Utah has outstanding areas to use spotting scopes for various activities, like antelope and cross-canyon big game hunting. Spotting scopes are fantastic tools to view long-distance areas of interest and can be used to look at night sky objects.
I’ve lived in Utah for a while and have spent many hours using spotting scopes, building hunting rifles, and helping hunters and outdoor recreation folks get outfitted for nearly every sport.
Spotting scopes are one of the most useful long-distance tools to own if you are into outdoor sports, and we’re going to look at their differences in this article.
Straight vs. Angles spotting scope: Main Differences
Straight and angled scope bodies, eyepiece magnification, focus knobs, and optical glass are made exactly the same way. The main difference is how the scope style works and fits the observer, while the eyepiece orientation is the only true difference.
A straight scope is better and faster to find your target and stay on it if the target is moving. The straight-body scope works like a scope on a rifle.
It is pointing where your eye line is looking. The straight body scope becomes uncomfortable quickly and can cause tension in the neck, and if you are shooting with the straight scope, it may translate into a shake in the rifle.
On the other hand, an angled scope is much more comfortable for long periods, glassing an area, gathering visual information, or being used by multiple people.
The angle body scope will fit your position instead of you fitting the position of the scope. The issue with an angled eyepiece is the time it takes to find the target and stay on target if it moves.
Straight Spotting Scope
A straight-body spotting scope is linear and will work like a refractory telescope.
A refractory telescope means all the light the scope gathers is sent to the eyepiece, not a reflector. Straight spotting scopes help find targets quickly.
You can get the target or target area in view with your eyes, then transfer to the scope, and you are looking in the same plane.
Straight body spotting scopes will have large optical glass and massive zoom ability. With the long body and openings, the scope will transfer light and bring distant things closer and in fine detail.
The eyepiece will have the ability to increase the magnification like most hunting scopes with variable magnification.
On the spotting scope, the focus knob will be placed on the top of the scope body, sometimes on the side, and adjustable with one finger on a scrolling method, like the wheel on the computer mouse.
If you have used a rifle scope with a focus wheel or knob that sits on the side, the result is the same; the method to turn the knob is a bit different.
- Great for following a target that moves.
- If the target moves to the left of the scope, travel the scope left and stay on target.
- Standard target acquisition for a shooter that has used a scope on a rifle
- Shooters are comfortable and familiar with the operation.
- Everyone, or nearly everyone, has looked through a tube to see something, from cardboard tubes as a kid to hunting scopes, and it has become second nature to us.
- Easy use in close-quarters setup.
- Usually has a smaller footprint.
- Generally found on the table for bench shooters
- Window mount on the driver’s side.
- The smaller size is good due to the flimsy window mount hardware.
- Will become uncomfortable after head and neck are kinked in the same position for a while.
- Fatigue from head and neck angle will set in.
- That fatigue for a shooter may translate into a shake on the rifle.
- Very inconvenient for being used by multiple people
- Resetting and moving the tripod will have to change for each person.
- Adjusting height, may result in the target being gone by the time the scope is resighted.
Angled spotting scope
An angled body spotting scope uses a reflector-style setup to bounce the gathered light into the eyepiece.
The scope will gather light just like the straight body scope, then focus the light onto a reflector to bend around the corner and out of the eyepiece into your eye.
The angled eyepiece is movable on quality scopes and can be fixed on some makers or models.
The optical lenses and tube length that we discussed with straight body scopes are the same on angled spotting scopes, and the difference is the ease of viewing.
The eyepiece will also operate the magnification as all scopes and telescopes do. The focus will be on the top of the body, forward of the eyepiece.
- The angled body spotting scope is much easier to look through
- Time spent finding objects is made easy
- The angled scope eyepiece will make the scope fit the person or position
- The observer can find a comfortable place and spend hours looking at the target
- With the angled scope body, the scope can be used by an observer in a sitting position
- Very comfortable viewing
- The fatigue factor does not come into play for a shooter or hunter.
- Multiple viewer use.
- The adjustable eyepiece is rotated to the height or position, and the tripod does not need to move.
- Getting on target with an angled body scope takes a while.
- The observer can attempt to look over the top or along the side of the scope to get it close, and that works sometimes.
- If the target moves you may lose the target and spend some time trying to find it again.
- The scope’s construction makes the operation space one and a half body sizes big.
- You are standing to the left and right rear of the scope, not directly behind it.
Which one has the advantage – straight or angled spotting scope?
I’ve used both types of scopes watching bears and wolves in Yellowstone, and the easiest scope to use for extended periods is the angled body spotting scope.
Once the observer finds their target, they can spend hours watching the wolf pups play in the den. The angled eyepiece makes glassing and watching migration patterns of elk and deer easier.
I’ve used the straight body scopes in Yellowstone, which work great for magnification but are uncomfortable to look through for some time.
When a new observer wants to look through the scope, the tripod has to be adjusted, and the target is found again, not impossible, not even hard, just a pain in the neck.
For birdwatching, looking for moving game, or gathering information, the straight eyepiece will be much faster to acquire the target.
For bench shooting or sighting in a scope, I use a little straight-body spotting scope for its size and ease of use.
If I did not have the little scope, I would use the angled scope with a phone scope attachment and look at the picture.
Spotting scopes of the same caliber of manufacturing will have the same lenses. The quality of the scope body, the eyepiece, and the ruggedness will be equal.
Both styles of spotting scopes will be relatively the same size in length and width (girth), and they will weigh almost the same. In most cases, the difference will be less than ten ounces.
If one style of the spotting scope is heavier, the angled spotting scope will be heavier.
The eyepieces will operate the same as well as the focus knob. Weather resistance will be equal between the two body types as well. The tripod mounting system will be the same in both styles.
Magnification on a scope is done with the eyepiece itself, not the mounting on the scope body. When comparing apples to apples, the eyepiece will be the same, and there will be no difference.
Turning the eyepiece on the angled body scope will result in less shaking due to the displacement of the eyepiece from the center axis of the scope.
You can wiggle the scope when adjusting the magnification on the straight-body scope. When adjusting the magnification on a straight body scope, you will not lose the target; it may be shaky for a second.
4. Vehicle mounting
When we read about vehicle mounts for spotting scopes, the manufacturers are talking about window mounts.
Roll down the window about halfway, then place a plastic clamp on the window glass — the other side screws into the mount on the scope body.
The legal opinion is the straight scope is a better fit for this, but I’m afraid I have to disagree. The angled scope eyepiece can adjust to the observer much easier.
If the scope is easier and more comfortable to use, it will get more use.
The answer to this question is not straightforward. The answer will depend on the use of the scope. If you plan on spending some time looking through the scope, the angled scope is better. The straight scope is better if you must get right on target quickly.
Angled spotting scopes are much more comfortable, easier to use with multiple observers, and make the time spent looking through the scope much more pleasant. An angled scope will adjust to fit the observer, not the other way around.
The straight-body scope may be better for bench shooting or target shooting because the observer can sit right behind the scope and not off to the side. Straight body scopes are faster at target acquisition due to the line of sight from the observer’s sightline.
If the glass and the scope body are high quality, a good picture can be seen at 1000 meters. The image may become distorted when the magnification is turned to its max. A target at 500 meters will be clear and not distorted.
In summary, the angled spotting scope will be more comfortable and get used much more, or at least for more extended periods than the straight body scope.
Observing with the angled scope will be a pleasure, and numerous folks can use the scope from the same tripod setting.
A significant thing to point out is the quality, not quantity. What this means is, don’t buy for the most magnification, but for the highest quality of glass and manufacturer you can afford.
And if possible, get closer, keep the magnification set as low as possible, and still see the target.
The most important part of buying a scope is to get one you will use, then go out and use it.