Best Hunting Binoculars For The Money – 2017 Rankings & Reviews

What are hunting binoculars?

Binoculars are very useful tools in hunting situations as they can allow you to see details of areas and animals that the human eye would never be capable of. From allowing a hunter to count the points on a deer or assess the overall mass of its antlers to being able to see animals coming in from a long distance to prepare for a shot, a quality set of binoculars is something every hunter should have in his or her bag. A good pair of binoculars can also give you much better vision in low light conditions due to their enhanced light gathering capability.

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So what do the numbers mean in the binocular description?

The numbers in the binocular description (example: 8 x 40) refer to the magnification and the aperture size of the binocs. The magnification, in the example, would be 8 power, which is written as 8x. The 40 refers to the aperture size in millimeters, which would be 40 mm. Assuming all other aspects of the binoculars to be equal, the higher the power, the closer the object will look. Keep in mind also that the larger the magnification, the smaller the field of view will be at a given distance (the amount in feet of diameter that you will be able to see, typically listed as field of view at 1000 yards).

For the aperture size, the larger the aperture, the more light gathering capability the binoculars will have and thus, the better the low light visibility. One last note…in general, the higher the magnification, the poorer the low light visibility will be, so when selecting your binoculars, higher power is not always best, depending on what and when you are needing the binoculars for.

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What are the different types of hunting binoculars?

There are three basic categories of hunting binoculars: single magnification, adjustable magnification (or ‘zoomable’), and folding binoculars. Each of these categories has its best application, and any can work for a variety of applications, but in general selecting the best binoculars for your own personal needs will give you the best utility.

Knowing the vast selection of binoculars on the market, we have set out with our field staff to determine “What are the best binoculars?” Below we have broken our findings into multiple categories to offer you an easy to manage selection guide. We have also included a ‘budget’ selection for each category for those who want a good set of binocs without breaking the bank. For your convenience, in each review we also give you the magnification, aperture size in millimeters, and field of view at 1000 yards.

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Fixed magnification binoculars

The single magnification binocular is the most common of the binoculars on the market as it has a fixed power. Some might wonder why it is not best to always have a variable power, but just like it is not always wise to have the most powerful binoculars on the market due to optics, the same applies with fixed power binoculars. Typically, because the lens is fixed, the quality of the viewed image is going to be higher, all other variables being equal. Below we discuss the ‘best of’ for fixed power binoculars. Each group is broken into the most common ranges of magnification.

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What is the best binocular 8x or less?

This range of magnification is going to be for the everyday user who wants to bring objects in for a closer look without needing to see intricate details at 200 yards. These binoculars are going to have some of the best light gathering characteristics due to their lower magnification power as well as some of the largest fields of view.

Top pick: Nikon 7576 Monarch 5 8 x 42 Binocular

The Nikon Monarch 8 x 42 binoculars really deliver with their crisp optics and sharp focus. They are a very lightweight pair of binoculars when compared to many other full sized models. They are fully water proof and fog proof so you don’t have to worry about not being able to see your quarry at the right moment. We have heard from some users that there is an issue with the one piece eye cap on the top of the binoculars fitting too loosely, but when we took a close look this is by design to purposefully fit loose. If you read the instructions carefully, it will show you how to attach the eye cap to the strap where it falls into place when you lower the binoculars to protect the lenses. Some users like the feature and others do not, but it is easy enough to just remove that top eye cap.

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Aperture: 42 mm
  • Field of view at 1000 yards: 330 ft.

PROS:
  • Super crisp focus.
  • Lightweight and compact compare to other full size binoculars.

CONS:
  • One piece eyecup is a problem for some users.


Budget pick: Bushnell Falcon 7×35 Binoculars

For those who are looking for a good set of binoculars but are also trying to stay within a tight budget, the Bushnell Falcon binoculars offer 7x magnification while also bringing a lot more light to your eye. The optics are generally pretty good, especially when you consider the budget price point. These binoculars feature the ‘InstaFocus’ which is a one finger focus that is much easier to use than the traditional knob, although some users will still prefer the greater precision the knob can offer. The case isn’t very heavy duty, so don’t look for it to provide great protection, but given the price point and quality of optics, that is easy enough to overlook.

  • Magnification: 7x
  • Aperture: 35 mm
  • Field of view at 1000 yards: 420 ft.

PROS:
  • Good optics for the money.
  • Very wide field of view.

CONS:
  • Some reports of quality control issues.


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What is the best binocular 9x – 12x?

As you move into this class of binoculars, in terms of magnification power, you will now be able to see much more detail at a greater range, but at the sacrifice of a bit of light gathering capability. The field of view will also be a bit less due to the greater magnification, although higher end optics can offer a wider field of view than their lower end counterparts. At this magnification, you should still be able to hold the binoculars still enough to not have a shaky image when viewing.

Top Pick: Bushnell PowerView Super High-Powered Surveillance Binoculars (10 x 50)

The Bushnell PowerView family of binoculars offer an excellent amount of crisp magnification in a variety of powers. We say ‘family of binoculars’ as these are available in a 10 x 50, 12 x 50 and even a 20 x 50. For purposes of this article, we focused on the 10x magnification as that provided the best combination of zoom, light gathering and stability. We found them to do an excellent job of bringing targets in close enough to see bullet impacts at 100 yards while still being easy to stabilize while viewing. The optics were clear and the focus allowed for minute adjustments. We did note that the case is quite flimsy, so you will want to be sure to put these in a place in your pack where they will be well protected.

  • Magnification: 10x
  • Aperture: 50 mm
  • Field of view at 1000 yards: 341 ft.

PROS:
  • Available range of magnification power.
  • Good field of view.

CONS:
  • Case is very flimsy.
  • Some reports that the binoculars are not durable.


Budget pick: Bushnell Falcon 10×50 Wide Angle Binoculars

Bushnell’s Falcon 10 x 50 Binoculars offer a good combination of quality optics and a reasonable price point. The 10x magnification does a good job of bringing objects in for a closer look while the 50 mm aperture allows for a good influx of light in low light conditions. There are not the smallest full size binoculars we have tested, but they also weren’t overly bulky or heavy. As with other budget priced Bushnells we have tested, we did find a bit of variance in their quality control. Overall, given the power and optics quality, these are certainly worthy of a close look.

  • Magnification: 10x
  • Aperture: 50 mm
  • Field of view at 1000 yards: 300 ft.

PROS:
  • Good optics for the money.

CONS:
  • Reports of QC issues.


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What is the best binocular 13x +?

Binoculars in this magnification range can be really great to be able to focus on tight detail at extreme ranges, even allowing you to sight in a rifle at 200 yards, but there is always a drawback for that power. When you move to this magnification range, you may find it increasingly difficult to hold them steady enough to appreciate their power. This range of magnification will benefit from a rest or even a tripod mount, so keep that in mind when looking at these.

Top Pick: Nikon 16 x 50 Action Extreme ATB Binocular

Nikon has really brought forth a high quality set of long range binoculars in the 16 x 50 Action Extreme. These are binoculars that are for that shooter who is really looking towards the horizon for their quarry, or who is looking to be able to site in a rifle at long ranges without having to purchase a separate spotting scope. Given the magnification power of these binoculars, we thought it was a great idea to include a tripod adapter, as most users are going to find it very difficult to hold these steady. The added weight of these binoculars will help in the steady department, but that also means added strain when carrying them for long periods. This is a great pair of binoculars if you have the need to see a fly on the deer’s antlers at 200 yards, but keep in mind that power comes at a price in terms of field of view, stability and light gathering.

  • Magnification: 16x
  • Aperture: 50 mm
  • Field of view at 1000 yards: 183 ft.

PROS:
  • Focus knob allows for fine tuning.
  • Very clear optics.

CONS:
  • Can be a bit heavy for extended carrying.


Budget pick: Bushnell PowerView Super High Powered Surveillance Binoculars (20 x 50)

The highest magnification in Bushnell’s PowerView family, the 20 x 50 PowerView binoculars will really do a great job of bringing in objects incredibly close. The focus is decent, but could have been a bit more precise with a knob. The optics are clear and the light gathering isn’t bad, especially at the price point. As with others in the budget Bushnell line, we have heard from many of our readers that there can be issues with the quality control. The case doesn’t offer much protection, so make sure you keep these well padded as it doesn’t take much to knock binoculars of this magnification out of alignment. All in all, if you are needing a really high powered set of eyes without breaking the bank, these may be just for you.

  • Magnification: 20x
  • Aperture: 50 mm
  • Field of view at 1000 yards: 170 ft.

PROS:
  • Super magnification for the price.

CONS:
  • Quality control is a bit iffy.


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Zoomable binoculars

For many hunters, the need to have a powerful set of binoculars while also needing good low light capability leads them to look at binoculars with an adjustable magnification power. This is often more cost effective than purchasing two separate pairs of binoculars, and certainly much easier to pack into the field. It is important to note that with any zoomable binocular, as you increase the magnification power you will notice a sharp decrease in the available light when viewing. This is not the fault of the binocular, but is simply the physics of magnification versus light gathering.

What is the best zoomable binocular?

Best Pick: Nikon 7234 Action 10x – 22x x 50 Binoculars

Nikon has brought some very quality optics to the market, especially when considering this is a zoomable binocular. At the 10x setting, the optics are crystal clear and the light gathering is excellent. Even as you approach 16x, the optics are still sharp and the light is good. These binoculars have enough heft to make it easier to keep them steady, just remember that heft is going to wear on your shoulders when these are around your neck for an extended period of time. As you approach the 22x mark, you will notice a slight loss of crispness to the image, and a notable loss of light transmission, but this is going to be the case with just about any zoomable binocular. Overall, if you are needing a quality set of binoculars to perform in a multitude of conditions, these are certainly worth a close look.

  • Magnification: 10x – 22x adjustable
  • Aperture: 50 mm
  • Field of view at 1000 yards: Variable depending on magnification.

PROS:
  • Good optics for a zoom binocular.
  • Good value.

CONS:
  • Can be a bit oversize/overweight for some applications.


Budget pick: BARSKA Gladiator Binocular

The BARSKA Gladiator offers a very wide range of zoom, from 10x all the way up to 30x. At 10x the image is clear and light gathering is good. As you increase the zoom, the image does begin to lose its crispness, and frankly, at the 30x setting the image isn’t going to be much good for you. These got our nod for best budget zoomable binoc due to their capability in the 10x – 20x range, especially given the good price point. We would have really liked to have seen an included tripod mount for these, but can also understand not having it at a lower price. If you are needing a good pair of binoculars capable of a multitude of situations, these might be just right for you.

  • Magnification: 10x – 30x
  • Aperture: 50 mm
  • Field of view at 1000 yards: Variable depending on magnification.

PROS:
  • Good capabilities for the money.

CONS:
  • No tripod adapter.


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Folding binoculars

There are times when the overall dimensions of a binocular are going to be one of the most important features. If you are going for a long hike, or have a long haul into the field, having a set of binoculars that fold and fit neatly in a small pack or pouch can be the difference in comfort or fatigue. Typically, binoculars that fold are going to have a much smaller aperture, so they are not going to gather light as well as their full size counterparts and also will typically have a smaller field of view.

What is the best folding binocular?

Top Pick: Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10 x 25 Binoculars

Bushnell has come up with a very compact and lightweight offering with the Legend Ultra HD 10 x 25 Binoculars. For being as small as they are, they pack quite the punch in terms of optics. The 10x magnification will let you get close to the game and the quality lenses will make sure you don’t see a lot of distortion in the images. It may take a bit of getting used to with the small apertures and compact size of these as you may experience some lens blackout at first. Once you get used to them it really shouldn’t present any issues, though. It would have been nice to include some lens covers, but given the quality of these binoculars, that was something we were able to overlook.

  • Magnification: 10x
  • Aperture: 25 mm
  • Field of view at 1000 yards: 285 ft.

PROS:
  • Crisp optics.
  • Very compact and lightweight.

CONS:
  • No included lens covers.


Budget pick: Bushnell 8 x 21 PowerView Compact Folding Roof Prism Binoculars

Bushnell’s 8 x 21 Compact Binoculars are just what someone needs who is on a tight budget but needs a pair of compact and portable binoculars. These fold up nice and compact and will fit in most small pouches or day packs. They do a good job of blending good magnification with an excellent field of view. They are well built and will hold good focus once you get them set. As would be expected from the small aperture size, don’t expect these little guys to give you great low light viewing as that is not what they are designed for. They may also take a little getting used to given the very small eyepieces, but once you get used to them, you are going to really appreciate the value of your purchase.

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Aperture: 21 mm
  • Field of view at 1000 yards: 378 ft.

PROS:
  • Super value.
  • Solidly built.

CONS:
  • Not water or fog proof.


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What about binocular accessories?

There are not a lot of accessories for binoculars beyond a good strap (or harness) and maybe a good aftermarket case. The case is hard to recommend as there is such a wide range of sizes of binoculars. We can, however, offer a good recommendation on a quality harness.

Binocular harness

A good binocular harness is really helpful for those who wish to keep their binocs handy while keeping their hands free. A traditional strap allows the binoculars to swing freely when moving which means they can impact your gear, making noise, or even impact your body, leading to some serious discomfort. When leaning over, they will fall away from your body and potentially get in the way of your activity or even get hung on branches or a fence.

The Vortex Optics Binocular Harness keeps the binos firmly pressed against your chest, even when leaning over, and keeps your hands free while doing so. When needed, you simply grasp the binoculars and lift to your eyes, no need to ever remove the harness until you are home. This harness is something that many or our field staff have used with great results, and is something you should really take a good look at to see just how much this might help you in the field as well.


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