Survival Binoculars—or,The Bushnell Show

By CTD Mike published on in Reviews

CTD Mike here! I’ve been doing some research on survival oriented binoculars and wanted to show off five units that I thought were a great value. We sell some super cheap binoculars and also some very pricey binoculars, but when it comes to quality and features per dollar spent I noticed that all the ones that I wanted to share with you had one thing in common. I didn’t intend for that to happen, it just did. So, welcome to the Bushnell Show!

Bushnell Falcon 7x35

Bushnell Falcon 7×35

7×35 Bushnell Falcon

You get what you pay for with optics. In my experience, this is a harsh rule with few exceptions. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find good values on the lower end of pricing if you look carefully. This Bushnell Falcon is a proven design, it looks like your grandfather’s binoculars. You aren’t paying anything extra because it looks futuristic or has any special features, it’s just a plain old-fashioned porro prism type binocular. The zoom is only 7x, which is actually good because it results in a generous 5mm exit pupil. This means the Falcon delivers a lot of light to your eye with high efficiency—this is a $25 binocular that will still be useful after the sun goes down. That’s a rare thing.

Like it? Buy it!

Bushnell Powerview 16x

Bushnell Powerview 16x

16×50 Bushnell Powerview

Lets say you do want a lot of zoom but still don’t want to totally empty your wallet. The Bushnell Powerview magnifies at 16x. To put that into perspective, remember that the Leupold scope on the U.S. Army’s M24 sniper rifle is a 10x. To get enough light into a design with so much magnification, Bushnell had to step up to huge 50mm objective lenses. This makes the Powerview a big, heavy unit—so big it has a camera tripod mount built-in, so you won’t get tired from trying to hold it still over a long period of time. I wouldn’t recommend the 16×50 Powerview as “bug out” binocular set, I think of it as a “bug in” binocular set. If you’re going to hold your fortified home against all comers, you’ll be able to see trouble coming from far, far away.

Like it? Buy it!

 

Bushnell 7-15x

Bushnell 7-15x

7-15x Bushnell Powerview Compact

A hiker, soldier, or survivalist is always looking for maximum flexibility with minimum weight. Bushnell makes a few Powerview Compact versions including this one with variable zoom. This is a small, lightweight unit that zooms starting at the 7x of the Falcon and goes all the way out to 15x, just shy of the big monster Powerview. I haven’t looked through one of these myself so I can’t vouch for the clarity or brightness of the unit, but the stats say at 15x the exit pupil is only 1.6mm, so mathematically this little unit must be darker than the huge Powerview at high zoom. If you are going to stay affordable and gain a benefit in size and weight, you’ll have to sacrifice some image quality to be sure. Otherwise, Bushnell would just make these little guys and discontinue the others entirely.

Like it? We’ll get more in stock soon, I promise.

 

Bushnell H2O Compact

Bushnell H2O Compact

10×26 Bushnell H2O Compact

This 10×26 unit is an inverted roof prism design, so on the inside its design is totally different from the other binoculars I’ve shown so far. The roof prism loses a bit of depth perception and its light gathering ability isn’t as efficient as the porro prism design. It is also more complicated and expensive to make, but what you get in return is a very compact design that can fit inside a single housing. Bushnell made that housing waterproof and fogproof, nitrogen purged the innards and sealed up the whole deal with o-rings everywhere. They call it the H2O and they claim that it’ll be just fine if you tip over your canoe and have to go for a swim with it around your neck. I think that’s pretty cool for $53.94.

Like it? Buy it!

 

Bushnell 7x50 Marine

Bushnell 7×50 Marine

Bushnell 7×50 Marine with Compass and Rangefinder

We are starting to get expensive here, but the value of the 7×50 Marine Binocular is off the scale. First, the optical quality is excellent—you get the low 7x zoom of the Falcon with the huge 50mm objective lenses of the Powerview, resulting in an unbelievable exit pupil of 7.1mm. After the sun slips below the horizon, objects viewed through these binoculars will actually be brighter than viewing them with your naked eye. These binoculars are designed for spotting shorelines at night from oceangoing ships, which I’m guessing is a pretty important requirement. A rangefinding reticle is etched into the glass, but for me the real kicker is the built-in illuminated compass. Like the H20 Compact, the Marine series is built to withstand dunking in water. If its price tag of nearly $141.62 seems intimidating, take a look at what other waterproof 7×50 salt-water spec binoculars cost, and add the price of a high quality compass to that. Now do you see what I mean? Although built for the ocean, the Bushnell Marine looks very useful to a survival minded landlubber like me.

Like it? Buy it!

Bushnell Fusion 1600 ARC

Bushnell Fusion 1600 ARC

Bushnell Fusion 1600 ARC

Holy moly, these binoculars are $900! How is that a value? Well, back up a second and let me explain. Take a look at the Bushnell Elite 1600 Laser Rangefinder. It is their top of the line unit and costs $500 all by itself. Packing a laser powerful enough to get an accurate reading at 1600 yards into a compact package the size of the Elite 1600 is pretty darn impressive, at any price. Integrating that Elite 1600 into a 10×42 roof prism design binocular is pretty much a miracle. I don’t know how they stuffed everything in there, seriously. Quality of the glass is excellent, and Bushnell uses “Vivid Display Technology” to display the readout from the onboard computer brightly without compromising the view quality. If you want a laser rangefinder built into your binoculars, you’ll have to pay extra for this Bushnell because they are the only ones who have managed to pull it off. With that $25 Falcon you’re not having to pay to recoup any research and development costs on a new design, but the opposite applies here. This is the latest and greatest and most exclusive binocular Bushnell makes, and of course that’s going to cost extra. Still, can you imagine how useful this would be if you’re spotting for a friend while hunting in Colorado? “Hey bro, there’s a nice bighorn sheep on that ridge over there, to your 11 o’clock, and he’s… click …371 yards away right now.” Yeah.

Like it? Buy it!

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The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, "The Shooter's Log," is to provide information-not opinions-to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (4)

  • Mick

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    LOL. I definitely didn’t mean that as an accusation. Just kind of a little poke is all. Even if they had given you something in return there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of the opportunities available to you. Bushnell has been the best all around manufacturer of civilian optics since I was a kid and obsessed with astronomy. Honestly it’s no surprise to me at all.

    Reply

  • CTD Mike

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    Hey Mick, its CTD Mike here. All the optics being Bushnells are totally coincidental, Bushmaster didn’t give me a free Powerview for writing this or anything (I wish!). At first I was going to include a set of thousand dollar Leupold Mk4 binocs because they had a mil-dot rangefinder built in, but then I saw the 7×50 Marine had the same thing for less than $150 and I thought to myself, “screw it, they’re all going to be Bushnells I guess.” LOL

    Reply

  • mchgnmike

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    What a wonderful article about binoculars. I have some different information about optimum objective size to magnification. The standard number I have always heard of and went by is “7”. The human pupil size can vary from 1mm-9-10mm depending on how bright or dark the environment (the brighter it is the smaller the pupil diameter).

    When looking for the best optic you should consider the light transmission which allows the user to see through the optical device in low light. Since your pupil is larger when it is darker outside most of the optical industry uses 7mm as the size for optimum light transmission. So the Steiner 8X56mm Predators is the best Objective Size, Magnification combination for low light use.

    I hope if you are using the optic for Low Light conditions I hope you consider the formula of Magnification, Pupil Diameter (7mm) and Objective Size.

    Reply

  • Mick

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    I just found your blog the other day (because of your review of the keltec ksg) and I have to say I’m really pretty impressed. And although I do find it a bit “coincidental” that all your recommendations are Bushnell I can’t knock it. The fact is Bushnell makes good binos. I do like that you put a good range from basic to super high-speed. It’s a handy reference for someone who wants a good pair of bunks to make an informed decision. Thanks.

    Reply

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