Monday, November 30, 2009

Binoculars & telescopic sights for Survival?

"What do I need binoculars for? If I really need to see something up close I can just get closer." While it's true you can get by without many pieces of equipment having the right gear at the right moment can give you a big advantage.

What do you need binoculars for? Recognizing friend or foe as a person or group approaches your position. Discovering what's going on 'over there' without exposing yourself and/or revealing your position.

But best of all binoculars are great for seeing into the shadows, binoculars gather light from their large objective lens and focus it down to the smaller exit pupil lens thus "amplifying" the available light making binoculars extremely advantageous in low light situations like around sunrise, sunset and on moonlit nights.

Short version: image magnifying optics give you an observational (intel) advantage over those without them.

The first thing you'll notice when looking through binoculars, telescopes or telescopic sights is that the image, although bigger, seems to shake. The greater the magnification or 'power' of the optics the more pronounced the perceived shaking. Really powerful optics need to be steadied to be useful. Note the mount for the naval (or artillery) binoculars in the picture

As a surplus dealer I acquired many binoculars (both military and civilian) over the years. Most I resold, but I hung onto four of the best; three new military equivalent ("armored") Steiner's and a Fuji M24 in near new condition. I almost didn't keep the Fujinon's because it's so light, small and looks so plain. In fact, if it weren’t for their sturdiness you'd mistake them for those cheap things they sell on late night TV until you looked through the lens and saw the quality of the image. The Fujis have become my most used binoculars.

From a web site selling the Fuji Apache (civilian version of the military model) binoculars:

"After the Gulf War, the U.S. Army decided that it wanted more "eyes" on the battlefield. The Army developed a specification called the "M-24" which was designed to be a compact binocular that would fit in the pocket of a battle dress uniform (BDU) and be as rugged, have the same magnification, and nearly equal the optical performances of the bigger binoculars. The 7x28 Apache is built to the same tough standards as the M24 binoculars. The new M24 is the first "pocket-sized" military binocular ever issued on a large scale. The optional reticle (left view side) allows for easy range or distance estimation."

It's an apt description; I've carried my M24's in my shirt pocket a couple of times. Note the civilian version is marketed as the "Apache" rather than as the M24 military model. The difference being in the placement of the carrying strap lugs on the Apache and the existence of anti-laser lens coatings on the lens and the reticle (ranging grid) in the left lens of the M24 military model.

In normal civilian use and after TEOTWAWKI the likelihood of your needing to protect your eyes from laser beams (anti-laser coating) or call in artillery (reticle) is slight so for our purposes here the M24 and the Apache are virtually the same since both have anti reflective and anti glare lens coatings.

As of this writing Weems & Plath list the Apache for $439.99 which is a good deal considering the quality involved.

Fujinon currently has the contract to manufacture the military's M24 model. They sell a civilian version (which they market as the "7 x 28 M") in Europe, but I've not heard of it being available over here.

Of my armored Steiner binos the 6 X 30 is the smallest, but it would take a pretty big pocket to carry them in. As of this writing they retail online for about$239.00

The next two Steiner's are both 7 X 50 Military Marine armored binoculars with the larger of the two having a reticle on the right side lens. However it seems Steiner has discontinued these models in favor of 10 X 50 models so I won't go into mine here. Suffice to say any Steiner binocular is among the best in the world.

Telescopes (รก la spyglasses like Long John Silver and the Pirates of the Caribbean used to use) are generally about as bulky (longer rather than wider) as binoculars and don't have the depth perception advantage of binocular vision. Unless you've already got a good one, or are offered one at a fantastic price, eschew them.

Telescopic Sights
Probably easier to steady than binoculars, but without the advantages of binocular vision, rifle scopes serve a dual role as observation tool and aiming device. Be aware that anyone seeing you observing through a rifle scope will assume the worst. Actually, if you're going to be doing any hunting, having scopes on your rifles helps you get more and cleaner hits.

The ability to more closely observe something without getting closer to it is an advantage to sports fans, bird watchers, hunters & snipers that shouldn't be overlooked by survivalists.

Quality optics will give you good resolution, contrast, color fidelity, brightness, and overall image quality so spend as much as you can afford keeping in mind the pre-TEOTWAWKI fun applications you can put them to as you pencil them in on the "survival" side of the home ledger so as to keep the family budget under control.

[G writes:]
When using binoculars offhand, steadying the image can be a challenge. My uncle taught me this method – maybe it will help someone else.

Grasp the barrels of the binoculars with your ring and pinky fingers of both hands. Rest the tips of your middle and forefingers on your temples, and rest your thumbs on your cheek bones. Works pretty well, if you do not have a more secure rest to steady the view.

[I tried this technique and it works, thanks G!]

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