15 Best Hunting Optics for this Season

15 Best Hunting Optics for this Season

Whether it's the super sharp clarity of high definition binoculars or the extended range of a well made rifle scope, sometimes precision optics are the one link between a hunter and his trophy animal.

At Petersen's Hunting we understand the essential connection between a hunter and his optics, which is why we're poised to present our list of the best binoculars and rifle scopes for 2012. Just like any other industry, you've got to have the right tools if you want to get the job done right. We've done the legwork and testing to ensure that you've got the right optic in your hand this hunting season, and who knows, it could just be the difference between the shame of a missed shot and the glory of your next big trophy.

Zeiss

Utilizing the most efficient Abbe Koenig prisms, Zeiss' 8x42 Victory HT binocular was built specifically for hunters, and by incorporating proprietary High Transmission glass, they claim it's the brightest premium binocular in the world with 95 percent light transmission. For hunters, it may also be the most ergonomic as well, featuring a new, slower-focusing mechanism placed further forward to avoid hat brims and fit hands. Editor Mike Schoby used them on a factory tour a few months back and described them as 'œthe sharpest, brightest binoculars I've ever used.' Before you upgrade your glass, I'd recommend checking out the Victory HT first.

Price: gallery=94,400

Nikon

If you've never peered through a finely constructed, alpha-class 7x42 binocular, don't start now, because it's highly addictive and could end up costing you the price of a guided hunt. However, if you've already fallen for this optically seducing class of binoculars or are looking to make a lifetime investment in hunting glass, check out Nikon's 7x42 EDG. The view will blow you away. Advanced technologies merge to create an image so bright, spacious, and distortion free that instead of giving the impression of looking through two barrels, it's more like gazing through your own eyes with 7X magnification.

Price: gallery=94,300

Steiner

If you like your optics to have the sharpest possible image yet still be able to withstand most any abuse you can dish out, then the built-to-milspec Nighthunter XP 8x42 binoculars are worth a look. For full-size binoculars they are svelte, weighing only a paltry 25 ounces, making them great to pack day after day in even the most rugged country. Steiner also squeezed its brightest HD glass yet into them. This isn't purely marketing; the view is truly stunning. Hunters looking for durable, comfortable, and razor-sharp binoculars should check these out. Price to performance, they are a real bargain.

Price: $850

Swarovski

Here's what I wrote the Swaro rep after testing the 8x30 Habichts: 'œThey are rather disappointing. What I mean by that is this: had I just dropped gallery=94,000 on top-of-the-line binoculars and someone handed me the Habichts to compare them to, I would be very disappointed there was not more of an image difference! It is incredible how clear, lightweight, and beautifully constructed these little gems are.' These sexy porros weigh 19 ounces and feature optics that rival the best, so what's not to like? If you wear glasses, the eye relief is rather short.

Price: [imo-slideshow gallery=94],080

Vortex

Magnumitis — an affliction that makes otherwise reasonable people believe they need .300 Magnums to kill 175-pound deer — has now spread to the optical realm, with many people believing they need 10X binoculars for timber-distance hunting. The 6x32 Vortex Viper HD binoculars are here to prove otherwise. Not only do they excel at close-range spotting, they also sacrifice nothing to higher-power binoculars out to 600 or so yards. Regardless of the distance, they provide a wide and effortless image in a compact, easy-to-pack binocular that doesn't require a second mortgage to purchase.

Price: $649

Burris

If you like to prowl the high country, you know the importance of quality equipment. In country where 60-mph wind, frozen nights, and 80-degree heat can occur within seven hours, the last thing you need to worry about is the scope atop your rifle. Burris' Black Diamond 3-12x50 scope embodies all that one needs in a ruggedly dependable, made-in-the-USA scope. With a superb magnification range to cover as far as one could possibly shoot, this 30mm-tubed scope has T-plated lenses that are truly difficult to scratch and the Ballistic Plex E1 reticle to compensate for wind drift and drop. While it isn't cheap, the entire Black Diamond line competes with — and even beats — scopes priced much higher.

Price: [imo-slideshow gallery=94],090

Aimpoint

Tired of missing out on deer that slip by your stand at the end of shooting light? It's time to change the game and increase your ability to place low-light bullets or slugs by topping your favorite freezer filler with Aimpoint's Hunter scope.

As rugged as an Arctic icebreaker, Aimpoints work in the most extreme heat or cold and in the wettest of all environments. Simply place the 2 MOA dot where you want to hit and squeeze the trigger. There's no parallax issues, eye relief, or magnification to bring on tunnel vision. For your deer rifle, hog rifle, or a gobbler getter, few sights are as durable, dependable, and as quick on target as the Aimpoint Hunter.

Price: $862

EOTech

If you desire a lightning-quick sight that allows you to get on target fast, but you don't quite feel comfortable without the ability to magnify your target, then EOTech's HHS II sight is your huckleberry. In addition to being nearly bombproof, compact, and utterly dependable, this EOTech features a 3X magnifier behind the holographic main sight that magnifies only the target — not the reticle. How this is achieved is beyond me, but it sure is cool, and it doesn't obscure your target like other magnifier/red dot combinations. When you desire to go back to 1X viewing, slap the magnifier to the side with the palm of your hand. It's quite ingenious how it all works together. But it does work. Very well.

Price: $1000

Burris

A simple yet effective mini dot sight, Burris' FastFire III is lightweight, affordable, and takes up very little room on your gun. It's also a significant improvement over preceding generations of FastFire sights. The battery compartment has been moved to the top of the sight, so you no longer have to detach the entire sight to swap the battery. Windage and elevation controls were also improved, as were the power settings. Offered in both 3- and 8-MOA models, the FastFire III is covered by Burris' one-year warranty.

Price: $375

Trijicon

The new SRS sight from Trijicon is powered by a top-mounted solar cell; however, should nature not provide enough energy, a single AA battery automatically lights up a 1.75 MOA aiming point that was chosen to be bright enough for speed yet small enough for precision. Battery life for this twin-powered setup is three years of constant use. Like all Trijicons, the SRS is built to not just survive, but to thrive in combat-type situations. So rest assured a spill during a hunt won't even faze the SRS. One cool feature we wished the SRS had was the ability to charge our stash of AA batteries.

Price: $999

Leupold

Year after year, Leupold churns out golden-ringed scopes worthy of their cult-like following. The new VX-R 4-12x40 is no exception and brings a lot to the hunting field. While the glass is certainly crisp, the most notable feature is the new fiber-optic, LED-illuminated FireDot reticle system. It's intuitively simple and built into the left-hand turret (where one might find an adjustable parallax). After five minutes of inactivity, the scope will go into standby mode. Simply move the scope and the Motion Sensor Technology turns it on immediately. Pretty damn cool.

Price: $600

Bushnell

Building upon its popular Legend Ultra-HD line of binoculars that are affordable, clear, and feature a money-back guarantee, Bushnell has now added a scope line to the Ultra-HD series. For shotgun or muzzleloader hunters looking to replace the aged glass atop their trusty thumper, the Legend Ultra-HD 1.75-5x32 scope should work nicely. With a 75-yard parallax setting, any animal within reasonable range will be in focus and look sharp thanks to the ED Prime glass. While a rainsquall might bother you while hunting, the scope's glass will be unimpressed; it sheds water like a duck's back thanks to the permanent Rainguard HD lens coating.

Price: $199

Vortex

The All-American scope was once a fixed four-power scope. Nowadays, the 3-9x40 is far and away the most popular optic in use by our country's sportsmen. While different disciplines of shooting require more or less power, the 3-9 is damn tough to beat for a general-purpose optic. So if you're in need of a scope to outfit your next hunting rifle, look no further than Vortex's 3-9x40 Viper. This scope — durable, dependable, affordable, and equipped with great glass — is perfect for most any rifle you own. Do it one better, too. Figure out your rifle's favorite load, provide Vortex with the ballistic particulars, and have them crank out a custom Trajectory Matched Turret (TMT) for an extra $100.

Price: $399

Zeiss

Entry level and Zeiss go together about as well as luxury car and Hyundai's Accent. That being said, I couldn't be more excited about Zeiss' Conquest Duralyt line. Take the 2-8x42, for example. Where else can you get a 30mm European scope that weighs only 16 ounces, is chock full of Zeiss glass, and has a perfect magnification range for North American hunting, an ample 42mm objective lens for a large exit pupil and bright image, and a fast-focus eyepiece all for less than a grand? Good luck beating that. And for a couple hundred more, you can add the optional illuminated reticle.

Price: $999

Nikon

ARs are like pet elephants. Sure, they're a blast to play with, but they're also expensive to feed; hence the booming popularity of AR-based .22s that are fun and affordable to shoot. Nikon's newest member of its AR-based sighting system is the P-22. Like the M-223, which was designed for the ballistics of the .223, the new P-22 scope provides compensation for the drop of the .22 LR. Available in 2-7x32, the P-22 accounts for bullet drop between 50 and 150 yards. Choose either the Nikoplex reticle with the Rapid Action Turret System for dead on holds out to 150 yards or go with the BDC 150 reticle with circles and hash marks for drop compensation.

Price: $180

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