Binocular vs Spotting Scope Trade Off


Well-Known Member
Feb 26, 2003
So how about you guys tell me the trade off between binoculars and a spotting scope for use in the field.

A good pair of binoculars has to be good out to a certain point ....

What do you mean? Will you clarify the trade off part a bit? What range for both, FOV, clarity needed?

[ 04-01-2003: Message edited by: Brent ]
I'm guessing that the answer is to use binocs or two strapped spotting scopes whenever possible because a single scope used heavily will give you incredible headaches and ruin your trip.

Always scan with traditional binocs first and go more serious as needed. Good binocs will pick up movement at long distances even if you don't know what it is yet!
Ok, so binoculars should be able to do everything a spotting scope can out to a certain distance.

What is the distance?

Can one get by with just a great set of binoculars out to 500 yards?

I am not sure when a spotting scope becomes handy and/or is absolutely required.

I am sure that at 1000 yards a spotting scope is required.

What about 600, 700, 800, 900 ...

Where do binoculars give out?

Are there binoculars that will do for 1000 yds?

Not sure if this clears it up.

Perhaps you could say that good binocs are great for finding things, good spotting scope is great for examining what you just found. Binocs will not work for spotting bullets at 300 yards in the black for instance - just not enough power to enable that. Good spotting scope will let you see bullets in the black maybe out to 500 or more depending on the light and how much $ you spent. For our long range hunting, we can find deer with binocs and they are quicker to use - obviously the big field of view helps but tough to hand-hold ten power really steady. We setup the scope if we can to see what we really want to see - that is what 25x and more will do for you. Finding a bunch of dots that are a mile away with binocs is one thing, checking for horns is another.
Binocs are useless for long range spotting for shooting, just not enough power.
The range highly depends on what you are looking to decern. You didn't say what the primary use would need to work on so I'll just say my experience with the Lieca 10x40's and Leupold 12-40 spotter has been.

Impacts on white painted steel plates;

10x binos - 500-500 yds
40x spotter - 1000 yds no problem.

Paper Targets - in the white;

10x binos - 300 yds
40x spotter - 500 - 600 yds

Paper Targets - in the black;

10x binos - 100 yds
40x spotter - 200 - 300 yds

Small points (presence and or length and or location) on a moose antler;

10x binos - 200 - 500 yds
40x spotter - 500 - 1500 yds

Spotting moose is in general is highly subjective and depends on cover, shade, movement etc.

10x binos - 0 - 500+ yds, maybe miles just depending.
40x spotter - 500 - 2000 yds, maybe miles too.

All ranges are subject to conditions and can vary, especially if you use a tripod with the binos. Ranges are just best guesses from memory. I was shooting the other day and couldn't see the hits on the target that were in the blue at 200 yards with the NF on 22x, barely could with the Lupy on 40x! I been making up my own targets on index cards with 1/8th" black lined diamonds 2" point to point because of that. They punch perfect holes and easy to see, choose your flourescent color.

[ 04-01-2003: Message edited by: Brent ]

That was real good.

I have a pair of not overly expensive 10 binos which I do use, although lately I have just been using the range finder as a monocular to spot game.

I also have a spotting scope that was deamed useless because of lack of eye relief. That is why I am asking about spotting scopes. So far I just use my rifle scope as a spotting scope.

Will need a real spotting scope when I decide to move the targets out farther.

I can see bullet holes quite a ways out with the Leupold 6.5-20x50mm LRT. Not as far as you guys shoot, but quite a ways.

I make all my own targets too.

I use ExactIndex heavy card stock paper.

It is 8 1/2 x 11 and has a paper weight of 110 lb. Comes in 250 sheet packs from Office Max.

I have drawn up some targets with a drawing package on the computer and just print them out on the heavy card stock. Three 2 inch diamonds on a 1/8 inch grid with a place to record all the data at the bottom.

Bullets punch nice crisp holes. Works great.

Tell me more about the white steel plates.

Where do you get them and how do you hold them up?

I suppose they make a cool ding when hit ...


Here's a link you can get the steel plate scoop from.

I been using 3"x5" index cards for testing at 200 yards, man I can staple a bunch of them up! Throw them in a card file later, info on the back, organize them however you like type deal.

I'll have to go look for the larger ones for farther out shooting.
I have a stensile template I cut out and I just lay it on top of the cards and trace the diamond with a Sharpie.

A lot of it depends on the type of terrain you hunt in.

I do most of my hunting on wide open flat ground. Therefore I can get by with binoculars better than someone who mostly hunts in the hills and brush.

I will add one more point to this discussion that might not be known even to some old timers.

We all know that power and clarity are important factors for hunting. For me, equally important is color. Getting true color costs more than getting clarity. You can accomplish great things if you have both.

I know many have said that color was not that important for hunting. If the game is moving I agree, but if still and you have to
isolate it from it's surroundings like I do with groundhogs at distance, color gives up more targets than clarity and the image. Color first draws me to the object for additional study.

In short I seek:
1) movement
2) color
3) image matching

Yes, it costs a lot more.
I use binoculars to find animals and a spotting scope for closer examination.
Elk and sheep can be seen miles away at 10x if you know what you are looking for. Deer tend to blend in a bit better and are not as easy to see at really long ranges unless they have an unusual background.
I use Zeiss Classic 10x40, but I have been impressed with the clarity of the Leica.

Spotting scopes are great for getting details or figuring out exactly what you are looking at. I rarely carry a spotting scope for elk unless it is a trophy hunt. I use one all the time for sheep. With a good spotting scope (really like the Leica), you can tell age within a year or two at half a mile.

I can see where Big Eyes would be beneficial for long range setups and for locating spotter rounds.
Of like quality and power two eyes are always better than one. Just common sense.
I suppose if you only had one good eye this would be questionable. After using "big eyes" for a long time, a spotting scope wouldn't even be an option.

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