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Are there any worthwhile cheap spotting scopes?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: August/06/2009 at 14:13
wshive View Drop Down
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I feel like this question must have been asked before, but I couldn't find an answer using search...

I'd like to get a spotting scope but don't want to spend a lot. $75 would be the ABSOLUTE max and $50 would make more sense for situation.

I would be using it exclusively at the range and would need it to spot .30 cal holes up to 200yds in reactive paper targets (Shoot-N-C). Also I'd like for it to spot steel hits at 300yds (sometimes those things don't make a noise!).

The reason why my budget is so low is that I can rent a spotting scope at the range for $2/day. They're decent quality and do the job that I need, so paying more than $50-75 doesn't make a whole lot of sense for me. They're old Bushnell Spacemasters, I think in 22x fixed.

I'm open to any suggestions, straight tubed/porro, fixed/variable, heavy/compact--whatever, as long as it can do the job. Telling me that there aren't any realistic options out there for me is perfectly legitimate as I realize this price range is really low. But hopefully someone can come through with a suggestion or two! Big Grin
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: August/06/2009 at 15:19
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Have you considered looking for a used less-expensive spotter?  I have a Nikon that was a couple hundred bucks, if you look around you might be able to find something pre-owned that is in your price range.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: August/06/2009 at 16:02
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Originally posted by wshive wshive wrote:

I would be using it exclusively at the range and would need it to spot .30 cal holes up to 200yds in reactive paper targets (Shoot-N-C). Also I'd like for it to spot steel hits at 300yds (sometimes those things don't make a noise!).
 
If the max magnification on your rifle scope is at least 10X or so, I would think you could see the bullet holes at 200 and under with it alone (especially if using Shoot-N-C targets) without having to buy the spotter at all.
 
You will be very hard-pressed to find a decent spotter for $75 max.  Other than looking for a heavily used scope, I'm sure the Bushnell Sportview is adequate enough just for spotting bullet holes and target hits at those relatively short distances.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: August/07/2009 at 00:08
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Thanks for the bushnell reccomendation. I'll definitely look into that.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately) I opted for a 4x fixed for my rifle, so I don't have the standard 3-9x variables most people go for. I don't regret the decision at all, but it does mean I need a spotting scope. I have a really great set of leupold 8x42 porros, which can see 100 yards, but 200 yards, even w/ shoot-n-c is dicey at best. I mean I could see it, but I can't see the occasional miss or if the groupings or too tight (not normally an issue, lol), etc.

Stopped by the local sporting goods store. I tried a pair of Barskas in 20-60x 60mm and they seemed surprisingly good for the price. Am I missing something here with these? Again, they weren't perfect, and >40x mag they started to really fall apart, but I'm thinking they could do the job. They weren't the higher quality blackhawk line, but their standard line. In fact, I don't see them on SWFA... Thoughts?
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: August/07/2009 at 11:02
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I have long been a proponent that there are optics options for pretty much any budget, though I will admit, you are stretching the limits of my belief a little.  Nevertheless, I still think your options are not as limited as they once might have been. 

1. Burris 20x50 Landmark compact spotter.  This is, I would think, probably the best option for you.  It costs about $75.00 new and would be able to serve the purposes you propose.
http://swfa.com/Burris-20x50-Landmark-Compact-Spotter-P1730.aspx

2.  Spend some time looking on ebay.  Often older spotting scopes (like B&L Balscopes and sometimes even B&L Discoverers) can be "won" for under $100.  These are obviously used but, in their day, they were considered among the best of the best and they will still be a darn sight better than the Barska junk you were looking at.

3. Often you can find 20x fixed power compact scopes similar to the above-mentioned Burris, though badged as Bushnell, Winchester, Remington, etc. at local big-box retailers for around $50.  These I would buy only if I had no other options, but I would still take them over Barska's offerings.

Having said all that, let me add one additional thought here:

One of the great benefits of owning a spotting scope is the use you can get out of it when you are away from the range.  Whether it be in looking at wildlife while scouting or camping, engaging in amateur astronomy, watching birds out of a backyard feeder, sharing the wonders of nature with children/grandchildren, or whatever, a spotting scope has the ability to dramatically increase your participation in and enjoyment of nature.  I strongly encourage you to think about the ways, not connected with the shooting range, that you might benefit from good optics and then modify your budget to allow you to buy a spotting scope that will best serve all of those purposes, rather than being based on a "well I can rent a scope at the range for $2.00/day" thought process. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: August/07/2009 at 11:26
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lucznik, those are some really great points, and I certainly appreciate the effort. Excellent

I will definitely rethink my decision making process here.

I did always wonder about bushnell/winchester/remington and why some of them all look exactly alike. I suspected they might all be made at the same place then just reboxed under their respective brands, but I wasn't sure.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: August/27/2009 at 22:10
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You can find the Celestron Ultima 65 and 80 at competitor for about $110 and 165 respectively, with a decent 20-60 zoom. Tripod is extra. Lifetime warranty, I believe.
The scope is good and the eyepiece can be changed when desired. Most standard 1.25" astronomical eyepieces fit, so you can upgrade the optics efficiently. It seems like a possible option, although it does overrun your budget.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: August/28/2009 at 07:13
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You might also keep an eye out for refurbished scopes. I picked up a Bushnell 18-36X50 Sentry for $72. It's not great, but works quite well out to 300 yards, especially for that price. If you only use a spotter at the range and go to the range every two weeks or so, I'd just keep renting and keep looking for a good deal. You might enjoy using it for all those things lucznik mentioned. I'd hate to buy any optic that begins to "fall apart" in the middle of its zoom range. A friend of mine has a low-end Leupold that at 45X just makes me dizzy. Yesterday, we were looking through the Bushnell Excursion 15-45x60 that I'm test driving and he said the ED glass was incredible compared to what he has. Those are $320 so probably out of your price range, but keep looking for a good deal and you'll be happier in the long run.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: September/23/2009 at 17:28
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Does anyone have any experience with the Simmons 1281? it's a 20-60x60. I found a used one for sale locally. It seemed to be fairly clear and well made from what I could tell in the store, and looking down the street through the windows of the store. I just can't find any information on it since it's been discontinued. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/15/2009 at 21:39
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If your interested in an inexpensive scope try it out.  Ask the dealer if you can look through it out side.  Look for details the size of bullet holes out to 200 yards. Remember that more magnification does not mean better resolution.  For a 60mm scope anything above about 30 power is usually wasted in all but the best scopes.  All you get at say 45X or 60X is a larger blur. The size of the objective lens limits the amount of resolution at higher magnifications.  Back in my hot rod days ( a looooooong time ago) there was a saying that speed costs money - how fast do you want to go?  This can apply to just about anything you want to buy.  Best deal I ever got was a Bushnell Sentry for $10 bucks at a garage sale, it was beat up but the lens were OK works fine for the range.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/16/2009 at 09:21
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$10 bucks at a garage sale....
 
Now......that's what I call a REAL DEAL!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/27/2009 at 17:54
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Originally posted by tempestv tempestv wrote:

Does anyone have any experience with the Simmons 1281? it's a 20-60x60. 
 
I have a Simmons 20-60x60 (don't know the model number) w/angled eyepiece that was purchased at the local Wally World for about $60.  I was looking for something inexpensive to keep in the truck, and used mostly for range shooting.  I was very surprised at how good it was, and compared side-by-side to a much more expensive Bushnell, they were pretty much the same.  Also, in bright daylight the 60x is quite useful.
 
This is the best $100 or less spotting scope I've seen so far.  I'm actually disappointed now with my Bushnell, since it cost more than double the price and doesn't provide any performance advantage.  I think it will fulfill your requirements quite nicely.....
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/14/2010 at 19:50
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the garage sale $10 sentry was probably an old sentry 2, not one of the new generation sentry junkers.
 these are actually an excellant scope, as are the old spacemaster 2s.
 its widely known that the long rangers in pa. have been using twin spotters as binnocs for decades.
 by far, the most popular setup is the old bushnell spacemaster 2 with 22x w.a. eyepieces. certainly the kowas, and swarovskis are used also, but not nearly as many for obvious reasons. 
the old sentry 2s mounted in tandem in a bracket will blow the doors off most so called good binnoculars with high end price tags.
 if you dont believe that, its just fine with me.
they can be bought on ebay for about $50, and ive bought them for half that.
they came originaly with a choice of 20x, 32x, or 48x eyepieces. any standard size threaded eyepiece will fit them except the zooms.
 a 22x from a spacemaster would be about 17 or 18x in the sentry due to smaller objective. whereas a 32x from a sentry would be close to 40x in a spacemaster.
 if you buy one and need an eyepiece contact me. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/17/2010 at 11:46
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I have one of those older Sentry 2s, purchased 28 years ago, still going strong after many years of hard use. I have been looking for a 30x eyepiece for it without luck, Bushnell does not make them anymore. Will an eyepiece from other scope manufacturer fit this scope? Feedback is appreciated.
Thank you, Karl
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/19/2010 at 04:31
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Edited by RifleDude - May/19/2010 at 07:24
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/19/2010 at 05:38
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/02/2010 at 21:12
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I have a cheapo spotter that I bought at a DU event. no logos on it except the DU emblem. I used it to spot shoot N C targets at 200. little blurry around the edges, but does the job. I'll put some pictures of it up. I'll sell it to you if you can figure out what it is and if you're interested.
I don't do the range any more, so haven't used it in about 18 months.


Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/23/2010 at 08:39
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I was wondering if anyone can comment on if there is a way to ease your way from a cost standpoint into a decent spotter.  ie: buy a decent body and put up with a lesser quality eye piece until can afford better quality.  Can someone comment on good combinations and ways to pick up a better scope body.  I have been looking at Celestron 80mm Ultima $139 but would consider paying up to $200 for a good scope body right now.  Also what to look for in good scope body, ie- BAK-4 prism vs ????
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/24/2010 at 12:12
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Originally posted by 12gageh 12gageh wrote:

I was wondering if anyone can comment on if there is a way to ease your way from a cost standpoint into a decent spotter.  ie: buy a decent body and put up with a lesser quality eye piece until can afford better quality. 
  That sounds like a good way.  You can also buy a less-expensive scope to serve as a stop-gap while you then save for your ideal scope.

Originally posted by 12gageh 12gageh wrote:

Can someone comment on good combinations and ways to pick up a better scope body.  I have been looking at Celestron 80mm Ultima $139 but would consider paying up to $200 for a good scope body right now. 

You need to define what equates to a "good scope body."  By most standards $200 won't even come close to buying something really "good."  Serviceable yes, but still a serious compromise. You are at the low end of the price/quality spectrum here.

Originally posted by 12gageh 12gageh wrote:

Also what to look for in good scope body, ie- BAK-4 prism vs ????
The internet is replete with articles that can help you with this.  Just do a bit of searching with Google, Yahoo, etc. and you will find enough to keep you reading for hours and hours (if not days and days).   Heck, a bit of searching on this forum alone will yield you literally dozens of threads that deal with this topic.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/24/2010 at 19:35
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Any thoughts on Maksutov-Cassegrain scopes.  Rep from Celestron is reccomending the C90.  He said there would be less chromatic abberation as compared to a similarly priced refractor without ED glass.  Versatility in changing eye piece to go up to 150x.  I just haven't read much about shooters using Maks for spotting.  Interested in picking up  .25-.30 cal bullet holes at 300 yds and possibly out to 500 yds
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