Gear, Parts and Accessories

Women Afield — Tips on Buying a Spotting Scope

Alpen Optics Spotting Scope

A spotting scope is the must-have item at the rifle range; here is what you need to know before buying one.

Women taking up the shooting sports are on the rise and so is the number of women hitting the woods to go hunting. This means the number of women shopping for outdoor-related gear is also increasing. Spotting scopes are an essential piece of gear for shooters, especially long-range shooters. With so many makes and models to choose from, shopping for spotting scopes may seem like a daunting task, but it does not have to be.

Alpen Optics Spotting Scope
Angled spotting scopes such as this Alpen Optics model are great for the rifle range.

The world of spotting scopes may appear huge. Numerous brands to choose from plus a wide range in price-points makes it challenging to stay focused when shopping for a new spotting scope. Here are a few helpful things to think about before you purchase a spotting scope.

It is important to know not all spotting scopes are created equal. Some use crystal lenses while others use glass lenses. Setting a budget and evaluating your needs before you start shopping will save you a few headaches—not to mention help keep your budget in balance.

The first step is to know your budget and then determine what type of spotting scope best meets your needs. For example, choosing the right scope for long-distance shooting certainly varies compared to picking a model more suited for shorter distances. Regardless, your goal should still be a scope that gives you a bright, sharp and distortion-free image.

Sticker Shock

Nothing squelches a shopping trip faster than sticker shock and good quality optics can often range from $250 to over $2500. Glass lenses, although really good and a very popular choice, do not offer the same characteristics as high-quality crystal lenses and are usually at a lower price point. When shopping, it is best to compare crystal against crystal and glass against glass.

What’s the Use?

When buying a spotting scope, take into consideration how you plan to use it. Will you be using it to view extremely long-distance shots or shots out a few hundred yards? Will you be shooting in low-light scenarios? If so, you will want to consider optics with light gathering capabilities.

Deciphering the Numbers

What do all those numbers mean? For example, 7-15×35. The 7-15×35 binocular is a zoom model because you can change the magnification from 7 times to 15 times and it sports a 35mm objective lens.

Preferred Angle

Most scope manufactures will offer the same model scope, but with two different angles options—angled or straight eyepieces. Although these two eyepiece types may look completely different, they are pretty much the same. Scopes with angled eyepieces are designed so the user looks straight down, while the straight eyepiece option forces the user to look through the barrel of the scope, much like a looking down a rifle scope. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types. An angled scope is a great option when more than one person will be using the scope because the user simply has to look straight down therefore avoiding timely adjustments to fit each user. One disadvantage is the angled scope has a tendency to collect more dust, debris and of course, raindrops due to its upward facing eyepiece. On the other hand, one obvious advantage to the straight scopes is they are easier to use if you are shooting in the prone position or if your scope is mounted on a window.

Tuff Stuff

Another consideration is the exterior of the scope. Some models offer an armor type of rubber coating. Will you be exposing the scope to varying weather conditions? Or will it stay protected from the elements on a covered shooting range? Regardless of how careful you are with your gear, optics tend to take a beating and the rubberized coatings are worth the few extra dollars.

Field Care Tips

Quality optics are not cheap, so protecting your investment is a smart thing to do. Keeping your scope free of dirt and debris can be a tough task. Many brands offer lens caps and scope coats for extra protection. Carry a micro-fiber lens cloth for those quick smudges and for a more thorough cleaning try using a Lens Pen cleaning system.

Picking the right scope can be a bit intimating—not to mention time-consuming. Just remember that optics tend to last for many years, so be sure and get as much bang for your buck when you shop for your new spotting scope. Chances are it will be some time before you have to purchase a new model.

Do you have a tip or suggestion for buying a spotting scope? Share it with us in the comment section.


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 (8)

  1. Awesome buying guide, it’s really help for them who’s first time wants to buy a spotting scope. But one thing should be keep in mind that how use it actually, long distance or short view? After the consideration take the final decision for buying this. 🙂

  2. Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for the tips. They all make sense to me. I especially note the difference between the angled or non-angled – which isn’t much.

  3. Absolutely right! The first thing to consider is your budget availability, i.e. how much you can afford to buy a spotting scope. Then for me, next are optical features like the magnification, the objective lens size, the field of view, the light gathering capability. Following that will be mechanical features that ensures high durability and portability. I like spotting scopes with rubber armoured housing for it to be waterproof and fog proof, for example, so it will be more durable when used in any kind of weather. Moreover, it would be better if we can buy a spotting scope with included tripod, carrying case and lens cover as they are essential accessories. Of course, you can buy them individually but this will add to your expense. And finally, don’t forget to care about the warranty policy. A lifetime warranty is the most ideal.

  4. Not mentioned under sticker shock but should be is never buy used or from gun show shysters always buy from reputable source.
    Manufacturing of optics is a PRECISION process and no matter the price range mistakes do happen, make sure of warranty coverage.
    The sellers hardly ever aid you after day of sale to return defective equipment no matter the selling price.items.damanufacturerr. that is your job.
    Thankfully today wr have manufacturers of higher moral charactet than retailers have.
    Buyingused is a crap shoot

  5. Hey Lisa,
    Great blog! Good info for gals or guys thinking of getting a spotting scope. If I were to suggest any another additional requirements over and above your comprehensive list they would be, 100% waterproof, preferably positive nitrogen gas filled, and if possible with an internal rangefinder. A larger objective (50mm to 70mm) lens will gather more light allowing for earlier and later use in the day. Even if you get an armor covered scope also invest in a mil spec padded field cover they will pay you back. Accessories such as a small lightweight collapsible tri-pod are handy too. Most of all get the best you can afford. For field use there are a number of excellent offerings in the $250.00 to $650.00 price range. Within this price range you will find good optics for the general hunter and shooter. If yo are a long distance shooter or hunter and are making consistent shots at 500 meters . . .and greater . . .the types of spotting scope you will require will cost considerably more. At these ranges its really about the hi end power setting and clarity of view across the lens. Zero distortions or parallax is a must . If you going to be your own spotter I would suggest you set your spotting scope power at the same setting as your rifle optics or close to it as you can. This can save a second or two in making the transition from spot to rifle scope by having a nearly alike sight picture. As you have said crystal is the top performer and higher cost. Its also worth every penny on a dull or foggy day or that once in a lifetime Dall Ram with a curl and half at 585 yard and a 16% up angle that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Research, educate yourself, save up for the one you want, and get the best you can afford.
    Just an aside here, all the information found in this blog also applies to binoculars, another essitental piece of optical field gear.

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