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The eye is one of the most fascinating and intricate pieces of machinery in the human body. It focuses nearly instantly, is able to detect movement of an object against a similar background and is second only to the brain as the most complex organ our body. But, unfortunately, the eye has limitations. Distance viewed, surrounding light levels and inconsistent clarity all create the need for modern technology and survival optics to step in and lend a hand.

Complex optical equipment in the form of binoculars, monoculars, thermal imagers and night vision goggles allow you to bring your objects of interest into closer view, help enhance even the finest of details and allow you to virtually “see” into the blackness of night.

Check out these survival optics as mechanical aids, which are perfect for the hunter, survivalist, military or tactical operator, as well as the regular guy who wants an “eye-opening” experience when home or out in the field.

Vortex Crossfire 8×42 Binoculars Overview

Vortex Crossfire 8×42 Binoculars are high quality, built to last and won’t break the bank. These are the signature characteristics of the entry-level Crossfire binoculars. Sporting a durable housing, impressive optics and backed by a lifetime warranty, the Crossfire will get the job done—no matter what type of adventure you are pursuing. This unit features an outstanding field of view to ensure detection of your far-off subject, as well as multi-coated lenses to keep your image clear and sharp.

  • Multicoated lenses
  • Field of view: 393 feet/1,000 yards
  • Interpupillary distance: 56–76mm
  • Nitrogen gas purged for fog and waterproof performance
  • Includes soft case, neck strap and lens covers
MSRP: $189.99

Vortex Razor HD 8×42 Binoculars


Nothing even comes close to the Razor HD in terms of quality of image and durability, and it is all packed within a small, light frame. This upper tier of optic hardware features premium HD (high density) glass, offering ultimate color fidelity and high-definition images. Multilayer prism coatings provide bright, clear and, most importantly, color-accurate images for precise identification of subjects. Its outer casing can withstand all the rigors of the harsh outdoors while providing continuous optical performance. A full lifetime warranty, carrying case, neck strap and eyepiece cover accompany this exceptional piece of optical equipment.

  • Field of view: 388 feet/1,000 yards
  • Magnesium chassis for low weight and high strength
  • High-end HD lens coatings and elements
  • Argon gas purged for fog-proof performance
  • Ultra-hard, scratch-resistant coating
  • Includes deluxe padded case, neck strap and lens covers
MSRP: $1,479.99

Vortex Solo Tactical R/T 8×36 Monocular


Compact, lightweight and easy to handle, the Solo R/T monocular is always ready to deliver clear, crisp images for accurate range estimation or calling shots. This extremely portable unit features an adjustable eyecup and rubber exterior armor, keeping it protected from outdoor damage. It has fully multicoated lenses and is both water and fog proof. An included utility clip and lanyard allow accessibility and security of the unit at all times. This monocular comes with an unconditional lifetime warranty.

  • Field of view: 393 feet/1,000 yards
  • Adjustable eyecup
  • Waterproof
  • Robust utility/pocket clip
MSRP: $159.99 URL:

Vortex Diamondback 8×42 Binoculars


Budget friendly, but not lacking power or durability, the Diamondback 8×42 binoculars deliver enhanced optical technology for crisp, clean magnified images. They are comfortable and extremely user friendly, with smooth focusing and enhanced ergonomics. Rain, snow, heat or cold will not stop this unit when in harsh outdoor conditions. The Diamondback is fully water and fog proof and comes complete with a VIP warranty that will ensure years of optimal performance.

  • Field of view: 420 feet/1,000 yards
  • Waterproof and fog proof
  • 8x magnification
  • Weighs less than 5 pounds
MSRP: $219.99

Vortex Recce Pro HD MonocularOverview

The Recce Pro HD monocular produces impressive, high-definition images, ultimate color fidelity and exceptional resolution for your sighting needs. This compact, yet durable, unit is constructed to keep out water, dust and debris, while its Armortek lens coating provides scratch, oil and dirt resistance for its exterior lenses. The complete package includes lanyard, MOLLE-/PALS-compatible pouch, utility clip and worry-free lifetime warranty.

  • Field of view: 400 feet/1,000 yards
  • HD lens elements
  • Water and fog proof
  • MOLLE-/PALS-compatible pouch
  • Robust utility/pocket clip
MSRP: $399.99

Vortex Viper HD 20-60×80 Spotting Scope


Need long-range viewing? The Viper is ready to take on the challenge. Equipped with HD (high density), extra-low-dispersion glass, this spotting scope will deliver high definition images while providing crisp, color-accurate visibility of your subject. Superior waterproof and fog proof technology eliminates any interference from Mother Nature while scouting outdoors. Its outer casing is built tough, offering scratch-resistant lenses and a durable outer shell. Its “bells and whistles” include dual focusing, a built-in sunshade, rotating tripod ring and Picatinny rail, allowing easy attachment of accessories.

  • Field of view: 110–50 feet/1,000 yards
  • Magnification from 20 to 60x
  • XR fully multicoated
  • Length: 17.5 inches
  • Weight: 67 ounces
  • Available in straight and angled models
MSRP: $1,099.99

PVS-7 Patrolman Gen 2+ Night Vision Goggle


Used as a long-range observation device or combat-proven, hands-free goggle, Night Vision Optics’ PVS-7 utilizes the latest in white phosphor technology for greater crispness and contrast of image than traditional green phosphor. The Patrolman features simple controls, allowing you to focus on the task at hand instead of fiddling with knobs or switches. This amazing night vision gear offers fully automated image tube protection, a built-in infrared illuminator —complete with momentary and continuous “on” switch, low-battery indicator and the luxury of hands-free operation with its fast, one-power lens.

  • Waterproof design
  • Built-in IR illuminator
  • Handheld or helmet mount with MIL-SPEC headgear
  • Includes two AA batteries
MSRP: $2,699.99

Luna Optics Laser Rangefinding 8×42 Binoculars


Full size, yet compact enough to store and carry anywhere with ease, these binoculars won’t let you down when out in the field. This unit features a long-range measurement system—up to 2,800 meters (3,062 yards) on reflective targets and up to 1,600 meters (1,750 yards) on nonreflective targets—and ultra-fast response time (as fast as 0.5 second). Their superior optical quality offers fully multi-coated lenses and distortion-free images. Multiple-position eyecups allow a comfortable fit, and the attached lens covers keep the unit clean and free of debris.

  • Field of view: 340 feet/1,000 yards
  • Superfast distance reading
  • Fully multicoated optics
  • Water and fog proof
  • Meter or yard measurements
  • Model: LD-BN842-LRF

Iris Gen2+ HP Dual-Tube Night Vision Binoculars


The Night Vision Ops model is your handheld answer to viewing crisp and clear images in the darkest of conditions. Perfect for urban or rural use, the Iris features automatic brightness adjustment, gain control and true stereoscopic perception by integrating dual night vision tubes for each eye. These powerful binoculars convert with ease to a hands-free night vision goggle by simply replacing the front objective lenses. They also adapt quickly and seamlessly to an ambidextrous headgear assembly for true hands-free operation. Save time, money and storage space with this amalgamation of binoculars and night vision goggle.

  • Automatic brightness control
  • Built-in IR illuminator
  • True stereoscopic vision
  • Weather resistant
  • Includes one 3-volt CR-123 battery
  • Headgear for goggle configuration not included
MSRP: $3,799.99

Luna Optics LN-EBG1 Pro Goggles


An array of advanced features complements this advanced night vision device. From automatic on/off operation to dual IR illuminators, automatic gain control and light-protection sensor, the LN-EBG1 Pro turns night into day with technological ease. During extreme temperatures, the unit will not fog up, keeping your line of vision clear and crisp. It offers a unique input port, allowing you to plug into an external power source when temperatures dip below -40 degrees (F)—when conventional batteries fail. These goggles come complete with a comfortable head mount and padded, multi-compartment case.

  • Shock-resistant and waterproof body
  • Two built-in IR illuminators (805 and 905 nm)
  • State-of-the-art Gen 2+ night vision
  • Light-protection sensor and auto on/off feature
MSRP: $2,599.95 URL:

PVS-14 Sentry Night Vision Mono-Goggle


Standard issue for the U.S. armed forces, the PVS-14 takes night vision to a whole, new level. Utilizing the latest generation 3 filmless tubes, the Sentry features extremely crisp images with a greatly reduced “halo effect” when you’re near bright lights. It offers greater light sensitivity and better signal-to-noise ratio.

Because the PVS-14 uses white phosphor tubes rather than green, the wearer will have less eye strain after extended use, as well as greater detail of subjects when compared to older-generation tubes. A simple, three-position switch allows easy electronic control, while its included head mount offers hands-free, ambidextrous positioning.

  • Weapon mountable
  • MIL-SPEC white phosphor optics
  • Lightweight and durable construction
  • Internal low-battery and IR indicators
  • Includes a hard storage case
MSRP: $4,299.99

Armasight Dark Strider Night Vision Binoculars


Go unnoticed when using these Armasight Dark Strider night vision binoculars. They look, feel and operate similar to everyday binoculars, but this pair allows you to pierce through the darkest environment and see clearly in the night. Using gen 1 technology, the Dark Strider amplifies the existing surrounding light by several thousand times—perfect for nighttime security, traveling outdoors or observing wildlife in their natural habitat. Simple control buttons and eyepiece-only focus allow easy operation, while its affordable price point makes it an option for all lifestyles. A neck lanyard, carrying case and lens accessories come included.

  • Resolution: 30-40 line-pairs per mm
  • Rubberized body for impact protection
  • Powerful 5x magnification
  • Built-in long-range infrared illuminator
  • Water and fog resistant
MSRP: $459.62

Luna Optics LN-DM50-HRSD Monocular


Even the darkest night is no match for the Luna Optics LN-DM50-HRSD Monocular. Distortion-free, 6x magnification provides clear images with all light levels. Variable gain control allows for brightness adjustment, while the unique focusing wheel eliminates excessive shaking of the scope during operation. The monocular uses two lithium CR123 primary or rechargeable batteries. Features include an easy-to-read battery indicator light, modular base mount and two moisture-control cartridges.

  • Crystal-clear images
  • Takes photos and video on included 4GB micro SD card
  • Extremely high-definition photos and video
MSRP: $449.95

Luna Optics LN-DM5-HRV Day/Night Monocular

The Luna Optics LN-DM5-HRV Day/Night Monocular combines affordability and powerful magnification in one unique and lightweight package. Sporting a new, high-resolution, full-color display and offering the ability to view and record images on an external monitor, this monocular provides more opportunities than ever before. Use it in bright daylight without fear of burnout or in the darkest corners of night with its IR illuminators. This trusty unit is ready to perform in nearly any environment. Wrist strap, carrying case and video cable are included.

  • 5x magnification
  • Video output accessible
  • High-resolution, full-color images
  • Uses one lithium CR123 battery
MSRP: $199.95

Vortex Diamondback 20-60 x 80 Spotting Scope

The Diamondback reputation now extends to this amazing spotting scope. Incredible dielectric multilayered prism coating produces sharp, true color images, while fully multicoated lenses increase light transmission for maximum brightness. The scope’s outer rubber shell ensures a slip-free, comfortable grip; and the included sunshade reduces glare and shields the objective lens from raindrops.

  • Field of view: 105-51 feet/1,000 yards
  • Eyecup twists up or down for comfortable viewing
  • Sleek, angled body style
  • Water and fog proof
MSRP: $499.99

TM-X Observer Thermal Camera

High-quality features exemplify the Observer— one of the best-value thermal imaging cameras on the market today. This camera features a refresh rate of 50Hz and an impressive 160×120 sensor resolution, so images will appear smooth as silk (while not breaking the bank, as similar models can). You can change between polarities, white (hot) or black (hot) or up to eight full or partial color scheme display options. The camera also incorporates an SD card for several hours of recording; alternatively, you can export the video signal through RCA or USB cables to an external monitor or recording device. The Observer runs on 9 volts of DC power or four AA batteries.

  • Video can be magnified to 2x zoom
  • Removable SD card
  • Water resistant and highly durable
  • Multiple color display options
  • Detection range: 500 yards
MSRP: $2,499.99

Vortex Ranger 1500 6×22 Rangefinder

The Vortex Ranger 1500 6×22 Rangefinder is perfect for gun and bow hunters, target shooters or any sportsman or outdoorsman needing accurate ranges. Featuring an easy-to-use menu with a simple, clean display, this unit provides distance in meters or yards. Its LOS mode displays accurate line-of-sight range. The integrated scan feature displays continuous distance readings when panning across a landscape or tracking a moving target. Compact, durable and built to withstand extreme outdoor punishment, the Ranger will always be at your side when you use its included lanyard or utility clip. The Ranger runs on one common CR2 battery (included).

  • Field of view: 315 feet/1,000 yards
  • Three brightness settings
  • Lightweight (fewer than 8 ounces)
  • Accuracy +/- 3 yards at 1,000 yards
  • Linear field of view: 315 feet/1,000 yards
MSRP: $579.99

LRS Scout Gen 3 Night Vision Monocular


The perfect addition to your handheld camera and ideal for professional TV, film or media production, the LRS Scout Gen 3 Night Vision Monocular can handle all types of photo or video applications. Just attach it to your camera, and you’re ready to go. The unit includes a built-in IR illuminator that lights up even the darkest of subjects, while its 50mm lens provides a crisp, clear image. In-ocular “low power” and “IR on” indicators make operation easy. Photo and video adaptors are available for most camera models.

  • Hard-coated aluminum body
  • Resolution: At least 64 line-pairs per mm
  • 50mm objective lens
  • Comfortable eyecup
  • CR123 battery (average: 40-hour life) included
  • Includes hard-sided storage case
MSRP: $4,199

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the May 2017 print issue of American Survival Guide.