The most useful surveillance device in the sniper team are good binoculars. With their correct adjustment and focusing, the sniper can spend hours observing with binoculars without eye strain, and usually complements this with observation with the naked eye, and the telescope is used only when it is necessary to carefully examine the signs of the target.
Binoculars and mini-binoculars, purpose, design fundamentals, adjustment and focusing, binoculars with stabilization of the field of view, the use of binoculars in the field.
Binoculars are the true optical workhorses of the sniper team. However, binoculars are also the most effective means of observation at dusk and at night, since they have a significantly larger exit pupil and twilight factor than telescopes or rifle scopes.
Bases of design and adjustment of binoculars.
Binoculars are designated according to their magnification and size of the objective lens. For example, binoculars 7&# 215; 35 has a magnification of 7x with front lenses of 35 mm. Binoculars 10&# 215; 50 have a 10x magnification and a 50 mm objective lens. As with sights and telescopes, the front lens (lens) provides focus, while the rear lens (eyepiece) determines the magnification and field of view.
The adjustment of binoculars begins with the adjustment of the distance between the pupils, which involves only the installation of monoculars connected by a hinge, so that each eyepiece is precisely aligned with the eye pupil. Once you have found a convenient angle, take an indelible alcohol marker and draw a thin line on the scale marked on the hinge.
Unless you are exposed to hazardous chemicals and your head changes shape, you will never have to repeat this process again. But you will have to re-focus the binoculars every time after using it by someone else. This process is slightly different if you have a central adjustment between the tubes of the monoculars or independent focusing on each eyepiece.
Focusing binoculars with independent focusing on each eyepiece.
In the latter case, you focus the eyepieces only once, which is the “free focus” system found now in the binoculars of the US Army and Marine Corps, manufactured by Steiner. To focus these eyepieces, select a large object that has significant contrast and color that is approximately 100 yards away. Then turn out each eyepiece as much as possible..
To do this at the beginning is very important, otherwise your eyes can compensate and make the defocused image seem focused. After that, with both eyes open, close one lens and focus the other eyepiece so that the image is sharp and clear. Be stable so that vibration causes minimal distortion. If you find that you are focusing too well, start again by fully rotating the eyepiece until it stops and refocusing.
Then swap and close another lens, and focus the other eyepiece. When you have done this, take an alcohol marker and place indicator lines on each lens for quick refocusing.
Focusing binoculars with central adjustment between the tubes of monoculars.
Focused binoculars are slightly different because only the right eyepiece is adjustable. Start by turning the focusing drum so that the eyepieces extend as far as possible. Then turn out the right eyepiece as much as possible. Again, using a clear target 100 yards away, look into the left eyepiece with your right lens closed and focus using the center focusing drum.
Be sure that you are actually focusing and your eye is not compensated. Now, close the left lens and look through the right eyepiece, but do not touch the central drum, but adjust the focus of the eyepiece. When done, make a note on the eyepiece with your indelible alcohol marker. After that, you will use the center focusing drum every time you adjust the binoculars, since both lenses are in sync now.
In the 1990s, traditional binoculars evolved into more sophisticated versions with stabilization for better image clarity. This technology began as a means of stabilizing cameras and lenses, both for civilian cinema and for military aviation sighting systems. In 1995, I tested a pair of image stabilization binoculars and found that although they did their job, they were too bulky and expensive to use as a sniper.
Then in 1998, at the training center of the Whitington National Association of Small Arms Owners, I tried the Zeiss 20 binoculars&# 215; 60 mm with stabilization brought there by the German sniper team. According to Zeiss, these premium binoculars make it possible to distinguish a 15 mm object at 1000 yards. They were more compact than earlier models, but the price was too steep for an old soldier..
After a couple of years, I tried Canon’s stabilization binoculars, which were even more compact, but worked great and were offered at a price I could afford. I have been using them for several years and now I can attest to their quality and, most importantly, the quality of their image..
Unlike earlier bulky devices with gyroscopic stabilization, the Canon stabilization system uses a very small vibrating optical prism. It rotates so fast that the image appears motionless. Two seconds after you press the power button, any twitching is smoothed out, and you can distinguish very precise details. This stabilized, floating image reminds me of the FLIR guidance system for smart bombs falling on a target..
With these 15&# 215; 50 mm Canon binoculars, standing (without support) I can see .223 caliber bullet holes in the target 100 yards away, just like using a 25x telescope on a tripod. Although these binoculars are slightly heavier than standard binoculars, I think they offer such advanced optical capabilities that they can replace the telescope and tripod while reducing size and weight.
The only drawback here seems to be the lack of an army reinforced version. But I’m sure that Canon can develop a version with enhanced sealing and a more robust body. The American army already has binoculars with stabilization, M25 with a multiplicity of 14x, so it is at least in the supply system, and for the sniper team there is the opportunity to grab one.
Using binoculars in the field.
Since binoculars are hand held devices, they are usually not robust enough to take full advantage of their optical capabilities. This is a user error that can be easily resolved. To get started, to minimize any movement or vibration between the binoculars and your eyes, hold them so that the top of the eyepieces is in close contact with the bottom of your eyebrows.
The first time you try, it will be slightly uncomfortable, but the results will be impressive. Also, think of your binoculars as a rifle that needs support for best results. Fasten yourself and the binoculars along, above, or opposite any solid, stationary object like a wall or a large tree. Only these two methods will significantly improve the resolution of the binoculars when observing over long distances..
You can also improve the clarity of the image by blocking the light around the eyepieces with your fingers. By blocking bright light, you allow your pupils to expand so that they can recognize more detail in a larger image.
Using binoculars, you should always be aware of the danger that reflected sunlight can unmask your location. This is a serious danger to the Steiner American Army binoculars with their mirrored, anti-laser coating. Without this coating, a laser beam, for example from a laser rangefinder of the Abrams tank, can cause blindness, so such a coating is necessary.
The solution is the M22 KillFlash antireflection tips. The same kind of honeycomb filter that Tenebraex makes for sniper sights. In fact, the sniper rifle version has evolved from the binocular version. Such caps fit onto monocular tubes and work so well that although they are 2 1/4 inches long, they completely eliminate light reflection. They are delivered through the supply channels of both the Ground Forces and the Marine Corps.
“Anti-tank”, especially large binoculars.
I called particularly large binoculars, such as Steiner 15&# 215; 80 and Bushnell 20&# 215; 80, anti-tank to emphasize their size and weight. They are simply too large to be used by a regular sniper team. But you can talk a lot about glasses, which can produce a twilight factor of 35-40, and be used at high magnification for a long time without eye strain, which occurs when observed through the telescope.
These large-sized binoculars are excellent for observing along borders, coastlines, and airfields where distances are long and observation may require hours or days. Some of my good friends from the drug department use Steiner 15 binoculars on the bay.&# 215; 80, ambiguously presented by the arrested cocaine smuggler. And they turned out to be especially versed in its use at night..
But while working with ordinary 7x or 10x binoculars there is a need to soften the vibration, then these 15x and 20x binoculars require absolute stability for good results. Mounting is important; it is even better to install them on a solid tripod; in fact, these big guys already come with a thread for mounting on a tripod.
Mini binoculars or compact binoculars.
The other extreme is the compact, pocket-sized mini-binoculars that have become extremely popular. I think every sniper should have this portable and convenient binocular. But only as an addition to full-size binoculars, and not instead of them. Since they are so compact, these mini-binoculars can be in your pocket and always at hand, instantly ready to check something that your eyes find curious.
Instead of digging into your bag for two minutes, to dig out full-size binoculars, you throw optics to your eyes in 20 seconds. There is a problem – in fact, the danger that some lost soul can actually replace full-size binoculars with optically subordinate minibinoculars.
Regardless of quality, not one of the mini-binoculars and does not come close to the average exit pupil, which are on full-size binoculars, and their twilight factor is even worse. Just remember that mini-binoculars are daytime optical devices and can hardly replace ordinary binoculars.
The problem with mini-binoculars is that their small 20-25 mm objective lenses obviously cannot collect a lot of light. Think of it this way. The area of a round lens increases faster than its diameter increases. This means that 50 mm lenses have a collection area 2.8 times higher than 30 mm lenses. In comparison, the best quality mini-binoculars won’t look as bright as ordinary full-size binoculars.
However, having mixed all this, several manufacturers of optics have recently released field compact binoculars, which are larger than mini-binoculars, but not as large as full-size ones..
Swarovski compact binoculars are really good examples of optical instruments. And very close to competition directly with full-size binoculars. While these impressive optical devices are well suited to covert police and military operations, they cannot replace their slightly larger counterparts..
Based on the book “The Perfect Sniper. Study Guide for Army and Police Snipers ».
Maj. John L. Plaster, USAR (Ret.)