Just a few decades ago, the optic was the weakest link of any shooting scenario. That couldn't be further from the truth today, as technology has grown exponentially in the field. The only thing left to blame is the shooter.
No other category in the world of hunting and shooting can come close to matching the scores of new products produced by optics makers each year. From mounts to scopes to binoculars, many manufacturers have come up with innovative solutions to vexing problems and refined existing products to elevate them to new performance plateaus. Shooting Times scoured the SHOT Show floor to find the best new optics--big and small, expensive and cheap--for 2008.
Alpen Outdoor Corporation has introduced four new binoculars in 2008, extending existing lines. The Models 67 and 68 are compact versions of Alpen's top-shelf Rainier series. They have magnesium bodies for durable and lightweight field performance, and they utilize PXA phase coating and SHR metallic coating on BaK4 glass for bright, clear images. Both binos have twist-up eyepieces for use with or without eyeglasses as well as a locking system on the adjustable diopter to maintain viewer-specific settings. The new Rainiers are waterproof, fog proof, and come with a carrying case and Alpen's lifetime warranty.
The new Teton models use the same magnification system as the Rainier series but have composite bodies and are larger in size. Both new models have 50mm objectives, and all air-to-glass surfaces are multicoated for exceptional low-light performance. The 8.5X Model 85 glasses have a 315-foot field of view (FOV) at 100 yards. The 10X Model 89 Teton binocular improves low-light performance over the 8X42mm Teton but only adds 4 ounces.
BSA Stealth 4x32
The new Stealth Tactical series from BSA Optics runs the gamut from a 1X reflex with built-in rails for close quarter battle (CQB) accessories to a high-powered, variable optic with fine adjustments.
Seven different scopes make up the Stealth line, ranging from a fixed 4X all the way up to an 8-32X benchrest model. All the models have innovative, all-weather push-pull turrets with 1/8-MOA adjustments, etched-glass mil-dot reticles, and oversized side-focus wheels. There is even a provision to control image brightness in the form of an adjustable aperture on the front of the scope, while others have illuminated reticles. The scopes' glass is fully multicoated.
The four new 1X reflex optics all have built-in mounting systems. Shooters can choose from two plain models with red dots or two models with red, green, and blue dots plus a light and laser sight that mount on integral rails. Image brightness also can be adjusted similarly to the variable-power scopes. The scopes are covered by a lifetime warranty.
Barska Benchmark 40x
Barska has introduced four new high-powered benchrest/target scopes. Three variables and one monster 40X fixed scope make up the Benchmark line; they have mil-dot reticles in the first focal plane and fully multicoated optics. The scopes are equipped with convenient side-focus knobs and 1/8-MOA clicks for precision, long-range adjustments. All the scopes have 50mm objectives and are waterproof, fog proof, and covered by a limited lifetime warranty.
Bruton Echo Laser Rangefinder
A longtime player in the high-quality binocular market, Brunton has added riflescopes and laser rangefinders to its optics lineup.
The Echo and Lite-Tech series scopes have fully multicoated lenses and fast-focus eyepieces. There are five variable models with a wide range of features that cover almost every hunting situation. The 1.5-5X 20mm model has an etched, fast-acquisition reticle. A 6-24X 50mm model has a mil-dot reticle and target turrets. All the scopes have one-piece, 1-inch, aluminum tubes; generous eye relief; and reasonable prices.
It has been two decades since Brunton developed one of the first rangefinders for the hunting market, and this year marks a return to that category. There are two different models: one in black and gray, and the other clad in Mossy Oak camo. Both are 6X and will range targets out to 440 yards with a 1-yard margin of error. The units run on a CR2 lithium battery that will provide 2,500 sights. The rangefinders have multicoated glass and are water resistant.
The research and development team at Burris has been very busy over the past year, propelling the company to introduce a ton of new products. From a double handful of new riflescopes to a reflex shotgun sight to a gun-mounted video camera to new binoculars, if you need an optic, Burris probably has one to suit.
The new Fullfield TAC30 riflescopes have given Burris devotees a new long-range option with a 30mm tube and more adjustment range. The three variable scopes sport TAC-2 low-profile adjustment knobs, illuminated Ballistic Plex reticles, and cool flat-green finishes.
Burris is going out on a limb with its new SpeedBead System, trying to convince shotgun shooters that an optic is better than a bead. The dedicated shotgun optic is not intended for turkey hunters or slug shooters, rather, it's for serious clay-target smashing. The innovative mount puts the center of the optic directly in line with the ventilated rib so there's no need to alter your shooting style. Generous eye relief eliminates interference with grip or recoil worries.
The ShotCam is one of the most radical products to be introduced this year, combining a 120-lumen light, a laser designator, and a video camera in one firearm-mounted unit that weighs only 5.5 ounces. The unit is rail mounted and has myriad field, training, and law enforcement applications. Able to store 30 minutes of video on an onboard computer, the ShotCam is a great way to relive a hunt or exonerate an officer's actions in the courtroom.
Bushnell Elite 6500 2.5-16x
The Elite series riflescopes have long been an exceptional value, offering a level of performance that is way out of proportion to the price tag. Bushnell raised the stakes this year with the new Elite 6500 series riflescope. The one-piece, 30mm tube has an extended 80-MOA adjustment range with easy-to-use push-pull turrets. The 6.5 times magnification range makes the scopes extremely versatile. Two versions--2.5-16X 50mm and 4.5-30X 50mm--are available with two different reticle options, Bushnell's new ultrafine Multi-X or the tried-and-true mil-dot. The 6500 series scopes' glass is fully multicoated and wears Rainguard, a hydrophobic coating that prevents fogging and allows a clear view in the pouring rain.
The new Power Class 1TL series from CenterPoint Precision Optics will offer two scopes, a 3-9X 42mm and a 1.5-6X 44mm. Both scopes have 30mm, one-piece bodies that are sealed and nitrogen filled to make them waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof. All lens surfaces are fully multicoated with CenterPoint's Pure Advantage solution for up to 95 percent light transmission. The new Power Class 1TL has One Touch Lightning technology that offers quick, easy adjustments. The floating duplex reticle can be illuminated in green or red with a push of a button, and the intensity can be adjusted without moving from the shooting position.
DureSight Z2 Intergral Mount System
DuraSight's new Z2-alloy integral ring/base design is the ultimate in terms of strength and ease of installation. The base and the lower ring are a one-piece unit that is formed in a mold with Z2, an alloy that is 50 percent stronger than aluminum.
The new GG&G mount for Aimpoint's T-1 Micro sight provides a solid mounting solution that provides for the use of high-end, flip-up lens covers. The mount also maintains the precise height necessary to co-witness the scope's red dot with the front-sight post of the standard AR-style rifle's iron sights. The lightweight mount utilizes the Accucam QD mount and attaches with four 3mm screws.
The new B-COMP 30mm ring system provides a lightweight scope ring that includes a removable and ambidextrous mounting platform for mini red-dot sights like the JPoint, Docter Sight, and Trijicon RedDot. Mounted at 45 degrees to the elevation turret, the platform allows the red dot to be positioned in such a way that the shooter needs only to slightly roll the rifle to acquire a close-range target. The system also includes a removable, watertight battery compartment. All components are manufactured from 6061-T6 aluminum alloy and are Type IIII hard-anodized matte black as per military specification.
Laica Ultravid HD 8x42
One would think that it would be impossible to improve the near-perfect optical quality of Leica's Ultravid binoculars, but the company did just that this year with the introduction of the Ultravid HD. The new binocular offers improved light transmission without compromising compactness by using a new prism coating and special fluorite glass for all the lens elements. The HD series also debuts the new AquaDura coating, which beads up water droplets for improved performance in inclement weather. The new Ultravid HD binocular is available in a variety of models: 8X32, 10X32, 7X42, 8X42, 10X42, 8X50, 10X50, and 12X50.
Leupold Green Ring Mojave 10x42
Leupold & Stevens
Leupold and the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) have joined forces to develop a line of riflescopes specifically designed for serious whitetail hunters; it's called the QDManager series. Based on Leupold's VX-L models, the QDManager scopes have the Light Optimization Profile, a concave crescent in the bottom of the objective lens and bell. In addition to the design's low-light performance, the riflescopes feature illuminated reticles for maximized performance at dusk and dawn. The QDManager riflescopes are available in 3.5-10X 50mm, 4.5-14X 50mm, 3.5-10X 56mm, and 4.5-14X 56mm. All have a matte-black finish and feature the QDManager identifier on the Leupold Golden Ring, the QDMA logo medallion, and the QDMA logo engraved on the scope.
Leupold has dropped weight without sacrificing optical performance with the introduction of the company's first open-bridge line of binoculars, the Green Ring Mojave. Available in either 8X42 or 10X42 models, the Mojave's open-bridge design reduces the binoculars' weight to a mere 23 ounces. The design also improves the ergonomics of the binoculars, making them incredibly comfortable and easy to hold during extended use.
The Mojave binoculars have multicoated optics for a bright sight picture with the contrast and color fidelity needed to make positive identifications. Additionally, the silver-enhanced, cold-mirror coatings provide exceptional performance in low-light situations. The binoculars are available in either black or Mossy Oak Treestand armor coatings.
NightForce Angle Degree Indicator
The NightForce 1-4X 24mm and 2.5-10X 24mm compact NXS riflescopes are now offered with patented ZeroStop technology and a windage limiter. Both models incorporate exposed turrets for rapid access and quick adjustments. These streamlined scopes have low profiles, allowing easy mounting on virtually any rifle. The ZeroStop turret allows an instant and absolute return to zero entirely by feel, every time, regardless of how much the elevation has been adjusted.
The new NightForce Angle Degree Indicator takes the guesswork out of uphill or downhill shots, especially at longer ranges. It provides an instant visual reading of the slope angle in degrees, which can then be used with a preprinted angle drop chart or entered directly into the NightForce ballistic software program. The Angle Degree Indicator's two-piece, low-profile, Picatinny-mount design allows easy installation without removing the sco
pe. It is offered in both left- and right-hand versions.
Nikon EDG 10x42
Nikon introduced the most advanced binocular in the company's history at the SHOT Show this year. The EDG series binoculars were engineered using cutting-edge technology. The EDG binocular uses Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass to push the limits of optical perfection. Used in Nikon's legendary Nikkor lenses, this glass was developed to eliminate chromatic aberration that occurs when light rays of varying wavelengths pass through optical glass. Nikon EDG binoculars offer the same results: high-contrast, high-resolution images that are razor sharp and free of flare.
The binoculars incorporate phase-correction-coated roof prisms to enhance resolution, as well as dielectric coated subprisms to maximize light transmission. A magnesium-alloy body and open-bridge construction offer ruggedness at a sensible weight. The EDG is offered in several magnifications. Full-size glasses with 42mm objective lenses are available in 7X, 8X, and 10X, and compact models with 32mm objectives can be had in 8X and 10X.
Schmidt & Bender 2.5-10x
Schmidt & Bender
In the age of growing objectives and overweight tubes, Schmidt & Bender is downsizing a bit, and the result is a fantastic new 2.5-10X hunting scope with a 1-inch tube and 40mm objective. The 40mm objective lens allows for a compact, low-profile scope, but Schmidt & Bender's superior glass and construction still deliver excellent low-light performance. Eye relief is almost 4 inches, making the 2.5-10X 40mm perfect for magnum and large-caliber rifles. The scope is also one of the first Schmidt & Bender hunting models to feature a reticle in the second focal plane.
Sightron SIII 3.5-10x
Sightron has introduced five new SIII model scopes for 2008. The new SIII SSLR scopes are designed primarily for long-range shooting and hunting applications. Models include a 6-24X 50mm with mil-dot, a 6-24X 50mm with dot reticle, an 8-32X 56mm with dot reticle, a 3.5-10X 56mm with illuminated German 4A reticle, and a 3.5-10X 44mm with mil-dot reticle.
All SIII scopes have side parallax focus and oversized target knobs with 1/4-MOA adjustments that can be reset to zero and feature Sightron's unique Exactrack system for precise no-drift windage and elevation adjustments. Positive audible click adjustment helps shooters get on target quickly, and the 30mm tubes are machined from aircraft-quality aluminum. The fully coated, precision-ground lenses use Sightron's ZACT-7 Revcoat seven-layer multicoating throughout to provide excellent light transmission.
Steiner Predator C5 10x42
Steiner has developed a new series of Predator binoculars. The Predator C5 binos have new fully multicoated optics contained in a shockproof and waterproof housing. The C5 series is offered in 10X42 and 12X42, and it delivers an improved degree of light transmission, image resolution, and color contrast. Partly responsible for this new level of performance is the combination of traditional silver-mirror technology with selected dielectric coatings on the C5's interference mirrors. This delivers greater light transmission, image contrast, and pinpoint resolution. This new Predator has an ergonomic housing and a rubberized armor covering that feels great in the hands and helps protect it from the harshest conditions.
Swarovski TYROL 8x20
Hunters and shooters have come to love the excellent optical performance of Swarovski scopes and now have the chance to customize their scope to caliber and hunting situation. The new Ballistic Turret allows a shooter to set a zero and three more easy-to-set and easy-to-see downrange zeros. Once set up, the turret is turned a few clicks up to the appropriate color-coded downrange distance. This eliminates holdover and allows the shooter to put the crosshair dead on target. To get back to the zero setting, the turret is turned back where it will automatically stop at the preset base-zero setting. The shooter will still have to accurately determine distance to the target and account for wind.
The smallest and newest of all Swarovski Optik's binoculars might be the classiest ever produced by the Austrian company. The TYROL pocket binocular is wrapped in Italian leather but still has a sophisticated lens system comprised of 16 lenses that are treated with the SWAROBRIGHT, SWARODUR, and SWAROTOP coatings. The pint-size binos deliver exceptionally bright, high-contrast images. The TYROL is dustproof and waterproof and has adjustable twist-in eyecups that also allow eyeglass wearers to enjoy a full field of view.
The new Crossfire riflescopes from Vortex Optics are built tough but also offer an excellent value to the hunter on a budget. Constructed from one piece of aluminum alloy, the scopes are nitrogen purged so that they are waterproof and fog proof. Fully multicoated optics deliver edge-to-edge clarity and 90 percent light transmission. There are nine scopes in the series that cover a wide range of applications with special reticles, objective sizes, and magnification ranges.
The new StrikeFire Red Dot riflescope is an option for any hunter looking for the fastest possible target acquisition. The StrikeFire comes with a standard-height mounting ring, the ability to change between a red or green dot, and an intensity switch that allows a shooter to match the 2-MOA dot to any situation. The rugged StrikeFire red dot works on shotguns, rifles, and handguns, and it is compatible with night-vision devices. The aluminum-alloy tub
e is waterproof and fog proof, and it has been shock-tested for calibers up to .375 H&H Magnum. The circuitry is ultra-efficient, offering 3,000 hours of continuous run time at the lowest setting.
Warne Maxima 1913 Picatinny Rail System
Warne Manufacturing is producing several new products for 2008 that cater to the specific needs of both the traditional hunter and the tactical shooter. The BTMK-10 Green Laser Aiming System has been sold exclusively to the U.S. armed forces until now. Designed to fit the AR-15 family of rifles, special engineering makes this unit extremely precise and resilient.
The Maxima 1913 Picatinny one-piece rail system is designed to fit the new Marlin XL-7 and the H&R family of rifles. The Maxima is Weaver and Picatinny compliant and will accept a variety of other sighting systems with built-in mounts.
Zeiss Sports Optic's newest version of the Victory Diavari 6-24X 72mm T* FL features state-of-the-art FL glass, which delivers more exceptional light transmission. This magnum-sized scope, originally built for professional marksmen in European law enforcement agencies and military, is now available to hunters and shooters in the U.S. who require the absolute best in low-light performance.
In A Nutshell
Though it covered quite a few pages in this magazine, this article was only able to bring you a sampling of the new scopes, binoculars, and accessories that have been introduced by manufacturers this year. There are literally hundreds more products I was unable to cover because of time and space limitations. But rest assured that in addition to many of these, many of the others will be covered in future features and columns.
It is quite obvious that a shooter in search of the perfect optic or accessory has never had it better. In just a few decades, optics have progressed from a limiting factor to a tool that can greatly increase a shooter's capabilities.