Good equipment and weapons are important parts of getting your job done right, but without situational awareness you might as well stay at home. Whether you’re patrolling a green zone in Helmand or watching for traffic violations in the rural South, if you don’t know what’s going on around you there’s no point in you being there. Nowadays we have a lot of ways of collecting and displaying information, from CCTV cameras to ground surveillance radar and Reaper drones, but The Mark One Eyeball is still one of the most reliable and hardest to spoof. The problem is it also has a pretty short range, so if you want to widen your awareness area you need to give it some optical assistance.
With optical weapon sights now becoming the norm pretty much everyone has the ability to magnify an area of interest, but aiming your rifle isn’t always the best solution. It’s an aggressive move that can lead to misunderstandings; it also means moving a long thing around, and that can compromise your position unnecessarily. Most scopes also have a narrow field of view and fairly low magnification – even a big ACOG is only 6x.
If you want to extend your visual range, the best solution is a set of binoculars. These give you a whole new level of capability. For a start, they can be used non-threateningly which can make your job a lot easier in many scenarios. They’re also short and easily used in confined spaces. If you want to observe an area of interest without giving away your position, binoculars will work far better than a rifle.
Binoculars also have higher magnification than almost all optical sights. Even the smallest compact pair will usually give 7x magnification, and larger ones are generally 8x or higher. There are zoom models too, so you can scan an area on low magnification then have a closer look at anything interesting. You’ll also benefit from a much wider field of view, which speeds up scans as well as reducing tunnel vision when you’re observing.
Any commander between squad and brigade level should carry a pair of binoculars, and so should designated marksmen, support weapon crews, static guards and any law enforcement officer working in open terrain. There’s a good choice available to suit just about any budget, so what should you go for?
In general a compact pair will suit most people; they slip away in a pocket and are light enough to be used for extended periods. They don’t work all that well in low light conditions though, because the small lenses don’t collect enough illumination to give a clear picture. There’s also not much space to add extra features like measuring graticles or compasses. If you need to direct fire or control a marksman, consider a larger pair with mil graticles and possibly zoom. You can also now get binoculars with built-in night vision capability – but these are expensive.
The Duke of Wellington said, more than once, that he expected a good officer to use his telescope more than his sword. Old advice, for sure, but it still has relevance. If you want to affect what’s going on, you need to know about it and binoculars are a fantastic tool for that.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.