Lightning Review: FireField Spotting Scope – It Works, You Just Have to Work Around It.

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I used to be a “cheap” shooter, notorious for buying items at the low end of the market. I lept at opportunities for less expensive accessories. Low-end knock-off sights, grips and lasers furnished my rifles. Fortunately for me, I have been cured of the desire for cheap items, but still retain my miserliness at paying for the good stuff.

Why?

I bought a FireField spotting scope and now have to live with it.

Author’s Note- The spotting scope used for testing was personally purchased for use during my normal rifle testing. It was not furnished by Firefield or any other retailer. I still have the spotting scope and am using it each time I am at the rifle range. 

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Now spending significant amounts of time at the range for Testing and Evaluation of rifles, I found myself needing a spotting scope to speed up zeroing and accuracy testing. When I first started with TFB, I was shooting strings on splatter targets and using an ACOG to see the pattern. It was a less than ideal (and expensive!) solution.

Not being a serious long-range shooter, I immediately went to Amazon and found the best-rated low-cost spotting scope. With 83 reviews and 4.5 starts, I thought I was safe with a good deal. It had all the specs I thought I was looking for. Large objective lens? Check. Water/fogproof? Check. Adjustable tripod? Check.

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The scope arrived quickly without issue and within the day I was out at the range working on a review. The Firefield comes in a hard sided case enclosing the scope and the tripod. The scope itself is further enclosed in a zipped nylon bag with caps covering both the lens and eyepiece. But, everything feels “Cheap.” The hard sized case is cardboard hidden behind plastic panels. The tripod is shaky, and the threads on the eyepiece cap were already cross-threaded.

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Set up, I immediately noticed two major detractions. The tripod is not stable–at all. At low magnification, its easy to look past the shutter, but at high magnification, it is nigh unviewable. The only way it was usable was to adjust the tripod with no extension. Second, and the largest complaint, is that the eye relief is terrible.

The built-in sunshade. Its not needed, as the glass is not too bright on a sunny day.

The built-in sunshade. Its not needed, as the glass is not too bright on a sunny day.

Knowing that this spotting scope was going to be used at a range and that most ranges require eye protection, the designers should have extended the eye relief. At 20x magnification, the scope requires one to press eye protection against it hard. At 40x, you remove the rubber eyepiece cover, and at 60x the shooter has to remove the eye protection all together!

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Magnification is adjusted at the eyepiece, twisting counter-clockwise to increase up to 60x.

Still, it does its job. Removing the rubber eyepiece cap, I can see impacts at 100 yards on non-splatter targets. At 40x magnification, I can see out to 200 yards and at the full 60x on a sunny day, I can see shots at 300. Since I shoot mostly at 100 for accuracy testing, 40x is good enough. The Firefield scope works, you just have to work around it.

The Good:

  • On a sunny day (when I do most of my shooting), its a good enough image to see .223 holes in 8.5 x 11″ targets. at 100 yards (so long as you do not breathe on the tripod). 
  • Focus works, but is very sensitive.
  • Comes with tripod and hard carrying case.

The Notable:

  • The tripod is an awkward height. Putting it on the ground, it only reaches about 5′. I typically put the tripod on the shooting bench next to the testing rifle.
  • The spotting scope is a straight eyepiece. Now experienced, I would enjoy an offset viewer more.
The stock rubber eyepiece.

The stock rubber eyepiece.

When you remove the eyepiece, the glue residue is obvious, but its the only way to make the scope functional.

When you remove the eyepiece, the glue residue is obvious, but its the only way to make the scope functional.

The Bad:

  • Miserable eye relief. At low magnification, you have to remove the rubber eye ring when using eye pro. At high magnification, you cannot even wear glasses. 
  • The tripod is cheap. It wobbles with the slightest touch.
  • It is usable, but not high-quality glass, despite the claims.Image is bright, but not perfectly crisp (possibly due to very sensitive focus).
The Firefield spotting scope at its highest point. For someone 6', its way too short.

The Firefield spotting scope at its highest point. For someone 6′, its way too short.

Final Thoughts:

In retrospect, the FireField was a bad choice for me, but could be a good one for many. For as often as I am at the range, the annoyances outweigh the money saved upfront. For the occasional shooter, this does work, but for a range aficionado, this is inadequate.

If you are serious about making long range testing smoother, go spend at least $200 and pick up a respectable brand. You will be glad you spend the money.

Until my wife allows me to get an upgrade, I can live with this, but I don’t have to like it.

Gallery:



Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • guest

    Don’t know why but I always hated cheap optics. And even once I got a couple of S&B scopes I am still not entirely satisfied. But be that as it may if it does the job – then everything goes.
    I think as a rule of thumb the spotting scope should have better overall performance on both light transmission, abbration, low-light properties etc than the rifle scope, or else you can just use the rifle scope. So if you pay 200$ for a spotting scope then your rifle scope must either be a chinese airsoft red dot, fixed iron sights, or a cardboard toilet paper roll core with “Zwrafski Megasope- 110% Made from Garmeny” pained in barely readable letters with a Sharpie on the side, duct taped to the gun.
    But again, if it does the job… even still, don’t buy 10 cheap gizmos and save up money for a real spotting scope, and get your retinas raped by the details and colors. Again, just IMHO.

    • You can buy fairly expensive optics one time or buy cheap optics over and over as they break or just don’t work well.

      • Ben M

        Same can be said about rings/mounts. Why is that my $700 Leopold won’t hold zero?? Maybe it’s the $10 Chinese manufactured rings you decided to mount it in.

        I used to be guilty of both. Once you own your first acog (or equivalent high end optic), there is absolutely no going back.

        • Good point—-a cheap mount can negate that $1000 investment.

        • guest

          Ben, go buy ERA-TAC german rings… or better even mounts they have. Given you have a weaver rail that is. They are infinitely customisable and are rock solid massive aluminium. Available in both straight, 20MOA forward and a new version that has a dial for variable setting. I promise you once you try their products you will never look back.

  • big daddy

    There is a happy medium for optics, if you are a professional hunter or Mil/LE you MUST buy highend, that goes with all professions. If you are an enthusiast you can get away with medium range price/quality as long as it meets certain standards. Having been a professional musician I can attest to cheap things breaking within minutes and ruining a show unless you have a backup. With firearms it’s about your life though, you can’t say wait I have to turn this thing on before I shoot you. If it’s a range toy and never to be used seriously it’s fine to get a cheaper model. But cheap crap is a waste of money unless it’s absolutely all you can afford, but do not count on it for your life. Reliability is more important than features, go less expensive without the bells and whistles but reliable under normal stress. If you use it for real life situations save your money and buy the best. That could be said about flashlights as well as ammo and optics. This is a purchase I intend on upgrading, nothing worse than poor optics, it’s frustrating and just not worth it. I will not buy upper highend but I do want something I can use without cursing it every time, that takes the fun out of it. As I age my eyesight gets worse and worse, it’s time for me to upgrade for sure.

    • I have tried to verbally pile words out of my mouth about this subject for years, and have never been able to do so with such precision and eloquence. I’m stealing your post from now on!

      • big daddy

        Just repeating what I learned from others and my own personal experiences in life. I think it’s sort of common sense. But thank you, I don’t always get well received when I try to speak the truth with some common sense in there.

  • Gunnutmegger

    In optics, you get what you pay for.

    Tripods are cheap, even high quality ones. Don’t waste any time using crappy ones.

    But you can get a 20-60x60mm Simmons spotter with a mini tripod and Pelican-style plastic hard case for 59.99 at Cabelas. I tried it out in the store. Not razor sharp, but usable (people need to realize that a binocular or telescope that offers zoom magnification will always be less sharp and less contrasty than a fixed-power model). Eye relief is better than the one described in this review. Optics are only fully-coated so pointing it in a direction that lets the sun shine on the front element will create some flare in the lens. But with those weaknesses factored in, and the case & tripod included, it’s a good value.

    http://www.cabelas.com/product/Hunting/Optics/Spotting-Scopes|/pc/104791680/c/104752080/sc/104600880/Simmonsreg-Spotting-Scope-Kit/1722998.uts?destination=%2Fcatalog%2Fbrowse%2Fspotting-scopes%2F_%2FN-1100060%2FNs-CATEGORY_SEQ_104600880%3FWTz_l%3DSBC%253BMMcat104791680%253Bcat104752080&WTz_l=SBC%3BMMcat104791680%3Bcat104752080%3Bcat104600880

  • Gunnutmegger

    Guys,

    Nathan’s predicament inspired me.

    Here is a buyer’s guide for spotting scopes. What matters and what doesn’t.

    http://www.yankeegunnuts.com/2014/07/24/use-enough-glass-selecting-a-spotting-scope/