Bushnell has been a leader in the optics field for decades. During that long production tenure the company has garnered a stellar reputation worldwide based largely on the ability to offer reliability and long-lasting accessories which frequently carry price tags far less than their competition. However, recently something happened internally at Bushnell that kick-started a whole new generation of fine optic options, like nothing I’ve witnessed before.
I became aware of unique developments when the United Parcel Service delivered a large package from Bushnell. Not expecting anything, my curiosity got the better of me as I tore into the box and found a distinctive style of invitation. Nestled between thick layers of foam rubber was a single plate of thick glass which contained a personalised request to attend an exclusive unveiling of what Bushnell called “a revolutionary new line of optics”. The event was to take place at the 2018 US SHOT Show in Las Vegas but the invite lacked much else in the form of details and specifics.
When I arrived at the designated meeting place I was escorted behind closed doors along with a few other media people to view new products. Immediately we were awestruck by the sheer magnitude of the selection, including a vast collection of freshly designed riflescopes, spotting scopes, binoculars, rangefinders and various other shooting-related items. But before the summit was under way all in attendance were cautioned that none of the information we were to receive was to become public for at least four months.
Such conventions never provide enough time or opportunity to fully evaluate items like these. So once the presentation had concluded I placed an order for a couple of the Forge optics then waited a full eight months before the first of them arrived - Bushnell’s Forge 10x42mm binoculars.
The Forge bino line-up
One of the new binocular lines presented was the Forge. Currently there are four binocular forms available within that series, the smallest of which I’d describe as a mini model ‑ the 10x30 Roof Prism ED Prime. The distinctive design allows the binoculars to be folded together, making them compact enough to fit the breast pocket of most shirts. It’s a great feature that helps eliminate the usual flopping back and forth when being used in the field.
There are also more traditional-sized binoculars in the Forge range including two Roof Prism ED Prime models in either 8x42 or 10x42 and a 15x56 Abbe Koenig Prism ED Prime version. But for this project I chose what I believed the most versatile type ‑ the 10x42 ‑ for testing and evaluation.
All Forge binoculars come with a set of similar, important characteristics. These include a protective coating referred to as the EXO Barrier, which bonds to the exterior lenses to repel water, oil, dust and debris. This coating is used to ensure the clearest possible view through the lenses, even in torrential rain. The lenses also receive an anti-reflection application the company calls its Ultra Wide Band Coating, which helps provide the brightest possible image quality.
And for further enhancement all the prisms come with a PC-3 Phase Coating intended to increase the resolution and contrast to the highest possible degree. Environmentally friendly lead-free glass is used on all lenses and each of the Forge offerings comes in a waterproof construction. And like all the Bushnell line of products they’re backed by the company’s Ironclad Warranty and engineered for a lifetime of use.
Both the 8x42 and 10x42 models are the same length at 170mm (6.7^) and close to the same weight, the 10x42 reportedly weighing the least at 0.86kg (30.4oz) and the 8x42 coming in at 0.87kg (30.8oz). For comparison purposes, the pocket-fitting 10x30 measures 122mm (4.8^) and weighs 0.39kg (13.7oz) while the considerably larger 15x56 weighs 1.45kg (51oz) and has a length of 226mm (8.9^).
The test 10x42
The Forge binos have a highly attractive and eye-appealing styling. The unique colouration of brown with accents of black sets these units apart from all others. But aside from the pleasing outward appearance there are many other favourable features about the Forge 10x42.
These binoculars come supplied with a rigid clamshell-style case that provides a high degree of protection, particularly when travelling and during storage. There were also two styles of straps provided, one of which I particularly liked due to it being heavily padded where it typically contacts the user’s neck. The other simpler strap was better suited to the clamshell carrying case.
Also included is a full shoulder harness with the Bushnell logo ‘circle B’ printed on the back. A harness like this works well when you’re facing long days in the field, by holding the binoculars tight against the chest and distributing the weight better than a normal carrying strap.
For further protection from dust and debris a silk-like sack is included. Covers are also provided for both sets of lenses. The eyepiece lens cap unit can be attached to the carrying strap for security and the front lens caps have been designed to hinge downward but remain attached to body of the binoculars. All the lens cover caps can be easily removed if needed.
The eyecups can be raised or lowered to accommodate either eyeglass wearers or not. A diopter ring is present only on the right barrel to be used to sharpen the focus. Before that adjustment can be made you must pull up on the diopter ring to unlock the dial. Once adjusted, the ring is pushed back down, locking the setting in place. I particularly liked this feature which is lacking on many other binoculars.
The entire Forge 10x42 unit came textured with small elevated dots to ensure a secure grip even under wet conditions. There were indents where the user’s thumbs would normally be positioned against each tube and horizontal ridges along each side further add to its overall non-slip construction.
The way I see it
The clarity was good throughout. While binoculars aren’t frequently called on to view things at short distance, sometimes that ability can come in handy. In this case I could bring an object into perfect focus as close as 2m away. I also found the focus knob to be conveniently positioned, allowing me to bring the view into quick and easy focus while keeping my eye on the target through the lens. The overall clarity and resolution was extremely good and the light enhancement abilities excellent.
At dusk I took the Forge 10x42 out and scanned the area for deer. None were visible with the naked eye but when I lifted up the Forge binoculars, a herd of about a dozen animals were brought into clear view about 400m away. I then lowered the binos and tried to locate the deer again but they were invisible. Clearly this is testament to the Bushnell Forge binoculars’ abilities for light transmission and a huge benefit for hunters.
I find all larger magnification high-quality binoculars seem to be on the heavy side and that includes the Bushnell Forge 10x42, but I didn’t feel they were any heavier than most others. I found the ergonomics to be good, making them comfortable and practical for field use.
There are more expensive binoculars on the market which in some cases may provide slightly better performance overall, but I believe it would be difficult to find this degree of eminence for a comparable price. And as far as my personal inherent abilities go, I’m not sure I’d even be capable of accurately distinguishing between those minor differences. Bushnell may just have unearthed the perfect compromise in this case between quality and price.
Model: 10x42 Roof Prism ED Prime PC3 DiElectric
Length: 170mm (6.7^)
Weight: 0.86kg (30.4oz)
Colour: Brown with black accents