Don't Go Cheap on Glass

December 28, 2020
Thomas Allen

There are only a few things that I’ll turn around and walk back to the truck for after realizing something important was forgotten. Binoculars certainly fit the bill—there’s no denying that I can be a forgetful man. Just ask my wife. The list of in-field applications can be extensive, whether sighting in a deer rifle or climbing 20-foot up into my favorite bow stand, having a quality pair of binoculars is important to my success.

I depend on them.

Not all binoculars are created equal, however. In fact, I have different sizes and styles based on the type of terrain I’ll be hunting or the type of shooting I plan to be doing. But rest assured, the wrong pair will cost you accuracy, trophies and create headaches—both literally and figuratively.

I don’t like headaches.

I do my best to reduce the chances of sinus and/or frontotemporal pressure and pain—that makes me grumpy. Reducing clutter and decisions also helps with that. As I’ve already said there’s not a single set of glass that will suffice for all situations. My goal in this article is to help you find a couple pairs that will fill most—if not all—of your needs for the bulk of hunting and shooting applications. 

Spending time glassing expansive terrain is often required when looking for deer, turkey, or whatever you're after - but binoculars are also important to identify and scrutinize potential targets. Don't go cheap on glass, you might lose details that cold cost you the trophy of a lifetime.

You Get What You Pay For

To an extent, this is absolutely true. Especially with glass. The more you spend, the better the quality and likely reduced eye fatigue—quality glass is an eye opener. That said, you really don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a set of binoculars, but if and when you do, it’ll become immediately clear why they are so expensive, (puns intended). You do, indeed, get what you pay for.

Are the high-dollar brands worth the investment? Perhaps, but you can adequately accomplish the same goal, with complete satisfaction, for under $500. I promise that much. The opposite is also true, purchasing cheap glass will turn into a regret as fast as it takes to swipe your credit card.

Don’t be that guy.

The first step is identifying how you intend to use your glass, the terrain most likely to be hunted and/or shooting from and ultimately how much you’re willing to spend. Like I just said, consider spending up to $500, but $350-$400 will bring realistic quality to your eyeballs. And they’ll thank you for your expenditure.

The Right Application

Hunters, don’t discount the need for optics that pull double duty, such as pre-hunt scouting and target identification, and then trophy verification. Multiple applications are often required, and let’s continue the honesty, hunters can be hard on their gear.

Get two pairs.

I’ve hunted whitetails and turkeys in the Heartland, Great Plains, Deep South and Canada, and I can speak with confidence that both of Bushnell’s 10X42 and 12X52, compact versions, will cover most of the scenarios a hometown and traveling hunter will encounter from the pre-hunt prep, scouting and hunting phases. And the abuse they’ll surely endure make them a worthy investment.

When I’m hunting the dense pine plantations of Alabama, a compact pair of 10X42s get the nod; the same while I’m turkey hunting in Iowa. But I may grab the 12X52s for road-scouting purposes. Those same binocs are ideal for most applications in the Great Plains and much of farm country. But the smaller 10X42s might make a good choice if a hunter is running and gunning a bunch.

Eye fatigue and headaches are a real thing when glassing for animals. Binoculars that won't stand up to the abuse hunters inevitably dish out is a big headache, too. Bushnell thought of that when engineering their Engage series.

I require and demand a durable skin, reliable eye-relief cups that don’t break after one season, glass that doesn’t dish out headaches and by God, I need to be able to see details in low-light conditions—because that’s when big bucks get out of their beds. I need to rely upon quality glass to provide me with the necessary details before I pull the trigger during every second of legal shooting light.

This past fall, my son and I had the opportunity to hunt immense open terrain in western Oklahoma, which demanded quality optics-to-eyes for extended periods of time while glassing mesquite-filled drainages from a distance of a mile or better. During our visit, he got quite good at locating deer and hogs after spending time looking through binocs. If not for the lack of eye fatigue and ability to identify fine details, he’d have been super bored. 

For this trip our choice was the Bushnell Engage in 10X42s. After spending a week in the plains of Oklahoma, I think a 10X50 or even 12X50 may have been more effective, but heavier and more cumbersome. I feel like the time we spent resting against the base of a mesquite tree or perched on an abandoned, yet strategically placed boxcar warranted higher power binoculars. But when the time came to reposition on approaching deer, the low-profile 10X42s were ideal. 

Plus, when it was time to zero our rifles, the 10X42s worked well in conjunction with a quality spotting scope at 100-plus-yard ranges. Bottom line think about what will work most effectively across multiple applications and platforms, from the range to the field at what you consider a reasonable cost. 

We were successful, largely because we were comfortable investing in the time required to locate quality animals in relatively open terrain. And we were able to maintain clarity of vision and decision-making thanks to clear and bright optics. But at a reasonable cost. Like I said, I demand dependability and Bushnell stood up to those demands. 

This buck was located thanks to quality eyes looking through quality optics. After watching the buck remain in his bed for an extended period of time, my son was able to watch his behavior and finally pull the trigger when he stood up. At a distance of 300 yards, a good decision was made thanks to the finer details provided by quality glass.

A closer look at the Bushnell Engage Family: HERE

Retail: $110-$396

• Fully multi-coated optics provide a brighter and clearer image during the times when you need it most. 

• 23% lighter than comparable models while still delivering excellent optical performance and IPX7 waterproof rating.

• Ergonomically friendly profile: Durable rubber armor with aggressive texturing that provides the user with confident comfort. 

• Smooth, sharp focus: Ultra-smooth focus wheel allows for quick and intentional focus on the subject for perfect definition. 

• EXO Barrier bonds to exterior lens surface s and repels water, oil, fog, dust and debris making sure you can see clearly at all times. 

• Works well with the use of a tripod baseplate allowing the use to mount to any tripod for long-term and steady viewing.  

• Available in 8X42, 10X42, 10X50 and 12X52.


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