I recently got back from the Total Archery Challenge at Killington/Pico Mountain, Vermont and all and all the gear I took with me performed flawlessly but one regret I have was not taking advantage of the testing program Leupold was offering at T.A.C. Unbeknownst to me Leupold, who is a sponsor of the Challenge, allows T.A.C. participants the opportunity to take their optics on the course and test them against what they are currently using. My ignorance was probably a good thing for my bank account because I likely would have walked away with a pair of BX-4 Pro Guide HD 10X42 or 10X50’s. Yeah, they are that impressive… But in all fairness the reason I titled this article a “first impression” and not a review is because I only had a weekend of relaxed testing with them. Hardly enough for a full shake down and far from the typical months of use I put most pieces of gear through before publishing a review. BUT I also know from firsthand experience that the seemingly infinite selection of binoculars on the market can make deciding what piece of glass to buy feel like drinking from a fire hose. And being that I found some serious potential in these mid-price point binos I felt compelled to share my experience with the BX-4’s because I believe they are a great starting point from which anyone shopping for new glass can compare to other competitors and higher or lower price point models.
My first introduction to the BX-4’s was when my Dad and I stopped by the Leupold tent after finishing the Sitka course at T.A.C. Full transparency, I know what I like and don’t like in my optics but I am no expert when it comes to glass. I appreciate a great set of binoculars but being primarily a bow hunter I tend to focus on my rangefinder and in the past have been guilty of using whatever binos I can get my hands on. The binos I have been running for the past few months are an older pair of Swarovski 10X42’s handed down to me by my grandfather. Despite being more than a decade old they are exceptionally clear, durable, and the dials and eye caps all feel crisp and good as new. There is a reason Swaros fetch a premium price tag. At the time these were retailing they cost around One Thousand $USD. Pretty standard for a mid range set of binos today but expensive when they came out. This particular set of Swaros might make your pockets lighter but they hang heavy around your neck. Walking around the mountain all day I could definitely feel them weighing down my Alaska Guide Creations harness and that is as robust a bino pack as they come.
The weight of the Swaros was no more apparent than when I picked up the new Leupold BX-4 Pro Guide HD 10X42’s. Man those things are light! Size wise they are about average but weighing in at only 24 oz. they are barely noticeable tucked into a good harness or bino pack. In the few minutes I spent handling them I honestly could not tell a difference between the clarity of the BX-4’s and my Swaros. It was a dark cloudy day on the mountain but the Leupold’s did a great job of cutting through the dark shadows cast by the Vermont forest.
Our time at the Leupold booth was hardly long enough to influence an honest impression or review of these binos but as luck would have it I ended up spending quite a bit of time with the Leupold’s over the rest of the weekend. See, the Grandfather who passed his Swaros to me is a bit of a gear fanatic. Probably where I get it from... Whether it is a certain caliber, company, or cigar he tends to buy them in bulk and will unwavering stand by them. When it comes to optics Leupold is his religion. He has about a half a dozen “go too” hunting rifles and the commonalities between them is that they are all chambered in 300 Win-Mag and topped with a Leupold scope. In his long and illustrious hunting career he has experimented with other brands but Leupold’s easily dominate his collection.
When we left T.A.C. we met up with my Grandfather and grandmother at their home in upstate New York. We spent the remainder of the weekend with them and my cousins talking hunting, swapping new pieces of gear, and shooting targets from the porch. As fate would have it Gramps recently bought a pair of the BX-4’s in 10X42 all dressed up in Kryptek Typhon camo. I should have known… We passed around these binos all weekend and by the end none of us could honestly tell a difference between the clarity of the Leupolds and the Swaros.
When it comes to the BX-4’s other features there is little if anything left to be desired. The focus wheel is large, tactile and responsive. The turn of the wheel was smooth providing just enough resistance that you didn’t feel like you were sliding past the desired position but not so stiff that adjusting the binos when passing them between users felt like an irritating chore. The eye cups were adjustable with depth options which semi-lock into three different positions. The fit a finish of the eye cups didn’t have quite the same high end feel as the focus wheel but they worked well enough. I have 20/20 vision but I tend to be more sensitive to harsh light and found the middle position to be the most comfortable. The camo was a flat finish and the image was very clean. If Kryptek sin’t your thing Leupold also offers all of the models in the BX-4 line in Shadow Grey and Gore Optifade Subalpine. The texture of the over-molded material around the housing of the BX-4’s was both comfortable and grippy. Overall it is just a great optic and I was so impressed I even propositioned Gramps for a trade. He didn’t bite…
Now there is nothing wrong with my Swaros so don’t expect me to trade them in anytime soon but the equal clarity, light weight, and cool camo pattern was appealing. It’s not that I don’t love my Swaros but like I said they are heavy and in recent years the company has lost their sex appeal in my opinion. Today’s version of the model I carry will run you two thousand $USD with their highest end models clipping 4K. Their quality cannot be denied but paying the equivalent of two fully accessorized flagship hunting bows for a set of binoculars produced by a company who seems to only market to bird watchers is a tough pill to swallow. If you don’t know what I am talking about go look for yourselves… Nothing but Bird Watchers on their website.
I have nothing against bird watchers but in contrast Leupold has been passionately apart of the hunting community since their entrance into the hunting optics market in middle of the last century. Today their product line spans the gamut and they offer products and services designed to service everyone from the recreational shooter to world class competitor and tier one operative. In talking with some of the reps from Leupold it was clear that they place a lot of pride in catering to the military market and one of the core values they strive for is to bring that same durable design to all of their products and they back that with a lifetime warranty and replacement program. Based on my and other KOTA crew member's experiences we can all vouch that almost all of the Leupold products we have purchased live up to that standard and those that haven’t have had their warranties honored by Leupold.
So regardless of whether you are searching for your first pair of binos or just expanding your existing collection I would consider the BX-4 line a great place to start. Priced between $600 and $900 USD they are right in that middle price point but carry a value that will rival more expensive optics. Thought most of my time was spent with the 10X42’s I would really like to get my hands on their 10X50’s a bit more. I had a chance to peer through them at T.A.C. and noticed they were significantly brighter and had a larger field of view than the 10X42’s and only weighed a few ounces more. But that review will have to wait…
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