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Knowing quality optics can improve your chances of success as a hunter when you walk into the optics department at a sporting goods store to pick out a binocular or riflescope for next season. You know about magnification, objective lenses, light-gathering, all the basics about hunting optics, but then you come to a standstill when you see long rows of shelves filled with binocular after binocular, riflescope after riflescope.

Relax. It’s not as intimidating as it looks. Sure, there are prices from low to high, listings of features from simple to complicated, but with optical technology improving seemingly every year, you can find affordable binoculars and riflescopes with quality components and high manufacturing standards once reserved for high-dollar optics.

 And buying quality optics doesn’t have to be a gamble.

With their Prime, Nitro, and Forge line of binoculars and riflescopes, Bushnell lays all their cards on the table so it’s easy to pick which features are right for you and which price is right for your budget. Bushnell’s good (Prime), better (Nitro), best (Forge) balance the never-ending struggle between price and quality, while addressing needs common to many hunters, including but not limited to superior light transmission during the low light magic hours as the sun comes up and the dim twilight at the end of the day, when game animals are most active.

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Another way to look at Bushnell’s approach would be to call the levels standard, advanced, and expert, but know that Bushnell’s standard sets the bar pretty high. In fact, these binoculars and riflescopes share quality Bushnell characteristics, like optimized combinations of glass, coatings, and proprietary optical designs to deliver superior clarity, resolution, and contrast at prices that don’t come with a shock factor. And they can prove their optical quality. They had an objective review, quantitatively measuring contrast and resolution through MTF (modular transfer function) testing to ensure they achieved the highest possible score.

Here’s a closer look at the good/better/best system, starting with Prime.

The Prime line of optics covers all the basic necessities you’ll want, with straightforward features for hunters and shooters who appreciate simplicity, reliability, and results. Prime optics combine fully multi-coated lenses and low-dispersion glass.

Let’s talk about that for a minute. Essentially, in optics, the more coatings the better, according to Bushnell’s Matt Rice. “Additional coatings are going to deliver brighter, crisper images,” he said. “It also prevents color fringing or blurriness around the outside of an object you are viewing.”

 You’ve probably experienced that if you’ve looked through lesser optics. The focal point looks clear and sharp but everything around that point starts to look distorted and more so the farther you look from the center. That is what extra coatings prevent, as well as improving light transmission, contrast, and resolution, all of which are important when glassing for, say, a whitetail buck against a similarly colored background.

 As to low-dispersion glass, Rice said, it’s preferable because it reduces chromatic aberration—for example, the bluish haze you might see around an object viewed from a long distance.


Let’s move on to Nitro.

The Nitro line combines all those enhanced features with a wide range of optical configurations.

Fully multi-coated lenses: check.

First and second focal plane options: check.

30mm tubes, ED Prime glass, and Bushnell’s EXO Barrier coating: check.

 Let’s look closer at some of those.

 EXO Barrier Protection is Bushnell’s unique, new protective lens coating that bonds at the molecular level to the glass, repelling water, dust, debris, even oil. Plus, it helps prevent scratching. In most other brands, such specialized coating is typically reserved for only higher-end optics, but so important is EXO Barrier, Bushnell added it to all Prime, Nitro, and Forge optics, Rice said.

 ED Prime glass is Bushnell’s highest quality glass, designed to deliver color, resolution, and contrast, even in those all-important low-light conditions we discussed earlier.


Now to the top of the line: Forge.

The Forge line of scopes and binos has it all, the highest level of light transmission plus engineering and function, for demanding hunters and shooters who won’t settle for less than the best when it comes to optics. With ED Prime glass, EXO Barrier coating, zero-stop turrets, and far-reaching magnification ranges, Forge optics let you reach out and see, thanks to top-line light transmission and resolution.


Prime, Nitro, and Forge optics all feature IPX7 waterproof construction, rated to stay dry internally even when immersed in three feet of water for up to 30 minutes. I’m not planning to drop them in the water for 30 minutes, but accidents do happen. It’s important to me to know I don’t have to worry about them if I get caught in a rain shower or I’m hunting when it’s snowing. If they can stand 30 minutes underwater, what’s a little precipitation?

With their three-tiered approach, Bushnell was able to incorporate precise engineering and design with high-quality components at each level, so you really can’t go wrong with either Prime, Nitro, or Forge optics. It’s just the higher you go, the more quality you get, but in none of the lines did Bushnell scrimp on design or materials.

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Bushnell has succeeded in what they set out to do—offer optics that “offer the best combination of features at every price point,” so regardless of your intended use, preferred features, and budget, there are binoculars and riflescopes that will over- perform for you, Rice said.

 For more information about Bushnell’s Prime, Nitro, and Forge line of optics, visit

OPTICS, GEARTerrence Gordon