We rated optics on their ability to serve a hunter or shooter, which meant putting an emphasis on their durability, versatility, and field worthiness. Since optics are designed to help us see, we also scored image sharpness and cleanness on a standard resolution chart, and then tested their low-light visibility in the evenings. But the balance of the test was in the field. We spent weeks with the binoculars, using them the way you do: by strapping them to our chests and hiking all sorts of terrain. We mounted spotting scopes on tripods and used them to spot game and score hits at the rifle range. We mounted all riflescopes on guns and rated their ability to make precise aiming adjustments and return to zero, time after time.

We also assessed their ergonomics, their looks, and whether they’re suitable for the task they’re intended to tackle. The optics that scored the most points won our Editor’s Choice awards. The optics with the highest value scores won our Great Buy awards.

We grouped riflescopes designed for long-range shooting as a single category. The second category of riflescopes, which we call the “versatile” scopes, are primarily intended for hunting but have enough reticle references for a variety of target work.

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