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Rifle Magazine
January - February 2004
Volume 36, Number 1
ISSN: 0162-3583
Number 211
On the cover...
The Hill Country Rifle Co. Winchester Model 70 .300 Winchester Magnum features a AAA Turkish fiddleback walnut stock with 23 lines per inch checkering. Metalwork includes Lilja stainless steel barrel. Williams one-piece bottom metal and Al Biesen steel tr
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Steiner 10x42mm Peregrine Binocular

To the best of my knowledge, it was an ancient philosopher of oriental persuasion who said, “Enforced inactivity can often be remarkably productive.” When that quote first came to my attention a long, long time ago, it was dismissed as pure hogwash – which is why no attention was paid to the name of the sage responsible for it. Too bad, because I’d like to give credit where credit is due. As I discovered recently, the old boy was 100 percent correct. Let me explain:

My right foot was injured last week. Thankfully, the damage wasn’t serious, but it left the foot extremely painful. So much so that putting any kind of weight on it was completely out of the question. As a result, when the following Monday rolled around, I found myself chair-bound and plans for the week in complete disarray.

Only a couple days previously, one of Steiner’s new 10x42mm Peregrines arrived. For those who may not be familiar with the firm, a brief company profile seems to be in order at this point.

Steiner is the largest manufacturer of binoculars in Europe, located in Bayreuth, Germany. At last count, it was producing 43 different models. In addition to its sporting series, it supplies binoculars to military and law enforcement agencies around the globe, including the U.S. Army and Navy.

But to get back to the Peregrines: According to company literature, they're designed with hunters and bird-watchers in mind and feature multiple lens coatings to enhance detail and color transmission. To put those claims to the test, my intent had been to spend a day with the binocular in the deep woods and take it down to the Sonoran desert the following day and see how it performed there. So much for good intentions. It looked as though I wouldn’t be going anywhere for some time.

Thoroughly disgusted, I limped out on the back deck that afternoon, found a chair and rested the hurting foot on a cushion. The 10x42 had been brought along almost as an afterthought: might as well put it to work checking out local landmarks. That should give me an idea of the long-range capabilities and find out how it handled.

Letters on some “Caution” signs near a construction site 437 yards away were sharply defined and easy to read. Door numbers, 438 yards off, were easily distin­guishable. A red “For Sale” sign in front of a house 502 yards distant seemed a lot closer, and its colors were vivid, even under a dull, gray sky. Those yardages, by the way, were all measured with the aid of a Bushnell electronic rangefinder.

At that point, it was obvious the Steiner’s optical quality was first-class. Everything appearing in the lenses was bright and well defined. In addition, the focusing knob was geared high so it required very little rotation to bring a new target into focus when switching from one to another. Of course, the Peregrine’s generous depth of field helped too.

How would the Steiners do up in ponderosa country, I wondered? There, visibility is often cluttered and shadows deep and dark. What would the glasses be like down where the saguaro and thornbushes flourished – where the landscape is a kaleidoscope of dusty, faded greens and lightly toasted browns, where everything tends to blend into everything else and picking out details can challenge the best binocular made?

So I sat there, the binocular hanging from its neck strap, feeling sorry for myself and ticked off at everything in general, when a flicker of motion in a tree to the right caught my eye. Lifting the Steiners, I panned along a massive tree limb about 20 yards away, instinctively refocusing until a small woodpecker came into view – walking upside down underneath the limb! That’s what I said: upside down – so help me!

Although always aware of songbirds’ presence around our home, I've never paid a whole lot of attention to them. We live near the edge of town, in the midst of a ponderosa grove with a few aspens and a scattering of scrub oak. We're regularly visited by javelina and skunks at night, see an occasional bobcat, squirrels, of course, and every now and then, a few mulie does or young bucks tiptoe through our backyard. They’re always interesting to watch – but birds? For some reason, they’ve never excited my curiosity – at least, they never did until I spotted that woodpecker walking upside down.

That's the first time I realized birds ignore the law of gravity. Needless to say, after that incident, I began glassing the surrounding forest for signs of life. That quickly became a learning process.

First of all, the local bird population always seems to be in a hurry. They operate at two speeds: stop and go – and go is wide open. Most of their time and energy is devoted to searching for food: insects, seeds and whatever else attracts their palates. As soon as they land on twig, limb or trunk, they begin prodding, pecking or prying, leaping or diving from one part of a tree to another, finally launching into open air, heading for a more promising tree.

So I sat there all afternoon, Steiners at the ready. Whenever a new bird knifed into view, the binocular was raised while I kept an eye on the creature’s movements so he or she would be in the field of view the instant the binocular was clapped to my eyes. As the hours passed, the birds’ antics were so intriguing I had completely overlooked how the binocular handled, how comfortable it was to use and how responsive and easily controllable it had proved to be. Pointing, focus-ing and tracking the often spastic movements of the woodpeckers, jays and other species that claimed the nearby trees as their territory had become so effortless, I never gave the Steiners a second thought. It simply became an extension of my curiosity. In retrospect, it’s obvious that shadows seldom presented much of a problem either.

There was a 70-foot ponderosa located about 20 yards from where I sat. Beyond it and slightly to its left was another, almost as tall. Distance between the two was approximately 15 yards. Several times, a bird would fly to the closest tree, pause briefly on one of its branches, then dive into the far tree. To follow its progress, I had to peer through a tangle of branches, twigs and pine needles on the closest tree to focus on the bird, now half hidden in the shadowy bowels of the far tree. A slight nudge on the focusing knob was usually all that was necessary to bring the bird into view, and despite the gloom, its coloring, markings and silhouette were clearly visible. The light-gathering ability of the Steiners was impressive, to say the least.

That characteristic was demonstrated again as the sun began to sink over the western hills. Around me, in the forest, the shadows began to gather and thicken. Most of the birds disappeared homeward, but there were a couple jays that stuck around for quite awhile. Their feathers are a pale, dull gray, which makes them difficult to spot under the best of conditions. As the light dimmed, the Steiners allowed me to follow their movements, but whenever they stopped and became motionless, they were almost impossible to pick out. Under those conditions, however, no binocular I’m familiar with could have done any better.

The Peregrines are the lightest 10x binocular I’ve ever held. Nonetheless, as noted, it proved surprisingly steady holding. Up to now, whenever my hands wrapped themselves around glasses with higher magnification than 8x, it has been necessary to find additional support for arms or elbows, otherwise, whatever appears in the field of view quivers and even jumps around at times. Not so with the Steiner 10x42mm. When in use, it gave as steady a view as any 8x I ever looked through.

Some of the credit for that must be given to the lens tubes’ contours. On their undersides are two mildly concave, slightly off-center depressions in the rubber coating. As though directed, both my thumbs rested there whenever the glasses were raised to my eyes. When I first spotted those rests, I concluded they were window-dressing or built for show, if you prefer. I was wrong. Those small indentations are located precisely where they’re needed to help anchor the hands in the same place every time the glasses are picked up.

Some very useful accessories are included with the Peregrines. Probably the most obvious are the covers attached to each of the objective lens rims. Secured by Steiner’s Clic-Loc system, they can be removed simply by pressing a small button on the locking attachment. That releases the strap insert, and the cover can be pulled free. Reinstalling the covers is simply a matter of sliding the cover’s clip into the locking slit on the lens rim.

Other covers (Steiner calls them rain guards) can be slipped over the ocular lenses to protect them from dust, snow or whatever. If they're installed, the neoprene neck strap, also supplied with the glasses, should be threaded through slits on the sides of the rain guards first.

That neck strap, by the way, can also be attached and detached from the binocular via the Clic-Loc system. It has a very soft, 1-inch wide pad that bears against the back of the neck when the glasses are hung from that part of the anatomy. Regardless how long they're left there, discomfort is minimal thanks to that pad.

Like all Steiner binoculars, the Peregrines are completely rubber-armored. They also feature contoured eyecups on each ocular lens to eliminate annoying sidelight. Those who must wear spectacles can fold the cups flat.

A stout nylon carrying case, equipped with its own carrying strap, is also included with each Peregrine. It offers extra protection when the binocular is transported or carried in a backpack or vehicle.

Steiner's 10x42mm Peregrines are more than just impressive performers. They are light, extremely responsive, quick-focusing, steady-holding and a delight to carry. Optically, they're hard to fault. Lens images are bright, clear and distortion-free even when the light isn't the best. Judging from the variety of birds glassed from our back deck, color transmission is spot-on too. Though not indestructible, Peregrines come close. Tubes and frames are made of space-age synthetics, light and practically shockproof, then coated with a thick layer of dark, gray rubber that is not only non-reflective but silent as well: no clinking, rasping or rattling should the glasses come in contact with metal, brush or rocky surfaces.

Anyone in the market for a new or more powerful binocular will do themselves a favor if they take a long, hard look at Steiner's Peregrine. – Al Miller

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