The Best New Hunting Optics for 2014

The Best New Hunting Optics for 2014

The theme of this year's SHOT Show seemed to be tactical — the bulk of guns, optics and ammunition were dedicated to tactical applications. But binoculars and rangefinders were a little different. There seemed to be no set theme, and as a result companies introduced new and innovative models they believe will address the needs of sportsmen and shooters in the year ahead.

Some of the newest binoculars and rangefinders at the 2014 SHOT Show in Las Vegas are ultra-compact, while others are larger and more capable than ever. Some new designs are elaborate and expensive, pushing technological boundaries and incorporating new engineering and machining techniques.

Others are simple, affordable and familiar. No matter what your needs, skill level or budget — whether you're a tactical shooter, bowhunter or simply enjoy watching nature — we've got the perfect new hunting optics for you.

Bushnell Elite Tactical 1 Mile Laser Rangefinder

If you need accurate range measurements out to a mile, Bushnell has you covered. Bushnell's Elite 1 Mile rangefinder gives distance readings of +/- 1 yard from 5 to 1,760 yards and accurate .1 yard increments out to 199 yards. The Elite Tactical offers 7x magnification and comes with five presets for hunting in different conditions.

Bushnell's Angle Range Compensation (ARC) technology automatically calculates true horizontal distance to a target, and in rifle mode you can utilize Bushnell's ballistic charts to calculate holdover. The Elite rangefinder is lightweight and comes with a sturdy rubber housing that protects the unit against the elements. The lenses are treated with Bushnell's RainGuard HD protective coating, so there's no need to worry about using this unit in the rain. In addition, this rangefinder is backed by Bushnell's Bulletproof Guarantee. Priced at around $600, the feature-loaded Elite Tactical Rangefinder may be one of the year's best buys in optics.

Price: $600

Bushnell Excursion HD Binoculars

Bushnell's new Excursion binoculars are loaded with features like BAK-4 prisms, fully multi-coated optics and PC-3 Phase Coating. The roof prism, open-bridge design is sleek and lightweight and yet offers a wide field of view. The exterior of the Excursion binoculars is a soft, easy-to-grip rubber surface that makes it easy to grasp these binos even when it's wet or while wearing gloves.

The Excursion line is available with either 8x42 or 10x42 configurations and is light enough to be carried all day. Even though they are modestly priced, the HD Excursions offer a wide field of view and a robust design that can stand up to years in the field. Additionally, they are backed by Bushnell's Bulletproof Guarantee.

Price: $179.99 to 199.99

Leica Geovid HD-B with Advanced Ballistic Compensation

If you're serious about hunting and shooting at extreme ranges, this bino/rangefinder combination is both high-quality and is loaded with technology. Leica's 2013 introduction of the Geovid HD-B Rangefinding Binoculars was met with high praise from writers and a series of awards, but this year the company is incorporating their Advanced Ballistic Compensation (ABC) technology into the HD-B line.

ABC technology incorporates a ballistic processor into the unit, providing accurate data about holdover, dropdown reticle aiming point, or turret adjustment. To evaluate these figures, the Leica unit takes distance, temperature, wind and air pressure into account. You can customize the unit or use one of the 12 ballistic curves pre-set into the HD-B computer. This is a very high-end optic with extremely high-end capabilities, but if you're serious about long-range shooting, this is one of the best new products available.

Leupold McKenzie Binoculars

Leupold's sleek new McKenzie roof prism binoculars are lightweight (22 ounces) and are less than 6 inches long — and yet they offer the feel and field of view of full-size binos. The BX-1 McKenzies are budget priced, but they have the same great features as more expensive binos like fully multi-coated lenses, BAK-4 prisms, and the same waterproof and fogproof qualities you can expect from any Leupold optic.

Besides being lightweight, the McKenzie binoculars are easy to carry because they fit easily inside a coat and don't move around, and the housing is made of durable plastic that is easy to grip. I was also impressed by the light transmission and color quality, especially considering the low price.

Price: $200

Leupold RX-1200i Rangefinder

The RX-1200i builds on the success of the RX-1000i, but the range has been extended to 1,200 yards. In addition, the RX1200i features Leupold's DNA (Digitally Enhanced Accuracy) technology, which provides a clear view and .1-yard accuracy. The RX-1200i is also one of the fastest rangefinders on the market, providing very rapid feedback with regard to target distance.

The exterior of the RX-1200i is coated with soft-touch rubber for a sure grip and offers a mode switch that allows you to move between standard and bow mode depending upon which weapon you're using. The unit is powered by a CR2 lithium camera battery and shows remaining battery life in the screen.

Nikon Aculon Laser Rangefinder

Nikon's Aculon Rangefinder is one of the lightest, most compact rangefinders currently available, with a length of 3.6 inches, a width of 1.5 inches and a weight (without batteries) of 4.4 ounces. The large 20 mm objective offers a wide field of view, and the Distant Target Priority Mode is perfect for shooting in dense cover where a branch or a limb may interrupt your ranging.

Six-power magnification makes it easy to lock on target, and when you combine this with the various mode settings and the Aculon's light weight it becomes one of the most versatile hunting rangefinders. The Aculon accurately ranges objects out to 550 yards and runs on a CR2 lithium battery. It is available in dark green or Realtree Xtra Green.

Price: $169.95 to 189.95.

Nikon Monarch 5 Binoculars

Nikon's Monarch 5 Binoculars are available in 8x, 16x or 20x magnification with 56 mm objective lenses for maximum field of view. These new binoculars come with Nikon's Extra Low Dispersion (ED) glass, which provides superior contrast and clear viewing.

The new Eco Glass lenses are lead and arsenic free, and the company's dielectric high-reflective multilayer prism coating insures maximum light transmission for uniform color and a clear view. Nikon's new Monarch 5 binoculars are packed with features and provide one of the best options for those seeking mid-range optics.

Price: $749.95 to 899.95

Redfield Battlefield Tactical Binoculars

Redfield is a trusted name in American optics, and for 2014 they've introduced a new series of tactical binoculars known as the Battlefield line. These compact, economical roof prism binoculars have the same TAC-MOA reticle with 2 MOA stadia lines that is found in the new Revolution/TAC riflescopes.

Since these binos share the same reticle as Redfield's new riflescope, it makes calling shots easier and more precise. The left barrel of the Battlefield binoculars rotates to allow for ranging of items that are not parallel to the horizon. These binos are available in 10x42 with BAK-4 prisms for ultimate clarity and color. They have a good-looking desert digital camo finish and a tripod adjustable mount.

Swarovski CL Pocket Binoculars

Swarovski may be one of the biggest names in optics, but this year the brand went smaller than ever. Their new CL Pocket binos bring Swarovski quality into a pair of glasses that weigh less than 13 ounces and have an overall length of 4.3 inches. Available in both 8 and 10 power variants, the CL Pocket features 25 mm objective lenses that offer 88 percent light transmission, which is class-leading among compact binoculars.

On a show floor dominated by bigger, bulkier optics, the CL Pocket binoculars are unbelievably small and lightweight, perfect for the mountain hunter or anyone who doesn't want to have to deal with bulky binos in the field. The tiny CL Pockets fold and fit nicely in a chest pocket, and yet when you pull them out you'll be instantly impressed by the wide field of view, fantastic light transmission and excellent color.

Vanguard Endeavor

Vanguard's binoculars have gained quite a following over the last few years, from bird watchers to hunters and long-range shooters. This year the company offers Endeavor ED2 binoculars in both 10x42 and 8x42. The feature BAK-4 prisms, multi-coated and anti-reflective lenses that feature 92 percent light transmission, and come with a lightweight, rubber exterior.

These open-bridge binos feature Japanese glass in their lenses and come with easy-to-adjust eyepieces. The view through these binos is clear, and the images remain sharp even to the edge of FOV. It's easy to see why the original Endeavors earned so much praise — they are one of the best hunting binos on the market.

Price: $400 to 500

Vortex Viper HD

Vortex's popular Viper line gets an upgrade this year with the addition of a 12x50 model. The exterior is dark green and has a slip-resistant surface, and the Viper HDs are some of the lightest full-size binoculars on the market, weighing just 28 ounces. The roof prism design is comfortable and easy to carry, and the clarity on the new 12x50 HDs is stunning.

This is thanks in large part to the extra low dispersion glass, which provides a crisp, clear, fog-proof image. The Vipers feature the company's XR Full Multi-Coated lenses as well as easy-to-use extendable eyepieces for the highest level of comfort and convenience.

Price: $750

Zeiss Conquest HD

Zeiss's successful Conquest line is extended this year with the addition of a 15x56 model with larger objectives for a wider field of view and better light transmission. The new Conquest HD 15x56 binos have HD lenses which provide clear, sharp images even in poor light, thanks in part to industry-leading 93% light transmission.

In addition, the Conquest 15x56s come with a ¼-inch tripod adaptor, meaning these binos can perform double duty for mid-range glassing. Despite their impressive list of features, the Conquest HDs are ergonomic, and although they aren't the lightest binoculars on the market they offer a lot of magnification and superb clarity in a relatively sleek, compact package.

Price: $1,599

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