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Binoculars vs. Rifle Scope | Which Should I Get?

Whether you’re going hunting or simply trying to see a further distance while hiking, binoculars, and rifle scopes are some of the best options to choose from. Rifle scopes act as an advanced form of a monocular, while binoculars allow you to see through both eyes. However, it can be challenging to know which one is a better tool. So, when it comes to binoculars vs. rifle scopes, which one should you choose?

Binoculars are better for hiking and other recreational outdoor activities, but rifle scopes are the better choice if you’re hunting. However, you can use either for any situation that requires you to see a further distance.

Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following information:

  • The pros and cons of binoculars
  • Why you might want to consider using a rifle scope
  • Which one is better for your situation
Two Crosshair Types

Pros and Cons of Binoculars for Hunting

Binoculars are perhaps one of the most common hiking tools on the planet. Almost anyone who’s ever gone hiking or hunting has used a pair of them, but they definitely have a few issues that are worth mentioning.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using binoculars:

Advantages of Binoculars

  • Adjustable Zoom- Binoculars, such as my recommended ones (Found on Amazon), come with an adjustable zoom and ergonomic eyecups that make them much more comfortable to use. They’re also designed to dip with your fingertips since you’re supposed to hold them in your hand, unlike a rifle scope.
  • Stereoscopic Vision- Perhaps the biggest advantage of binoculars is that they allow you to look with both of your eyes. This gives you much better depth perception. Monoculars aren’t quite as efficient, but you’ll catch every last detail with a high-quality pair of binoculars.
  • Easier to focus- Almost all binoculars allow you to adjust the clarity by hand. Since your hands are already on them, you’ll be able to make quick changes without stopping what you’re doing. They’re also easier to adjust since you can check the changes with both eyes.
  • More compact- Binoculars are usually much shorter than rifle scopes. If you have a top-notch pair that folds over into themselves, they might even be just as narrow as a rifle scope. Both of these features make binoculars a better choice for those who are trying to save space in their backpack. This makes this great for bow hunting or archery.
  • No extra hardware needed- Binoculars aren’t made to be put on top of a rifle, so you’ll never have to deal with getting a new mounting system or any other parts to make them compatible. Store them in your backpack, pocket, or purse, and you’ll be good to go.

Disadvantages of Binoculars

  • Hard to use in tandem with a rifle- Unfortunately, the final pro of binoculars is also a con. Since they’re not made to mount on a rifle scope, you won’t ever be able to use them seamlessly with a rifle. You’ll have to look through them, set them down, and take your shot if you’re hunting.
  • Avoid bulky and low-quality models- Another issue with some binoculars is that they’re a bit bulkier if they don’t fold over. Most low-quality binoculars (and those that aren’t designed for tactical purposes) only fold in so much. They’ll end up taking just as much space in your backpack or more.

Pros and Cons of a Rifle Scope

On the other hand, rifle scopes offer an excellent alternative. If you’re hunting, then you’re probably accustomed to using rifle scopes quite often. However, did you know that you can use a rifle scope as a monocular on its own? You don’t need to mount it; Simply hold it in your hand and look through as you normally would.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of rifle scopes:

Advantages of Rifle Scopes

  • Often take up less space in a pack- Rifle scopes are longer and thinner, meaning you can fit them down the side of a backpack rather than taking up an entire pocket. Their slim design also makes it easier to pack up or take out whenever you need to.
  • Numerous attachments and accessories- Plenty of rifle scopes include additional attachments that make them more useful than binoculars. For example, some of them include flashlights, laser lights, crosshairs, and more. These small additions add to the value without driving up the cost of the scope too much at all.
  • Distance markers- Some scopes, such as on my recommended one, come with distance-measuring markers. You’ll be able to know how far or close something is without having to estimate the distance.
  • More versatile for hunting- Unlike binoculars, rifle scopes can be attached to the top of a rifle. This connection allows you to use it by itself or while you’re hunting. The versatility of a rifle scope is more than enough to lean some people toward it rather than a pair of binoculars.
  • Usually less expensive- Finally, rifle scopes are often cheaper than binoculars of the same quality. They use fewer materials, and they’re designed for one purpose, but they can be used in all sorts of different ways.

Disadvantages of Rifle Scopes

  • No stereoscopic vision- The biggest issue of owning a rifle scope is that you can’t see with both eyes. You’ll be limited to one side of the scope, which makes it a bit harder to get a full range of views. However, it’s not too noticeable if you’ve used scopes for hunting or hiking before.
  • Most don’t come with zoom- Rifle scopes that come with a variable zoom option aren’t nearly as common as they are with binoculars. You’ll be forced to pick one or two different scopes or spend a bit more money to get a scope that can zoom.

As you can see, both tools have their pros and cons that make them better for different situations. If you’re still having trouble trying to figure out which one you should choose, proceed to the next section.

Which Should You Choose?

Rifle scopes and binoculars are used for the same reason: To be able to see longer distances. However, being able to hook it up to a rifle makes scopes a bit more usable in those situations. On the other hand, binoculars are better if you want to hang them around your neck while you go hiking, camping, or sightseeing.

If you plan on solely going hunting with your new tool, it’s a good idea to get a scope. Even if you want to detach it for a bit, you’ll still be able to see through it without too many problems. It’s a compact, simplistic design that’s been used in monoculars for decades.

That being said, if you’re only going hiking or walking with your tool, then you should go with a pair of binoculars. They’re handier when you’re trying to see everything within a wide plane of view since you can look through both eyes.

A combination of the two would be a handheld monocular. While scopes are a version of monoculars, the extra features might make them a bit too bulky. Try out something like this one from Amazon. It’s small enough to fit in one hand, and it comes with a smartphone attachment to take pictures from a further distance.

Note: If you’re hunting with a friend, then you could have them use a monocular or a pair of binoculars to check the distance for you prior to taking your shot. Two pairs of eyes are always better than one!

Final Thoughts

The battle between binoculars and rifle scopes continues to shape the industry. Hunters should choose scopes, and hikers should choose binoculars.

In the end, you could pick both of them if you have enough room in your backpack. Having the best of both worlds enables you to check the distance, use flashlights and/or laser lights, and look through both eyecups for a better visual. Which one will you choose?

Helpful Recommended Products

For your convenience, here are the products recommended in this article:

For more, check out How To Choose the Best Rifle for Target Shooting.