Optic Field Care |Spotting Scope, Binocular, Riflescope, and Rangefinder Maintenance
Optics have changed the game for outdoorsmen. They give us the ability to be on an equal playing field with wildlife, which not only possesses better speed, strength, and stamina but in most cases better senses. This includes eyesight. That’s why it’s no wonder we are willing to pay out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to own optics that we know and love. These often make or break our ability to properly execute that hunt and bring home dinner. However, significant investments come with significant risks. Whether you own a spotting scope, rangefinder, riflescope, or all of them, it’s important that they are properly cared for to assure they don’t need replacement, or worse, fail when they are needed the most.
That’s why we have compiled a list of “optic best practices” to help prolong the life, and dependability, of the most common optics carried with hunters. However, to appreciate these optics, it’s important to understand the elements they are exposed to. That’s why we have also listed 5 major field concerns every optic owner needs to be aware of, and specific measures that can be taken to assure each keep working to their highest potential.
Field Concerns for Every Sportsman’s Optics
- Damage to Body and Lens
The obvious damage most of us think of when it comes to optics is bodily and lens damage. This happens most when we drop or scratch, the unit. Perhaps we didn’t carry it properly, became lazy and didn’t cover it, or simply used the wrong cleaning kit. All of these things wear on the unit and result in an early replacement.
Nothing is worse than pulling up the scope and finding it’s too dirty to see out of. Dust and dirt can also be the culprit behind an optic’s poor performance and a missed opportunity in the field. Not only is it annoying seeing dust particles behind the lens, but it’s even more frustrating not being able to focus on the subject. It’s important to avoid getting dust and debris on the optic at all costs.
Moisture is a concern for every optic. Rain, snow, and humidity all play a role in the condition of the unit. Moisture that gets within the lens can may be impossible to get out. This clouds vision, or worse, eliminates its ability to function, such as with a rangefinder. Pulling that rangefinder up to the eye, and then proceeding to dry the moisture off with the nearest piece of cloth (aka a jacket), is another disaster.
Don’t leave optics in the sun for extended periods of time. Sunlight can cause internal heat buildup, wrecking the device. It can often soften the lens coating, causing them to separate from the lens itself.
Binoculars are arguably the most popular optic that outdoors enthusiasts use in the field. This is why they are carried on nearly every adventure. It doesn’t matter if we are scouting from a vehicle or climbing a mountain, our binoculars are always with us.
Since they are our most commonly used optic, they are also the most commonly abused. They are easy to shove in a pack, across a shoulder, or simply set in the elements when sitting in a stand. All of these compromise their condition, often requiring them to be replaced well before our intentions. That’s why proper care is the utmost essential for keeping binoculars in proper working condition.
Use a Case and a Strap
It’s important to always carry binoculars in a case and with a strap. This way the optics are protected from the elements while still being easily accessible. The strap also keeps the binoculars from bouncing or grinding against any object, helping protect it from physical damage. Strapping it across the chest is a great way to eliminate bounce while keeping the unit easily accessible. This helps reduce that wear and tear we mentioned in the beginning of the article.
Bring Proper Cleaning Kits
As we discussed, moisture and dust can be a problem for any optic. However, the only thing worse than dust and moisture (other than breaking it) is using a sleeve and some saliva to scratch that lens. Always use the manufacturer’s cloth and cleaning kit. This can help eliminate scratches and stains, keeping the binoculars in excellent working condition for years to come.
Keep Out of the Sun
The sun can cause intense heat and damage the lens coating. Keeping the binoculars off the dash and in a cool and dry place can prolong the life, and quality, of the unit.
Rangefinders have become essential for every hunter. This distance device is small enough to fit anywhere, meaning it is often the most carelessly stored. It can fall out of pockets, become damaged in bags, and be frequently susceptible to moisture. Just like binoculars, rangefinders tend to experience most of our abuse. That’s why it’s important to understand proper care techniques to assure it’s accurately reading distance when it’s needed the most.
Keep it in a Case
Keep the rangefinder out of the elements and away from any dust and debris as frequently as possible. This means keeping it in a designated case whenever it’s not being used to determine distance. Avoid throwing it in a bag or pocket.
Keep it Secure
Keep it clipped or strapped to the chest as much as possible. This not only helps keep it from getting lost, but also help reduces that every day wear and tear.
Use a Designated Cloth and Cleaning Kit
Just like binoculars, using the right fabric and cleaning supplies can mean the difference between a scratch or perfect lens. Always keep the manufacturers cloth along to assure the lens is being cleaned the responsible way.
The battery cover can easily become loose and fall out. This means losing battery and losing power. It’s important to periodically check the rangefinder’s components when in the field to help assure all parts are secure and in proper working order.
Remove Battery When Possible
This is most important when dealing with long-term storage. However, it’s not a bad idea for long periods in the field, either. Removing the battery helps prolong its lifespan.
Riflescope field care differs from binoculars and rangefinders. This is because most rifles have to be kept in the elements so it’s ready for that big moment. This means there are times when carrying it in a protective case isn’t an option. Instead, it’s important to focus on the components that can be easily protected.
Use the Caps
It’s not always the most convenient to keep the scope lenses covered up. However, it can save the life of the lens. When walking through brush or heavily wooded areas, the lens becomes susceptible to scratches. Not to mention, any rain, snow, or condensation can make or break that next shot. Just one more reason to keep them covered in the field.
Clean the Right Way
It’s easy to forget that a riflescope needs to be cleaned in a similar matter as other optics: frequently and with care. It’s essential to use the right cloth to wipe away access moisture and to clean lens after long days in the woods. Absolutely avoid getting any solvent, oil, or spit for that matter, on the lens. Instead, use a cleaning brush and water to wipe the lens clean.
Transport in a Protected Case when Possible
Most of the time, being in the field means the rifle is on a sling mounted on the back. However, during those time when hunting calls for an off-road machine, a horseback ride, or navigating with a truck, it’s important that the entire unit is protected within a padded case. This will assure the scope doesn’t move and the lenses are protected. If the firearm is dropped, there will still be a chance the rifle and scope are properly aligned.
Spotting scopes are large, expensive, and relatively fragile optics than no one wants to mistreat. They can easily run over $1,000, therefore replacing them for most people isn’t an option. That’s why proper care is crucial to getting the most out of the investment.
Keep it Padded
Just like a rifle scope, padded packing is essential. One major drop and the unit, as well as it’s lenses, will be damaged. Keeping the scope in its padded case as frequently as possible.
Keep the Eyepiece Attached
Taking the eyepiece off the body can make it more vulnerable to dust, debris, moisture and damage. Therefore, always keep the eyepiece attached when using and transporting it in the field.
Keep it in a Dry Bag
When possible, it’s wise to keep a spotting scope in a dry bag. Due to their size, spotting scopes don’t fit in waterproof pockets or can be easily covered in case of adverse weather. Therefore, to avoid water wreaking havoc on the lens, it’s best to keep that expensive investment in a dry bag.
Only Use the Designated Cloth
Just like all optics, it’s essential to only use designated cleaning and drying supplies provided by the manufacturers to avoid damage to the lens.
Field Care Recap
Quality optics are an important part of finding success in the field. However, they don’t come cheap. That is why it’s important to properly care for your optics both off and in the field. All optics should be protected from dust and debris as much as possible, kept in a padded case, and only cleaned with a designated cloth and cleanser (or simply water). Putting the time and effort into properly caring for our optics and make or break the success of the next month (and our budget).