Over the course of the year, we look through lots of new optics for hunters, from the most high-end riflescopes to budget-minded binoculars. Most of them are pretty good, some are not, and then there are those that rise to the top. The following list exemplifies the best of the best, those hunting optics that are deserving of the Petersen’s Hunting Editor’s Choice award. They often aren’t the most expensive, but they all offer the best value, not matter the price point.
You can read more about these optics, and hundreds more pieces of quality hunting equipment, including the top rifles, shotguns, ammo and accessories in our huge 2020 Gear Annual. Look for it on newsstands or pick up your copy at osgnewsstand.com.
Riflescopes: Trijicon Huron 2.5-10x42mm
If we were to write down a set of specs for a go-to hunting scope, the results would look almost exactly like this. The Huron is big enough to do the job in nearly any conditions yet small enough to be appropriately portable. With a 30mm aluminum main tube, a 42mm objective and plenty of magnification, this scope has it all for me. I’ve had extremely good performance from variable-power Trijicon scopes in the past which gives me confidence that this model will be no exception. $699; trijicon.com
Spotting Scopes: Leupold SX-4 Pro Guide HD 15-45x65mm
Big, bulky spotting scopes are great to look through, so long as you don’t have to carry them. The SX-4 is compact and relatively light, making it portable for real world use. Waterproof and fogproof internals and HD glass provides for a capable optic in any conditions at a price that is within reach of many. At 15-power this scope is great for range use while 45-power gives the user a clear view of all but the most distant animals. $1,040; leupold.com
Binoculars: Swarovski CL Companion 8x30mm
Big glass can be an albatross in certain hunting situations and this five-inch long, 17-ounce light and bright binocular from Swarovski proves that big things can come in small packages. The CL Companion is designed to provide maximum performance in a tiny package. Even with 30mm objective lenses, the high-quality glass and coatings transmit 90% of available light to the hunter’s eye. A generously-sized focus knob makes adjustments easy and the coated body adds durability. $1,366; swarovskioptik.com
Rangefinders: Leica Rangemaster CRF 3500.COM
Long-range shooters are shattering distance records at an unprecedented pace. For those who have a real need for precise range readings at extreme ranges, the Rangemaster is an attractive option, capable of ranging targets at up to 3,500 yards using the powerful onboard Class 3R laser. The unit comes equipped with Applied Ballistics software and can be paired with a Kestrel Elite weather meter and/or an Apple Watch or smartphone via a Bluetooth connection. Crystal clear Leica glass means you’ll be able to see what you’re ranging. $1,199; leicacamerausa.com
Micro-Sights: Aimpoint ACRO P-1
Aimpoint invented the red dot sight decades ago and has been the leading brand in that space ever since. The company’s entry into the micro red dot category came with the introduction of the ACRO sight. This compact but fully-enclosed sight can be used on handguns, rifles and even shotguns thanks to its small size. The 3.5 MOA dot stays illuminated for 1.5 years on a single battery and the battery can be changed without losing zero. These are some of the toughest sights on the market, ideal when durability is paramount. $667; aimpoint.com