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Review: Steiner Police Binoculars

Review: Steiner Police Binoculars

Guest blog by Ethan Balman.  Balman is a former member of our U.S. Armed Forces, a retired law enforcement officer, firearms instructor, writer, teacher, and avid outdoorsmen. He holds a master’s degree in leadership and lives and works in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania with his wife and three children.

Our eyes are nothing short of amazing!  Even though the Earth's surface curves out of sight at a distance of approximately 5 kilometers, our visual acuity extends far beyond the horizon. In fact, our eyes are capable of detecting the smallest flicker of a candle flame at a distance of 48 kilometers away when observed from an elevated position above the horizontal curve!

While our eyes are truly a marvel of intelligent design, there is a limit. Whether you’re boating, hiking, hunting, bird watching, or you're an active member of the military or law enforcement, binoculars are an absolute necessity.

I had always wanted a pair of large-objective VortexLeica, Swarovski or Zeiss, but the cost associated with owning such high-end optical perfection separated me from my heart’s desire.  The only thing equal to my love of great glass and German engineering is my complete and utter disdain for the ultra-affordable Walmart options.

Buying a pair of mass-produced Chinese import binoculars at this stage in my life was kind of like admitting I enjoy macaroni and cheese out of a box;  Might taste good going down, but doesn’t offer much in the way of nutritional value!  Sooner or later you have to grow up and accept the fact that nothing good comes from the bottom of the barrel.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t afford quality optics on a budget. As consumers, we have choices, lots of them! While this is a good thing, it can also be a bit overwhelming. Hopefully this review will make your next purchase a bit easier.

When I began working as a deputy with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, I knew I needed a quality optic both rugged and reliable. Additionally, the optic had to be capable of gathering every last bit of available light, since much of my work took place in the low-light conditions often encountered nighttime patrol.

Balman needed a binocular with large objective lenses for good low light performance.

Balman needed a binocular with large objective lenses for good low light performance.

With a clear idea of what I needed and a price tag in mind, I finally narrowed my options down to just one company, Steiner Optics.  Steiner offers a broad range of high quality products with a proven track record.  They've stood the test of time and have been extensively field tested by some of the most demanding military clientele anywhere in the world, the U.S. Navy Seals.

While Steiner has plenty of options, I chose the 10x50 Police binoculars which retail for just $299 at EuroOptic.com.  They offer exceptional value without sacrificing quality.

My binoculars arrived in typical Steiner packaging, which is to say a nicely executed color cardboard box that serves to both protect and advertise Steiner’s products.  Like a kid on Christmas, I opened the box and gazed lovingly at the object of my affection, real German optics. As I brought them to my eyes and surveyed the distant hills, I was filled with a sense of accomplishment. I had arrived, I was no longer eating from the bottom of the barrel.  Now I was enjoying the cream on top for the first time in my life. Best of all, I still had money leftover in my budget!

Steiner included their premium padded case along with nylon neck strap, cleaning cloth, manual, and warranty card. As if that wasn’t enough, Steiner also included outstanding, watertight lens caps attached directly to the binoculars eliminating the possibility of losing them. On that note, I've seen binoculars and scopes costing three times as much arrive without any kind of a protective cap or lens cover, or with covers so useless you may as well throw them away.

Steiner's end caps click firmly into place, unlike those on some high-dollar optics.

Steiner's end caps click firmly into place, unlike those on some high-dollar optics.

According to Steiner’s website, the Police series binoculars are specifically designed for patrol duty, tactical operations and surveillance missions that require fast capture, clear images and sharp detail under all conditions; exactly what I was looking for!

Like all of Steiner’s optics, the 10x50 Police utilize specially coated lenses for the highest light transmission, sharp edge-to-edge view and contrast, even in low light or hazy conditions. They also use what’s known as a floating prism system, which means the lenses sit inside of a soft, flexible silicone mount designed to absorb severe shock, impact and abuse without damage. These binos are waterproof and fog proof, capable of withstanding extreme cold and wet conditions. They feature a proprietary polycarbonate housing known as Makrolon, offering a rugged and lightweight chassis capable of withstanding 40 G’s of impact, as well as a good grip.

Additionally, the 10x50s feature individually-adjustable eye focus which Steiner refers to as Sport-Auto-Focus. This allows the user to focus each eyepiece specifically to your vision. Simply dial it in for a razor-sharp image and you’re good to go from 20 yards to infinity.

Notice the individually-adjustable "Sport Auto Focus" eyepieces.

Notice the individually-adjustable "Sport Auto Focus" eyepieces.

For the last three years, I‘ve used my Steiner binoculars more in all types of weather and lighting conditions. I’ve used them to keep tabs on Pennsylvania's eagle population, locate tagged deer, and conduct countless surveillance operations.  Because low light performance was a key concern, I was relieved to find that the combination of the large objective, quality glass, coatings, and short barrel length make the Police binoculars really shine even in the darkest of conditions.

To put the light-gathering capability into perspective, I compared the Police binos to a pair of Leica HD-B 8x42

Despite being eight times the cost, the Leicas weren't noticeably brighter at dusk, though contrast was noticeably better. The only real downside to these binoculars is their weight. At a hair over 35 ounces, they are by no means light. However, the overall profile is fairly compact and they are noticeably wider than they are long.  That, coupled with their closed-hinge design, makes them look a bit odd to some, but this is product of Steiner’s need to maintain a compact piece of equipment and hasn’t been an issue for me personally.

The P-series are perfect for boating, routine patrol, stationary hunting, birding, and the tactical operations they were designed for. And while I might not take them big game hunting in the mountains, they’re tough as nails and small enough to keep in the center console of the truck. Bottom line, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a better value for the money anywhere at any price. They have never let me down or given me a minute of buyer’s remorse.

Finally, all of Steiner’s products are backed by their Heritage Warranty, which provide a no-charge repair or replacement if the optic becomes damaged or defective for the life of the product. If you’re in the market for a high quality pair of binoculars on a budget, give Steiner a try, they “offer a distinct advantage”, as their motto goes. 

Balman enjoys shooting groundhogs out past 100 yards with his Mosin-Nagant, using irons.

Balman enjoys shooting groundhogs out past 100 yards with his Mosin-Nagant, using irons.

Zero Your Turrets – T.O.

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