Each year, dozens of new volumes are added to the ever-expanding library of books written to help bird watchers and naturalists become more adept at, as well as increase their enjoyment of, their respective crafts. From field guides and natural histories to personal reflections and how-to guides, the range of titles is indeed rich and varied. The problem is that among all these books there has long been a space left void – a space just waiting for a guide to the instruments so crucial to the pursuit of modern bird watching and other naturalist studies: sport optics.

Strange as it may seem to an an area of activity so nose-deep in books, no single volume dedicated to explaining the design, use, and operational intricacies of sport optics – binoculars and spotting scopes – to a general audience has been published in English. Yet it is indeed true; or at least it was, that prior to the release of Alan R. Hale’s recently published Sport Optics; Binoculars, Spotting Scopes & Riflescopes no explanatory book on the subject was available to the general public. (Should you be wondering why, in addition to binoculars and spotting scopes, rifle scopes were included, the simple explanation is that most all firms in the sport optics industry include all three of these types of optical instruments in their product lines due to the many technical similarities they share; however for those perhaps troubled by such an inclusion, the riflescope oriented chapters can be skipped if desired without a significant loss of understanding of the other two types of products discussed.)

Mr. Hale, chairman emeritus of the optics firm Celestron, has in this book compiled a generous offering of his accumulated knowledge about these instruments as gained from his many years of experience in the sport optics industry – as well, of course, as the result of his never-ending curiosity – in an effort to increase the general understanding about them among bird watchers, general naturalists, hunters, and any other outdoor enthusiasts employing sport optics in their activities. In furtherance of this, he has drawn upon the considerable body of technical information available to him (distilled appropriately to increase its intelligibility to the non-specialist reader) and greatly enhanced it with a wide array of easy-to-understand explanatory images, diagrams, and charts.

Covering most all subjects an interested reader might wish to understand about sport optics – from how binoculars and spotting scopes work to how they should best be selected for particular uses – Mr. Hale’s Sport Optics will likely become the “go to” guide for all who are interested in learning more about binoculars and spotting scopes (and yes, riflescopes). Those in the market to buy a new optic for themselves as well as those whose job it is to sell them should consider the book to be essential reading. Indeed, perhaps by breaking the barrier that has seemingly kept this subject from being the topic of previous books, Sport Optics may well usher in a number of future books on the subject. However even with the publication of this first one, thanks to Mr. Hale’s efforts in the researching and writing of it, it is now as easy for a newcomer to bird watching, or any other form of nature study that includes the use of binoculars or spotting scopes, to learn about the optical instruments he or she will be using as it presently is to begin learning about the birds or other creatures being observed with them. For his dedication to the spreading of such knowledge, Mr. Hale is to be most heartily to be congratulated.

Sport Optics coverTitle: Sport Optics; Binoculars, Spotting Scopes & Riflescopes

Author: Alan R. Hale

Publisher: Hale Optics

Format: paperback

Pages: 182 pp.

ISBN: 9780989791601

Publication Date: November 2013

A previous edition of this review was published in the January / February 2015 issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest.

In accordance with Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR Part 255, it is disclosed that the copy of the book read in order to produce this review was provided gratis to the reviewer by the publisher.