Sell More Binoculars and Rangefinders

Selling optics is all about knowing what a shopper needs — and what they don’t.

Sell More Binoculars and Rangefinders

Hunters want functional simplicity with their tools. They want bows that draw cleanly and broadheads that kill quickly. Guns that cycle smoothly and shoot well. Clothing and boots that conceal while providing warmth and comfort. Game cameras that send clear images or video.

Optics? Yes, hunters want rangefinders and optics — binoculars, traditional riflescopes, red-dot optics and spotting scopes — for everything from squirrel hunting to pursuing elk in the Rockies. They want these optics to function without fail in any weather conditions (despite maybe being banged around), provide instant and accurate feedback, and not cost an arm and a leg.

Not all hunters are like that, of course. As with anything, you’ll get a mix, from “I just need something decent” to “I want the best, take all my money.” Selling optics isn’t easy because of that gamut. You can stock the most popular ammunition or broadheads, or rifles from a couple of companies. Clothing, of course. But selling binoculars and rangefinders, which we’ll stick with for this overlook, are among the most reliable sellers for the hunting optics category.

Rangefinders provide readings of distance in yards or meters. They have come a long, long way from the first models. Today’s rangefinders are lighter and tougher, they read farther and better in different conditions, and they range in prices from less than $100 to more than $1,600. With that price range, of course, comes the difference in amenities. This is what you have to clearly explain to a customer without making it sound like buying the $100 is a waste of money. It may be all he or she can afford. Point out the features and perhaps nudge toward the $150 model as a possibility. 

A solid binocular gives hunters a host of opportunities in the field or stand. I can’t remember the make of my first binocular more than 40 years ago. It likely was a Bushnell or Tasco, one that my father used for deer hunting. But it opened my eyes to what was out there. Since then I’ve used binoculars for everything from covering college football and NASCAR races in press boxes to counting antler tines on bucks in Kansas. In blinds from Canada to Texas I’ve watched innumerable birds, which I enjoy seeing. Although your customers will seek them for hunting, they’re invaluable for numerous activities. Binoculars are a gateway for youngsters, too.


Technology is great when it works, and it’s coming harder into the hunting scene. Some older hunters may eschew technological improvements in optics, such as Bluetooth pairing of scopes, rangefinders and binoculars and phone app. Combining the trio, or at least two of those, with the app can open the doors to more accurate shooting and cleaner kills.

That is a big selling point. Middle- and younger-age hunters likely are more in tune with phone apps and Bluetooth connections to optics. The app holds data about the rifle caliber and ammunition; pairing the rangefinder, scope and binocular helps the hunter know the correct hold. Sig Sauer’s Ballistic Data Xchange system is one option, as is the Leica Rangefinder CRF 3500 and the ATN Auxiliary Ballistic Laser ABL Smart Rangefinder 1500 with Bluetooth. If your shoppers are looking at night-vision or thermal optics for hunting hogs, coyotes or other predators at night as well as during daylight hours, easy-to-use models are available from Sellmark, ATN and others, and these are gaining serious traction in the hunting community. These higher-tech options are not difficult to explain. Sell the technology as well as the traditional optics. Buyers can have the best of both worlds.

Price, Performance

I’ve been fortunate over the years to try rangefinders and binoculars with a wide range of price points. I currently have a Halo rangefinder that is quite affordable and gets the job done nicely for bowhunting. Distances for shots within 40 yards are no problem. Distances to 100 or more for timing or fun guessing, also no problem. Will it range to 1,500 yards accurately? No. That’s when the Sig Sauer KILO, Leupold RX 2800, Bushnell Prime 1700, Vortex Crossfire HD or other more expensive models come into play for stalking or rifle work.

With binoculars, consumers often will shop based on size. Some will believe the 8x32 or “small” binocular just isn’t good enough, and they need 10x42 or even 10x50. The latter likely would be overkill, though, for their close-quarter bow and crossbow shots, and possibly even for rifle hunting unless they frequent the Midwest or Rockies. Definitely ask those questions when someone is shopping for binoculars. Where will you be hunting, and for what? What kind of habitat and terrain? Southern hardwoods or Rockies vistas? A deer hunter in a Midwest corn field might benefit from 10x50 if he or she doesn’t mind the weight (and price). But that same hunter would find those to be overkill in central Wisconsin, where the 10x42 or smaller could get the job done.

Personally, I prefer the 10x42 as a good, all-around bino for how and where I hunt. That means the binocular has a 10X magnification, compared to your naked eye, and an objective diameter of 42mm. Knowing these sizes and what they mean is a helpful selling point. You can explain that 10x50 offers a greater objective diameter and usually more clarity with depth of field. But with that comes added weight, size and price. The 10x50 is super for open country and glassing for movement. If my hunting areas required more power, I’d go with that size.

Find out how committed your buyers are to what they need vs. what they want, and steer them to the right products. Lower and moderate prices will attract the largest group of buyers. Higher-priced optics will appeal to those who believe they get what they pay for and want the best. Optics have similarities with firearms and bows; flagships and mid-priced items sell, but you’ll also have new hunters or those on tight budgets. Familiar names such as Bushnell, Leupold, GPO, Vortex and others offer a variety of attractive price points. Your challenge is to know the customer base and plan, stock and learn accordingly.

Combo Optics

More than a few years ago I was fortunate to get a then-new  binocular with a built-in rangefinder. Whoooboy, that was some kind of fancy. But it was large and bulky. It was quite heavy. I used it only a few times. Today, however, binoculars with built-in rangefinders are far superior in power, performance and construction. They still are a bit bigger and heavier than a regular binocular; the addition of the rangefinding “guts” and buttons adds a smidge of weight. But they’re quite nice, and customers definitely will ask about them. It removes one step in the process for hunters to spy a buck, elk, moose or pronghorn, determine the range and decide to shoot or pass.

These customers seeking the combo optics often will be, most likely, your top-end buyers who don’t wince when looking at the Swarovski EL Range, Zeiss Victory RF or Leica Geovid Pro. One mid-range combo option is the Bushnell Fusion X, at about half the price of those other three. That’s an affordable option with good glass for hunters in any part of the country.

Avoid Mumbo-Jumbo

Marketing buzz litters the descriptions of optics. Companies overwhelm consumers with descriptions of glass, angles, data and more. Years ago “Schott glass” was the rage to name-drop into marketing content. It was billed as the best and clearest, or having the most clarity, or this or that. It may have been all that; the glass is top quality. But the buzz all came without mentioning that Schott AG is owned by the Carl Zeiss Foundation. Companies didn’t want to mention that a competitor was the source of their optical glass. It doesn’t matter that only a few top-tier optical manufacturers exist worldwide; consumers only saw the clever writing from marketing. Nothing new, of course.

You, however, should avoid the mumbo-jumbo when selling optics or anything else. Consumers see through the BS pretty quickly. They’ll turn on their internal “ignore” mode if you begin overwhelming them with fancy terms, the names of multiple coatings on prisms or lenses and other hype. Honestly is the best policy. Mention that the glass has multiple coatings to reduce glare and improve vivid colors; if they want to know more, dive in. But trying to impress with the marketing terms you maybe don’t even understand could curtail a sale. Keep it simple.

Extras May Help

History and brand awareness are eye-catchers, of course, but unless someone is extremely brand-loyal, they will seek the best tools for their task. Hunting optics are a big investment; customers will be more circumspect before buying. You’re not going to put a Swarovski EL or Sig KILO 8000 by the register to make an impulse sale.

Binoculars and rangefinders may come with goodies: lens caps, soft neoprene bags, straps, loops, cleaning cloths, perhaps a decal. These all are nice, but the real extra is the warranty. Note the warranty — GPO offers its Spectacular Lifetime Warranty, for example, that is outstanding. It’s for a lifetime, fully transferrable, with no warranty card registration or proof of purchase required. It has some stipulations but is fairly comprehensive. Other brands have similar warranties, while some are less generous. This is a nice way to add to the conversation and, perhaps, close the sale.


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