Have you ever found yourself at the shooting range, constantly walking to to your target to see where your shots landed?
Or maybe you've found yourself not being able to see far enough when hunting and your binoculars just aren't cutting it?
That's where a spotting scope comes in.
The best spotting scopes can give you a lot of advantages whether you are a target shooter or a hunter who wants to have an accurate placement in your shot before pulling the trigger.
A spotting scope is basically a small telescope with great image clarity. And since it's smaller in size, you can carry it around with you on the go. Spotting scopes are mainly used out in the field, whether that's while you are hunting, bird watching, checking out the stars out in the open, and target shooting. They are usually also waterproof and fog proof, a feature which is not common in a telescope.
When using a spotting scope tripod for stability, they can provide shooters long distance detailed view of the targets or when even when tracking game, making them one of the best investments especially if you are a hard core big game hunter.
We've done our research and have found 10 amazing spotting scopes. You'll be able to read more about them later in our spotting scope reviews section. For now, let me go over our top 3 picks.
Spotting Scopes - Top Picks
Celestron Ultima 80
overall top CHOICE
vortex viper hd
Vortex Razor HD
Spotting Scope Basics
Spotting scopes are transportable and are often carried long distances in the bush. Most avid hunters will carry a spotting scope in addition to binoculars and of course their rifle scope.
When target shooting, by seeing where the bullet leaves its hole, you are able to get that much more accurate and confident when shooting at the range which will translate into making more shots that count when hunting.
For a hunters purpose, your spotting scope magnification will usually begin where binocular magnification ends. What I mean by this is that often binoculars provide something like 20x magnification at the top of the range, whereas a good spotting scope will usually start at 20x and go to something much greater than that such as 60x magnification.
They will usually have much larger objective lenses than your binoculars and rifle scopes because their purpose is to gather much more light and provide greater optical clarity at long distances. The best spotting scope for hunting will allow you to see distances in excess of 1000 yards and provide a clear and concise image across a large field of view.
Spotting scopes come in all sizes and shapes and are produced by most of the top rifle scope manufacturers. The best spotting scopes will provide a large magnification range, provide high light transmission, and still be compact and portable enough that it won't be a huge burden to pack it in when hunting.
Spotting scopes for hunting range in prices and you can find them from $50 to $500 depending on the its quality and available and features. On the higher priced spotting scopes, like the best spotting scopes under 1000, you can buy them with mil dot reticles which will allow you to estimate distances better.
The purpose of this post is to provide you with information and spotting scope reviews of the best spotting scopes for hunting and target shooting. I often bring a spotting scope to the range when target shooting with my 30-06 or .308 because it allows me to see exactly where the bullet hits at 500 yards. You can even see .22 lr rounds at 200 yards with a good spotting scope.
Top Spotting Scopes By Category
Best Spotting Scope For The Money
A useful spotting scope doesn’t need to be expensive and finding the best budget scope doesn't need to be difficult either with a little bit of help and guidance.
Just have some patience when looking for the best spotting scopes for the money and you will find the right one without the need to drain your pocket. Here's a few of the best buys we like:
Budget Spotting Scopes
Roxant Authentic Blackbird HD
Celestron Ultima 20-60x80 Straight Spotting Scope
BARSKA 20-60x60 Straight Spotting Scope
Best Spotting Scope For Hunting
Hunters would love to get their hands on the best equipment. So I've included a combination of the best spotting scope for hunters that are quality, but also won't hurt your wallet (not too bad anyways).
Hunting Spotting Scopes
Vortex Razor HD Spotting Scope
Bushnell Trophy Xtreme Spotting Scope
Vortex Optics Viper HD Spotting Scopes
Best Spotting Scope for Target Shooting
You need a very powerful spotting scope when you are target shooting. The reason is because you need to get your sights right and bullets on the market. A spotting scope will ensure that you are as accurate as possible and multiple ranges without having to physically go to your target every time to look.
Point accuracy is extremely important in a target shooting spotting scope. So here are the best spotting scopes for target shooting that we recommend:
Target Shooting Spotting Scopes
Celestron 52306 Regal M2 100ED Spotting Scope
Vanguard Endeavor HD
Vortex Optics Viper HD Spotting Scopes
Best Compact Spotting Scopes
Having a compact spotting scope is extremely useful and convenient. It's easy to carry and is perfect for varmint hunting, bird watching, or observing wildlife.
Compact Spotting Scopes
Leupold Mark 4 12-40X60Mm Spotting Scope W/Mil Dot 53756
Vortex Optics Razor HD 11-33x50 Spotting Scopes
Best Spotting Scope Under 500
When you become an avid hunter or are serious about any of the other activities mentioned in this article and you require a spotting scope, you'll find that a spotting scope under $500 is thought to be an entry level scope. However, this is not always true because a lot of these cheaper tools can match even $1000 worth scopes in terms of optics quality, magnification capability and toughness.
Spotting Scopes Under 500
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD
Redfield 114651 Rampage
Bushnell Trophy XLT
Best Spotting Scope Under 1000
Spotting scopes in the mid or high-end range and generally in this range and are for people who use their spotting scopes a lot and demand a lot from them or have had experience with spotting scopes and know they don't want to settle anymore.
These scopes are great and have the highest quality glasses, very powerful magnification, weatherproof and very durable. These will last you a long time and they better for the amount of money you are spending.
Spotting Scopes Under 1000
Nikon Prostaff 5 Proscope
Vortex Razor HD
Best Spotting Scope Under 2000 and Above
And here we are with the most expensive spotting scopes.
If you're going to be spending this high amount on a spotting scope, then you know that you're getting a the best. The best spotting scope under 2000 and above should have all of the best and full features and amenities that a spotting scope has to offer.
Honestly, only a professional should be these spotting scopes to justify the high cost. Take a look at the ones we believe are the best below.
Spotting Scopes Under 2000
Bushnell EliteTac Spotting Scope 8-40 x 60
NightForce TS-80 20-60x80mm Hi-Def
Zeiss Carl Optical Dialyt Field Spotter
Other Advantages & Potential Uses
- Like mentioned before, spotting scopes are great for watching wildlife and nature. When watching animals from a distance you can see the details of the animal without scaring them or entering their habitat.
- If you're into landscapes & sceneries, you can view amazing landscapes and take pictures with your digicam through a process called digiscoping. This is a very popular technique when taking pictures of birds.
- Spotting scopes can also be used for surveillance. Though bigger and bulkier than binoculars, spotting scopes can reach much much further and the image details can't be compared.
- Again, when target shooting, you can see bullet trace and the clarity will help you adjust your aim to familiarize your rifle’s reach and rifle scope's power you have equipped. That's why finding the best spotting scope for target shooting alone is a great idea if you go target shooting often.
- Like before state regarding target shooters, the same concept applies to hunters, but you can also use the spotting scope to track the animals you're hunting. You'll be able to see them far in the distance and pinpoint where to go. Finding the best spotting scope for hunting endeavors is also something you will be able to find specifically for you needs. You'll want a high power spotting scope for this purpose or a 1000 yard spotting scope.
Things to look for:
It can be pretty overwhelming if you are not sure which scope you want. The list I provided is pretty large if you haven't narrowed down what you are trying to use it for.
Below, I've broken down some categories explaining some features to consider before you go on purchasing the best spotting scope for the money.
The quality difference in brightness made using specific materials by the same manufacturer will show significance difference under high power and low lighting conditions.
These are the difference types of glass used in a spotting scope:
- Fluoride coated
- HD (High Density) glass
- ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) glass
Spotting scopes are typically made as medium range telescopes. The magnification power is usually 15x-60x, an sometimes a little higher to 80x. Single zoom eyepiece or fixed length interchangeable eyepieces are needed to change the power of magnification.
Low power eyepieces are typically used to scan an area. If that is not an option, you can put the lowest setting on a zoom eyepiece. It can be switched to higher power once you have spotted the target.
All scopes use the same theory when it comes to gathering light. The size of the objective lens defines the light gathering capacity of a spotting scope.
The value varies between 50mm to 100mm depending on the model of spotting scope you are using. THe bigger the lens, the brighter and clearer the image will be. But big lenses also make the scope heavier and bulkier.
Zoom lenses can change the scope magnification from, say, 20x to 60x. These are ideal for moving objects such as birds or other animals because you can change the magnification to get clearer images of the bird with a single motion as you adjust the zoom lens. You can shift from low power to high power.
Zoom lenses do have their drawbacks. When you increase magnification, it suffers from vibration, less light and a narrower field of view.
Focusing is done in two ways:
- Focusing collar - The barrel is rubberized or knurled so that you can focus by twisting the whole barrel and make the images sharper.
- Focus knob on top of the eyepiece - The time taken to focus would be long, but it will help you focus precisely.
The general eye relief of spotting scopes is around 12mm to 15mm. This is ideal to accommodate some who wears glasses. The longer the eye relief, the more the focal point is stretched behind the eyepiece helping the eyeglass wearer have a better field of view.
A Few Spotting Scope Reviews
BARSKA 20-60x60 Waterproof Straight Spotting Scope Reviews
This is a popular spotting scope for the price and features a 20-60x magnification which still allows you low enough magnification to find your target but has the extra zoom to get a good close up. This Barska is part of their Colorado series and is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts as well as hunters. It is housed in rubber armour which makes it 100% waterproof and fogproof however still durable in those harsh conditions. It comes with a tripod and a soft carrying case for storage while carrying it.
The Barska 20-60x60 has a fully coated lens which provides great image contrast with solid colors and sharp resolution. Barska also provides a lifetime warranty on their Colorado series spotting scopes and for the money this spotting scope is a good buy. Total weight is just over 2lbs so it is still very portable for those long distance hikes while hunting. For the money, this is a good spotting scope.
The tripod that comes along with the Barska 20-60mm spotting scope from Amazon is not great as these are budget accessories provided by Barksa. Most serious users will likely want to mount this on a different tripod however some recreational users may find that the tripod stands up to their usage.
Bushnell Trophy XLT 20-60x 65mm Waterproof Compact Review
The Bushnell Trophy XLT 20-60x65mm is a slightly larger spotting scope that the Barska 20-60x60mm featuring premium optics and a larger objective lens which increases the light transmission and ultimately provides a clearer image with the ability to see more color and contrast, especially in low light conditions. This particular Bushnell spotting scope has stunning HD clarity due in part to the fully multi-coated optics, delivering a superior view of your target. It includes a compact tripod and premium hard-side case for transportation. Note that it is a smaller more compact tripod so if you are looking for a larger stand up one, you will need to purchase it separately. The tripod is definitely step or 2 above in terms of quality than the Barska however you would expect an all round better product for the money.
The Bushnell Trophy spotting scope has a clear view with a great zoom and is a good spotting optic for the money. Although it will cost you more than the Barska, I would suggest that this is a higher quality spotting scope that will be more versatile and durable in most hunting conditions as it is 100% waterproof.
Celestron 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope Review
Celestron has been building quality sporting optics, including good spotting scopes, for decades. Their popular Ultima 80mm Zoom spotting scope features an 80mm objective lens which produces images that are noticeably brighter and sharper as compared to an entry level 60mm. It has a magnification range of 20-60x. The Ultima 80 has a slick, waterproof design and includes a padded soft case for ease of transportation but note that this Celestron doesn't include a tripod from Amazon. It is noticeably heavier than some of the 60mm objective lens spotting scopes however it is still manageable to carry on hunting trips.
The Celestron 80 Ultima is a good spotting scope for the price and has solid construction and offers a clear image with a wide field of view allowing the hunter to see a vast area in the distance. Depending on the conditions that you are in, you should be able to see very clearly at 500 yards which is impressive for the money of this spotting scope. Great value!
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 20-60x80mm (45 degree) Spotting Scope Review
Bushnell has been producing high quality scopes and viewfinders for as long as I can remember. The beautiful Bushnell Legend HD 20-60x80mm has quality multicoated optics that produce stunning HD clarity. It has their ED Prime extra-low dispersion glass that offers color tuned and high resolution viewing. It is built with a RainGuard coating on the lens which helps bead the water off the front when using in harsh conditions that hunters so often find themselves in.
In clear conditions, you'll have no problem spotting a .223 round at 500 yards which is impressive for this value spotting scope. For avid bird watchers or serious hunters, the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD is a "must" have for the money.
Vanguard Endeavor HD Angled Eyepiece Spotting Scope Review
The Vanguard Endeavor HD comes in 2 different models from Amazon which are the 15-45x65mm and the 20-60x82mm. Both featuring extra-low dispersion (ED) glass for accurate color and durability. It is waterproof and fogproof with a rubber armored magnesium body with a built in sunshield. The Vanguard Endeavour also comes with a premium lifetime warranty which gives additional confidence to any buyer. Note that both models are not shipped with a tripod however they will fit on any tripods with a universal mounting plate.
Although more expensive than the other spotting scopes that have been reviewed, the Vanguard Endeavor HD is impressive with very crisp and vibrant colors and the clarity at long distances in great. If you do a lot of hiking and camping, this spotting scope will be your best friend.
Conclusion - Best Spotting Scopes
A good spotting scope is worth its weight in gold. Ok, maybe not literally because you will most likely be packing the thing around when hunting in the outdoors or at the shooting range, but a quality spotting scope is a great addition to any gun enthusiasts arsenal of tools.
It not only allows you to appreciate the outdoors and spot wildlife at long distances, but it also plays a crucial role at the range. I most often use a good spotting scope when target shooting at the range because it allows me to see the exact spot that the bullet is hitting on the target. I can really fine tune my rifle scope this way.
The best spotting scope for the money is out there for you. Hopefully this article has helped you. Good luck!