One of the more expensive elements of long range sighting gear is a spotting scope – the rather bulky, telescope-like contraption designed for viewing subjects that cannot be sighted with an ordinary riflescope / binocular. Their high magnification and large objective means they are both pricey and damage prone, making them a major impediment for those who want to start a hobby involving ranged viewing.
Barska WP Gladiator
Barska Spotter- Pro 80
In spite of the exorbitant cost of most spotting scopes in the market – there’s one manufacturer that is committed to providing affordable, robust and well performing products to the mainstream – Barska. As with their riflescopes and binoculars, Barska spotting scopes are intended to suit a variety of applications while remaining accessible to consumers on a budget.
To learn more about this scope maker, read my take on their products - I’ve also included some decent Barska spotting scope reviews to give you a hands-on idea of what they have to offer in the spotting scope market.
A brief overview
Barska’s brand name doesn’t need an introduction for most outdoorsmen – but besides producing spotting scopes, riflescopes and binoculars, they’re also known for their affordable microscopes and telescopes.
With corporate, distribution and warehousing operations in Pomona, California, Barska’s aim is to provide superior products to the US market (as well as worldwide) that manage to stay within the budget of the average hunter / marksman / nature observer – even the rookie astronomer! They utilize high density optic components built to exact specifications to provide optimum visual results, and keep their products competitively priced by running a short and dynamic supply chain.
Besides their optics lineup, Barska offers a diverse range of products including tripods, outdoor gear bags, gun safes, general purpose lockers, torches, lasers, and even some audio equipment.
Inexpensive yet quality optics
Barska doesn’t claim to be a top-of-the-line spotting scope manufacturer, so don’t expect the ultra-high resolution visuals boasted by uber-expensive products. Nonetheless, at the price they’re selling their products – you’ll be hard pushed to find a better deal:
Even Barska’s cheapest offerings come with multi-coated optics, which are able to transmit more than sufficient light through the objective lens to ensure a clear picture at high magnifications. In fact, many competition shooters have praised these scopes for their ability to distinguish shot marks at 300 yard distances – a feat that sometimes even higher end scopes seem to struggle with.
While there is some visual distortion at the highest zoom values – this is present even in higher end products, and shouldn’t be an issue as long as you’re not using the scope in dim light, or to look at very tiny subjects from a long way off.
Some of their better products (which cost only a bit more than their cheaper siblings) come with fully multi-coated and phase coated optics that eliminate visual distortions almost completely, and deliver clear, vibrant imagery even in low illuminations / highest magnifications.
Sturdy yet lightweight builds
The manufacturer understands that spotting scopes carry an inherent risk of damage due to mishandling – which is why many of their products are given rubberized armoring for shock-proofing, in addition to the regular O-ring seals and nitrogen purging for fog-proofing/waterproofing. This makes them great for hunters and nature observers who like to spend hours on end in the field.
In spite of this robust construction, Barska manages to limit the weight of most of their products to around 3 pounds (some go lower than 2.5 lbs. too!) – all in all, these scopes are perfect for individuals whose hobbies / professions require constant movement e.g. hunters, birdwatchers.
Of course, spotting scopes designed for extra-long range applications i.e. those with 90x top zooms and 100mm objectives will weigh considerably more – but then again, they’re meant for more static observing activities.
One of the more surprising traits (given the pricing) of this manufacturer is that they include a table top tripod as well as a soft or hard carry case with almost all of their products. While the tripod is essentially useless for professionals, it is a great way for beginners to learn how to utilize this important accessory before investing in aftermarket models.
Even better – the carry cases, particularly the hard ones, are quite practically designed and do in fact offer a degree of protection in field situations.
(Seriously) limited lifetime warranty
With prices this cheap, there has to be a downside – in the case of Barska, this comes in the form of QC issues with some of their cheaper products. This isn’t wholly unexpected, since manufacturers often cut costs by skimping on the quality testing process for their low end offerings; but it is somewhat disappointing that the company offers a very limited (in the literal sense of the word) lifetime warranty.
This policy does cover defects in workmanship and material, but does not extend to damage stemming from abuse, improper handling and unauthorized modification / repairs. However, it is only applicable to purchases made in Canada and the US (ironic given how they’ve got international retailers in some 40 countries worldwide). The warranty does not get transferred with ownership, and you have to pay shipping charges both to and from the dealer / designated warranty address.
For this reason, I’ll advise you to stay clear of the cheapest spotting scopes this manufacturer has to offer i.e. those which cost close to $50, because claiming the lifetime warranty in this scenario might set you back more than the actual cost of the product!
Top Barska Spotting Scope Reviews
Barska Blackhawk Spotting Scope 20-60x60mm with Tripod and Hard Case Rubber Armored
- Objective Diameter: 60 mm
- FOV: 91-45 yards
- Eye relief: 18-15 mm
Sporting a shock absorbing, waterproof and fog-proof construction, the Blackhawk 20-60x60 is a remarkably cheap and dependable spotting optic designed to sustain rough handling in the field – as such it is great for medium range hunters and competition shooters, as well as casual wildlife observers.
This scope comes with a 20x to 60x zoom range: the 60mm objective diameter and multi-coated lenses provide adequate light transmission up to roughly 40x, but once you cross that point, visual clarity begins to reduce progressively. In any case, the scope is definitely usable for spotting .223 hits from a distance of up to 300 yards (although those with weaker sight may find it hard after 200 yards).
The scope’s field of view (91 to 45 feet) is decent as well – considering the smallish 60mm objective, and it can be operated easily with single knob. Furthermore, it weighs just 2.9lbs, so you can easily carry it around in the field.
The problem, however, lies in the eye relief – the maximum of 18mm is still less than an inch, so scoping for an extended period of time will prove tiresome in spite of the angled form factor of the model being reviewed.
The Blackhawk also comes with a tabletop tripod (useless for professionals), and a hard case for transportation. Besides the eye relief issue, complaints center on poor visibility at highest magnification settings and some manufacturing defects – but given the knockoff price, these are things you’ll have to put up with.
A limited lifetime warranty is included, so you can always avail that if you end up with a lemon.
What We Liked
- Very cheap.
- Decent zoom range.
- Clear optic performance up until 40x magnification.
- Sturdy waterproof construction.
What We Didn't
- Limited eye relief.
- Visual clarity degrades at higher zoom settings.
- Some QA complaints.
BARSKA 20-60x60 Zoom Colorado Waterproof Spotting Scope
- Objective Diameter: 60 mm
- FOV: 114-51yards
- Eye relief: 13-11 mm
With its ultra-low cost and workable optical performance, the Barska Colorado is a fine choice for budget conscious riflemen looking for a sighting utility for dialing in their scopes.
The optics are fully coated, which ensure adequate visual output up until the maximum 60x zoom setting, at which things start to get blurry. In spite of this, the scope has been praised by marksmen as a no-nonsense zeroing tool for ranges up to 300 yards, and for calibers going from heavy sniper rounds all the way down to lightweight .22 ammo!
Even at its remarkably low price point, the Colorado sports a lightweight yet sturdy rubber armored construction that should see it survive jerks in outdoor conditions. It is also waterproof and fogproof, so adverse weather will not impact its performance.
It does suffer from a severely limited eye relief though (13mm tops), which makes it awkward to use for long periods of time. That said, the field of view is surprisingly generous for a scope this small going from 51 feet to 114 feet (highest to lowest magnification).
It goes without saying that a low end spotter like this one will have inferior core components and/or not have gone through a thorough QC process – so there’s always a risk of purchasing a faulty product.
What We Liked
- Reliable as a medium range zeroing utility.
- Lightweight yet robust construction.
- Generous FOV.
- Complimentary tripod and soft carry bag.
What We Didn't
- Risk of malfunctioning product due to low cost.
- Very limited eye relief.
- Poor visuals at highest zoom setting.
BARSKA Naturescape 15-45x60 Straight Spotting Scope with Tripod And Premium Hard Case
- Objective Diameter: 60 mm
- FOV: 147-68 yards
- Eye relief: 20-18 mm
The Naturescape 15-45x60 combines Extra Low Dispersion Glass with fully multi-coated lenses and phase coating to yield incredibly crisp imagery, free from chromatic aberration and unwanted phase shifting, and that too at a very reasonable cost.
The 60mm objective lens works in conjunction with the high quality optics to provide optimum light transmission and contrast even in dim conditions, making this a great scope for outdoor digiscopers. The ample FOV of 68 feet (which allows for viewing wide expanses of sky / land at the highest zoom), combined with a low 3.18lbs overall weight, also lend the scope to wildlife observers / bird watchers who are always on the move.
Obviously, the downside is that you can’t zoom in very close to the subject, making the scope unsuitable for some long range hunters / marksmen. Nonetheless, you can expect to be able to notice subtle visual changes in the 200 to 250 yard range.
Another commendable feature of this scope is its eye relief that ranges from 18mm to 20mm, impressively generous for a spotter. The same goes for the exit pupil diameter at around 1.3mm to 4mm. Being O-ring sealed and nitrogen filled makes the scope suitable for use in wet, foggy environments too. The overall construction is rugged enough to sustain some punishment in the field, yet is also sufficiently light to support mobility.
The manufacturer has included a table top tripod that can be used to enhance its stability at higher magnifications, as well as a hard carrying case to protect it from bumps / scratches while on the move. Aside from the few complaints pertaining to minor quality control problems (remember, this is still quite a cheap scope), users have been happy with its performance in the field.
What We Liked
- High end multi-coated, phase coated optics result in clear imagery.
- Rugged yet portable design.
- Ample FOV, eye relief and exit pupil.
- Complementary tripod and hard carrying case.
What We Didn't
- 45x maximum zoom limit may be a bit restrictive in long range precision applications.
- Minor QC complaints.
BARSKA 30-90x100 WP Gladiator Spotting Scope
- Objective Diameter: 100 mm
- FOV: 72-35yards
- Eye relief: 17.6-13.8 mm
With its huge 30-90x zoom range and 100m objective diameter, the Barska Gladiator is meant for marksmen / hunters in need of a long range spotting scope that doesn’t break their wallets.
Even though the lenses are only multi-coated (as opposed to fully multi-coated), the 100mm objective ensures sufficient light transmission for yielding clear, high resolution visuals in a wide variety of lighting situations. Range shooters have been able to successfully call their shots at 300 yards – which means spotting large prey in the field (or even observing celestial bodies) with this scope is very much possible.
In spite of its reasonable price, the scope manages to produce sharp imagery at magnification settings as high as 60x – of course, things tend to get slightly hazy as you go higher but this is to be expected, even in expensive models. Note that the tripod which comes with the scope is useless for high magnification observation, and you’ll need an aftermarket one to view things clearly at these values.
While this a great budget scope for long range applications – the higher zoom limit and larger objective lens do come at a cost: it weighs a beefy 6.3lbs., making it a challenge to lug around in the field: as such, I wouldn’t recommend it for outdoorsmen who are constantly relocating. The body itself is quite sturdy: with rubber armoring to protect it against shocks, O-ring seals to keep out the moisture, and nitrogen filling to prevent fogging.
Complaints have mainly been directed at the instability that occurs at high (60x +) magnifications, and some issues with focusing / clarity that seem to be related to poor quality control.
What We Liked
- Large zoom range / objective size allow viewing of very distant subjects.
- Visuals clear enough to spot bullet marks at 300 yards.
- Rugged, waterproof construction.
- Reasonably priced for such a long range scope.
- Complementary tabletop tripod and carrying case.
What We Didn't
- Bulky body does not allow for portability.
- Needs a proper full height tripod for stable viewing at high zoom settings.
- Some focusing problems.
BARSKA Spotter- Pro 80 22-66X80 Straight Spotting Scope with Tripod and Case (Green Lens)
- Objective Diameter: 80 mm
- FOV: 78-42 yards
- Eye relief: 34.5-17.3mm
The Spotter-Pro, while slightly more expensive than most of Barska’s offerings, is nonetheless a nicely balanced option for outdoorsmen in terms of portability and visual clarity.
Utilizing a larger than usual 80mm objective lens in conjunction with multi-coated optics, the scope produces optimum visual output at high zoom settings and even in dim light: practically speaking, you can use the Spotter-Pro to zero in a sniper scope at ranges in excess of 500 yards quite easily!
The field of view is rather unremarkable (78’ to 42’) for a scope with a 22-66x zoom range, but the scope does make up for it with lots of eye relief (34.5mm to 17.3mm), which should make for some very easy viewing in the field. Nonetheless, I cannot recommend it for applications that require the viewing of vast landscapes i.e. landscape photography.
On the other hand, hunters and bird watchers will be pleased with the rugged construction, which can sustain shocks, as well as exposure to moisture, but still weighs a mere 2.18 lbs. – full marks for portability. The scope comes with a micro-adjustable tripod and a soft carry case, which adds to its value; just bear in mind that the tripod isn’t the best quality and may not work in high zoom situations.
What We Liked
- Robust yet highly portable design.
- Decent optic output even in dim conditions, and at long range.
- Very generous eye relief.
- Tabletop tripod and soft carry case included.
What We Didn't
- Tripod is of cheap quality.
- Constricted FOV makes it unsuitable for landscape photography.
While it is normally difficult to recommend a single spotting scope given the diverse nature of the applications they are used for, in case of Barska scopes, the choice is made easier because of the QC issue discussed earlier: simply put, go for the product which offers the best performance and usability, with the least amount of QC complaints from users.
Based on my homework, this would be the BARSKA Naturescape 15-45x60 mm Scope. Sturdily built yet remaining reasonably portable, with fully multi-coated optics to allow for optimum light transmission, as well as ample field of vision and eye relief, this scope definitely has a lot going for itself – but what makes it special is the almost total absence of criticism from consumers.
Undoubtedly this has something to do with the fact that it is higher priced than most of Barska’s offerings, but in spite of this, it is a lot more affordable than many of the other products in the market with similar features. Combine all this with the fact that the lifetime warranty seems meaningful for the price, and you’ve got a very promising budget spotting scope.