What’s the Best Budget Spotting Scope?

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Spotting scopes can get extremely expensive. The further you want to be able to zoom with clarity the higher the price. Models from manufacturers like Swarovski and Leupold can set you back thousands of dollars.

When prices get to those levels you’re essentially paying pay for the quality of the glass and sometimes for the feature set of the scope.

If you’re on a budget or you’re getting your first scope to test the water, you don’t want to shell out stacks of cash for it. You want something feature packed, good quality and with a wholesome price tag.

Yes, you won’t be able to see as far and with as good quality and focus as with more expensive scopes, but for the majority of users wanting to hunt, target shoot or go birding there is no need to pay extreme amounts for an optic that gets the job done.

With today’s economy there are a few manufacturers on the scene selling reasonable quality optics with all the expected features that really don’t cost the earth. We’ve listed a bunch of these below and after a little discussion on what make good budget scopes we’ll take you through each one in more detail.

Budget Spotting Scope Top Picks

Note: Our individual reviews are below, but you can also click any of the links above to check current prices on Amazon

Budget Spotting Scopes – What to look for

For those who like videos, here’s a general guide to choosing spotting scopes from Optics Planet…

Price to Performance Ratio

Is a $2000 dollar scope really 20 times better than a $100 dollar scope?

In order to answer that question you really need to define what ‘better’ means to you. Is it clarity, focus, field of view, eye relief, durability, water and fog proofing, or all of those features?

If you’ve not owned many scopes and don’t really know what you’re looking at it’s very doubtful that you will be able to reap the benefits of a $2000 scope investment. Pick any of a bunch of $100 cheap spotting scopes and it will do 60% of the job of a $2000 dollar scope. And and it won’t cost you anywhere near 60% of $2000 (that’s $1200 in case you were wondering!).

Higher prices scopes with better image quality will give you clearer, brighter and less distorted images at the highest zoom. But as you go further up the spotter scope price range the returns on your investment diminish.

For the majority of users… unless you’re going to be pushing a budget spotting scope to its absolute limits all the time it will work just fine for you, and save you a load of spondoolicks.

Types of Prisms/Glass

What do BAK4 and BAK7 mean? Does it matter at this price?

You’ll see reference in specifications to the type of glass used in the prism of spotting scopes. BaK stands for BaritleichKron which is german for “Barium Crown”. In short, when you’re buying a budget optic, that specification is just a small piece of the whole puzzle that doesn’t tell you anything really about the quality of one optic to another. There are so many other quality factors to consider, that really you need to pick based on reviews of what you or others see through them. (p.s. that’s why we’ve written this article!).

Optical Coatings

You’ll rarely find even a budget optic with anything less than fully multi-coated lenses inside. Fully multi-coated means that there are multiple layers of coating on all lens surfaces. A coating that is designed to help enhance the natural properties of the glass to transmit as much light as possible.

Fully multi-coated optics have the best type of coating. Better than coated, fully coated or multi-coated.

Again, that specification however is no testament to the number of layers of coating applied, and the quality of that process and indeed the actual type of coating. So don’t be misled.

Objective Lens Size / Aperture / Zoom

First off, you know what the numbers mean right

Very briefly a bigger objective size or aperture on a scope gives you (generally) a heavier and longer scope with higher zoom.  

Your choice of objective lens size should take into account how portable you want the scope to be and just how far you want to be able to see.

When you’re choosing a budget scope you may need to limit your expectations as to just how clear and focused the image quality at max zoom will be. 40x-60x zoom levels aren’t practical to use without some sort of tripod. If you don’t have one all you’ll see is a large magnification of tiny movements in your hand. Making it look like you’re shaking quite badly (when in fact you aren’t).

Angled or Straight?

There are 2 main types of scope available, angled or straight. Which one is best for you depends really on what you’ll be using it for. There are pros and cons for both and we’ve covered all of them already with a handy breakdown of who need what for which activities..

Straight vs Angled Spotting Scope
An angled (top) and straight (bottom) spotting scope

Warranties and Customer Service (or lack of)

One of the things the budget scope market won’t give you is a long or a lifetime warranty on their products.

Warranties and Customer Service (or lack of)

One of the things the budget scope market won’t give you is a long or a lifetime warranty on their products.

In fact you’ll be lucky to get any warranty at all aside from the retailers or manufacturers guarantee that the product will work when you receive it.

If you do get a manufacturers warranty, don’t be immediately sold, how easily can you actually claim against it and how good is customer service? Is there even a distributor in your country?

Budget scopes... customer service levels may vary.
Budget scopes… customer service levels may vary.

Budget spotting scopes simply aren’t going to have the same build quality as high-end scopes. So you can’t expect the same guarantee and quality of service. Today’s budget products are designed to be used and when they break, you buy a new one.


Everyone wants a durable scope. One that comes with a little bit of rubberized armor and helps protect against scuffs and the odd knock.

Waterproofing and fog-proofing are pretty much also standard features even on low quality optics that have been purged with nitrogen gases and sealed (having no oxygen inside a scope means no fogging and protection against internal framework rust).

What you need to remember here is that just how waterproof and durable are these optics going to be? Do they adhere to any standard? How strict is the factory quality control? Your milage is going to vary with a budget optic vs a mid-high level optic.

So don’t expect something that you can use to climb the highest local peaks in any conditions regularly without any sign of ever failing.


One thing that many budget scope manufacturers have been doing recently is throwing in a host of nice little extras to make their scopes more attractive to the buyer. Soft and hard cases, tripods, scoping adapters, and cleaning cloths are all commonly found giveaways.

The quality of these extras in our picks are going to be basically up-to the job. That’s not to say you won’t be able to find a better case or a better tripod out there with more features that’s easier to use, but the freebies are certainly nice to have.

Budget Spotting Scope on Tabletop Tripod
A common freebie accessory the tabletop tripod

Spotting Scope Reviews – Our Top Picks In Detail

GoSky 20-60x80mm

Gosky 20-60 X 80 Porro Prism Spotting Scope- Waterproof Scope for Bird Watching Target Shooting Archery Range Outdoor Activities -with Tripod & Digiscoping Adapter
Click the picture to see more details and user reviews on Amazon

GoSky are a brand name on top of a generic ‘Made in China’ scope. You’ll see these exact same scopes listed on other sites with other brand names. This is a mass produced white-label product. But don’t let that put you off, a lot of budget stuff is sold like this.

In terms of features this scope has fully multi-coated lenses, armor, and it is waterproof and fog-proofing.

It’s an angled spotting scope but the eyepiece can be rotated so you can easily use it looking skyward, or from a car window mount for example. The objective lens also has a retractable sun-shade.

With good accessories, this scope seems to be aimed at the amateur birder or nature enthusiast as it comes with a small tripod, soft snug fitting case and cell-phone adapter for digiscoping. The usual lens caps and cleaning cloth are also supplied.

The digiscoping phone adapter is a universal mount that has jaws to hold your phone and a thumbscrew to position it on the scope. This type of mount can be a little fiddly to use repeatedly and regularly as every time you attach the phone some minor adjustment is usually needed. But for basics and the odd photograph it works fine, we’d recommend a permanent swing away style adapter for more enthusiastic birding.

Due to the large 80mm lens this weighs about 1200 grams, so isn’t the lightest or most compact of scopes but it does manage to give clear pictures of target holes at anywhere from 100 to 250 yards so great for target shooters and archers.

You may struggle to get absolutely clear focus at maximum zoom but for most users this optic offers an exceptional price/performance point.

What we liked:
  • Amazing value
  • Tripod and phone digiscoping adapter
  • Armored
  • Weatherproof
  • Sun-shade
  • 12 month warranty
  • Angled Only
  • Fiddly phone adapter

Check the Price on Amazon!

Emarth 20-60x60mm

Emarth 20-60x60AE 45 Degree Angled Spotting Scope with Tripod, Phone Adapter, Carry Bag, Scope for Target Shooting Bird Watching Hunting Wildlife
Click the picture to see more details and user reviews on Amazon

If you see this scope listed with AE at the end of the name outside of what the other numbers mean the AE stands for ‘Angled Eyepiece’. That’s because this one is also available in an SE ‘Straight Eyepiece’ version for hunters and other users who prefer to sight in exactly the same direction as their target.

As the Emarth is only a 60mm objective lens the weight and size of the scope is much reduced. This one only 600 or so grams to carry and 350 mm in length.

Emarth include a table-top tripod with this scope and a carry case that includes a compartment to keep it in, and keep it separate from the scope. Smaller and more portable this scope is designed for the trekker or hunter that wants to get out and about with it.

With that in mind this one is also waterproof, fogproof and comes with the usual rubberized armor coating although it isn’t what we’d call ‘rugged’.

If you want to target shoot at anything from say 200 – 300 yards and see the target holes clearly you may want to look at a larger more powerful scope, but for 100 yards and normal archery distances this will work fine.

If you opt for the AE version, the angled scope, it’s worth noting that the eyepiece is fixed, no rotation. Not great for a car window mount.

Emarth are another generic ‘made in china’ butting spotting scope brand but this is a great piece of kit so don’t let that put you off.

What we liked:
  • Compact and Light
  • Straight (SE) version available
  • Useful carry bag that takes the tripod
  • Waterproof
  • 12 month warranty
  • Eyepiece does not rotate

Check the Price on Amazon!

Barska Colorado 15-40x50mm

BARSKA 15-40x50 Colorado Spotting Scope , Black
Click the picture to see more details and user reviews on Amazon

Barska is a name you may have heard of. They’re actually a brand with a decent website and a presence in the US. That’s something to bear in mind if you’re thinking about taking them up on the limited lifetime warranty offer this scope comes with.

You’ll find their gear in many US outlets and sporting good stores. The Colorado scope is their entry level scope and is usually an absolute steal in terms of price if you’re only wanting to see clearly up-to 150 yards or so.

Due to the exceptionally low price tag, not all the usual features can be found on this scope. It has fully coated lenses (not multi coated, just fully coated, so all surfaces exposed to air are coated, not internal surfaces and only once). It isn’t waterproof and isn’t fogproof.

It does however have shock proof armor. There are rubberized strips down the sides of both sections of the scope which are designed to take the impact should you drop this from any height onto a hard surface. We didn’t actually try breaking one, but this type of armor would suit an outdoorsman.For long distance birding, shooting or hunting uses you’ll need to skip this one as even the manufacturers state that over 150 yards and you’re going to struggle to get a clear image. But this scope is an ideal choice for the short range target shooter, hunter or archer.

What we liked:
  • An absolute bargain
  • Shock absorbing armor
  • Small Tripod and case
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Not fully multi-coated lenses
  • Not waterproof or fogproof
  • Clear only upto about 150 yards

Check the Price on Amazon!

Roxant Blackbird HD 12-36x50mm

ROXANT Blackbird Spotting Scope - 12-36x50 High Definition Telescope with Zoom - Includes Spotting Scope, Tripod & Carrying Case
Click the picture to see more details and user reviews on Amazon

Roxant are by no means a household name yet. They don’t have a large presence online or in the marketplace, but they do offer a small range of ‘cool’ products, this scope being one.

With that lack of presence and company size also comes a seeming lack of warranty. You get lifetime support with this, not really sure what that is but it’s not a warranty by any stretch.

As you’d expect this comes with a small table-top tripod, a case and lens caps. So an okay accessory package but nothing special.

Where this scope excels is in the specification for the price. It has an adjustable eyepiece meaning you can extend or retract it to get your eyes correctly positioned if you’re a spectacle wearer.

There’s an adjustable sun-shade on the end of the objective lens and the lens cap is attached to the scope so you won’t easily lose it. That’s a nice touch.

Whilst this scope only has a small magnification range 12-36x and a relatively small objective lens 50mm it does however offer crisp and clear focused images all the way through that range and doesn’t advertise itself to be usable at zoom levels that it can’t handle.

Great for all users, shooters and archers up-to say 150 yards or so and hunters, outdoorsmen and naturists who want something compact and light that gives clear images all the way through it’s zoom range.

What we liked:
  • Adjustable eyepiece
  • Sun shade
  • Small Tripod and case
  • Attached front lens cap (not easily lost)
  • Compact and light
  • Not waterproof
  • Lifetime support? No real warranty except the retailer guarantee

Check the Price on Amazon!

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With all the hunting gear out there today, it can sometimes be difficult to determine what you need and what you don’t need.

If you never tried to sort it out, you would be left with a pickup bed full of stuff to take on each and every hunt. Some hunters choose items A,B,C, while others opt for X,Y,Z.

One piece of gear that is increasingly becoming standard equipment with nearly every hunter is a rangefinder. If you are on the hunt for the best and are working to a budget, this article will show you the options we think are worth your consideration.

Note: Our individual reviews are below, but you can also click any of the links above to check current prices on Amazon

What to look for…

Here are the top 8 features to consider when buying a rangefinder. We’ve also gone into some detail previously about how rangefinders work if you’re after more background info.


When it comes to accuracy, rangefinder technology has come a long way in the past few decades. Even when searching for budget rangefinders, you should be able to buy a product that is accurate to within +/-1 yard/meter. Don’t foget that’s the advertised capability, that type of accuracy may be under ideal conditions and the type of item you are ranging will usually not! 

Range is a similar story. Some rangefinders are rated to over a kilometer, while some won’t work past 200 m. How far your rangefinder needs to work will depend on whether you rifle hunt or bow hunt.

Less than 200 yards works great for bow-hunting and the units usually cost at lot less. Don’t forget that range is also impacted by weather conditions and the type of item you are ranging. Highly reflective items, such as a road signs, will range further away than a living animal like a deer. Some manufacturers tell you the max range for certain types of items, and others will not.

Ease of Operation

Another feature you may want to consider is how the rangefinder measures distance. Some work only in yards, some work only in meters, and others will allow you to toggle back and forth. For the average hunter this might not be an issue, but for some target shooters it might be worth considering.

Another aspect of a rangefinder’s ease is the number of buttons they have. Some models come with only 1 button making them very simple to operate. Others come with a variety of different buttons, giving the unit more versatility. It’s all about what you want. 

Finally, certain models have the ability to select different points of measurement. This allows you to switch between the tree branch, fence post, and buck deer that are all in your field of vision. This can be very handy in certain situations.

ARC, AI, Tilt and Elevation

Another feature you may want included on your rangefinder is an ARC, AI, Tilt, or Elevation capability. Each of these denote the same feature, it just depends on what company you are buying from. Basically, the feature automatically computes a “shoot like” distance as well as actual line of sight distance.

Here is an example that might help make the feature make sense.

Say you are in a tree-stand about 20 feet up, when a nice whitetail buck walks by a tree that is 20 yards away. If you shoot at the deer with your 20 yard pin, you will miss because of the added angle.

The ARC feature will tell you the horizontal distance is 20 yards, but the “shoot like” distance is only 16 yards. 


Different rangefinders come with different battery options. Some will require you to use standard AA or CV batteries, while others are rechargeable. Each style has its own set of advantages. Replacing batteries is nice for the fact that if you are in the field you can simply swap them out for spares you’ve taken with you and keep working.

On the other hand, rechargeable batteries are great because you don’t have to keep buying spares! While most rangefinders seem to have a good battery life, it is still something you should consider.

Magnification and Objective Lens Size

The next thing to consider is how the optics on the rangefinder work. Each rangefinder will come with a set of numbers, say 4 x 21mm. The first number in this number combo is the magnification. In this case the object will be 4 times as big as you can see it with your naked eye. The more magnification you have, the more precise you can be when you range.  

On the other hand, a rangefinder with more magnification will decrease the total space you can see at one time (the field of view). 

The second number is the objective lens size and refers to the size of the lens in millimeters. The larger the lens the more light it will collect and the easier it will be to see.

Conversely, the larger the lens the larger the overall unit is likely to be. If you are looking for something compact you might want a smaller lens. We’ve an entire piece on scope numbers if you’d like to know more.

Example of 1x, 2x, 4x and 8x magnification
Example of 1x, 2x, 4x and 8x magnification


Another option you will want consider looking for when you buy your budget rangefinder is ensuring the unit is fog-proof and waterproof. On many occasions when you are out in the field these two can come into play. If your rangefinder doesn’t claim to be fog and waterproof, it could wind up letting moisture into the unit and ruin the hunt.

These simple features are guaranteed on many models, and something you will likely want to check off before making your purchase. 


One feature that you may also want to consider is getting a rangefinder that comes with armor, or a skin. These protective cases can be made of several different materials, but silicon rubber is perhaps the most common. These sorts of cases can help absorb the shock if your rangefinder happens to fall, and can help keep it clean as well. Skins can be a ‘nice to have’, but by no means required. 


Finally, some rangefinders come with tethers and cases. While neither of these are required they might be appealing. Tethers are a nice way to carry your rangefinder in the field and cases can keep it from getting damaged. 

Rangefinder Reviews – Our Top Picks In Detail

Wosports Lion W600

Golf Rangefinder, Laser Range Finder with Slope, Golf Trajectory Mode, Flag-Lock and Distance/Speed/Angle Measurement - Golf Scope (Green Without Slope)
Click the picture to see more details and user reviews on Amazon

A compact popular choice,

The Wosports Lions W600 rangefinder is one of the most popular budget rangefinders out there. It has a range that reaches out to 600 yards with a +/-1 yard accuracy. This capability makes it suitable for most hunting situations.

In terms of optics this unit is a 6 x 25 mm unit which would make it a good choice for rifle hunters who might need the extra magnification.

A 25 mm optical lens is good enough to let a decent amount of light in for average clarity.

One of the biggest draws to the Wosports rangefinder is the size. It is very small (127 x 80 x 43 mm) and light as well. Hunters looking for a unit they can throw in their pack for an extended backpacking trip, or those who want to keep their pack as small as possible, will certainly find this attractive.

One downside of this unit is that it runs on a CR2 3v battery. While these batteries can be picked up at major outlet stores, they aren’t common in smaller shops. If you are leaving town for an extended hunt, you wouldn’t want to leave the house without a few spares in case your battery would happen to die. The unit also does not claim to be either waterproof or fogproof. If you hunt an area with a good amount of moisture, this may not be a good fit.The Lions W600 also comes complete with a rubberized skin and a black carrying case. The case has a small carabiner that allows you to clip it to your backpack or belt loop if you want to. While this can be handy, most hunters find a tether a more convenient option. That being said, it likely won’t be a make-or-break aspect of this particular rangefinder. 

What we liked:

  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • 6x magnification


  • Uncommon battery
  • Not fog or waterproof

Check the Price on Amazon!

TecTecTec Pro Wild

TecTecTec ProWild Hunting Rangefinder 6X Magnification, up to 540 Yards Laser Range Finder for Hunting with Range Scan, Speed Mode, CR2 Battery, and High-Precision Fast Measurements - Camo
Click the picture to see more details and user reviews on Amazon

Another option is the TecTecTec Pro Wild rangefinder. This unit doesn’t reach out quite as far as the Wosports W600, but it still claims to range objects out to 540 yards.

Another option is the TecTecTec Pro Wild rangefinder. This unit doesn’t reach out quite as far as the Wosports W600, but it still claims to range objects out to 540 yards.

Again, this sort of distance makes it ideal for the average rifle hunter. If you are into taking really long shots, then this might not be for you. The optical lens is 6 x magnification, so objects in the 500 yard range should still be clear enough to get a solid reading. 

This is also a compact unit. Measuring at 104 x 72 x 41 mm it is slightly smaller than the Wosports unit and is also lightweight. Again, this is ideal if you just don’t have that much room in your pack or you are going to be doing a good deal of hiking. It also comes complete with a case and lanyard. 

Another feature you might find appealing on this rangefinder is the sleek camo look. The woodland camo pattern will blend into most hunting areas, and is a very common pattern for clothing, bows, and backpacks as well. Not that it is a deal sealer, but looking cool never hurts.On the downside the TecTecTec Pro Wild is getting some feedback that it might not be the most accurate rangefinder on the market. Although it boasts a +/- 1 yard accuracy, in the field it may take a few readings to determine distance. If you shoot in situations where precision is absolutely necessary, this rangefinder may not be a great choice. However, for shooters used to Kentucky windage, the variability may not be a concern.

What we liked:

  • Camo pattern
  • 6 x magnification
  • Lanyard


  • Disputed accuracy

Check the Price on Amazon!

Halo XL450-7

Halo XL450 Range Finder, 450 Yard laser range finder for rifle and bow hunting , black
Click the picture to see more details and user reviews on Amazon

Worth a serious look is the Halo XL450-7. This dandy little unit maxes out at only 450 yards, but that shouldn’t be a concern for bowhunters.

One feature that bowhunters specifically are sure to love is the AI feature. This is one unit that is capable of compensating the impact of an angle on the shot.

Since bowhunters often hunt out of trees, and precision is paramount, this feature is a wonderful addition. Also, with 6x magnification, whatever you are trying to draw a bead on is sure enough going to be clear.

In addition to its AI technology, this Halo rangefinder also is simple. It has a one button working mode, which makes it ideal for those hunters out there who may not be tech savvy. Another feature you may really appreciate is the featherlight 5 ounce design. This thing is so light, you won’t even know you are carrying it as you pack to your stand. Finally, the unit is water resistant but not waterproof. This means it can stand water, but shouldn’t be taken to a location known to be frequently saturated.

On the downside, the Halo XL450-7 doesn’t come with any cases or lanyards, just a simple wrist sling. For some people this won’t be a huge issue, while for others it might be a deal breaker.

Also, like many rangefinders on this list, the display can be difficult to read in low light conditions. This can cause some problems for hunters since most animals move during the twilight minutes of the day. If you have a hard time seeing in low light, it might not be a good choice.

What we liked:

  • Angle compensation
  • Feather light


  • Lack of case/tether
  • Dark display

Check the Price on Amazon!

Nikon 8397 ACULON AL 11

Nikon 8397 ACULON AL11 Laser Rangefinder
Click the picture to see more details and user reviews on Amazon

One of the big company names on this list is the Nikon 8397 ACULON AL 11 rangefinder. The ACULON has a maximum distance of 550 yards, making it ideal for gun hunters and bowhunters alike.

This is Nikon’s small rangefinding unit, measuring at just 3.6″x2.9″x1.5″ in size. It’s so small, it perhaps can fit inside your coat pocket. It also is another one of those rangefinders that is absolutely easy to use.

With just one button you won’t have to worry about pushing the correct one when your deer finally comes within shooting distance. 

The ACULON also does a little better in low light conditions than some of the other rangefinders on this list. This feature will likely be appealing to a wide range of hunters out there, especially those with poorer eyesight. This Nikon product also gains a mark of approval for its highly rated accuracy. Nikon is a company that has been in the optics game for a while and makes good equipment. If you are looking to buy from an experienced manufacturer, this rangefinder might be a good choice.

On the downside, while the ACULON is accurate in measurement, it is a little touchy when it comes to picking up objects. This can be especially true for many rangefinders, and seems to be so with this model. If you are into hunting small game, or are in fast shooting situation where you can’t afford to range twice, this might not be a good choice. Overall though, it a solid unit that is a good option for the average weekend warrior hunter.

What we liked:

  • Proven brand name
  • Very small


  • No tilt feature
  • Can be temperamental

Check the Price on Amazon!

Simmons 801600 Volt 600

Simmons 801600 Volt 600 Laser Rangefinder, Black
Click the picture to see more details and user reviews on Amazon

Finally on our list of budget rangefinders is the Simmons 801600 Volt 600. Like the Wosport, this Simmons rangefinder can reach out to 600 yards.

This added distance not only impacts the far range of its potential, but also makes it able to pick up intermediary objects easier. It also claims to be able to pick up animals like deer at 200 yards.

Oftentimes rangefinders list their maximum range when ranging highly reflective objects. It isn’t unheard of to have a 600 yard range, but only target deer at 200 yards. Also, like many other rangefinders, the Volt 600 can read in meters or in yards, so you can make that change if necessary.

Like many of Simmons products, this model has gained a reputation for having a clear display that is easy to use. Again, if your eyesight isn’t what it used to be, this might be easier to look through. Also the one button design might be an attribute you will appreciate. Sometimes simple is best, and the Simmons Volt 600 is that for sure.

While this simple unit has some strengths, it also has some downsides as well. First off, the magnification is only a 4x. For bowhunters working under 50 yards, this shouldn’t be a big issue. However, for gun hunters this might come into play. This might be especially true given the unit claims to be capable out to 600 yards. At that distance it would be nice to have a 6x magnification on this unit.  

What we liked:

  • 600 yard range
  • Clear optics
  • Simple operation


  • Only 4x magnification

Check the Price on Amazon!

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