How Powerful Is the Monocular?
The first thing you should look at is how much magnification the monocular provides. I know what you’re thinking... "As powerful as I can find!" That’s not such a great mindset to have, though, because of how you will use the monocular. It might sound nice to have a 10X monocular, but you need to remember that you’re going to be holding the thing in your bare hands, and probably one-handed at that. No matter how good the manufacturer is or how steady your hands are, a 10X monocular is going to be hard to hold still.
If you want something compact, you should stick with a 6X or 8X monocular. That will provide you with plenty of magnification, but it won’t be so powerful as to be difficult to use because of shakiness. While you can find more powerful monoculars that have a tripod mount (and sometimes even come with the tripod), remember that you need to carry it with you into the bush. A monocular is easy enough to carry in its pouch on your belt or in your backpack, but where are you going to stow a tripod?
What Kind of Optics Does It Have?
Once you have narrowed down a few models you like based on magnification, you should look into what kind of optics the monocular uses. To get the best view of the terrain and critters, you want the monocular to give you a crisp, clear, and bright view even at maximum magnification. To get this, make sure the monocular uses the best possible prism glass, BaK–4 glass, and that the optics are fully multi-coated. That means that all air-to-glass surfaces of the optics are treated with an antireflective coating, maximizing the monocular’s ability to transmit light and give you a bright picture. A good place to start is the best monoculars section over at HuntingOptics.net, where you can compare the top 5 or 6 modeles as far as optics go.
You also will probably want to make sure the monocular uses a roof prism layout instead of porro prisms. If the eyepiece is not at a straight line with the objective lens, you’ve got a porro prism design and should probably avoid that model for hunting purposes. Porro prisms tend to become pretty blurry after the slight (or not so slight) bumps that come along with carrying the monocular through uneven terrain.
Next, check out the field of view of the monocular. Sometimes, the field of view on a monocular is so narrow that the optics are impossible to use without mounting the glass on a tripod. A healthy field of view will be at least 315 feet at 1,000 yards.
Finally, read up on how easy the focus ring is to use. You want the ring to move easily enough to make quick adjustments when you’re tracking an animal on the move, but not so easily that you are constantly bumping your image out of focus. It’s a fine line, but some monoculars hit the sweet spot of being smooth but still stiff.
Is the Monocular Durable Enough?
Now, of course, you want to look at durability. When we’re out hunting, the weather often doesn’t stay perfect. It gets cold, stray rain showers pop up, and of course there’s always the possibility of dropping your prized glass from your tree stand. For hunting, you want to make sure the monocular is rubber-armored and offers some shock resistance. This is why I recommend rubber armor, because a plain plastic housing won’t stand up to the bumps and falls that can happen in the wilderness.
To protect your investment from the likelihood that it’s going to get wet, make sure the monocular is waterproof. O-ring seals on the optics don’t add that much to the manufacturing cost of the monocular, and it is pretty commonplace for monocs to be waterproof.
Finally, ensure the optics chamber is nitrogen-purged. Glass manufacturers fill the interior optics chamber with nitrogen, purging out all of the oxygen and other gases, to make sure the monoculars are fogproof. This way, rapid temperature changes from hot to cold or vice versa, as well as just the humidity in the air or extreme temperatures, can’t cause the glass to fog up.
What Comes In the Box?
Finally, take a look at what you get for the money. When you aren’t using it, a monocular needs to have a place to live, so you want to make sure it comes with at least a carrying case. If the carrying case has a belt loop, that’s a real winner, since you can strap the bag to you for transporting your monocular from the truck to your favorite hunting spot.
It’s also crucial to get a neck strap, hand strap, or both. This helps keep the monocular close by when you’re ready to use it, and the hand strap can make all the difference between keeping a firm grip on your glass and accidentally dropping your monoc out of your deer stand. Finally, a nice lens cleaning cloth is a great bonus, but certainly not a “must have.”
Buying a good monocular for hunting purposes doesn’t have to take hours of research, but it certainly can. Keep all of these factors in mind when you’re looking for the perfect monocular, though, and you will be sure to find something that suits your needs and beefs up your hunting action.