Inexpensive Spotting Scope

If you are looking for a low $ spotting scope, you may want to consider the Meade 60AZ-T Compact Refracting Telescope. Although “telescopes” are generally not acceptable as spotting scopes (because they reverse and/or invert the image depending on the type), the 45 degree viewer that came with this instrument leaves the view of the target right-side up and left-to-right correct. It fits on the standard Hebard mount and into the standard gun box I’m using, and costs a whole lot less than a traditional spotting scope.

Here are the technical specifications:

  • Model#: Meade 60AZ-T
  • Aperture: 60 mm (2.4″)
  • Focal length: 350 mm, f/5.8
  • Lense #1: 17.5 mm, 1.25″ diameter (20X)
  • Lense #2: 9 mm, 1.25″ diameter (39X)
  • Barlow lense: 2X, 1.25″ diameter
  • Mount: standard tripod
  • Tripod: Tabletop
  • Includes erecting 45 degree prism diagonal
  • Soft carry bag
  • Price: I paid $38, on sale from the marked $49.99 price at Kit Camera in the shopping mall (Fashion Square, Scottsdale AZ, 03/10/2005).

Yeah, I was astonished at the price and immediately thought, “This can’t work — it’s just too cheap.” I had been looking at Bushnells and so forth and was preparing to spend from $125 to $300 to get the 60 mm aperture and 45 degree eyepiece, and then wait for the UPS truck, when I happened across this one from Meade that was ready to be carried out of the store “now.”

It is now mounted on my (borrowed) range box with the standard Hebard scope mount. I had to remove the large “dew shield” from the 60 mm end to make it fit without being snug (the dew shield slips right off and can be replaced just as easily) but that was the only “adjustment” needed to adapt it from looking at stars to looking at targets.

Standing on the line with targets at 50 yards, the 20X magnification is sufficient for me to see 22LR holes and all of the paper in the B-6 standard target (and a little of the dirt mound behind). I tried the 38X eyepiece at that distance but didn’t really need the extra magnification, nor the extra jiggle transmitted through the shooting table. And at 25 yards, I can see all of the scoring area of the standard B-8. For my (not-so-occasional) “flyers” I only have to move my head around a little to see the edges of the target. Minimum focusing distance is stated as 30 feet so it should be fine on an indoor 50 foot range.

The 45 degree angle “roof prism” fits between the focus tube and the eyepiece and corrects the image as well as turning it for convenient viewing. I can stand in typical Bullseye fashion, release a round and then turn my head and be looking directly into the eyepiece without leaning (table, gun box and body height permitting, of course).

Because of the large 60mm aperture (front lense diameter), the image is bright and clear. At the indoor range I sometimes use, the lighting is less than ideal but the target and my 22LR holes are still sharp and easy to see.

If you want to buy additional eyepieces, the 1.25″ diameter is the standard size for telescopes. You’ll have lots to choose from and some are quite expensive but there’s an enormous variety of magnifications and other features available. Meade, Celestron and Pentax are big-name eyepiece manufacturers but there are many smaller companies, many of them at very reasonable prices. For example, Celestron has a 8-24mm (15-45X) Zoom eyepiece that is advertised by one retailer for $55.95 who was taking “future orders” for this new apparently brand new eyepiece.

But there are a couple of potential disadvantages to this ‘scope. For some the problem will be appearance. It looks like a small telescope, not a spotting scope, and if you want “that look” then you’ll be disappointed. Secondly, the focus knobs look like toy truck wheels with fancy chrome hubcaps. And third, many of the pieces are plastic and, undoubtedly, the unit is much less rough-and-tumble as compared to a mostly all-metal spotting scope.

But with reasonable care the plastic parts should last, the focus rail has almost no “slop” in spite of the toy-truck wheels and, when my granddaughter comes over to the house, we can look at the moon (until she’s old enough to look at the bull).

And for $38 or even the stamped $49.99 price, I can go through a couple of these before equalling the cost of what I would have paid for one of the traditional spotting scopes.

Now if I could just convince my wife to let me use that saved $250 toward that 1911 I’ve been drooling over on each visit to the gun store. What are the chances of that?

Six Month Update

(September 10, 2005) I’ve been using this ‘scope on my gun box in Bullseye competitions for six months now. The paint has a few dings and scrapes from the rare occasions when I’ve shoved the gun box closed on something instead of re-opening it to figure out the problem but, other than that, it continues to work just great: targets are still crystal clear, 22 holes at 50 yards continue to be easy to see, and the focus knob and tube are just as tight and reliable as ever.

I choose to shoot my money down range to improve my ability rather than having it sitting around on the box looking pretty.

What’s your money for?

Twenty-One Month Update

(December 23, 2006) I used the above spotting scope on my gun box for a few months shy of two years. It worked great, never failed and survived a lot of abuse.

I travel a lot and, of necessity, I’ve had to pare down my travelling gun box. For that, I needed a much smaller spotting scope so recently I bought an NG 20×33 scope from Pilk Guns (http://www.pilkguns.com/). Although it cost several times what I paid for the Meade, it was also a far cry from what others have paid for much pricier scopes.

The little NG is tiny in comparison to any other spotting scope. But the magnification is the same as that of my older Meade and works fine at 50 yards. And the NG has a 45 degree viewing angle that can be rotated for convenience. The only negative comment I can make is that I have to move my eye a little closer to the scope now: with the Meade, I could position it so a simple turn of the head would allow me to see the target. With the NG, however, I have to get my eye closer to the eyepiece to see the same area.

Nothing wrong with the Meade, mind you. It just took up too much room in my travelling gun box (a Pelican case).

3 thoughts on “Inexpensive Spotting Scope

  1. Wow, just what I was looking for. I’m just starting to look for a spotting scope, and I could care less how impressive LOOKING it is. I’m only shooting .22 right now, so I’m going to need a .45 soon. Rather put the money into that than a pretty scope. I just ran across your blogsite while perusing the New England Bullseye site. I’m in Colorado and can’t believe what an active bullseye community they have back east. I couldn’t live there, mind you, but it sure would be nice to have all that bullseye activity. (Colorado seems to be a bullseye wasteland.)

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