Binoculars vs. Spotting Scope: Which is Right For You?

Binoculars vs. Spotting Scope: Which is Right For You?
September 20, 2023 Edited September 20, 2023 226 view(s)
Binoculars vs. Spotting Scope: Which is Right For You?

We’ve all been there: you’re at the rifle range sending some serious hate downrange. You think you’re scoring hits but you have no idea because you can’t see them through your rifle scope. If you had a spotting scope in your range bag, you or your buddy would be calling your shots, but you don’t, so he isn’t. Of course, a decent pair of binoculars would be adequate, but the two devices, while similar, are not the same thing, nor are they used interchangeably.

Let’s take a look at binoculars and spotting scopes and see which one is the best for you. Who knows, it might be both.


What Is The Difference Between A Spotting Scope & Binoculars?

Well, first let’s take a look at how they are similar. Both magnifying devices help you identify targets and determine shot placement.

Spotting scopes and binoculars are both optical devices that magnify distant objects, but they have different features and are used for different purposes.

Spotting scopes are larger and heavier than binoculars and have a higher magnification power. This makes them ideal for viewing distant objects in great detail, such as birds, wildlife, and astronomical objects. Hunters and target shooters often use spotting scopes to help them aim their weapons more accurately.

Binoculars are smaller and lighter than spotting scopes and have a lower magnification power. This makes them more portable and easier to use for general-purpose viewing.

Here is a table summarizing the key differences between spotting scopes and binoculars:


Feature Spotting Scope Binoculars
Magnification Higher Lower
Field of View Narrower Wider
Weight Heavier Lighter
Price More Expensive Less Expensive
Uses Viewing distant objects in great detail, such as birds, wildlife, and astronomical objects. General purpose viewing, such as bird watching, hiking, and sports.


Spotting Scopes

Spotting scopes are not as easily portable as binoculars, but what they lack in portability, they make up for in precision.

Spotting scope on a stand 


Spotting Scope Advantages

Spotting scopes are made for the range. They are built to see with great detail over a long distance, which is great for cagey animals like antelope where you will be shooting from a long distance and a fixed location. Another great application for spotting scopes are prairie dog hunts; you need a precise magnification device, and you won’t be moving.

But to be as precise as possible, a spotting scope needs to operate from a fixed location, preferably on a tripod. This is largely due to the high magnification levels of a spotting scope, which usually are in the 20X-60X magnification ranges. Even the slightest movement will throw these off.


Spotting Scope Disadvantages

Spotting scopes are great at what they do. It is really hard to see a .22 diameter holes in a paper target at 500 yards away, but a spotting scope can do that, and do it well.

But they are also big, and they really need to be used in conjunction with a tripod. If you are hunting Whitetail through the trees and prairie in Eastern Kansas, and the ranges are down in the 100-200 yards margins, a 60X-capable spotting scope is not only not necessary, but it is completely impractical. 



Binoculars are one of the single most useful devices every shooter needs to own. It doesn’t matter what kind of shooting you do; binoculars need to be in your bag. But binocs are not the one-size-fits-all solution for everything. They are a great optic for a lot of different things, but they don’t work for everything. 

Holding a pair of binoculars


Binoculars Advantages

Binoculars are by far the simplest optical device to use, the easiest to keep around, and probably the easiest to find. The binocs I kept in my range bag for years were a free promo set from Mac Tools. Use what you’ve got, right?

Binoculars are definitely the most useful overall optical device for magnification. They are easy to keep on a lanyard around your neck, or tuck away in a cargo pocket or in your day pack. Of course, the higher the magnification level of your binocs, the bigger they are. A simple pair of 10X25 or 12X25 binoculars are small and easy to keep on your person.

But the higher the magnification level, the larger they tend to be, and the harder to carry in the field. Now, here’s the thing: you don’t necessarily need high magnification levels for everything. There are a ton of variables in this decision-making process. Here’s the thing: every single shooter should own a decent pair of binoculars, but not every single shooter needs a spotting scope.


Binoculars Disadvantages

Binoculars are great for gathering information over a large area. Are you surveying a valley, looking for game and sign? Perfect. Or are you checking out flocks of geese in their migratory flyways? Awesome. Binoculars are the best choice for these sorts of things.

What they are not so great at are high levels of precision (where the spotting scope really shines). I mean, you can grab a huge pair of binoculars for precision work, but they will weigh twice as much as a spotting scope, and probably not work as well.


Should I Keep One Of Each In My Range Bag?

Well, since we sell both, of course you should!

But in all seriousness, it depends on what you are doing. Yes, everyone should have a pair of binoculars in their range bag. If you don’t do precision work, this is all you’ll ever need. But if you are one of those guys who likes to reach out and touch things far away with your 6.5 Creedmoor, a spotting scope is a must.


Final Thoughts

Both types of optical devices have their place, and there is certainly overlap in their usefulness. Overall, the most useful devices for general shooting practices is a pair of good binoculars. The spotting scope is definitely a niche item and is more useful for one specific type of shooting. If you are a shooting/hunting generalist, binoculars are probably adequate. But if you fall in the camp of the precision niche, you need a spotting scope. As the name implies, it is a scope for spotting and scoring hits at long range.

Whatever optics you are looking for, make sure to check out our collection. From rifle scopes to binoculars to spotting scopes, we’ve got it all. 


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