SOF PROVING GROUND: STEINER 15X80 “MILITARY” BINOS GO TO THE HUNT
My history with this pair of 15X80 Steiners begins in 1983, in West Germany, at Franconia Jagd, a very popular hunting store in Wurzburg. I was a newly certified American Soldat, Jaeger and was eager to get into the forests to help the Jaegermeisters with their Abschuse Plan (Rehwild [Roe] deer harvest plan). I had a cheap pair of Rod & Gun Club German Prinzes 8X50 that were okay for day glassing, but were no good in the moon/star/ lowlight conditions in which I found myself on each hunt. My Jaeger friend told me to go to Franconia Jagd and check the Steiner, Swarovski, and Zeiss binos. I went, shopped and tried each version and weighed the cost (DM was 3.5 to 1 at that time). I was not concerned about size or weight; I wanted the most light gathering and clarity I could afford. And at the time it translated to about 350USD. I was very impressed with the Steiner 15X80 Senator model and bought a pair. Now fast forward through 13 Rehbock, seven white tail deer and 20 years to Bald Mountain Colorado, on the Soldier of Fortune hunt with the crew (pictured above) of hard-boned hunters—Brown, Higgs, Kartchner, and me.
The high desert of far northwestern Colorado is where the 15 x 80s, now sold under the model name
"Military," shined. I discovered that glassing for elk was effortless with these binos. I was easily able to spot elk 4 to 5miles away, and then to travel toward them or observe their progress toward me. The light gathering ability of these binos is truly phenomeonal. In night conditions with ambient light from the moon or stars, and after conditioning my eyes for 45minutes, I was able to glass and observe movement out to a mile. In low light they are equally impressive with increased range. The challenge arises when it is time to shoot; most scopes do not have near the light-gathering capacity or (until recently) magnification. I had to adjust and often wait for light to improve so my scopes could catch the imagery the Steiners had displayed 15 to 30 minutes earlier.
You may wonder about the binos’ size and weight. In my case this is a non-issue because I use a hand-carved, Osage orange (hedge apple), bergstock or German hunting stick. I select the sticks from young hedge-apple trees and cut them to about 5 ft 6 inches. The stick must have a “Y” at the top, which I use to steady the binos and to shoot from. I practice both glassing and shooting from the sticks and on the last SOF hunt, using a DPMS Panther Arms LR 300 Remington Short-Action Ultra Magnum, popped three-inch groups out to 300 yards.
Technical specs for the Military model 415 include (from the Pioneer Research website: http://www.steiner-binoculars.com/binoculars/law/415.html): weight 56 oz, field-of-view 195 feet at 1,000 yards, eye relief of 13mmand over all dimensions in inches, 12L x 8.6W and 3.6H. They are waterproof, rubber armored in olive drab and very shock resistant. They eliminate the need for lugging spotting scopes and tripods along with your gear for the long-range glassing sessions. Current prices vary from the mid 900s to a list price of 2,100 USD; shop around and you will find a good price.
Bottom line, they are not cheap but they are worth the money for open country long-range spotting and hunting. Various military and police agencies rely on Steiner products; the 15 X 80 definitely has its place in the hunting field, as well as on sniper teams and along the border observing drug smugglers and illegal entrants.