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A Test & Evaluation of the Bushnell Marine Binoculars

by J.B. Hohlfeld

Several months ago, Aaron Zelman sent us a couple of optical items that he wanted us to field test for him. One of those items was a pair of the 7x50mm Bushnell 'Marine' binoculars, Model #13-7500.

Straight out of the box, I thought I was looking at a pair of the old Tasco binoculars which we had tested ten years ago. Though there are similarities with the Tasco's, there are also some very big differences, which our field testing proved out.

Square one, the Bushnell Marine binoculars will not fit into your shirt pocket, or even into a cargo pocket on your BDU's. At eight inches wide, by seven inches long, by two and three quarter inches thick, these are full size military style binoculars, which are also two and one half pounds in weight. The best way to utilize these binoculars is at a fixed position, ie: stake-out position, or an OP/LP type position.

To aid you in field carry, Bushnell provides a large padded carry case with a shoulder strap. Bushnell also provides a neck strap, which helps you in the out of the case carry/observation mode.

A quick tour of the out side of the Bushnell Marine binoculars gives us the following: (1) The objective lenses are a full 50mm inside diameter, with a plastic dust cover for each objective lens. Since the lens covers are not attached to the binoculars, be careful not to lose them. (2) The eyepiece/focus lenses at the rear of the binoculars have a one piece lens cover system, which is attached to the neck strap, so no problem losing it. The inside diameter of the eyepiece lenses is 16.5mm for each eyepiece lens, which means that the potential light transmission capabilities of these Bushnell binoculars is excellent. Do not look for a center focus drum on these binoculars, there isn't one. Each eyepiece is individually rotated for proper focusing, which can be a bad thing for you, but a plus for someone like me because I normally focus each eyepiece for a different distance, ie; I'll set the right 'monocular' for objects at 100 meters, and the left 'monocular for objects which are at 200, or 300 meters. I've used this system for many years and it works great for me. You will have to test it for yourself and go with what works for you. (3) When you look at the top of the Bushnell Marine binoculars, you will see three 'buttons'. The white 'button' is actually a small translucent plastic 'window", which allows light to pass into the binoculars during daylight hours. The next 'button' you will see, has a coin slot in it, because this is the battery compartment access cover. The final 'button' you will come to, is actually a button, which controls an internal light diode for night usage of the binoculars.

Having completed the outside tour of the binoculars, let's take a tour of what we have inside the binoculars. When you look through the eyepieces, you will notice two things: (1) There are vertical and horizontal lines (scales), in your direct field of view. (2) When you look at the six o'clock area of your field of view, there is a 'window' which allows you to look at a floating compass bezel. The obvious question about the compass is, is it just a sales gimmick? Quick answer NO, it is not a sales gimmick. It is a real compass, which you can use as a real compass. Here is my opinion on compasses in general: (1) Any type of compass, is better than not having one at all. (2) Anyone putting out to sea, or going into the bush, should have a map and compass - Period. Example: Here in the mountains of northern New Mexico, we lose an average of 3-4 day hikers per summer, who went off looking for a hidden fishing hole, or the panoramic view, or Bambi. Because they did not have any type of compass, they end up as part of the food chain.

Earlier, I mentioned that when you look through the eyepieces of the binoculars you also see vertical and horizontal scales (lines). If you know the proper formula, you can use these scales to determine your distance from an object, or you can determine the height of an object. Before we get into exactly how to use the scales in the Bushnell Marine binoculars, we need to take a side trip into history. We know that there are 360 degrees in a circle and/or 360 degrees on a compass bezel. For Napoleon's artillery people, the degree was not accurate enough, ergo, they subdivided the existing circle/compass bezel into 6,400-MILS. The end result was much greater accuracy for their vertical or horizontal cannon shifts during battle. Here is what we need to know about the MIL:

One-MIL of angle is equal to approximately 1.8 meters, at a distance of 1,000 meters. For us, 1.8 meters translates to 72 inches in height, or in ground distance, at 1,000 meters. Moving back to the Bushnell Marine binoculars, we notice that there are small 'tick marks' on both the vertical and horizontal scales. Bushnell tells us that there is a 5 MIL angle between each of these 'tick-marks' and that we can easily compute our distance from the local light house by using their MIL scales. Local Lighthouse? Obviously, we have a shortage of lighthouses in the Rocky Mountains, ergo, we had to come up with something else. Assuming that someone is 72 inches tall, when you 'bracket' them between the 5 MIL 'tick-marks', their distance from you is approximately 183 meters (200 yards). If our 72 inch person fits into one half of the 5 MIL 'bracket', they are about 732 meters (800 yards) from you. If you are attempting to estimate the firing distance to Bambi with these binoculars, good luck!

In my opinion, Bushnell is missing out on a larger market share by not having a 'Ground' version of these binoculars, ie; they can use the same binoculars, but change the vertical and horizontal MIL scales to 1-MIL increment, so that any hunter could use them to calculate their ground distance from Bambi. One last item regarding the compass and MIL scale reticle. They are both housed in the Left Monocular Tube, ergo, do not damage the left tube!

It's field testing time... According to Bushnell, their Marine binoculars are waterproof, so you know what our first test was! Yep, into a bucket of water for 72 hours. They had a tenancy to float, but the addition of a 5-LB weight plate cured that. At 72 hours we took them out of the water, shook them off, and saw the world clearly. No problem there. Since it was still winter here when Aaron sent us his binoculars, the fogproof test was also very easy to do. We put his binoculars into a snow bank for four days and nights. The average daytime temperature was about (+) 45 degrees, with the nighttime temperatures at (-) 19 degrees (F). Bottomline, the Bushnell Marine binoculars are fogproof too. A point to remember regarding any glass optics and fogging. When you move glass optics from a warm building to the cold outdoors, you will get moisture freeze on the outer lens surfaces. By the same token, when you move from cold to warm, you will get moisture condensation (water fog), on the outer lens surfaces. The Bushnell binoculars exhibited all of the above during field testing. Knowing this, what is the best way to deal with it? If you can, leave your binoculars, or rifle scope, out in the cold.

While I am on the subject of glass optics, I need to remind you of a few things regarding your binoculars, or rifle scopes. Here at Ranger Outreach Center, we teach two levels of Precision Rifle. One level is open to the general public, while the advanced level is restricted to Police/Military only. We have worked with glass optics quite a bit over the years, so here are a few tips:

1. DO NOT over clean your glass optics. Remember your optics are only as good as the lens 'coating' which is applied to them at the factory. The lens 'coating' is on the outside surface of the lens, ergo, protect it and do not over clean it.

2. We DO NOT recommend the use of 'lens paper', because it is too easy to rub too hard/too long, and cut right through the 'coating' on your lenses, thereby creating a peperweight. For all of our glass optics, we use Kodak liquid lens cleaner and very well laundered cotton t-shirt, or soft cotton Q-tips. When in doubt, go see the professionals at your local camera shop.

3. When you are out in the bush try to keep your lenses covered until you have to bring them into action. If you do get some dust/dirt on your lenses, gently blow across the lens to get the objects out of your field of view. If possible, carry a small camera 'air-brush' combination tool with you. They work great.

Back to field testing Aaron's Bushnell binoculars!

Due to the nature of the SWAT field training we do here at R.O.C., we don't use binoculars which are as big as the Bushnell Marine binoculars, ergo, the only binoculars we could test the Bushnells against were a pair of Minolta 8x30mm compacts, and a pair of Leupold 10x25mm compact. Obviously, since the Bushnells are a 7x50mm configuration, we could not do across the board comparison, but we could check for clarity of light transmission and quality of lenses. Bottomline, the Bushnells were excellent.

In an attempt to do a direct comparison, I loaned Aaron's Bushnell binoculars to a good friend of ours, Deputy Sheriff Ruben Saiz. The only guidance I gave to Ruben was, use them as you normally do in your police work, and try not to break them! After a couple of weeks Ruben and I got together to discuss his thoughts on the Bushnell binoculars. For years, Ruben has been using a pair of 7x50 military binoculars, and for years he though his binoculars were 'fit for duty'. The easiest way to give you Ruben's reaction to the Bushnell binoculars would be this, "Do I have to give them back to Aaron"? Ruben really likes the Bushnell binoculars!

Ruben was amazed at the brightness and clarity of view in the Bushnells, compared to his military binoculars. He also found the built in compass very handy in directing 'spotter' aircraft over suspected drug field locations, day or night. Bottomline, Deputy Sheriff Ruben Saiz would love to have a pair of these binoculars for his police duties (that's a big hint Aaron!).

During all of our field testing, everything on the Bushnell Marine binoculars worked. We had no problems with the compass bezel 'hanging up', or not moving freely. We had no problem seeing the compass or the reticle, day or night. We had no problems with the battery, which surprised us considering the cold nights it went through in the backyard! We give the Bushnell Marine binoculars a solid THUMBS UP.

Shortly after I wrote this article, Deputy Sheriff Ruben Saiz died. We was a good man, he was a good friend, he was a damn good 'Street Cop'. We will miss him.

If you have any comments you may write to:

P O Box 1164
Pecos, NM 87552
Fax: 505.757.8456

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