on down range before you shoot. A smaller spotter like a vortex 16-48 and a carbon tripod, really doesn't add much to your system.
 
Jun 3, 2017
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#19
When you guys are looking for either are you also looking for a reticle? My wife wants to start shooting more with me and a reticle seems like it would be a good option. Seems the options are limited once you want a reticle. Either with bino's or a spotting scope.
 
Jan 16, 2014
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#22
When you guys are looking for either are you also looking for a reticle? My wife wants to start shooting more with me and a reticle seems like it would be a good option. Seems the options are limited once you want a reticle. Either with bino's or a spotting scope.
If you're using it for say an inexperienced spotter, a reticle would certainly be a great choice. Vortex is now offering reticle eye pieces for their spotters once again. Great spotter's that won't break the bank.
 
Likes: usmcmad
Jul 29, 2012
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#23
Sheldon, do you find the 15 x 56 the best bino choice for spotting for PRS type matches? Does a 10 or 12x work or is there a handicap when calling shots?
So - I attend several matches each year, and have been an RO/Spotter for a great many of them. At our matches every two months, I set out a pair of Swaro 15x56 binos, and a Swaro spotting scope which the club uses. The binos are ALWAYS taken first. Inside 600 yards, it is easier, faster and more comfortable to spot hits on steel using the binos than looking through the scope. The Swaro's are fantastic and when paired with a tripod and mount, are easily the best setup on the range. I don't believe, however, that a 10x or 12x will work nearly as well.

Now, if you want to see "bullet holes" on paper, the scope will work better out to 300 or 400 yards.
 
Aug 16, 2013
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#24
In my experience, binos are primarily used to find targets and landmarks, not to spot for impacts. Many stages require you to engage multiple targets spread out across a large field. Finding the targets with the binos first, will allow you to engage them quickly with a rifle. In my opinion, 8x or 10x are perfect. If you want a very wide FOV, I believe Zeiss is coming out with their new Zeiss Victory RFs. If I remember correctly, they have 8x54 and 10x54 bino rangefinders.
Im not saying you cant or shouldn't spot impacts with binos, but if a spotter is available, then use it to spot impacts.
 
Jun 4, 2006
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#30
~ 50% of the matches I shoot are “Squad” R.O.’d, so my optic choices are certainly influenced by that. Additionally, I have heard of matches where they don’t want you on glass while others are shooting, but that isn’t the standard in my part of the country (shot 16 matches last year and none had that rule), so that impacts my choices also.

For a few years I carried various spotters w/ a tripod. I used an 82mm Nikon (excellent glass), an 82mm Zen Ray, and most recently a 60mm Bushnell. The last few months I began to experiment using my 10x42 Swaro SLC binos tripod mounted instead. They were way more comfortable and nicer to use than any spotter, but definitely give up something when picking up impacts or misses beyond 700 yards or so. I had wondered how much better 15x binos could be, then I got squadded with a guy who had 15x Swaros. We mounted them on my tripod, and I started shopping for 15’s of my own the next day :)

I ordered some Zeiss Conquest 15’s, as I didn’t have the cash for the Swaro’s and had a hard time telling the difference with the samples I could get my hands on. Hopefully they get here soon and I can give a more complete report! Based on my experience so far, I think they’ll be my favorite compromise to date.
 

Sheldon N

Blind Squirrel Finds a Nut
Sep 24, 2014
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#32
can you hold 15x binos still w/o needing a tripod?
The difference in resolution and visibility between handheld and tripod mounted is staggering, even with a set of 10 power binos. Spotting involves looking for small movement like dirt from a miss or a glancing edge hit off a plate. You just can't pick that detail out in the same way when hand holding binos. I will occasionally hand hold my 15's if I just want to do a scan of a course of fire, otherwise they live on the tripod. I would be carrying a tripod either way for competition, so it's not a big deal to me.

Side note, at a match last weekend I had the chance to spend some time on a super nice Swaro ATX 80 spotter (a $4k spotting scope). While it was excellent and capable of being tighter on the target with more resolution, if I had to choose between it and my Swaro 15's I'd keep the binos.
 

Strike_out

MoKnucker Deluxe
Sep 17, 2017
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South Eastern WYO
#34
I've got a laser range finder thats a 7x, but I was thinking about the 15x bino's from Vortex for that extra magnification to help pick out some targets at longer ranges. Not to mention, I can double them for hunting. Rob, do you have the 15x? I was kind of wanting to hear from someone and see if they preferred them over the 10x or 12x, why or why not. Since I dont have a quality pair of bino's I thought it would make since to just buy a good pair once and not do it again.

i have spot and stalk hunted for the last 3 years with a pair of vortex viper 15x50s as an all around they do allow me to leave the spotting scope at home but are heavy and large. i think the size is more of an annoyance than the weight. i started shooting practical matches last march and i use them with a tripod to help spot at stages and they really shine there. I can call hits out past 1000 and locating steel is much easier with binos. I recommend them.
 
Aug 9, 2012
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#36
I still prefer the IS type of binos over any of the others. Canon 10x42 WP IS are awesome. The 15x binos are almost too much zoom for me for anything but spotting. 10x or 12x swaros are nice but need tripod too beings they are image stabilized.
 
Likes: jordan0317
Sep 3, 2009
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Lincoln, Nebraska
#37
I bought a pair of Vortex Diamondback 12x50s and a tripod recently and used them in a local match last week. I ended up doing most of the spotting because I was the only one in the squad that brought dedicated optic. I was able to see hits and misses from 300 to 1200 yards. I had no complaints from the setup. 15x probably would've helped a little on targets past 1000yds, but I was still able to see the targets move upon impact and dust fly up on misses. I will have them at every match I attend.
 
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Unknown

Gunny Sergeant
Sep 17, 2009
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#38
I found a really nice pair of Steiner Military/Marine 7X50 binoculars with illuminated compass and Mil grid for $200 at a Goodwill auction...it cost me another $100 to send them back to Steiner to have the compass and light fixed...so $300 for a $1200 pair of binoculars wasn't bad...the glass is perfect, but they are HEAVY.
 
Feb 14, 2017
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Arlington TX
#39
Binos for scouting a stage of a tripod will save you so much rushing and anxiety at a match. I don’t know how many times I’ve shot a stage on a line with steel all over the place with an RO pointing off into the distance describing things I can’t even reconcile with my naked eye then hoping I can have it all figured out befor I’m called up to the firing line
 
Likes: superde
Feb 16, 2017
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Shawnee, Oklahoma
#42
I've used both binoculars and spotting scopes while RO'ing matches, and I prefer binos because I can look through them all day long without getting a headache. If I look through a spotter for too long I end up getting a headache. I also like taking binoculars when I shoot to glass a stage and get a feel for it before the shooting begins. I keep the tripod adapter and extra plate attached to them so I can use them freehand or attach the plate to the tripod and run it that way. I feel they're a lot more versatile than a dedicated spotter.
 

Fig

Janitor of the Hide
Mar 15, 2018
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#43
I agree, but I need both. Sometimes I shoot paper at 800 or more yards when DOPEing a rifle, and I want to see the holes, so I use my 80mm. It's also useful on 1,000+ yd stages where things get teeny tiny. I've shot 1,500 yds at a match, and you almost couldn't see the target through binos, just the flasher, but I could see the misses with the 80mm cranked up.

Binos are necessary and adequate. A powerful spotting scope is an extravagance most of the time.
 
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