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Best Monoculars: Clear Optics And Pinpoint Accuracy

These high-tech and ultra-sensitive monoculars will help you get the shot right the first time.

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BYLisa Conant/ LAST UPDATED ON May 20, 2022

For the avid hunter, bird watcher, outdoor enthusiast, or nosy neighbor, a monocular is an ideal, streamlined alternative to bulky binoculars. Easier to store and more portable than their clunkier binocular counterparts, today’s monoculars offer shockingly clear optics and accurate sighting capabilities. In fact, many folks find monoculars easier to handle and focus than a pair of binoculars, since you’ve got only one lens to worry about. 


There are plenty of options on the market when it comes to choosing the monocular that’s best for you. They run the gamut of prices, optical capabilities, and construction materials. I’ve done some of the heavy lifting for you and taken the guesswork out by coming up with some top picks that are currently available. Pair that with an informative buying guide to help you know exactly what to look for in a reliable, top-performing product, and you’ll be out scoping the local wildlife in no time.

Best Overall

Burris Thermal Handheld Monocular

Summary
This sleek and ultra-lightweight monocular offers five user-selectable thermal color palettes that let accurately spot and track game in almost any conditions.
Pros
  • Super lightweight
  • Large magnification range
  • Five selectable thermal color options
Cons
  • Not fully waterproof
  • Expensive
Best Value

Vortex Solo Monocular

Summary
A reliable, high-performing option that’s offered at a competitive price point and is ideal for a range of outdoor activities.
Pros
  • Backed by a lifetime warranty
  • Super affordable
  • Comfortable, ergonomic, handheld grip
Cons
  • Not waterproof
  • No night vision option
Honorable Mention

Bushnell Equinox X650 Night Vision Monocular

Summary
This monocular features an impressive 650 feet of maximum night vision range, making it one of the best options for night hunting and surveillance on the list.
Pros
  • Reasonably priced
  • Offers 650 feet of night vision range
  • Features an integrated tripod mount
Cons
  • Not as lightweight and compact as some other options
  • Not equipped with a rechargeable battery
Best Monoculars: Clear Optics And Pinpoint Accuracy

Our Methodology

When it comes to choosing the best monoculars, I wanted to provide you with a well-rounded list that features a good variety of reputable manufacturers with solid track records of providing high-quality, reliable products. I included a wide range of price points to suit any budget. I focused on monoculars that use the latest technology and that feature innovative, compact designs suitable for a wide variety of uses. For more information on the selection criteria, click this link to The Drive’s Gear About page, which explains our methodology further.

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Best Monocular Reviews & Recommendations

Specs

  • Model #: 300630
  • Magnification: 3.3-13.2X
  • Weight: 18.9 ounces

Pros

  • Super lightweight
  • Large magnification range
  • Five selectable thermal color options

Cons

  • Not fully waterproof
  • Expensive

For the serious outdoorsman who wants a high-tech, top-of-the-line monocular that won’t leave you guessing, the Burris Thermal Handheld Monocular is where it’s at. This sleek and ultra lightweight monocular does just about anything you can imagine. It offers five user-selectable thermal color palettes that let you quickly and accurately spot and track game in almost any conditions. Ten adjustable brightness and contrast settings ensure a fully customized performance. The special Hot Track mode seeks heat like a boss. This monocular is available in either a 35mm or a 50mm option. It has real-time Wi-Fi-to-mobile connectivity that keeps you locked on to whatever you’re targeting while being able to zoom and record video on your smartphone. It’s also completely shockproof. Two drawbacks: this unit isn’t fully waterproof, but only water-resistant and it’s one of the pricier options on the list. It’s definitely not the choice for the budget-conscious consumer.

Specs

  • Model #: S136
  • Magnification: 10X
  • Weight: 9.7 ounces

Pros

  • Backed by a lifetime warranty
  • Super affordable
  • Comfortable, ergonomic, handheld grip

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • No night vision option

The Vortex Solo Monocular is a reliable, high-performing option that’s offered at a competitive price point. It’s ideal for a range of outdoor activities, including hunting, bird watching, hiking, and more. It’s super compact and easy to carry in your hand thanks to its rubber armor non-slip grip coating. This monocular comes in either a 25mm or a 36mm option with a field of vision of 315 feet and 325 feet at 1,000 yards, respectively. Lenses are fully multi-coated to increase light transmission and reduce glare and light reflection. This unit is O-ring sealed and nitrogen-purged to protect from moisture, debris, and dust. The adjustable eye cup ensures comfort and accuracy while viewing. The lifetime warranty is a great added peace of mind. This monocular offers a standard 10x magnification, which is decent, given its price tag. However, this monocular isn’t waterproof and it doesn’t offer any night vision capabilities, which is a bit disappointing.

Specs

  • Model #: EX650
  • Magnification: 5X
  • Weight: 20.8 ounces

Pros

  • Reasonably priced
  • Offers 650 feet of night vision range
  • Features an integrated tripod mount

Cons

  • Not as lightweight and compact as some other options
  • Not equipped with a rechargeable battery

The Bushnell Equinox X650 Night Vision Monocular features an impressive 650 feet of maximum night vision range, making it one of the best options for night hunting and surveillance on the list. Considering its reasonable price point, this monocular is surprisingly equipped with video recording capabilities with a user-friendly zoom and reliable image capture. It’s equipped with an integrated tripod mount and a standard 1913 Picatinny rail on the side. The built-in IR illuminator is well-placed at the bottom of the scope. A large diameter lens allows for maximum optical clarity and light gathering. This monocular would be improved with the addition of a rechargeable battery. Instead, it requires four AA batteries to operate. It does feature an automatic shut-off that helps preserve battery life, though. It’s also not as compact as some other models on our list.

Specs

  • Model #: PVS14G
  • Magnification: 1X
  • Weight: 12.4 ounces

Pros

  • IP67 waterproof rating
  • Approved for military use
  • Compatible with a variety of accessories

Cons

  • Crazy expensive
  • Less streamlined design than some others

If you want a top-of-the-line, professional-grade monocular, it’s going to be tough to beat the Armasight PVS-14 Gen 3 Multi-Purpose Night Vision Monocular. Used by military forces worldwide, this monocular is more rugged, reliable, and sensitive than almost any other choice on the market today. A Gen III image-intensifier tube and an infrared illuminator with a flood lens gives you a crystal clear, daytime-like visual even in complete darkness. This monocular also features a sizable 40-degree field of view and is available in either a green or white phosphor option. While this model is clunkier and less streamlined than many others on the list, it does still feature simple, easy-to-use controls and is quite lightweight. It’s backed by a decent three-year limited warranty and is compatible with a variety of accessories. Rated IP67 waterproof, this is one of the most rugged and durable monoculars on the market. It does come with a gut-punching price tag, but hey, at least you also get a lanyard, lens cloth, lens cap, and case included in your investment. This would actually be a great option to consider secondhand.

Specs

  • Model #: 260150
  • Magnification: 6X
  • Weight: 27 ounces

Pros

  • Allows for up to 1,000 feet of night vision viewing
  • Relatively affordable
  • Offers many features found in more expensive models

Cons

  • Heavier than many other competing models
  • Short battery life

The Bushnell 260150 Night Vision 6x50mm Equinox Monocular gets high marks for being a decently priced, high-performing night vision monocular that offers a long-range of accurate and clear night vision capability. This high-tech model also features image capture, integrated zoom, and video recording capabilities. The 6X magnification isn’t the strongest but is more than enough for most hunting and trail sighting activities. This monocular comes equipped with a handy tripod mount. It also features adjustable infrared brightness and daytime color options. It is a bit bulkier and quite a bit heavier than some other choices on the list. Another drawback is that this model has a notoriously short battery life, so be sure to carry extra batteries on hand if you’re going to be out for more than three or four hours.

Specs

  • Model #: FF24063
  • Magnification: 4X
  • Weight: 21.2 ounces

Pros

  • Long battery life
  • Affordable price tag
  • Ergonomic, lightweight design

Cons

  • Not the strongest magnification
  • Image quality is less clear than some other options

When battery life is a concern, consider the Firefield Nightfall Night Vision Monocular. It offers up to 72 hours of uninterrupted, continuous battery life. This is an affordable, middle-of-the-road monocular that lets you accurately track wildlife during the day or at night. It also features a decent 4X magnification, coupled with built-in infrared illumination and HD resolution. This is an ergonomic, relatively lightweight choice that is great for viewing wildlife up to 120 meters away. It also includes a 1/4-inch threaded socket for mounting on a tripod. A couple of drawbacks: this unit can function up to 72 hours on a 3V battery, but the battery isn’t included in your purchase. It also doesn’t offer the crystal clear night vision image capabilities of some pricier, more high-tech models.

Specs

  • Model #: 36000
  • Magnification: 8X
  • Weight: 51.2 ounces

Pros

  • Connects to your smartphone
  • Easy one-button user interface
  • IP67 waterproof rating

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavy and bulky

For the avid wildlife observer, the Swarovski 8x25 CL Swarovski dG Digital Long Range Monocular is a dream come true. It goes far beyond the typical monoculars on the list by hosting a 13MP digital camera and Wi-Fi connection that links up to compatible apps on your smartphone or tablet. It allows you to share what you’re observing and can even accurately identify bird species. This smart monocular is capable of transmitting information to up to five devices at once. The 25mm objective keeps optical elements compact to give you a comfortable and relatively portable design. High-tech features improve image contrast and resolution, while maximizing light transmission to give you optimal clarity. You also get an impressive 357-foot field of view. This monocular is IP67 waterproof rated and is rugged and durable. The drawback: the price tag is tough to swallow. It’s also bulkier and heavier than a lot of other options on the list.

Our Verdict on Monoculars

For the ideal combination of lightweight, streamlined design, high-tech, powerful features, and customizable options, the best overall monocular has to be the Burris Thermal Handheld Monocular. This monocular is available in either a 35mm or a 50mm option. It has real-time Wi-Fi-to-mobile connectivity that keeps you locked in to whatever you’re targeting while being able to zoom and record video on your smartphone.

For an excellent budget-friendly option that offers top-notch functionality and clear imaging, check out the Vortex Solo Monocular. It’s ideal for a range of outdoor activities, including hunting, bird watching, hiking, and more.

Do you have a go-to monocular that gives you reliable and accurate vision, but didn’t make the list? Hit me up in the comments. I love to hear from you.

Consider Secondhand

When we start shopping for tools and products, we never overlook the secondhand market. In fact, it’s usually the first place I look. Whether you’re scrolling through Amazon’s Renewed section, eBay for car parts or tools, or flipping through the pages of Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, you have hundreds of thousands of used tools, parts, and gear ready to be shipped to your doorstep. Refurbished to like-new status, they’ll be willing to give you many more years of faithful service all while saving you money. 

If those options don’t have what you need, your local salvage yard is great for car parts, while swap meets are a great resource you should tap. Just Google either and head on down.  

Secondhand Tips

To make your secondhand search easier, here are two tips to finding the best deals and making sure your new-to-you stuff wasn’t destroyed by the previous owner. 

  • When going with an online seller, make sure they have a high user rating and a great reputation among other consumers. 
  • When buying secondhand, do your homework. Shop around and compare pricing between sellers to make sure you’re not getting taken to the cleaners.

What to Consider When Buying Monoculars

When it comes to monoculars, many people think it’s a one-size-fits-all thing and that there’s really not much to consider. While that may have been the case decades ago, it’s certainly not the lay of the land in today’s market. Today’s monoculars come in a wide variety of sizes and are equipped with all kinds of different, customizable features. 

Types of Monoculars

Night Vision Monoculars

As the name implies, this type of monocular is primarily used at night, mostly for night hunting or surveillance activities. It is great for locating targets in the dark. You can choose the technology on which it can operate. You have two technology options to choose from: infrared and thermal-imaging. Both subtypes of a night vision monocular can also be used during the day. You simply have to turn off the infrared or thermal imaging mode.

Thermal Imaging Monoculars

Thermal imaging monoculars are another subtype of night vision monoculars. They are very useful at night because they can detect animals that are good at hiding or camouflaging. By detecting heat, they use it to form an image of objects in the dark. What's great about this night vision monocular is that it does not have a visible red light that some infrared monoculars have. That means you do not have to worry about scaring animals away with it.

Compact Monoculars

It is a given that monoculars are already compact, except for spotting scopes that fall under the category of monocular telescopes. However, there are monoculars that are smaller than average. They are a couple of inches smaller than regular monoculars and are small enough to fit in your pocket or purse. The disadvantage of these monoculars, however, is that they have smaller magnifications as well. They also have a smaller lens diameter. Despite their less powerful specs, they are quite cheap and good enough for simple viewing activities. 

Monocular Pricing 

You can get a decently functioning, basic monocular for between $100 to $250. If you’re looking for a high-tech, top-of-the-line monocular that offers the optimum in thermal imagery, Wi-Fi connectivity, recording capabilities, and super long-range visualization, expect to pay upwards of $1,000 to $3,000.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: Do all monoculars have night-vision capabilities?

A: Most monoculars on the market can only be used in the daytime, and some special models have great vision in low-light conditions. It is possible to find a monocular with sophisticated night-vision technology. They are, however, more expensive. 

Q: Can I use a monocular with my glasses?

A: If you wear glasses, you have to leave a space of at least 0.5 inches between your eye and the eyepiece. That space is called an eye relief. You have to either adjust or remove the eyecap to get a better view.

Q: What is the best magnification for a monocular?

A: A magnification factor of 4-6X is great for most wildlife viewing monoculars. This magnification is relatively easy to steady and offers a wide field of view. Magnifications of 8-10X provide narrower fields of view, although a greater viewing distance. They’re also more difficult to steady than lower magnifications.

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