It might sound cliché, but there is no substitute for quality optics. Sadly for many, a wallet-friendly price tag dangling from a lesser optic often becomes the deciding factor. This is a mistake that often comes back to bite you when light fades and optical performance becomes the difference between success and failure.
So what’s the answer? How do you know if a certain optic will meet your demands? For starters, think about how you hunt and the type of terrain you hunt in. If you spend the majority of your time hunting timbered areas, a quality, economical 3-9×40 scope and a pair of durable, compact 7×26 binoculars might be just the ticket. On the flip side, if you chase Western whitetails in vast, open country, a 5-25×56 scope and some magnifying 10×50 binoculars might be a better choice. Being satisfied with your optic purchases comes down to building an optic arsenal that matches how and where you hunt.
Knowing life is busy, we at Whitetail Journal enjoy arming deer fanatics with quality information. So keep the following advice in mind as you sift through some of the best optics for 2014.
EOTech Laser Battery Cap Holographic Weapon Sights
The Lowdown: EOTech’s shiny new 2014 penny, the EOTech LBC, combines rapid target acquisition of the Holographic Weapon Sight with the versatility of integrated aiming lasers to create an optic capable of excelling in any hunting environment. Easy to operate, the LBC’s feature an on/off toggle switch and come with an accessory port for a remote pressure switch. Waterproof and running on Lithium AA batteries for between 36 and 60 hours depending on laser type and usage, the LBC’s are field-ready.
Elite Long Range Hunting Scope
The Lowdown: A 3-12×44 scope, the Elite Long Range from Bushnell offers a first focal plane reticle. A first of its kind, the new G2H milliradian-based reticle is designed to give hunters the ability to range targets at any magnification setting. The center of the reticle boasts a Vital Bracket that has a diameter of two mils at any range, and is equivalent to 7.2 inches at a distance of 100 yards. Constructed with a forged aluminum one-piece 30mm tube, the scope sports an overall length of 13 inches and tips the scales at a feather-like 26 ounces.
The Lowdown: A brilliant aiming solution, the 3-9×40 TR20-2 features a Mil-Dot crosshair reticle with an illuminated center dot, so you know right where to hold, regardless of lighting conditions. The scope is illuminated through the use of fiber optics and tritium and requires no batteries. Other notable features of the TR20-2 include its durable 6061-T6 aluminum hard coat anodized housing and amber or green reticle dot choices.
The Lowdown: New from Burris for 2014, the Veracity showcases a highly versatile 5X zoom system, providing a larger field of view at close ranges and better target acquisition at longer distances. Truly the best of all worlds, this scope also ensures rapid and repeatable reticle adjustments, making windage and elevation modifications a snap. A front focal plane design keeps reticle measurements accurate at any power, allowing you the ability to take full advantage of those measurements and trajectory compensation at every magnification. In addition, the Progressively Thick Crosshairs (PTC) are very fine central crosshairs that increase in diameter as they graduate away from center.
Hawke Sport Optics
The Lowdown: Designed to make hunters lethal in the field, Hawke redesigned its Endurance IR family to create a feature-rich, yet affordable scope. New low-profile turrets make adjustments easy and repeatable, and the standard click-step illumination control has been eliminated and trumped by a rheostat control that allows for virtually infinite adjustment. In an effort to boost safety and create a stress-free shooting experience, the 1-inch models boast more than 4 inches of eye-relief. Plus, the Endurance IR scopes offer the classic 30/30 IR reticle and the .223/.308 Marksman reticle.
Rainier ED HD 25-75×86 Waterproof Spotting Scope
The Lowdown: When the terrain is vast, a spotting scope becomes crucial. Alpen’s 45-degree eyepiece features ED HD technology, which utilizes extra-low dispersion high-definition optics designed to deliver amazing optical clarity and color fidelity. The UBX fully multi-coated optics, BaK4 prisms, and SHR metallic coating work in harmony to provide the brightest and sharpest image possible. The 86mm objective lens collects massive amounts of light, and the O-ring-sealed and nitrogen-filled construction promises to be both waterproof and fogproof.
Kelbly’s March 2.5x25x42
The Lowdown: Always looking to take optic performance to the next level, Kelbly’s March 2.5-25×42 hunting scope is sure to become a legendary whitetail assassin. The 42mm objective allows low mounting of the scope to keep the shooter’s cheek on the cheekpiece for ultra-accurate shooting and quick target acquisition. Elevation and windage axes each have a total adjustment range of 100 MOA, with one full rotation of elevation and windage adjustment being 25 MOA. Fitted with high-quality, extra-low-dispersion ED lenses, this scope was designed to perform under any lighting condition. Also impressive is the scope’s compact design, lightweight nature and high-ratio power.
The Lowdown: Named after an ancient prophet thought to have foreseen great destruction, the Ezekiel 3-30×56 riflescope was designed to be capable of sighting targets at vast distances. With a first-of-its-kind 10X optical zoom in a commercially viable system — providing both long- and short-distance target acquisition — the Ezekiel’s precision multi-coated optics and 56mm objective lens promise exceptional clarity for both hunting and target shooting. Engineered for precision accuracy, the Ezekiel is equipped with a second focal plan Mil-Dot reticle, a side parallax adjustment, and a ¼-inch click MOA adjustment to ensure accurate shot zeroing and bullet placement.
Lightning Bowstrings/Square-Up Archery
Square-Up 2X and 4X Power Pro
MSRP: $159.99 polycarbonate-lens model/$219.99 Zeiss glass lens
The Lowdown: For 2014, Square-Up Archery adds crystal-clear magnification to its breakthrough line of bolt-on shooting aids. Designed to eliminate bow-hand torque, thus providing better downrange accuracy, the Square-Up Power Pro adds 2X or 4X magnification to its torque-control system. Archers can choose a polycarbonate lens by FeatherVision that is light and durable or a deluxe, scratch-proof glass lens from Carl Zeiss. Providing in-the-field versatility is the spring-clip, which allows for easy, quick and tool-free lens removal.
Nightforce 4-14×56 SHV
MSRP: $995 non-illuminated/$1,195 illuminated
The Lowdown: The most affordable Nightforce riflescope to date, the 4-14×56 SHV (Shooter Hunter Varminter) is loaded with purposeful, trusted Nightforce features. Aside from the exceptional light transmission provided by its 56mm objective lens, the SHV allows hunters the option of two Nighforce-designed reticles — the IHR (International Hunting Reticle) and the MOAR reticle. The IHR provides an uncluttered, fast, three-post design with a floating center crosshair. The MOAR is an extremely popular minute-of-angle-based reticle that provides accurate rangefinding and hold-offs on targets at long distances. The SHV is offered in illuminated and non-illuminated models.
Grand Slam Dual-X
The Lowdown: The heart and soul of the Weaver lineup, the Grand Slam Dual-X got a bit of a facelift. The new High-Precision Micro-Trac Adjustment System sports a cross-balanced spring system for repeatable high-precision adjustment of windage and elevation. In addition, contact points aligned around the erector tube bulge eliminate slippage, and improved material means the springs can handle heavy recoil and rough use. The rugged one-piece tube construction is argon-purged to eliminate internal fogging. And, of course, the precision-ground, fully multi-coated optics provide ultra-clear edge-to-edge viewing.
Geovid HD-B 42
MSRP: $2,945 8×42/$2,995 10×42
The Lowdown: Leica’s flagship binocular, the Geovid HD-B 42, continues to impress thanks to its onboard ballistic capabilities. Advanced ballistics technology enables users to add and create custom ballistics info and achieve pinpoint target ranging. The ABC (Advanced Ballistic Compensation) provides the proper aim point, and the HD-B’s integrated, highly precise ballistic processor gathers and analyzes ballistic information with the simple touch of a button. The Geovid comes with 12 ballistic curves representing common hunting cartridges, but also boasts an integrated microSD card slot, which allows the hunter to program and save personal ballistic data.
GS3 Game Sensing Riflescope
The Lowdown: Available in four models — 2-10×42, 3-15×50, 3-15×56 and 4-20×50 — the GS3 scopes sport Steiner’s exclusive Plex S2 etched reticle. Designed to provide a simple, uncluttered method for determining trajectory and wind compensation, the Plex S2 presents a series of cascading .25 MOA dots. The dots represent bullet drift from a 10 mph crosswind (+/-1.5 inches at 400 yards). Ergonomically designed large turret knobs and a power ring with deep knurling ensure ease of adjustment, and the rugged 30mm tube boasts no welds or seams for added strength and durability.
WPA Performance Optics
The Lowdown: WPA’s bread-and-butter scope, the 1x/4x32mm PSU, was designed to combine the best features of both the 1X and 4X sights. When set on 1X, the PSU provides a massive 26-degree field of view and is similar to that of a reflex sight, making it ideal for hunting in tight quarters. When set to 4X, the scope provides quality target identification, ranging and engagement at extended distances. Featuring a Bullet Drop Compensating reticle combined with a simple-to-use — no math degree required — telemetric rangefinder, accurate yardage hits are easily obtained. At 7.4 inches long and weighing just 24 ounces, the PSU is worth a look.
LN-SPRS-4 and LN-SPRS-6 Special Purpose
The Lowdown: Designed to produce impeccable image quality even on the darkest of nights, Luna’s LN-SPRS-4 and LN-SPRS-6 Special Purpose scopes superfast 110mm and 165mm objective lenses ensure distortion-free 4X or 6X magnification. Ideal for those who love to customize, the Mil-Dot reticle can be changed from red to orange to green. This allows the shooter to achieve better aim under a variety of lighting conditions. Image brightness can be controlled, and the scope comes with two Moisture-Control Cartridges and a Remote Pressure Pad.
The Lowdown: Built for medium- to long-range hunting, MEOPTA’s new-for-2014 optic wonder features the TO2 (Twilight Optimized Optics) system designed to deliver the highest light transmission during periods of low light. Its MeoBright coating eliminates glare and reflections while delivering an incredibly bright 98.7-percent light transmission per lens, and the external lens surfaces are guarded by MeoShield. The 1-inch, one-piece aircraft-grade-aluminum tube is ELOX hard anodized, and the MeoQuick fast-focus eyepiece ensures rapid target acquisition. The MeoPro is also available in a 4.5-14×50 model.