Best Binoculars for Hunting of 2022 | Outdoor Life

2022-05-21 23:22:46 By : Ms. Alisa Liu

The best hunting binoculars of 2022 feature durability, versatility, and value

This compact 8-power binocular does everything well enough for a top budget pick.

Tight, silky controls and a stylish chassis make the B1.2 a great all-around bino.

These binoculars are easy to use with one hand, and offer a lot of optical horsepower for being so lightweight.

Hunting binoculars do more than magnify game animals. They help you read the landscape, locate other hunters, and can save you many miles of hiking by compressing the distance. The best binoculars for hunting also enable you to see into the darkness of early morning and late evening, the very times that animals are moving.

But not all hunting binoculars are equal. Some binoculars are cheap and flimsy, and their sub-standard glass can cause squinting headaches. On the other end of the spectrum are precise optical instruments that can cost several thousands of dollars. But between those poles are models that offer peak performance at an attainable price, and that’s where I’ve selected my top picks from.

I tested a dozen of the best mid-priced hunting binoculars by treating them the way you would: by strapping them to chest harnesses and hiking with them, sometimes in rainy and snowy weather, sometimes in dusty and sunny conditions. I handled them with gloves on and off, and then evaluated their optics, measuring brightness and clarity and field of view. Then I assessed their price and non-optical attributes, such as cases, lens caps, and warranties to bring you this review of the best hunting binoculars of 2022.

Price and optical performance both matter when it comes to figuring out how to choose binoculars, but the biggest factor to consider is comfort: how well does a binocular fit your hands and your face, and how comfortable is it to look through for extended sessions? If its frame is unbalanced or too big for your hands, you won’t reach for it. If its eyecups gouge your eyes, you won’t lift it. And if its image makes you squint, you won’t use it. The best binoculars are the ones you use, and you pick them by handling a bunch and figuring out which fits you. You look through a bunch and figure out which are easiest on your eyes. That, not price or the brand, is what makes the best hunting binocular for you.

Your first consideration is magnification. In the tight woods of the East and Southeast, an 8-power is adequate, but in the open fields and mountains of the West, a 10x or even 12x is a better choice. Next, consider objective lens diameter. The standard for walk-about hunting binoculars is 42mm, but if you’ll be sitting in a blind or treestand, a smaller 32mm binocular may be a better fit.

Next, how much do you want to spend? Given that binoculars range in price from around $200 up to more than $3,000, you’ll want to look at a number of models in your price range. Look for a comfortable fit, both to your hands and to your face. Make sure the controls (focus wheel, diopter, eye cups, hinge) are tight and precise. And consider the warranty; the best binocular values are those with fully transferable lifetime warranties that protect you in case of breakage.

Last—and most importantly—how does the image appear through the binoculars? After all, optics really have only one job: to make distant images appear clear, bright, and crisp. Does your binocular do that, or does the image make you squint and appear blurry? Do colors look vibrant, and do blacks look fully black or do you notice white fringing around the edges? Do you notice any distortion around the edges of the image? And how about color fringing, which is the presence of jags of colored light that dance across the image? Any image or color distortion is an indication of substandard glass or coatings.

Why It Made the Cut

The year’s best example of an all-around hunting binocular, the Maven has tight, silky controls in a stylish chassis that has just enough bling to separate it from the ranks of generic black binos.

The B1.2, which settles in a Goldilocks “just right” position between Maven’s small B.3 and its super-sized B.5, is surprisingly compact, measuring not quite 6 inches in length, and easily fits most aftermarket binocular harnesses. And at 27 ounces, it doesn’t weigh you down. 

I enjoyed doing the testing for the Maven B Series review. I spent more time and miles—six weeks of Montana deer hunting—with the Maven than any other binoculars, and it’s a testament to the optic that even after all that time, it’s still the binocular I reach for above all others. It’s tight and durable. It’s bright and focuses both easily and precisely and has a wide field of view. It’s not quite as crisp or bright as my next-favorite, Swarovski’s NL Pure, but it’s also less than half the cost. So, for the balance of utility, style, and price, this is a great all-rounder.

Why It Made the Cut

Inside the NL Pure’s revolutionary exterior design is the best glass in the category, delivering a stunningly bright and crisp image. The curvaceous lines allow users to lock the unit in hand, making our 12-power test sample as easily to stablize as a 10-power. It’s pricey, but the heirloom-grade Swarovski sets a new standard for premium binoculars.

A super-premium European binocular, the NL Pure is marketed to birders and wildlife viewers, but it has wonderful attributes for hunters, starting with its grippy hourglass design that makes operation with one—or both—hands a cinch. Its field of view is the widest in the category, and the oversized focus wheel is precise and silky. It has lovely balance, making its 29-ounce weight feel much less. The NL Pure ships with Swarovski’s proprietary neck strap and locking connectors.

Why It Made the Cut

The TORIC is a high-magnification binocular with good balance and top-notch glass at an appealing price.

High-magnification binoculars aren’t for everyone or for every type of hunt. But they are very capable optics for the sort of sit-all-day glassing that defines Coues deer hunting in the Southwest or ridgeline elk hunting in the Rockies. At 15-power, this offering from Tract splits the difference between a binocular and a compact spotting scope. You’ll need a tripod to stabilize the optic and get the best image, but the TORIC’s high-transmission glass makes those images bright and clear, and the focus is easy to ramp from close to infinity in just a single smooth revolution.

Why It Made the Cut

This is a good choice for a beginning hunter who wants field-worthy optics and enough money left over for a decent gun or bow.

It’s easy to spend upwards of $1,000 on hunting binoculars, and generally speaking the more you pay the better the durability of the optic, and the brighter and crisper the image it produces. But that’s a hefty price for most of us, which is why my review includes more accessibly-priced binoculars. 

The Crossfire is an adequate entry-level hunting binocular, it carries nicely and will perform most basic field tasks. Its construction may not take years of hard knocks, but Vortex’s fully transferable lifetime warranty will comfort those who push it to the point of breaking. The no-click eyecups are a nice touch, and the Crossfire HD balances nicely in either one or both hands.

Why It Made the Cut

One of the few ultra-compact binoculars in the best binoculars for hunting lineup, the Forge stays out of the way until you need it.

This compact binocular hits way above its weight and size. The 10-power magnification is a lot of optical horsepower in a wee frame—although 8-power would be a better fit for whitetail woods. The 30mm tubes tuck out of the way and do a decent job of delivering images, but this is not a twilight optic; you’ll be disappointed in the dark image. But for a go-everywhere binocular that’s at home in a treestand, turkey vest, or ground blind, the Bushnell Forge is hard to beat.

Why It Made the Cut

A middle-of-the-road hunting optic, the Signature HD is compact enough to use in the tight quarters of a ground blind or tree stand but has enough horsepower to reach out across Western vistas. 

A utilitarian all-round binocular priced right in the middle of the cost spectrum, Burris’s Signature HD got a design lift this year with an open-bridge configuration that enables one-hand operation. The controls are good, if a little sloppy, but the oversized hinges imply durability and long-wearing operation. The glass is adequate, but I noticed some peripheral distortion and color fringing.

Why It Made the Cut

Leupold’s BX-4 Pro Guide does everything: its open-bridge design enables one-hand operation, which is a key feature for bowhunters. It has tasty controls and good-enough image for most purposes. And its highly textured armor is stylish, in a running-shoe sort of way.

I love these open-bridge binocular builds, largely because they enable one-hand operation, a key feature for bowhunters and anyone else whose other hand is otherwise occupied. The highly-tactile texture is easy to hold, even with wet gloves, and the focus riffs from close to infinity with a single turn of the wheel. Leupold’s best-in-class warranty gives this a nod for all-around hunting.

Why It Made the Cut

The glass and coatings on the Monarch M5 are among the best on the market for this price point. The controls are tight and precise. And the balance and handling are adequate for just about any sort of hunting or field sports.

This compact 8-power binocular does everything well enough that it wins my budget bino nod. It’s not a high-end optic; its glass is good but not great, and its build feels alternatively heavy and a little flimsy. But it brings a whale of a lot of horsepower to the field. It has very comfortable tapered eyecups and nice balance.

Why It Made the Cut

This is a great example of a mid-priced binocular that hits above its weight. The Euro-styled Frontier APO has premium ED glass in a magnesium-alloy chassis, very good coatings, and nicely contoured eyecups for a custom fit.

While Hawke is better known for its excellent riflescopes (particularly for airguns), the Frontier APO line of binoculars is worth a look. They have a good quality of glass, image-sharpening apochromatic lenses, and color-enhancing coatings. The mid-priced 8×42 version is capable of any hunting task, but is best suited for whitetail hunting, and the unflashy warranty is one of the best in the business.

Why It Made the Cut

The MeoPro Air is a first-rate hunting binocular, with good glass and excellent coatings in a durable, functional package.

What you get from the MeoPro Air is a high-performing bino at a much lower price than similar products. Thanks to lower operating costs in the Czech Republic, Meopta brings European glass, style, and optical performance at about half the prices of models from Leica, Zeiss, and Swarovski.

One of the field tests I subject all binoculars to is ease of use with a single hand. That’s especially an important consideration for bowhunters.The Meopta’s open-barrel design is one of the most deployable in the field, and the focus knob is easy to feather with a single finger. The MeoPro Air’s magnesium body is durable and, at 22.9 ounces, surprisingly lightweight. The unit is backed by Meopta’s lifetime transferable warranty.

Why It Made the Cut

The ZULU7 binoculars are easy to use with one hand, and offer a lot of optical horsepower in a lightweight chassis. 

SIG has designed its ZULU7 with recreational shooters, not necessarily hunters, in mind. The graphite armor is aggressively textured to give it a tactical appearance. But all that edgy geometry will appeal to hunters, largely because it makes the binocular extremely “grippy” and easy to operate with gloved hands. Inside, the extra-low dispersion glass is bright and clear, and we detected very little distortion. The open-barrel design is very easy to use with a single hand.

Styled for tactical shooters, this is one of the best all-around hunting binoculars in my collection. Easy to deploy with a single hand, the ZULU7’s polymer frame is light and durable. The ED glass produced a very nice image, with excellent contrast and color rendition. It’s a great choice for open-country hunts, for pronghorn antelope or mule deer, or any time you need a lot of optical horsepower in a lightweight chassis.

Why It Made the Cut

Vanguard isn’t the first brand that comes to mind for hunters, but the Endeavor ED platform combines excellent glass with a nimble build that’s at home in most hunting scenarios. The open-bridge design is easy to grab and deploy, and the mid-market price puts it in reach of most hunters.

A well-made and versatile binocular, the Vanguard has one of the widest fields of view in the class. The open-bridge design is easy to use with a single hand, and the extra-low dispersion glass is remarkably bright for the price. The center-hinge locking diopter is easy to reach and deploy.

Why It Made the Cut

Leica brings a full suite of precision shooting tools to a very capable hunting optic. A more compact version of Leica’s 10×42 Geovid, the 32mm is a trim and versatile go-everywhere binocular. But the impressive amount of technology it carries will make users more precise shooters, and the GPS sensors help track and recover game animals.

The Geovid packs an impressive amount of technology in a trip, extremely nimble binocular. The open-barrel design is easy to use with a single hand, and the rangefinder has close-in ranging that makes it appealing to bowhunters, but reaches out to 2,500 yards, making it a handy tool for long-distance precision shooters. The laser is fast and precise, and the ability to connect to Leica’s mobile app allows hunters to match the ballistics of their gun and load to the specific distance and angle of your shot.

If it’s impossible to evaluate binoculars by reading their attributes on a website, it’s nearly as hard to find their merits standing under the fluorescent lights of a retail store. Instead, I test binoculars the way you use them: in the field.

I strap every entry into harnesses and, because it wasn’t yet hunting season when I tested them, I took long hikes, subjecting each to the dust, showers, and fence-crossing dings that most hunts deal out.

Then I strapped each binocular to a tripod and put it through a standard viewing course that includes close, far, obscure, and both highly and poorly contrasted targets. This test is designed to test edge clarity, color fidelity, and detect any optical aberrations.

Lastly, I put each through Outdoor Life’s copied low-light test, measuring how far into the descending darkness each could resolve details on a black-and-white target at 100 yards.

The short answer is yes. For safety, because binoculars enable you to see distant objects without pointing your gun at them and using your riflescope as a telescope is never a good idea. For ethics, to make sure of your target before shooting at it. For efficiency, because binoculars shrink distance and allow you to assess far objects without walking all the way to them. And for success, because binoculars help you see distant animals in the first and last hours of the day, when they’re most likely to be moving. 

Every binocular has two numbers. The first is the magnification, or the amount of times the image is enlarged. The second is the size of the objective lens, in millimeters. The objective lens is the larger lens that points toward your target when you look through a binocular, and the larger the objective lens, the more light and detail enter the eye. Using this formula, an 8×32 binocular has 8-times magnification (or “power”) and a 32mm objective lens.  If you’re still wondering, what do numbers on binoculars mean, here are more tips. Typically, the larger the numbers, the greater the optical performance, but also the physical size of the binocular. A 6×24 binocular is small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. A 15×56, on the other hand, is so large it’s hard to hold in your hand. Hunters want a binocular that is powerful enough to see distant objects but small enough to be portable. The sweet spot for most hunters is an 8- or 10-power behind a 32 to 42mm lens. So look for models with these numbers: 8×32, 8×42, 10×42, or for light-gathering ability, 10×50.

You can spend as little as $100 or as much as $4,000 for a hunting binocular. Generally, the more money you spend, the better the binocular, but because there’s a limit to your budget, you probably want to buy the best binocular for your money. The good news is there are lots of choices in the $400-$600 range. That’s still a lot of money, but here are three things to consider: •Warranty – Does your brand have your back? Many optics companies offer fully transferrable lifetime warranties for binoculars. That means it’s covered for repair or replacement whether you bought the optic yourself or bought it second-hand. •Accessories – Many brands include zippered cases or harnesses with their binoculars, a savings of around $50. •Performance – If you spend $500 or more for an optic, you want to be sure it’s going to deliver. Look for models that have high light transmission (90 percent or higher), good customer reviews, and are built for battle, with double hinges, durable armor, and controls (focus wheels and eyecups) that move with precision and authority.

Hunting binoculars are hard to evaluate unless you put them in your hands and to your eyes. Then, small differences show themselves, whether it’s the brightness and clarity of the glass or the ergonomics of the chassis. I put these binoculars through the paces so you don’t have to and to make it easier for you to find the best binoculars for hunting.

Andrew McKean is Outdoor Life’s hunting and conservation editor, drilling into issues that affect wildlife, wildlands, and the people who care about them. He’s also OL’s optics editor, helping readers to make informed buying decisions.

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