Have you ever worked on zeroing a rifle in the field where you had to run back and forth from your shooting position to your target to see what you’re doing? Sure, you had a scope and binoculars, but they just weren’t strong enough. Or maybe you’ve shot at steel plates or even rocks in the distance. Hit? Miss left? Miss right? Where did that shot actually hit? Or perhaps your hunting grounds stretch across the horizon. What’s on that distance slope? Scouting or hunting, a spotting scope is a welcome game changer. Not all spotting scopes are created equally, however. I’ve been packing the Trijicon HD Spotting Scope around Colorado for a few months. Here’s what I’ve discovered.
With Trijicon’s name, I expected the HD Spotting Scope to be a solid optic. My first Trijicon was an ACOG ECOS system that I spent more on than I could really justify. It was impressive. The HD Spotting Scope is obviously a lot bigger and heavier, but it retains the quality build and excellent optics that I’ve grown to expect from Trijicon.
Since optics are why you buy one of these, let’s start there. Glass matters. Trijicon states that they use “fully broadband multi-coated fluoride lenses” to maximize light transmission. While glass of any kind can look completely transparent, in reality it’s not. Higher quality glass yields brighter pictures. For hunters working in the dawn and dusk hours, higher quality glass is the difference between a useful spotting scope and a useless club. Trijicon used high end glass on the HD scope and made the objective (front) lens 82mm in diameter. That’s BIG! Essentially, the bigger the objective lens, the more light it gathers, the brighter your image, the better you see. Caps for that objective and the eyepiece are included.
Almost any lens with a zoom on it will lose contrast and clarity at its most extreme magnification. The HD Spotting Scope is no different in this respect. It’s not as precise, not as sharp at 60 times magnification as it is at 20. The question is, how good is it? Short of a lines per millimeter resolution test, let’s consider real world observations. I chose a point Google maps tells me is twenty miles as the crow flies from the top of America’s Mountain, Pikes Peak. At sixty times magnification I could easily see the visitor’s center at 14,114 above sea level. Not only that, I could make out the windows on the building. Was it crystal clear, razor sharp, radiant with glowing detail? Nope. But if I were spotting for a long range hunting shot I’d be quite comfortable behind this scope.
Zeroing with this optic is a real win. Given my choice, I’d rather zero outdoors on private land than anywhere else. That wasn’t available when I needed to zero a scope for a recent project so off to the Cheyenne Mountain range I went (yes, that Cheyenne Mountain). The ability to observe the target without trotting downrange saved me a ton of time.
In another test, I went scouting the high country of the Rocky Mountains for mountain goats. I’ve never hunted them, but hope to in a year or so. A few years ago I’d seen goats in that particular area so I headed back. The Trijicon made quick work determining that those spots on a distant slope were rocks, not loitering goats enjoying a grassy meal. Per Google Maps, I can identify a human on a ridge at 5.35 miles.
Sixty times magnification is a lot. At 1000 yards using sixty times magnification you’re looking at a mere 63 foot circle. Let’s compare to binoculars. It seems that the vast majority of binoculars on the market are between 8 and 15 times magnification. Perhaps like you, I have a sweet pair of 10x binoculars that I really like. The Trijicon HD Spotting Scope is six times more magnification! While that is spectacular, sometimes it’s too much. You can wander around not finding what you’re looking for. Fortunately, you can dial all the way back to twenty times magnification, find your target, the crank it back up to sixty or anything you like in between.
The build quality of the scope is solid, right down to the moving parts. Magnification is adjusted by rotating the outer ring of the eyepiece. It is smooth and stiff enough not to be bumped off whatever magnification you’ve set. At the top of the eyepiece is a rotating eyecup that extends to allow each user to optimize viewing comfort. The lens shade (or “lens hood” is a precise fit to the body of the scope. While extending it is easy, friction keeps gravity from inadvertently extending it. Using the shade to keep the sun off the front element helps keep contrast to a maximum.
Focus is achieved through a dual knob system. The larger rear knob adjusts broadly or rapidly while the front knob is for fine adjustments. Each knob has unique groves so you can tell by touch whether you’re about to make fine adjustment or a large one. You never have to pull your eye away from the optic.
If you are working off bench, admittedly not my favorite shooting position, you can even rotate the scope so that you can just turn your head to the side to use it instead of having to look down into the eyepiece. You’re on your gun, then on your spotting scope, then back on your gun. No getting up and down.
To keep the weight down, Trijicon builds the HD Spotting Scope body from magnesium. It’s strong, lighter than aluminum, but more expensive. The scope weighs in at 63.9 ounces. The rubberized coating isn’t squishy at all, but provides a tacky and sure grip. Assembled, the scope is dry nitrogen filled to prevent fogging and water proofing up to thirty minutes at one meter deep. Not sure why you’d have your scope a meter under water, but at least we know it should be fine in whatever above ground elements you subject it to. While I haven’t drop tested the scope, I’ll say it sure seems tough, rugged, solid; you get the idea.
The eyepiece is interchangeable with a wide angle one from Trijicon. You lose some range when you do that; it’s a 25-50 times magnification. That’s a 2x zoom compared to the standard 3x and I haven’t used it so I can’t comment on it.
Model TSS01-C-2100000 comes with a case in a case. The padded snug fit case could be called a coat made of holster type nylon. It has handles for carrying, zippers and hook and loop closures for accessing all the scope’s controls, optics and the tripod mount. I was glad to have it when I was cramming it into a backpack with an unprotected camera and lens. The spotting scope and nylon case both come in what I’d call a custom soft side briefcase style case. That “custom” bit is the molding that holds the scope in place. I suspect it offers significant protection against impacts from being thrown by baggage handlers at airports. Actually, that’s probably a terrible idea, checking this bag. It’s kind of pricy.
MSRP for the Trijicon HD Spotting Scope is $1899 though I found it online for $1615. You could spend more for lighter weight and even bigger name glass makers. You can spend less to trade off weight, glass quality, etc. Spend enough and you should have a spotting scope to last a lifetime. I think this scope meets that sweet spot for me. I found the snug fit case online for $43, and if you could find it I suspect the briefcase would easily run a hundred bucks and change. Put it all together and in my opinion you have a pretty solid value proposition.
What’s your favorite spotting scope? Tell us about it in the comments below.