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I've been looking at spotting scopes and have wanted one for a while to sight in with and use for glassing at further distances to. From the online research and the money I'm willing to part with, I came across two that seem possibilities but all the reviews say they get blurry at long distances. The Redfield Rampage 20-60x60mm straight and the Leupold Ventana SX1, 15-45x60 straight. The leupold comes with a big square case, I'd rather not lug around for about $250.00 and the Redfield can be purchased for just under $200.00 both with small tripods and both made by the same company and made in China for darn sakes. It seems to me that if they have to give away all kinds of stuff with the scopes there's not much left for quality. I want it to LAST a long time, since I don't have a gold vein running through my property. I'd like advise on these and others in the couple hundred dollar range. I don't want something cheap, and won't take out a loan for one either.
 

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Well I guess I'll start this off. We all want a $200.00 spotting scope that will show .223 holes on paper at 200 yards.........but IMHO they don't exist. I have bought I don't know how many for that price that just really weren't worth much. I seem to have to spend $600.00 to get something good or....... buy an inexpensive kids telescope. I picked one up for around $50.00 and while it's twice as big as a spotting scope and looks pretty silly at the range, it does work. Or at least it's much better than the $200.00 spotting scopes Ive seen. Think it's a 20-60 x 60 Bushnell. Someday I'll get a good spotting scope, but for now would rather spend the money.....on another gun? lol
 

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After looking at three at Academy, I bought the Simmons. The other two were the same quality optics (mediocre but adequate) but cost a lot more. That made Simmons the best value. I recently used it to check out a 747 flying overhead at 30,000' and it was sharper, clearer and brighter than any of my binoculars.

Invest in a high quality tripod and you'll have a good setup. I got a Sunpak Ultra 6000PG.
 

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A plus one for Loupold. Their product is very good, I baught the same spotting scope for my wife without the tripod and case and she is an avid birdwatcher.

We have Leica binos so quality is measured by those. Certainly not the same but wonderful. I purchased a small Loupold bino with double hinges for concerts and ball games and my granddaughter dropped them and smashed them bad.

Loupold replaced them, no questions asked. So wonderful service.

I also have one of their scopes on my 77/357 Ruger. Its hard to get friends to hand me back my rifle after they look through the scope.
 

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Midway has the Ventana for $310 with the case, $269 just for the scope. My 20-60x Ventana came with a neoprene softshell case also, which is what I use to protect the scope and transport, my wife uses the hard case for something around the house, not sure what - so no, I don't lug the hard box around.

First, I'll try to offer my experience with these two products, but I'll follow up with some recommendations/advice/experience on Spotters in general.

I don't have the 15-45x Ventana, but do have the 20-60x, and my brother-in-law has the Redfield you're looking at. I've been moderately satisfied with the Ventana, but the eye relief leaves a lot to be desired. Resolution is ok at best, but it does allow me to see bullet holes to 300yrds well enough. I sent my first Ventana back, thinking that the eye relief was out of spec, since it felt WAY shorter than the online specs, but the second one came back the exact same - it turns out that the specs online are wrong, which seemed to be a common problem based on online reviews I found later! I use it at 300yrds for bullet holes, and I use it very frequently when shooting steel with my wife at 600-1200yrds. I have to be careful not to bump it, since I have to be so close for the short eye relief, but it works for those purposes.

The Redfield of my BIL's, I would hard pass. We're not able to spot 22cal, 6mm, or 7mm bullets at 250yrds at all, and picking out target ring lines is nearly impossible, even at 60x. The resolution just isn't there. It works well enough for my BIL, who rarely shoots more than 100yrds, but I can spot better with a 6-24x50 riflescope than with his 20-60x spotter. His Redfield is a headache tube - your eye works so hard to focus and resolve what you're seeing, but it just can't. Clarity in the mid-range magnification is reasonable, so it might work well for a 200yrd shooter as a cheaper option instead of buying a better quality 15-45x scope (more expensive), but for anything over 35-40x, resolution quality goes in the tank.

I do use a tripod, or a range box with an elevator rod, for my spotting scopes, but they're aftermarket photography grade pods, not the crap pods which come with the scopes in package deals. The pod that comes with the Ventana is no different.

What are you wanting to be able to see with your spotting scope? Is this your first? If so, I'd share my experiences to temper your expectations, as a lot of new spotting scope owners find themselves disappointed in their purchases. Most guys only buy a spotting scope when they start taking long range shots beyond 300yrds - typically a guy can use their existing high magnification scope or binoculars effectively at 200-300yrds for spotting, and it's not that bad to have to walk down range for 200-300yrd shooting. BUT, when they want to stretch range and they drop $300-500 on a "casual shooter grade" spotter, they find themselves disappointed because they can't see bullet holes anyway.

So, a few things to think about before dropping the coin if you're wanting a spotting scope for longer range, 300yrd+ shooting and want to see bullet strikes on targets:

  • A 15-45x will let you see bullet holes out to 200-300yrds, depending upon your target choice and lighting conditions. A 20-60x will often let you see holes in good lighting on good targets around 300-350, but once you get to 400, spotting holes becomes dicey, and simply not possible at 500-600yrds.

  • Resolution and clarity quickly become as important as zoom/magnification. I have a 20-60x60mm in a low end ($200) model that can't be focused to see bullet holes past 100-150yrds. It simply doesn't have the resolution to pick up the small details. At 300yrds, a checkerboard looks mottled grey in color, rather than sharply contrasting black & white as it should. So magnification isn't everything either.

  • 60mm objective spotters need a really good tripod to be usable, even at 45x. The FOV isn't large enough to let your brain's "image stabilization" kick in, so any natural wobble in the scope seems really dramatic. On the same tripod - meaning with the same wobble - an 80mm scope will SEEM to be a lot more stable. Because of this, a 60mm spotter needs to have better clarity than an 80mm just to look the same.

  • Eye relief is critical. It's remarkably irritating to repeatedly click your shooting glasses against an eyepiece, then have to take them off and wait for the tripod to stop wobbling over and over during a day. I've never stuck a ruler in my eye to measure for myself, but 25mm must be a lot shorter than you might think it is (1cm). I had a Bushnell spotting scope that was a very good optic, but the eye relief was so short that it was unusable - my eyebrow had to be touching the eyepiece, which made the optic shake too much to be able to see anything! I sent my first Ventana back for replacement because the eye relief was too short, then when it came back with the same short eye relief, I found out (as I later noticed on many online reviews) that the packaging eye relief and the online specs didn't match up, and it only really has 15-20mm eye relief (again, that's for the 20-60x, not sure about the 15-45x).

  • I only include this because it's a very common model that guys will jump on - since it's available on a lot of common shelves and for under $100 most of the time. The Simmons Blazer 20-60x60mm is the most worthless piece of junk I've ever owned. It's a 100-150yrd spotting scope at best on bullet holes, resolution is terrible. Picking out a whitetail buck at 480yrds against a mottled hedge row background is incredibly difficult (480yrds isn't a random number, that's the range across one of my properties from tree line to tree line - I watch deer at that range regularly). Given something to rest against, I can see better with 12x binos than with the Simmons Spotting scope.

  • Come out of the scope often. Eye strain headaches are common for spotters. If you feel yourself squinting harder, wrinkling your nose or dropping your brow, that means you need to adjust your focus in the scope. If it won't adjust to become clear, don't fight it - your eye and brain cannot fix the distorted image that it's getting from the scope. You'll never be able to see any more clearly, and you'll only drive your eye strain worse and worse. Coming out of the scope and immediately looking down range is also very taxing on your eyes, because you're shifting back and forth from incredibly close focus to incredibly long focus. When I come out of the scope, I make a habit of looking upwards at a high angle, which makes my eyes focus closely at first, as they were in the scope, then lets them gradually "zoom out" downrange as I lower my eyes back to the horizon. Similarly, before I get into the eyepiece, I'll bring my eyes along the ground (or range flags) from the target to my feet before looking into the scope. I started doing so at the range about 10yrs ago and my frequency of eyestrain fatigue and headaches has dropped off almost completely. It took a lot of practice at first, but now it's habit, just like flicking my safety glasses up or down before I bang them into the eyepiece.
 

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Gear Religion

If you buy a $200 spotter it will not last forever because you will replace it in a few years with a $400 scope. When the $400 scope gives you eye strain on that once in a lifetime hunt it too will go in the closet or on ebay while you shop for $600 scopes. Once you have spiraled up this upgrade process three or four times you will eventually find yourself the owner of a top line scope (Leica, Zeiss, Swarovski, etc.), but will have spent several times more that those of us who got optics religion earlier in this process.

This is much like "tire religion," "tripod religion" or "sleeping bag religion." You get what you pay for and what seems expensive in the store ($400 down sleeping bag) gets really inexpensive when you freeze during the night in your $100 0 deg F bag that is really only good for 25 F.

I learned optics religion (and tire and sleeping bag) the hard way. As an example, during an AK sheep hunt a middle market range finder let me down and I missed a shot on a Dall due to a guides woefully incorrect range call. This was a very expensive (to me) hunt and I almost ruined it by saving a few $100 on a range finder. Never again.

Buy the best you can really afford, not just what you want to pay today. In the long run it will be less expensive and a lot less frustrating.
 

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Spotter Gymnastics?

  • Come out of the scope often. Eye strain headaches are common for spotters. If you feel yourself squinting harder, wrinkling your nose or dropping your brow, that means you need to adjust your focus in the scope. If it won't adjust to become clear, don't fight it - your eye and brain cannot fix the distorted image that it's getting from the scope. You'll never be able to see any more clearly, and you'll only drive your eye strain worse and worse. Coming out of the scope and immediately looking down range is also very taxing on your eyes, because you're shifting back and forth from incredibly close focus to incredibly long focus. When I come out of the scope, I make a habit of looking upwards at a high angle, which makes my eyes focus closely at first, as they were in the scope, then lets them gradually "zoom out" downrange as I lower my eyes back to the horizon. Similarly, before I get into the eyepiece, I'll bring my eyes along the ground (or range flags) from the target to my feet before looking into the scope. I started doing so at the range about 10yrs ago and my frequency of eyestrain fatigue and headaches has dropped off almost completely. It took a lot of practice at first, but now it's habit, just like flicking my safety glasses up or down before I bang them into the eyepiece.
Nice post and good information, but these gymnastics are not necessary if you have a quality set of optics. Because I don't get eye strain from my Swarovski I can spend much more time behind the scope and spotter gymnastics are not required to stay on the scope.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Excellent information from all of you. I'll have to look at the top brands and see if they offer an "affordable" spotter. This will be my first spotter but I own a few Nikon Pro S 3-9x40 rifle scopes and binos. I have a set of Leupold BX-1 Yosemite 10x30mm that are great and an old set of Jason 7x50 that the eye cups have crumbed off completely with no way to replace them.

I wonder if a good high powered bino's could take the place of a spotter because your using both eye's, not just one. Does that make a beneficial difference?

Does your vision have much to do with eye relief, I happen to have 20-15 vision and only need 1.25 specs for small type closer than about 1 ft.?

I'm with you on the learning curve about products. I slept out one night in a Coleman 0 deg. sleeping bag on a frozen lake in far northern MN and froze my tuchus off at 0 degs. The only thing that made it worth while was getting up in the middle of the night to take a leak and seeing the Hale Bop comet fill the clear starry sky, I'll never forget that and wished I could have taken a pic some how. When it comes to temperature go with the coldest model they sell for anything outdoors like my Lacross Ice Kings, Cabela's Goretex Saskatchewan boots, and my Cabela's -30 deg 3D Qua-low fill bag.

I did look at the telescope sites to see if they had any offerings: Meade, Celestion, Orion with no real luck, a few offered a cheap angled spotter probably made in China. Maybe I could link up to a spy satellite and have them do my spotting for me?
 

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Ha Ha, sounds like you understand gear religion. It works for optics too. I am still out on high dollar rifle scopes because you don't spend much time looking through them to get eye strain and spending $2k + on every rifle gets really expensive fast. I am stuck at the Leopold VX3 level for now.

As for binoculars over spotting scopes you are on to something. A good set of large, say 20+ power, binoculars on a good tripod are a great alternative to a spotting scope. The scope may have an edge on judging animals at distance due to the greater power, but the binos would generally have better field of view and provide distance information. If I had to do it over again I would consider these: Vortex Kaibab HD 20x56mm Binoculars, Green KAI-5603 FREE S&H KAI-5603. Vortex Binoculars.

A Vortex Razor 20X60 selling for about the same as above has a 117" field of view at 20X and 17" at 60. The binoculars above have a field of view of 168 feet.

Note if you go with a scope intended for astronomy that the cheap ones leave you with an inverted image. I tried this once and lugged a large refactor to the desert and was surprised when everything was upside down.
 

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Maybe I could link up to a spy satellite and have them do my spotting for me?
So... I've been playing with this a little bit lately, it only works on certain ranges, and you REALLY have to trust yourself... But there are a few options that aren't QUITE as involved as linking to Russian Spy Satellites (Is anyone worried about Russian spies any more?)

Video baby monitors are reasonably affordable. Set the camera up in front of the target, keep the viewer with you. The down-side is that many of the viewers are small screens with low resolution, but some offer mobile device apps that will let you access the stream via a tablet - bigger screen. I had to rig a few truck batteries and a power inverter to run the camera in the field though.

Then that bridges into the next option I've started playing with...

I have a wifi hotspot and an old iPhone. I can "Facetime" my old phone from my new phone through the cellular wifi hotspot from my iPad, letting me see what the phone sees. I've only used this a few times, and it does help to have portable phone chargers to keep the devices powered for longer, but it does work. A guy has to have a tablet for this to work though, cell phone screens aren't big enough.

At the end of the day, I can see hits on target better at ANY RANGE with these options, and the investment was NOTHING on the mobile device set up. If I ever shoot my old phone or the monitor camera, I'd be screwed, but I have it shielded with a bit of heavy gauge angle iron to protect it.

Of course, this wouldn't work well with steel targets due to the back splatter - the cameras need to be rather close to the targets.

That doesn't do a guy any good for field work, like hunting, or spotting misses, but for spotting strikes on target, it's working well for me.
 

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You guys know a lot more about good spotting scopes then I do. I do have a question & possibly a suggestion does Nikon or Vortex make good quality spotting scopes in the price range that the OP is looking for??
 

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Nice post and good information, but these gymnastics are not necessary if you have a quality set of optics. Because I don't get eye strain from my Swarovski I can spend much more time behind the scope and spotter gymnastics are not required to stay on the scope.
I assumed he wouldn't work his way up from a "$200 spotter" to a "$2000 spotter," so eye strain is likely to be in his future. I can hang out a long time behind my Kowa or my Pentax, but I assumed MAYBE he'd come up from $200 to $400, but didn't really think $1500-2000+ would ever be within his way of thinking.
 

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You guys know a lot more about good spotting scopes then I do. I do have a question & possibly a suggestion does Nikon or Vortex make good quality spotting scopes in the price range that the OP is looking for??
Nope.................a cheap spotter, is a cheap spotter, no matter who's name is on it.

Cheap glass is cheap glass...........be that scopes, spotters or range finders. Better off to do without until you can afford something good
 

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You guys know a lot more about good spotting scopes then I do. I do have a question & possibly a suggestion does Nikon or Vortex make good quality spotting scopes in the price range that the OP is looking for??
Nope.................a cheap spotter, is a cheap spotter, no matter who's name is on it.

Cheap glass is cheap glass...........be that scopes, spotters or range finders. Better off to do without until you can afford something good
Agreed. Some low end scopes are better than others, but it's kinda like having a discussion about the prettiest ugly girl... Or least ugly girl... She's still ugly, even if she doesn't have as many moles as the others...

I've never actually been impressed by Vortex optics. Side by side with Nikon, Leupold, or Bushnell in the same price class, the Vortex's are just another scope... I have an older Bushnell spotter that was very clear, but the eye relief sucked terribly. I've seen older Nikon spotters - which I believe were much more costly than $200 - that were clear, but had the same resolution issues as I expect in most low end spotters.
 

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Cheap = Cheap

msp30903 is correct. You get what you pay for. "Cheap glass is cheap glass." You really have to check out optics yourself with a relatively long viewing time to determine if they will strain your eyes. A quick glance of 5 - 10 seconds in a big box store will show the level of clarity and edge flair, but not the level of eye strain.

I get your point Varminator and it is valid IF you only have $200 to spend. Often it is what we WANT to spend, not what we SHOULD spend that determines our purchases, myself included. A spouse may influence this somewhat as well :p

Sure I want a Weatherby MKV on a Vanguard budget, and the Vanguard is a good gun, but it isn't a MKV and never will be.

Spend what you can so you have something to use right now and start saving for the big glass you really want. Skip all the little $200 steps that end up doubling the cost and you will get there faster and for less money. Let the 0 deg sleeping bag experience guide your next move.
 

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I am also in the "buy once cry once" camp. Especially with rifle and spotting scopes. I live out west and 15 mins from my door I can be shooting from 1yd to as far as you can see. The cheap rifle scopes and spotting scopes produce some of the worst heat mirages out there. My Swarovski and Vortex scopes resist the mirages better and are more clear.

If you can't afford the higher dollar optics then I would suggest saving longer. Like most things out there. You want something but feel you can't justify owning it so you buy something a bit cheaper. You rationalize that it's just as good and will work just fine. Then you find yourself with a drawer or closet full of these compromises and have spent more than what you would have had you bought what you wanted in the first place.

If that means I don't buy as many rifles in a year or I have to swap a scope out onto the new rifle then that is what I do.

For the Money Vortex scopes are pretty good bang for the buck. They have a no question lifetime warranty as well. Many of the long range competitive shooters are using them. That speaks volumes about them. Since they could be using Schmidt & Bender, Khales, US Optics, or many of the other higher dollar scopes.

Vortex Spotting scopes are nice as well. At least their higher end stuff is.
 

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Don't skimp on the tripod or window mount either :D
 

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My one and only spotting scope was a Konus.Came with a small tripod.Crystal clear out to 200yds.Tripod is a piece of crap.

Having said that My Sony HandyCam does as good a job and doesn't move all around if you breathe on it.

Don't need a spotting scope when shooting steel targets.Just my .02¢...
 

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I have owned over a dozen Leupold scopes and have been happy iwth all get the leupold.
Leupold has been living on their reputation for several years now. Much better optics for the same money these days from several companies. NOT saying a Leupold is bad, or you won't be happy, but if that is all you have ever owned or looked through, you simply don't know what else is out there. I have owned a ton of them and never had a bad one.......but have sold most of them off in favor of other scopes
 
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